I’d love to show you a beautiful photo of a big stack of the books I read in 2020, but let’s be real…I’m rarely that organized. Thankfully, Goodreads to the rescue. As I have most years, I set a goal for the number of books I wanted to read at the beginning of January 2020. Since I only read nine books in 2019 (and seven of those were rereading Harry Potter), I figured I’d better set a semi-realistic goal. So, 2020 = 20 books. Sounds fairly reasonable as a stretch goal. So, what did I read?
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden had been on my TBR list for awhile, but I wanted to read it during winter. I held off and finally checked it out of the library just before the end of the year so I could start it on January 1st. This is a fantasy book and is the first in The Winternight Trilogy. I enjoyed this book and I loved that it had the overlay of Russian fairy tales. Reading it during winter was fitting, and since I finished it right before Imbolc, I think I will forever associate snowdrop flowers with this book, and with the coming of spring and Imbolc. The writing in this book was fantastic, it conjured up images and dreams. I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves fairytales, and readers who are enchanted by beautiful writing.
After finishing The Bear and the Nightingale, I decided to pick up Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Ex Libris Fibers was doing a monthly yarn subscription called The Spectral Collection, that ties to books. The January book was Frankenstein, so I decided it was the perfect time to finally read it. I was completely enamored with the beginning of the book, the voyage to the North Pole, that he is anxious to explore an unexplored part of the world, etc. Unfortunately, though, while the book initially captured my imagination, I found it harder and harder to concentrate on it. The pages were so intensely full of thoughts and ideas that I had a hard time following it without allowing myself lengthy reading sessions. And then Covid hit. It took me seven months to read this book. I would pick it up and put it down. I would read and reread sections having forgotten what I read the last time I picked it up. And sadly, I didn’t do this book the justice it deserved. Maybe it was due to my brain being overtaxed in a pandemic, maybe it was that I wasn’t out and about with places to steal moments of reading, maybe it was that this book and the writing requires full attention. I enjoyed it very much though. It is not at all like the movie/the mainstream portrayal. It is gothic and romantic at its heart and full of the Sublime. It captured that part of me that is filled with longing for adventure, travel, art, and literature. I highly recommend it, and I also recommend the movie, Mary Shelley.
In October, something magical happened. I’m not even sure I can explain it, but it was like the world of reading opened back up for me and from that moment on I was ensnared. For my birthday, Eric bought me a copy of Midnight Sun. I absolutely loved the Twilight series when it came out and was so sad when Stephenie Meyer’s manuscript of Midnight Sun was leaked, leading her to not publish it at the time. So, to finally have this book published and in my hands was such a surprise. As you know, I’ve been making use of my local library instead of purchasing books for awhile now, so actually buying a book was definitely special. I know a lot of people rip these books apart, but I will forever be unapologetically #TeamEdward. Midnight Sun was really good. And for the first time in what seemed like years, I found myself wanting to read every chance I got. I started reading with my breakfast, reading at lunch, and then staying up late at night to read. I loved getting Edward’s POV finally, after all these years and actually found it quite fascinating. A friend of mine said early on when this was released that this book didn’t give you any new information. I completely disagree. This book gives you not only the other side of the story – what Edward is thinking and feeling – but you also get all that goes on that Bella is not aware of.
The thing that this book did for me, though, is that not only did it rekindle my love of reading (to the point where I started reading obsessively), but it started this interesting chain reaction. When I was reading this book, one of the things that jumped out at me was that getting Edward’s POV reminded me so much of the Twilight fanfiction I read so much of back in the day. I’d gotten so acclimated to Edward’s “voice” through fanfiction that this totally captured my attention. The other thing that really jumped out at me were the references to Persephone, and how Edward sees himself as Hades, damning Bella to be bound to the underworld. Lots of references to pomegranate seeds also, which of course are associated with Persephone (thus, the cover image). So, those two things became kind of pivotal in this journey of reading.
When I finished Midnight Sun and was trying to decide what to read next, I couldn’t stop thinking about Twilight fanfiction and how good some of it was. I was feeling the need to stay in Edward’s head, so to speak. Add that to my infatuation with all things Dark Academia these days and my love of old libraries and research (thus, my love for Discovery of Witches), my next read was kind of a no brainer. I decided to dig out my old fanfic files (which I realize sounds a little like me saying I logged into MySpace), and found The University of Edward Masen by Sebastian Robichaud. For those that may not be familiar with fanfic, sometimes they take place within the universe of the original book, but sometimes they take place in what’s called an alternate universe. Where basically, you are taking these characters and putting them in a whole new setting. In UOEM, the author basically took the characters of Edward and Bella and plunked them into a universe where Edward is a university professor (not a vampire) specializing in Dante’s works and Bella is his grad student. I really loved this story when I originally read it, and I enjoyed it again reading it now. The fanfic has since been rewritten with new characters rather than those created by Stephanie Meyer, and published as a series starting with Gabriel’s Inferno under the author Sylvain Reynard. This “book” is the perfect blend of emo/angst, UST, smut, intellectual subject matter, and romance. All those things I love. I literally devoured this book – 800 pages in 7 days. What is also interesting is that this book had some mentions about Persephone and pomegranates. I might not have picked up on them had they not been such a focus in Midnight Sun. I haven’t read the published books, so obviously I can’t speak to how much of the original was retained, but I’m sure they bear a close enough resemblance that they are worth reading.
Because I was so deep into fanfic Edward, the next three books I read are probably no surprise. The most well-known series that originated out of Twilight fanfiction. I’ve previously read not only the original fanfic (Master of the Universe) but also the books themselves and talked about them in a previous post. Reading these now, I felt like they paled in comparison to University of Edward Masen. That is a much stronger story. And while I enjoyed these and basically blew through them, the whole subconscious/inner goddess thing got more and more annoying. I think it takes away from Ana’s character. You could still show the push/pull in her thoughts without that. I read these in about three days a piece. (Spoiler alert) I think that along with Ana and Christian coming to a center point sexually, they also kind of come to that center point mentally and emotionally too. Ana becomes much stronger and more sure of herself, Christian becomes much softer and more open and vulnerable. They both allow themselves to be loved and maybe start to really believe they are worth loving.
After reading Fifty Shades, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum and decided to read a ebook that Eric bought me awhile ago that I’d actually forgotten I had since I so rarely read ebooks (I read UOEM electronically, that reminded me). Still Life is the first book in a series by Louise Penny. The Inspector Gamache mysteries have been recommended to me for years, so I decided to give this first one a try. It took me a little longer to get through this, and initially I got a little overwhelmed with all the characters being introduced, so I had a hard time following who was connected to whom. I enjoyed the book though, and would definitely like to read more of this series and see how they are now that the initial groundwork has been laid.
After finishing Still Life, I decided to dive into another reread. A couple of things spurred me on to pick up the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas. First, the new book was scheduled for release in February 2021 and when they did the cover reveal, I felt my stomach drop to see that they had changed the cover style. I absolutely love the artwork on the first four books, so when I realized that they were going to be rereleasing them with new covers I knew I needed to act fast. I originally read this series from the library, but since they quickly became one of my favorite series ever, I knew I wanted to actually own the books. So, I went on a hunt for hardbacks with the original covers. The other thing that made me think about a potential reread of this series, was that while the first book is basically a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, the second book (my favorite) is essentially the story of Persephone and her journey to the underworld. With all the signs pointing towards the story of Persephone in my reading, how could I not?
When A Court of Thorns and Roses arrived, I was happy to delve back into this world. What initially drew me to reading these books was that it was a Beauty and the Beast story and that Feyre killing a Fae results in her having to leave her home to live with a “beast”, Tamlin, in the Spring Court as a punishment for that death. Her life is basically forfeit as a consequence of taking a life. This first book in the series is so good, but reading it again knowing what you know happens in later books definitely gives you a different view on what happens with Tamlin and Feyre’s story. If you haven’t read this series, you are seriously missing out. They are in my top 3 favorite series of all time. They are that good. I read this in about six days and then spent several days drumming my fingers waiting for the next book to arrive. Strangely enough, the second book proved much harder to find in hardback with the original cover and it took me some time to locate one.
So, that’s it for the look back at what I read in 2020 and how this vital part of me, my love of reading, was given back to me. That is a gift I didn’t realize I needed, and certainly can never fully express how grateful I am for it.