Favorite Reads from the 2020 3rd Quarter

So many exceptional books have come out July through September of this year, and my to-read list is way, way too long at this point. But I did get a chance to read twenty-eight books since July 1st, and here are some of my favorites you should check out if you haven’t already.

All Systems Red -Martha Wells

Science Fiction

This the first in the Murderbot Diaries, and if the name of the series doesn’t have you adding this to your to-read list, then let me go on. This novella is the winner of the 2018 Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Awards.

A group of scientists are on a planet conducting research, and as part of their contract, they’re required to have a security android with them. This company-supplied android has hacked its own system so that it is no longer has to obey the orders it is given from corporate. It calls itself Murderbot, although admits “As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

When another team on the planet goes missing, this team of scientists and Murderbot are determined to find out what happened and avoid being the next team that disappears.

I loved Murderbot’s internal dialogue and internal struggles. This novella was surprisingly humorous and a page-turner.

Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

Contemporary YA

This book follows Felix, a transgender boy struggling with his identity in high school while also falling in love for the first time. Although not transgender myself, I deeply connected with the challenge of reaching the end of your high school years and trying to sort out what’s next, and who you are, and what it all means.

I was very excited about this book not only because it sounded as though it was going to scratch that itch for a ‘summer’ read, but also because it gets a transgender experience on the bookshelves so that trans teens can see themselves on the page (and in this case, also on the cover).

From the Desk of Zoe Washington – Janae Marks

Contemporary Middle Grade

I went into this book expecting it to be heavy and hard to read. It’s a book about a girl who discovers that her father is in jail, that he’s been trying to connect with her for years, and that he might be in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. I was so pleasantly surprised by the way this author navigated wrongful convictions, educating young readers about the Innocence Project along the way, and shedding light on the United State’s need to overhaul the judicial system and reform prisons. Janae Marks did all of this in this novel by presenting hope through the eyes of a middle schooler who wants to do what’s right by her father, and who also has a desire to learn. She cares about truth, even if that truth is painful.

I highly recommend this book to adults and kids alike. It’s very informative, and it’s hopeful, not dark.

The Box Turtle – Vanessa Roeder

Picture Book

Start them young! Begin early with messages of ‘it’s okay to be you, even if you don’t look like everyone else.’

This book is about a turtle who is born without a shell. The turtle tries to make a shell from a cardboard box, but is teased for being different. So the turtle goes off on a hunt to find a better shell, a shell that makes him more like the other turtles. But none of the shells are the right ones.

I won’t spoil the ending for you…I mean, I’m guessing you know where it’s going. Still, pick it up for yourselves.

The Worst Best Man – Mia Sosa

Romance

I said to my partner at the end of the prologue: Oh boy, this is going to be amazing. The prologue starts us off with Max having to tell his brother’s fiancee that his brother isn’t going to go through with the wedding…oh her wedding day. Oh, and she’s a wedding planner so the horror of being left at the altar is all that much worse for Lina.

Fast-forward to chapter 1 where we get to see Lina thriving in her element as wedding planner, barreling towards a reunion with not only her ex, but his brother Max, who she definitely hates.

This enemies-to-lovers was a really fun read. I’ve been trying to read more diversely in romance. This book had so many great details about Lina’s family and culture that made me love the book even more.

They Called Us Enemy – George Takei, Justin Eisinger, et al.

Graphic Novel

My best friend sent me this graphic novel. It was a great surprise in the mail. I love receiving books. I then proceeded to leave this wonderful graphic novel sitting on my coffee table for several weeks because 2020 is an incredibly stressful and dark time, and I was scared this book would only bring me down.

I was wrong.

I sat down prepared for what I remembered of WWII American ‘internment’ camps. It is a piece of American history, like so much of American history, that people try to forget, ignore, and/or gloss over. The unique thing about this book is that we’re seeing these horrific camps through the eyes of a child. Children are incredibly resilient and also capable of normalizing terrible things because their either don’t know any better, or because it’s a coping mechanism. Either way, seeing these camps through young George’s eyes made what could have been a horribly depressing read informative, interesting, and cautionary. The end left me crying, both from sadness but also anger about what’s currently going on (history shouldn’t repeat itself quite so quickly in my opinion. We should have been able to learn from mistakes our country made less than a century ago and avoided the same result now, but this is a book recommendation list, not a political rant).

I highly recommend this graphic novel for kids and adults alike. It’s an important part of American history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Question from Tiny Mortals About Death – Caitlin Doughty

Non-Fiction

I knew I was going to like this book for two reasons: the title, and the author. I’ve previously read, and will continue to recommend, Caitlin Doughty’s From Here to Eternity. This collection of questions from children about death was both hugely informative (some of this stuff I was honestly wondering myself) and also hilarious.

I could see this being a fun read with children, but I, an adult without tiny mortals of my own, also found it to be a fun read. If you’ve ever had imaginative questions about death (what does happen when someone dies on an airplane?), I’d recommend checking this out.

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