musings, wrap up

Best Books of 2020

Hey everyone. I know it’s been a long time and what an interesting hiatus it has been! I am happy to say that I hope to pop back around more often, but let me first say, 2020 has been one heck of a year. I know it has devastated a lot of people around the world, so let us learn to be kind to one another, share love with a stranger, and connect with those around us in whatever way we can over things we mutually love.

Since 2020 kept me home bound, I found myself with more time than usual for reading. And what an excellent year of reading it was for me! I wish I had the time to write out all the reviews for those books, but since I can’t (I’m mostly sorry, but I suppose not really), the best ones that really stuck out to me will have to do.

I will separate each by genre category below. Even if it wasn’t a 5 bottle rating, ending up on this list meant that it left a lasting impact on me long after I turned its final pages. Which is a testament of the author’s skill to do so in my books.

Without further ado!

Historical

Now:
Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.
Then:
Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.
Rating: 5/5 Drink Me Potions

While it can also be classified as a contemporary, I loved the historical atmosphere and story more than current day events. Unearthing the mystery of Adalyn was beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I couldn’t stop raving about it! Jordyn Taylor’s debut was gorgeously written and perfect for dragging me to an era where lockdown in Nazi Occupation France was maybe even scarier than it is today (but still an escape from our reality at least!).

Contemporary

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Rating: 4/5 Drink Me Potions

What a winner this was! I couldn’t put it down (even during work hours – sorry, not sorry). Pepper and Jack’s (ship name PepperJack omg!) online flirtations and real life battles were messy, cute, and just the thing to take me away from reality. Frankly, this was the kind of reality I wished I was living instead. The sneakiness of both protagonists, especially through Twitter memes, and general life lessons both teens learned in family, love and war were absolute PERFECT escapism. What a wonderful debut by Emma Lord!

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Rating: 4/5 Drink Me Potions

In a year full of divides, particularly racial divides, exploring books with POC and just generally being more open to others’ experiences is not only a must, but a blessing to be able to do. Learning to listen and see how others experience life was definitely found in Ben Philippe’s Charming as a Verb. The first-generation immigrant child experience in a big city with the pressures to succeed for their parents is something I understand, and I love how it was described here! Peep the Canadian reference in there and I was falling in love! Snarky characters plus incredibly real teenage experiences depicted helped me see and be a more empathetic person to everyone around me, especially to my Black brothers and sisters out there.

High school senior Keely Collins takes on firsts, lasts, and everything in between in this sweet, sex-positive rom-com for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.

It seemed like a good plan at first.

When the only other virgin in her group of friends loses it at Keely’s own eighteenth birthday party, she’s inspired to take things into her own hands. She wants to have that experience too (well, not exactly like that–but with someone she trusts and actually likes), so she’s going to need to find the guy, and fast. Problem is, she’s known all the boys in her small high school forever, and it’s kinda hard to be into a guy when you watched him eat crayons in kindergarten.

So she can’t believe her luck when she meets a ridiculously hot new guy named Dean. Not only does he look like he’s fallen out of a classic movie poster, but he drives a motorcycle, flirts with ease, and might actually be into her.

But Dean’s already in college, and Keely is convinced he’ll drop her if he finds out how inexperienced she is. That’s when she talks herself into a new plan: her lifelong best friend, Andrew, would never hurt or betray her, and he’s clearly been with enough girls that he can show her the ropes before she goes all the way with Dean. Of course, the plan only works if Andrew and Keely stay friends–just friends–so things are about to get complicated.

Cameron Lund’s delightful debut is a hilarious and heartfelt story of first loves, first friends, and first times–and how making them your own is all that really matters.
Rating: 3.5/5 Drink Me Potions

I’m a sucker for friends-to-lovers trope, especially best friends. While there were some things I didn’t love, including the slowness in reaching said angst and trope, this was all the makings of a true guilty pleasure read so I’m proud to say that this book stuck out for me. It’s not super serious but mostly fun. Keely learns more about what she wants, who she is and what she is worth (virgin or not), and I’m all for that.

Fantasy

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

No introduction is needed here, but this was by far the best YA to adult transition book I’ve read yet (I’m looking at you, SJM). I loved the intrigue around Darlington’s disappearance, and the information never felt like an overwhelming tidal wave hitting me all at once. Pieces came together nicely over time and set a wonderful foundation for this world of dark magic on Yale campus. I almost didn’t want to leave it, and am highly anticipating the sequel!

Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.
Rating: 5/5 Drink Me Potions

A unique world of ladies capturing their men on bridges and honing their skills through the animal bones they kill and keep, this was a different YA fantasy than Kathryn Purdie’s other works and I was surprisingly captured by it. With different POVs from the pair of best friends whose lives were forever altered when they encounter the wrong (or right?) man on the bridge, this fun and heartwarming story definitely drew my imagination into the depths of its pages.

Mystery

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised… and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

One of my last reads of 2020, this latest mystery from Karen M. McManus didn’t disappoint. I loved the 3 Story cousins and their individual crazy home life. They each came to the island for their own reasons (and their own parents’ pressures) and were thrown into the web of secrets they cumulatively brought. The pace was great (in fact, I wish the book was a little longer), and by the end, I wished I could meet these Storys because I felt like I knew them. A different kind of twisty end than I expected from McManus, but it still delighted me with a couple of curveballs.


Contemporaries definitely won the lot in 2020, but maybe because a dose of rom-com felt better than dark fantasies or super intense narratives in a year where people may want to forget themselves and live someone else’s lives for a while.

I don’t know what this year may bring, but what I do know is that we’re still all in this together. Let us not forget that and continue holding onto hope and love.

In the meantime, I will try to update you with more fun reviews or things I’m looking forward to this year. Hope you are having a good 2021 so far!

Until next time, friends!

musings

Merry Christmas: a Message of Hope

Hey everyone! I just wanted to also leave a post on this hopefully fabulous Christmas Day for you all. No matter where you are, I hope you find peace and love at this glorious time of year.

It has been a tumultuous year for me, and at times this blog was either a place of solace where I could just share some of the turmoil inside of me or a place that started feeling like it was more of an obligation than a choice to share my life and books with you all.

But through it all, I learned a whole lot. I learned to put more stock in my faith and trust that I’m getting to where I need to be, even when I can’t seem to see it (Prov 3:5-6).

I found someone amazing who makes me want to continually be a better person. Who challenges how I see myself and my world so that I may stand more firm in it.

And I have the support and love of a family I don’t deserve. Both by blood and by heart. I may have felt lost along the way at times, but I was never alone. This little elf always had God and people by her side, and for that, I’m always grateful.

So if you’re feeling down and alone right now on Christmas Day, I hope it’s a bit of encouragement to know that maybe we all just need to dig a little bit deeper to see who has always been there for us, even at our lowest points in life.

I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and to hopefully an amazing new year to come!

musings, News

Blog and Life Updates 2018

I thought I should post some news and updates that have been in the works for the last while, especially to thank those who have been patient enough through the rough patches. Some news are more obvious than others, but I promise, they are all positive items, and I’m SO excited to be sharing them with you.

First things first…

NEW blog outlook!

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while now, you may have noticed that the outlook of this entire blog has drastically changed. Over the last month, unfortunately the site was under the construction phase, and I know, it was not a pretty sight.

But, now it’s finally complete and I’m satisfied with the new look and minimalistic way of navigating through the posts, as well as the new homepage. So I wanted to thank you for your patience and I’d love it if you took a look around in your free time ❤

What do you think of the new look? Do you have any recommendations for future renovations?

Personal life updates

This blog has been up for a while now. Yet I’ve been a very sporadic poster over the years and I apologize for that. That brings me to some news about myself, Andge.

  1. I’ve been a student for the longest time, and have been busy studying in my last years of school since this blog was opened. Now, I’ve finally graduated and guess what this means??
    Aside from being unemployed and all that… I can finally put more time into posting fun and exciting materials with all of you. And for that, I am VERY excited and can’t wait to start on some new ideas I have for Down the Rabbit Hole.
  2. This week marks the 1 year work anniversary for the other book hat that I wear in my life. Aside from book blogger, I have been working on and off as a book seller this last year.
    While this has opened numerous doors into the YA and general reading community for me, I want to make clear that this blog is in no way affiliated with any bookstore. I give credit where it’s due but I get no commission for any books purchased, and I’m not being paid for any book recommendations. All reviews are still based on my honest opinions.
    If you’re interested, I would be more than happy to share some of my past and current experiences as a bookseller on this blog! Just let me know 🙂

Last but not least…

NEW blog partner

That’s right.

I’m bringing in an old friend of mine who loves books as much as myself (and reads faster than I do, might I add). I will let him introduce himself in his first post but I am very excited to have him on board.

Together, we hope to bring out some more interesting and fun posts to share with you, as well as be more heavily involved with the blogging community.

Any ideas/types of posts you want to see more of on this blog?

Brand new things are on the horizon for us and I can’t wait to get started!