Let’s Talk About: My favorite books of 2020 (so far!)

I think we can all agree that 2020, as a whole, has been awful. Between the pandemic, the rampant racism, and the natural disasters, this year is definitely one for the history books. And it’s only half done.

But on the other hand, 2020 is halfway over! And with the halfway mark, I thought I’d focus on a happy topic and talk about all my five-star ratings so far this year!

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

(my review is coming)

In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.

Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor’s seminal essay “The Meaning of a Word.”

Slay by Brittney Morris

my review

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Heartstopper (series) by Alice Oseman

my reviews: vol. one | vol. two | vol. three

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

my review

In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. 

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained – until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood, to Washington, and beyond. 

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse – and it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power – and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

Check, Please! (series) by Ngozi Ukazu

my reviews: book one | book two

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker & Carol Leonnig

my review

Rucker and Leonnig have deep and unmatched sources throughout Washington, D.C., and for the past three years have chronicled in depth the ways President Donald Trump has reinvented the presidency in his own image, shaken foreign alliances and tested American institutions. It would be all too easy to mistake Trump’s first term for pure chaos. But Leonnig and Rucker show that in fact there is a pattern and meaning to the daily disorder. Relying on scores of exclusive new interviews with first-hand witnesses and rigorous original reporting, the authors reveal the 45th President up close as he stares down impeachment. They take readers inside Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the Trump legal team’s scramble for survival, behind the curtains as the West Wing scurries to clean up the President’s mistakes and into the room to witness Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders and members of his Cabinet, and assess the consequences.

Spinning by Tillie Walden

my review

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point? The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

my review

Jessica tells of growing up in 1980s Texas where she was sexually abused by the daughter of a family friend, and of unsuccessfully auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club at age 13 with Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling before going on to sign a record deal with Columbia and marrying 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey.

Along the way, she details the struggles in her life, such as the pressure to support her family as a teenager, divorcing Lachey, enduring what she describes as an emotionally abusive relationship with musician John Mayer, being body-shamed in an overly appearance-centered industry, and going through bouts of heavy drinking. But Simpson ends on a positive note, discussing her billion-dollar apparel line and marriage with professional football star Eric Johnson, with whom she has three children. 

Have you read any of these books? What are some of the best books you’ve read so far in 2020?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Let’s Talk About: Separating the art from the artist

I never thought that I’d be doing two discussion posts within a week of each other that basically boil down to “Yes, _____________ are people too,” but here we are in 2020.

It’s no secret that J.K. Rowling has caused some uproar in the bookish community lately. Her long history of transphobic comments along with her recent essay defending herself using questionable data have caused many readers to distance themselves from her work. Her anti-trans opinions have been analyzed all over Twitter, book blogs, and bookstagram. This week, I’ve even received news alerts about things she’s said. Many readers have said that they no longer feel comfortable reading her work and no longer feel comfortable following people who support her. And who can blame them?

I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad for supporting Rowling’s work. I know that, for my generation especially, Harry Potter was a very formative book series. These are books that came out while we were the age Harry was in the books. I, along with most of my classmates, read each book as it was released. We waited in lines at midnight, we talked about the books between classes, we faked sick so we could stay home and finish them. There were parents who would let their kids take a day off so they could just marathon the books because they were so excited. And while I enjoyed the books as a child and teenager, Harry Potter is not a series that’s followed me into adulthood. It’s not a series that I’ve ever felt the need to reread or buy merch for or bring up in everyday conversation. But I also don’t feel that way about most books. Anyway, all of this is to say that I understand the impact that Harry Potter has had on the bookish community and even people who don’t consider themselves readers. For many, it was their first (and maybe only) experience with middle-grade and YA fantasy.

But at some point, an author’s behavior can be too much. At some point, it’s no longer possible to separate the art from the artist.

In case you missed it and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick summary of Rowling’s recent controversy.

  • December 19, 2019: J.K. Rowling tweeted her support for Maya Forstater, a woman whose employment contract was not renewed after she shared anti-trans comments and purposely misgendered people on Twitter.
  • June 6, 2020: Rowling tweeted criticism of an article titled “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” stating that “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
  • June 6-10, 2020: Rowling received hefty blowback for her statement and tried to defend herself by saying things like “One of my best mates just called me. Self-described butch lesbian.” and “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction.”
  • June 10, 2020: Rowling posted an incredibly long essay on her website trying to further defend herself. Andrew James Carter breaks this down better than I ever could, so please read this Twitter thread below if you haven’t already:

Now, I do want to clarify that I don’t believe in cancel culture. I think that it’s very possible for people to grow and change, to educate themselves and become better. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of cancelling someone for something that they said years ago without giving them to opportunity to educate themselves and correct their behavior. What I do have a problem with, though, is public figures who continually spread misinformation or repeatedly act badly, who double down after being called out, and who use their platform to actively do harm.

In this day and age of having the internet at our fingertips, where almost anybody who’s reading this blog post probably has a smartphone with the entirety of Google in their hand, there’s no excuse for being misinformed. There’s no excuse for trying to push those misinformed beliefs on impressionable young readers. There’s no excuse for trying to invalidate the identity of an entire group of people.

My opinion on trans rights is pretty simple, and it’s the same as my opinion on anybody else’s rights: the way someone else lives their life literally has no impact on you. It costs you zero dollars to just treat someone the way you want to be treated. Trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are nonbinary. Why are people so concerned with someone else’s genitalia? It’s creepy. I’m getting a little distracted here, but what I’m really trying to say is that when you’re a public figure, and particularly a public figure because you write children’s literature, you have a responsibility to behave appropriately. There is no excuse for alienating and invalidating an entire group of people.

There’s an interesting concept called “death of the author,” which began in the mid 1900s and says that the author’s beliefs and behavior shouldn’t influence any interpretations of their writing. This concept is frequently used in arguments to support authors who’ve done problematic things, but for me, there’s only so much you can set aside.

What I think it’s really important to talk about is that even if you can keep Rowling’s personal opinions and the fantasy world she’s created separate, by supporting her books, you are supporting her. Every book, every piece of merch, puts money back into her pocket. We vote with our dollars, and I don’t know about you, but my dollars are not going to support a woman who can’t seem to stop tweeting out transphobic messages.

My point, after all of this, is that there comes a certain point when you can no longer separate the art from the artist. There comes a point when an author’s actions ruin the art.

If you’re looking for a new YA fantasy series to immerse yourself in, I would recommend literally anything by Tamora Pierce. She’s an incredible author who writes stories about female empowerment, she’s one of the few authors I’ve actually re-read, and best of all… she doesn’t tweet out harmful messages.

Please feel free to share any other author recommendations in the comments.

What are your thoughts on J.K. Rowling and separating the author from their work? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Let’s Talk About: #blacklivesmatter

For all the years that I’ve had this blog, I’ve shied away from posting about things other than books and the occasional personal update. But the time for only talking about easy things is over, and I think that the absolute bare minimum that anybody can do right now is publicly support Black Lives Matter and condemn both the overt and subtle racism in today’s society.

I’ve spent the last few days reading articles, watching videos, and listening to firsthand accounts of the protests happening around the world. I’ve bookmarked a ton of lists of books to read to educate myself on racism. Instead of trying to insert myself into this conversation or trying to educate anyone on an experience I can’t even begin to imagine, I’ve compiled a list of resources that I’ve found useful.

I would love to discuss any resources you’ve found helpful or book recommendations you have in the comments.

By proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, the leaders of the movement for Black lives have been insistent that the American democratic project be as inclusive as it claims to be. White supremacists’ gaslighting insists that what the statement really means is “only Black lives matter,” but that is willful ignorance on the part of folks who refuse to see that the conditions that prompted the proclamation in the first place were conditions that tried to assert that Black lives didn’t matter, that they were disposable, and that Black communities didn’t deserve justice. Black women therefore stood up and said, “We matter. Too. Also.” I simply refuse to believe that white people don’t know this.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

Book recommendations:

View this post on Instagram

thank you all *so* much, for such a great list of antiracism books. there were so many (and are still so many others I could’ve included!) that I limited it to only non-fiction (I’ll do a separate fiction one later!) and still you can see I had to squeeze them in. 📚 if you are overwhelmed, please don’t be!! start with one in the middle like Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy. If you are a young reader, the two outside leaning ones on the right are particularly for you (Tiffany Jewell’s This Book Is Anti-Racist and Kendi and Jason Reynold’s Stamped), but don’t feel limited! 📚 any other suggestions or comments, please comment below for everyone! hope this is helpful ❤️. 📚 yes you can repost the image as long as you don’t alter it in any way and tag me in the image and in your caption! 📚 extra special thanks to @marmarfrick for suggesting this stack! 😘 📚 Ideal Bookshelf 1162: AntiRacism 📚 #antiracism #antiracist #idealbookshelf #soyouwanttotalkaboutrace #howtobeabantiracist #stampedfromthebeginning #meandwhitesupremacy #thisbookisantiracist #stamped #betweentheworldandme #thecoloroflaw #blindspot #thewarmthofothersuns #goodtalk #minorfeelings #imstillhere #thefirenexttime #thenewjimcrow #whitefragility #mindfulofrace #justmercy #whentheycallyouaterrorist #whyimnolongertalkingtowhitepeopleaboutrace

A post shared by Jane Mount (@jane_mount) on

Black-owned bookstores:

Further reading:

Edit #1:

To contribute financially without actually spending any money, you can let this video play without skipping ads. It’s important to watch other videos before replaying this one, or the views could be marked as spam and excluded from ad revenue. It might occasionally ask you to confirm that you’re still watching.

I let this play in the background yesterday while I worked (I used this playlist) and I plan to do the same today.

100% of the advertisement revenue this video makes through AdSense will be donated to the associations that offer protester bail funds, help pay for family funerals, and advocacy listed in the beginning of the video

(Thank you to Laura Beth for reminding me to add this video to my post!)

Do you have any resources that I should add to this post?
Let’s talk in the comments!

It’s my two-year anniversary: A look back, a look forward, and a giveaway!

It seems like just a few weeks ago that I was writing a blog post for my first WordPress anniversary, and somehow it’s already time to write one again! This blog has been around since 2013, but it’s only the second year that it’s been in its home here on WordPress. I said it last year, and I’ll say it again — moving this blog to WordPress has, quite literally, changed my life.

In this year’s anniversary post, I wanted to take a look back and everything that’s happened here on WordPress, talk a little bit about my plans for the future, and, of course, do a giveaway!

Some stats, which continue to blow my mind:

Total views: 109,586
Total followers: 2,893
Total likes: 64,024
Total comments: 12,293

My five most popular posts, by views alone:

Let’s Talk About: Planning out my (blogging) life
Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite book bloggers!
Review: Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson
Let’s Talk About: Appropriate interactions on social media
Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee

My five favorite posts from the last year of blogging, in no particular order:

Review: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
Tag: Lover Book Tag (Original!)
Let’s Talk About: BookCon 2019!
Tag: Song Request Book Tag: Take 1 | Take 2 | Take 3
Review: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju (spoilers!)

Three goals for my third year on WordPress:

① I feel like I’m always saying this any time I talk about my goals, but my biggest goal is to continue posting at least once per day. I’ve made it a point to post every day since moving my blog here, and it’s become one of those little things I can do to make myself feel accomplished.

② I’d like to get back into blog hopping with actual regularity. This is something that I was so good about during my first year on WordPress, and (mostly) because of my new job, got really inconsistent in my second year. I’m going to try to set aside some time every day, or at least every couple days, to catch up on blogs.

③ My last goal is to do some collaborations with other bloggers. I had hoped to have a grand plan for this that I could reveal in this post, but I still haven’t come up with a good idea. For now, my goal is to come up with a unique idea for a monthly collaborative post. I will definitely put up an announcement as soon as I figure this out!

As a thank you for all of your support, I’d love to buy you a book! You can click here to go to the Rafflecopter website.

The rules:

  • If you’re under 18, please make sure that you have your parents’ permission to share your mailing address!
  • The giveaway opens on March 19, 2020 and closes on March 25, 2020. I’ll draw the winner on March 26, 2020 and they’ll be notified via email.
  • One follower will win one book of their choice (up to $20 USD) from The Book Depository. The giveaway is open internationally as long as TBD ships to you!

Good luck! ❤

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Ultimate 2019 TBR: Final results!

In January of 2019, I shared my Ultimate 2019 TBR, which was 100 books that I hoped to read. As of July 2019, I had read 16 of 100.

ALREADY OWNED: READ 8/60 (yikes)

Well, I added one more book in the second half of 2019 — Symptoms of Being Human. It was really good, though.


I finished four more of these books, for a total of 7.


It looks like this was the section I did best on, which isn’t really surprising since I check out so many books from the library!

TOTAL: READ 26/100

To be honest, I kind of forgot that I made this list until I was writing my other 2019 wrap-up posts. I don’t think I’ll be doing this for 2020, but if I decide to do it again in the future, I think it would be a better idea to print it out or write it down so I can remind myself of what I wanted to read! Also, to be fair, I removed a ton of these books from my TBR either because I realized I wasn’t interested anymore or I heard too many bad things about them.

All in all, though, I think it’s pretty good that I managed to read more than a quarter of the list without really trying too hard.

Did you make a TBR list for 2019? If so, how did you do? Have you read any of these books? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’