My 10 Favourite Books of 2020

2020 has been quite the year! Among the many things I miss during this pandemic are: library book sales (I’d get dozens of new books for less than $20!), in-person book festivals (especially Word on the Street, with the Harlequin Books booth!), and in-person book blogger events.

I’m ever-grateful to e-books and e-audiobooks for keeping me reading throughout lockdowns, and I’m especially incredibly grateful to the Toronto Public Library for keeping my e-reader filled in a year when budget is especially tight.


Feel-good, Happily-Ever-After Romances

1. Puppy Love (Forever Home # 1)by Lucy Gilmore

Hunky fireman whose gruff exterior hides a heart of marshmallow + kind-hearted service dog trainer who’s always been the fragile one in the family until this fireman brings out her inner kickass warrior + an adorable Pomeranian named Bubbles with “wet raisin eyes” and an unfortunate fear of fire. I mean, this book just makes me melt, and is the sweetest, most adorable romance ever.

I love how Sophie knows just the right buttons to push to make Harrison putty in her hands. I love how grouchy and beast-like Harrison is until Sophie teases him with baby talk or Bubbles stares at him with what he calls her “wet raisin eyes” (seriously, who wouldn’t swoon at that?!). And I love the Vasquez sisters — cool and efficient Lila, and warm and friendly Dawn — and I’m looking forward to reading their stories.

2. The Boyfriend Project, by Farrah Heron

The Boyfriend Project mixes so much of what I love in romance: fantastic chemistry, nerdy protagonists, kickass female friendships, and a conflict that is inevitable despite being neither character’s fault. I love the way Samiah and Daniel’s relationship developed, how both characters did their best to fight their feelings for each other (Samiah because she’d vowed to take a break from dating, Daniel because he knew he was lying to Samiah about who he was), and how they ended up ultimately being unable to resist each other. Rochon writes chemistry wonderfully, and I was right there with both Samiah and Daniel through their whole roller coaster of emotions. Read my full review here.

3. Spoiler Alert, by Olivia Dade

A geologist who writes fan fics meets the hot actor who’s the subject of her fics, not realizing that this actor is also secretly a fan fic writer and her online BFF. I love how the author writes about her fat heroine (April says outright that she’s not chubby or plump, but fat). April is confident in her body, but she’s faced bullying from loved ones and online trolls alike, so her confidence is hard-earned, and not always steady. Marcus obviously finds her gorgeous and sexy, and their sex scenes show how April’s fatness is part of her sex appeal.

I also love how nuanced Marcus is as a character. He’s a hot Greek god type, with the public persona of a himbo, but from his first appearance, we know how nerdy and intelligent he actually is. As we get to know him, we also learn about his vulnerabilities. He and April’s stories parallel each other’s in many ways, and I love how they both grow as people alongside their growth together as a couple. Read my full review here.


Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Romance

I Love You So Mochi, by Sarah Kuhn

This is the feel-good comfort read we can all use this year. Kimi Nakamura is an aspiring fashion designer whose mother disapproves of her career choices. Upon an invitation from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, she travels to Kyoto for spring break, and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. Kimi also learns about her mother’s past, and how she and her mother may not be as different as Kimi had always felt.

A Claudia Kishi-esque heroine, mouth-watering food descriptions, and wonderfully vivid descriptions of Kimi’s designs and Kyoto hotspots… I’m absolutely in love with this book. I want it to be a movie just so I can see Kimi’s designs in real life. And I don’t even like mochi, but the author’s description of the matcha-flavoured mochi topped with strawberry makes me want to taste this “perfect bite.” Even better: the author’s mom gave her a red kimono with an orange obi, which is exactly the colour combination that so inspires Kimi and her designs. How awesome is that?!

White Ivy Cover

Adult Contemporary Fiction, Thriller

White Ivy, by Susie Yang

A contemporary, Chinese American spin on Talented Mr RipleyWhite Ivy explores themes of racism (overt and internalized), family, immigration, and the struggle women (particularly women of colour) face when making it in a man’s world. Main character Ivy Lin is a fantastic anti-heroine — complex, cunning, and charismatic — with a deep-rooted vulnerability that makes you root for her. I was completely captivated by Ivy’s story, full of scheming and plotting, all of which is centred around her very human need for love, belonging, and purpose. I absolutely loved this book, and highly recommend it for anyone. Read my full review here.


1. Rage of Dragons (The Burning # 1), by Evan Winter

Rage of Dragons presents an incredibly rich world where dragons can turn the tide in a seemingly endless war, and some humans are gifted with the ability to harness and control their powers. Tau starts off as a fairly low-key guy who just wants to marry his childhood sweetheart Zuri. But when violence forces him into joining the army, Tau becomes fixated on revenge, and not even Zuri may be able to bring him back.

I couldn’t put this book down. I love Zuri, and like her, I was both fascinated and horrified by the dark path Tau takes. Tau and his teammates were also a delight to read about, and I love how the author subverts our expectations about the dragons and their role in the war.

2. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, by Roseanne A. Brown

Karina, a crown princess grieving the assassination of her mother and fighting off treason from her court, needs the beating heart of a king to win back her kingdom. She decides to offer her hand in marriage to whomever wins the Solstasia competition. Malik, a refugee desperate to rescue his younger sister from a vengeful spirit, strikes a deal to kill Karina in exchange for his sister’s freedom. Except he and Karina end up forming a friendship, and falling in love.

Compelling story, complex characters, incredible chemistry (romantic, familial, friendly, and political). I’m completely hooked by the world and so excited to see where the story goes!

3. Spin the Dawn (The Blood of the Stars # 1), by Elizabeth Lim

Project Runway meets Mulan in this YA fantasy. Maia Tamarin poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor, and is tasked with an impossible final challenge to sew three magical dresses for the emperor’s bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars. Her journey brings her powers (magical, demonic, and divine) beyond her imagination, and also requires of her a much deeper and more painful sacrifice than she’s ever expected to make. The story is incredibly rich and beautiful, and Maia’s romance with Edan, the court enchanter, is the sweetest.

I ended this book excited for the second half of the duology, and hoping against all odds for Maia and Edan to find their happily ever after. The sequel, Unravel the Duskhad much more mythology, politics, and battles, and much less fashion design and tailoring, which is likely why I personally didn’t enjoy it as much. (The descriptions of the dresses in the first book are incredible!) Still, the sequel succeeds in ramping up the stakes, and diving deeper into the darker aspects of Maia’s life and world. It’s a fitting end, and the duology as a whole is a wonderful set. 

Sentimental Faves

1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games # 0)by Suzanne Collins

Ballad tells the story of a young Coriolanus Snow, before his rise to power. I loved The Hunger Games, and I found this prequel to be equally brilliant and just as chilling, in a different way from the original trilogy. Seeing the events unfold through Snow’s POV feels… gross, almost. He’s ambitious and calculating, which aren’t necessarily bad traits in themselves, but he’s also cold and self-serving, and his decisions throughout reveal how much he really is out only for himself.

Collins has written another gripping tale, one that will make us examine our own culpability in the very actions we may outwardly reject in the story. Coriolanus’ beliefs and actions are reprehensible, yet is he also, at the core, a survivor. Can we really say we’d do differently in his shoes? By placing us in Snow’s POV, Collins dives even deeper into the questions of bystanders’ culpability towards injustice, and makes us wonder if it’s ok to be this drawn into Snow’s world.

2. Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer

Reading this made me *happy sigh*.

Edward’s perspective on the first Twilight book rounded out the story wonderfully, and showed us all the parts we missed while I’m Bella’s head. It turns out there was a lot we missed while in Bella’s head, and thanks to Edward’s mind-reading abilities, we also got a deeper dive into some of the other characters. The Twilight movie would’ve been so different if this book had been published much earlier.

I also loved seeing the glimpses of Jacob’s transition into werewolf (mostly looking older + smelling the vampire on Bella, even if he doesn’t know what it is yet). I kinda, sorta, really want New Moon from Jacob’s POV now.

Favourite Books of 2019


2019 was a good year for books. Long-time faves Andrew Pyper and Sandhya Menon hit it out of the park again with their releases this year. I finally got around to trying N.K. Jemisin, and was completely blown away by The Broken Earth trilogy. And a couple of books I got as gifts last Christmas (Bibliophile and Brother) were so good they made it on my Best-Of list all the way back in January.

So, in the order I read them, the books that I absolutely loved this year are as follows:

1. Bibiliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

A beautiful, illustrated love letter to books and the people who love reading. There are lists and illustrations of beloved novels, and through it all is just an underlying sense of a shared love for reading and for the sheer loveliness of books.

2. Brother by David Chariandy

Such a beautiful, heartwarming and heartbreaking book, about a pair of brothers from a Trinidadian immigrant family in Scarborough. I absolutely loved the relationship between Francis and Michael, and it was heartbreaking to see the harsh realities they had to deal with.

3. The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper

I came for an Agatha Christie-style mystery about an estranged family dealing with the family patriarch’s will, I stayed for the truly creepy, messed up twists that Andrew Pyper is known for. I love that the story turns out to be more science fiction than supernatural. And I especially love that at the heart of all its truly scary plot threads is a drama about family, and our very human need to love and be loved.

4. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Trilogy # 1) by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin has created such a rich, layered, complex world that I don’t even know how to begin talking about this trilogy. On the surface, there are beings made of rocks and humans with the power to manipulate the earth, and the trilogy is about one woman’s quest to find her daughter.

But beyond that, there’s also so much about family, friendship and survival, and the very contemporary reality that we humans are really messing this planet up and now have to contend with the consequences. The Fifth Season was my personal favourite of the trilogy, I think because the world was still so new to me, and every page was a discovery, but throughout all three books, N.K. Jemisin blew my mind over and over again.

I came into this trilogy completely cold, and I recommend doing the same. It can feel confusing at times, but it’s so worth sticking with it. Trust the author to bring it all together in a way that’s messy and raw and so incredibly good.

5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

N.K. Jemisin is a tough act to follow, but when the library only has so many copies of her Broken Earth trilogy and you’re super impatient for a fantasy fix, the good news is, you discover authors like Guy Gavriel Kay.

Tigana is about a land so oppressed that even their name is erased from public knowledge. Former residents are the only ones who can say the name, but outsiders are unable to understand it when they do. Cultural erasure is a violent act, and I love that Kay drills it down all the way into the level of generational memory.

6. There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Sweetie is the YA romance I wish I could have read when I was younger. Menon finds the perfect (to me) balance with her plus-size heroine, where Sweetie is kick-ass and confident in her body but still has to contend with fatphobia from others, including her own mother. Her romance with Ashish is just adorable, and I loved seeing them fall in love with each other.

7. How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway

A fun, feel-good, kick-ass, girl power romantic comedy. I thought Mel’s romance with Alex was sweet, but more importantly, I absolutely loved how Mel’s women friends all banded together to help her get the app she developed off the ground. It’s pure hell to the yeah girl power energy, Sex and the City for the #MeToo era. It’s a great read for women in tech and women longing for change in the online dating world, and just overall a fun read.

8. The Farm by Joanne Ramos

I thought this was going to be another Handmaid’s Tale-type dystopia, but it’s really more a character study than anything. Unlike many dystopias that have a direct call to action, The Farm invites us to linger with these characters and immerse ourselves in their experiences.

I love that the main character Jane is a Filipina immigrant to America, and a single mother. This leads to her joining what is basically a baby-making farm for rich white people to make a better, more financially stable future for her daughter. The novel explores realities like how white surrogates are perceived to have more value than brown or Black ones and how even among surrogates there are inequalities of privilege. I also love that the villain, the farm’s Chinese-American director Mae, is also constrianed by racism and sexism in her climbing of the corporate ladder.

9. What a Woman Needs by Caroline Linden

The chemistry between the leads is fantastic. I love their constant battle of wills before they get to know each other better. The mystery subplot is a bit less fleshed out, but Charlotte and Stuart are incredible together, and I love how their relationship progressed.

10. SLAY by Brittney Morris

So powerful, about a Black teen who develops an online game that celebrates Black culture and becomes a safe space for Black gamers around the world. I love Kiera and Cicada. I love that the Black culture references within Slay are international and not just American (e.g. Fufu – look it up). I love that the game is played by such a broad diversity of people from around the world (e.g. Cicada is French).

This book was incredibly powerful to me, an adult Asian-Canadian woman. I can only imagine how much more this book will resonate with Black readers, and especially teen girls who can see themselves in Kiera’s shoes.

11. Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc

I’m not disabled, but I’ve always been a chubby kid and am now a plus-size woman, and I related SO HARD to Leduc’s thesis that fairy tales allow only certain types of bodies to be granted happy endings. Leduc also raises many good points on the trope of transformation in fairy tales and superhero stories, and the message therein that you must “overcome” your less-than-“perfect” body to get your happily ever after. There’s a lot of emphasis on “overcoming” your own obstacle, and considerably less emphasis on the role that a supportive community can play in making your world better overall.

I read the e-galley, and wished so hard that I could mark the e-galley up, because there were so many brilliant passages throughout. I can only imagine the impact this book could have on disabled readers who’ve grown up with the same fairy tales. It’s out in February 2020.

12. The Awakening of Miss Henley by Julia Justiss

I love the way Emma and Theo’s relationship developed, and the witty dialogue reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s writing.

13. Pride, Prejudice and other Flavors by Sonali Dev

I love the Raje family and the relationships amongst the “Animal Farm” cousins, I love the complex emotional stuff Sonali Dev brought into the characters’ back stories, and I love how real both Trisha and DJ are. I also love the descriptions of Trisha’s reactions to DJ’s cooking — *I* want to taste his cooking now!

18 Favourite Books of 2018

As I look back on the books I’ve read this year, I realize how lucky I am to have found or been introduced to so many wonderful titles. Many thanks to all the wonderful publishers who keep us bloggers updated on awesome new titles, and a major thank you as well to the Toronto Public Library for having such a fantastic collection. Did you know you can actually recommend books to the Toronto Library to add to their collection? I’ve had a few recommendations actually added in, which is how I got to read such fantastic works as America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

We see a lot of best-of lists to close off the year, and I thought I’d share some of my favourite reads from 2018. These are the books that made me go “oh my god WOW!” Not necessarily because they’re the best crafted story or the most technically impressive prose, but because they managed to touch my heart. And so full disclosure: this list is unabashedly subjective.

I have a soft spot for reading books by writers who are Asian or of Asian descent, so you may see quite a few of them on this list. If you have a similar interest and are looking for your next great read, check out this list of Asian / Asian descent writers I’ve read this year. I also have a soft spot for animals, and have been enjoying a lot of romance novels this year, and you’ll likely notice a few of those on my list as well.

Beyond that, take a look through my list below, which is in no particular order, and I hope you find one that resonates with you too, and helps you find your next favourite read.

1. The Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

The Wolf is an incredibly gripping and dramatic true story about a super badass wolf, Oh-Six, who fights to survive against human hunters, territorial wolves and natural disasters in Yellowstone National Park. As an animal lover, I was Team Wolf all the way, but I like how Blakeslee balances a wide range of perspectives.

2. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This is the first romance I’ve read with an autistic heroine (Stella has Asperger’s) and also a very rare romance with an Asian hero (Michael is half-Vietnamese). Stella and Michael felt so real and had all these vulnerabilities that only the other person truly got. Their sexual chemistry was also off-the-charts hot, and Stella’s aversion to being touched actually lends itself to one of the most sensual scenes I’ve ever read.

3. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

This is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Toronto Muslim community. Khalid’s seeming arrogance is a mix of religious conservatism and social awkwardness. And Ayesha is funny and awesome, a substitute teacher by day and performance poet by night who is more interested in figuring out her career than in finding a husband. Ayesha’s family is hilarious, and her romance with Khalid sweet.

4. Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes took me on an intense emotional roller coaster with this book. What an incredible cast of characters! I loved the glitzy glamorous world of the Gopniks, which started out hilarious then revealed itself to be much more complex than first glance.

5. No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong

This is probably the fastest I’ve ever zipped through an audiobook because I just couldn’t put it down! Jamie is an awesome heroine — a necromancer who realizes she’s more powerful than she originally thought. And Jeremy was my first book crush in the Women of the Otherworld series when I started my Kelley Armstrong fandom with Bitten years ago, so I LOVED seeing him in love here.

6. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel

This just took hold of my heart from the very first moment when Satoru discovers a stray cat lounging on the hood of his silver van. I cried so hard at the ending, and it’s just such a beautiful story about the love and lifelong companionship of a cat and his human. So often, these kinds of books features dogs, so as a cat lover, I can only say: finally!

7. Love at First Run by Angel C. Aquino

This book is very close to my heart, because the writer is a friend and I’m so incredibly proud of her. It’s also a really sweet romance, about a woman who finds love when she joins a running club. Diana and Joshua had adorable chemistry right from the start, and I love how their friendship developed almost effortlessly. I especially love a scene where the scent of ramen, of all things, adds a romantic touch.

8. Moonlight over Manhattan (Book 6 in From Manhattan with Love) by Sarah Morgan

A hot but grumpy doctor and a sweet, shy dog sitter… I love this book so much! I love Harriet, her shyness and her stammer, and her determination to challenge herself. I love Ethan, his kindness and strength, and his struggle to open himself up to love. I was drawn to Harriet even in New York Actually (Book 4, about her brother Daniel), because I found her shyness and insecurity so relatable, and in Moonlight over Manhattan, I love how gently Ethan helps her through it.

I should add that I love Books 4 – 6 in this series overall. Harriet and her siblings Daniel and Fliss grew up with an abusive father who broke their mother’s heart, and I love how their childhoods all impacted their approaches to and experiences of romance.

9. Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Finally — a book to satisfy my post-Crazy Rich Asians cravings! This is a biting yet heartfelt comedy on a wannabe rich Chinese American family in Silicon Valley. It’s a story that feels universal — any rich family can have a similar battle over inheritance — but the Huang family’s ambitions also feel very Silicon Valley, and there are little touches about their experiences that feel uniquely Chinese-American, and first + second generation immigrant.

10. Little Green by Tish Cohen

Cohen has written a story about a marriage undergoing tremendous strain, and then pushed to the breaking point when the unthinkable happens to the couple’s daughter, and I love how real, nuanced and complex the characters and their relationships are. I immersed myself in it on a hot summer’s day, and felt so much for all of the characters.

11. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This is such a lovely graphic novel, about a prince who secretly likes wearing dresses and the seamstress who designs him the most beautiful gowns. I love Sebastian and Frances’ relationship, and I love this story about pursuing one’s dreams and the need sometimes to put one’s dreams aside to help a friend. At the end of the book, Wang talks about her decision to draw the characters young, and I think that decision added a touch of tenderness and vulnerability to the whole story.

12. Glass Houses by Louise Penny

It’s always a treat to return to Three Pines with Chief Superintendent Gamache and his neighbours. In Glass Houses, Gamache puts everything (his career, his reputation, the peace in his small town) on the line to go after the big game: winning the war on drugs.

13. Into the Wild (Warriors # 1) by Erin Hunter

Warrior cats battling over territory and facing treachery in their own clan! And the hero is a former ‘kitty pet’ who feels the call of nature and joins up with a group of cats in the nearby forest.  It’s fast paced and exciting, with lots of compelling characters to cheer for. And yes. I, an adult woman, practically devoured this middle-grade book and immediately borrowed the next one… and the next… until I finished the entire six book series. It’s just really compelling storytelling, and the best part is there is an entire collection of miniseries to check out within this universe.

14. Bella Figura by Kamin Mohammadi

This is such a lovely, pleasurable read. It makes me want to go spend a year in Florence myself, eat all the delicious and all-natural foods she describes, and live the bella figura way.

15. The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

I couldn’t put this book down. Faruqi is a gifted storyteller, and has built a beautiful world under the sea. I love the nerdy scientific factoids that popped up randomly and the character of Coralline, a mermaid apothecary who must find a mythical elixir to save her younger brother. This book kept me absolutely captivated the entire time.

16. Convenience Store Woman by Sayata Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

This book is a helluva punch, and it’s so beautifully written — tremendous emotion barely contained by the narrator’s detached language. It’s a wake up call to readers to question our relationship with social norms, and how we respond to people who don’t quite conform to expectations. Can one be happy without being “normal”?

17. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

Hollis’ premise is simple: women spend too much time apologizing for our dreams when we should just own up to them and realize we have every right to prioritize ourselves and our own happiness. Favourite advice: imagine your commitment to your goal as a coffee date with Chris Hemsworth. What will it take to make you give up that date, and why can’t your commitment to yourself be as important? Girl, Stop Apologizing isn’t out till March 2019, but Hollis’ earlier book Girl, Wash Your Face may be just the inspiration you need until then.

18. Merrily Ever After by Jenny Holiday

What happens if, after you achieve your happily ever after, you realize you must break a promise to the man you love? Elise and Jay got married on the understanding that they would never have kids, and when Elise discovers she’s somehow become pregnant, she needs to figure out how that will impact their relationship. I love the raw emotion and honesty in Elise and Jay’s relationship, as well as the super sexy chemistry and deep underlying love that just makes you cheer for them the entire time. It’s the perfect blend of sweet, sexy and heartwarming holiday cheer.