Top 5 Tuesday: Books I Need to Read Before 2021

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly book discussion with a new topic every Tuesday hosted by Meeghan of Meeghan Reads. It’s each blogger’s job to pick five book-related things (though you’re welcome to pick things from other media, if necessary) that fit the topic.

Today’s topic is books you need to read by the end of the year. I’ve actually done really well this year at reading the books I listed when I answered this question on my Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag post. Usually I buy more books and prioritize those instead. This year I’ve been better about balancing reading books I already own and new books.

The books I aim to read by the end of 2020 are the books I’m most excited about. However, I’m also adding a bonus two books for a secret reason that you’ll find out later. Now, here’s my TBR for the rest of the year.

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Summary: Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

Why I’m Reading: I love stories that explore concepts like this, especially because in superhero shows and movies the collateral damage often goes unacknowledged. This sounds to be in a similar vein to The Boys (which I plan to watch at some point), but less dark and edgy. I’ve also heard this book has LGBT+ rep, but I’m not sure what kind.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Summary: In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

Why I’m Reading: I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book since it came out in October. Inspired by Native beliefs and mythos, this high fantasy story sounds so cool. I’ve been meaning to get into Rebecca Roanhorse for a while now, and this seems like the perfect place to start.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Summary: The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright— and save her people.

Why I’m Reading: Like the one above, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book. I’m very partial to bone magic and any sort of magic related to the macabre. It sounds like there’s lots of potential for morally gray characters. It’s also sapphic, which may or may not be the thing that first drew me to this book.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

Summary: This is the way the world ends… for the last time.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

Why I’m Reading: Obviously I need to finish this series. It’s been a priority for me since I read the first book in February. I just don’t know if I’m ready. Maybe I’ll save this one for December.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Summary: Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George— publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide— and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite— heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother— they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn— led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb— which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his— and the whole Turner clan’s— destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism— the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

Why I’m Reading: Shockingly, it’s not the HBO show that really drew me to this book (though I do plan on watching it at some point). It was the cover and title. I’m really intrigued with how Ruff is going to use Lovecraft’s creatures and well-documented racism to explore the racism Black Americans faced in the 1950s and still face today.

BONUS: Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald & The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

BTRV Summary: Cunning and unapologetic, Emanuela Ragno is a socialite who plays by her own rules. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to marry Alessandro Morandi, her childhood best friend and the heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia. Emanuela doesn’t care that she and her groom are both gay, because she doesn’t want a love match. She wants power, and through Ale, she’ll have it all.

But Emanuela has a secret that could shatter her plans. In her city of Occhia, the only source of water is the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses magic to make water from blood. When their first bruise-like omen appears on their skin, all Occhians must surrender themselves to the watercrea to be drained of life. Everyone throughout history has obeyed this law for the greater good. Everyone except Emanuela. She’s kept the tiny omen on her hip out of sight for years.

When the watercrea exposes Emanuela during her wedding ceremony and takes her to be sacrificed, Emanuela fights back…and kills her. Before everyone in Occhia dies of thirst, Emanuela and Ale must travel through the mysterious, blood-red veil that surrounds their city to uncover the source of the watercrea’s power and save their people—no matter what it takes.

TSBU Summary: Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.

2) Marry him.

3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen— all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Why I’m Reading: Okay, it’s later. I’ve started both of these books and I noticed a commonality between them: both books feature an intentionally unlikable female protagonist. Not only that, but both protagonists are written in a similar way. I plan on reading these books and writing a discussion post based on that. I’m hoping to have that done later this month. Stay tuned!

What books do you need to read by the end of the year? Tell me about them in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Tuesday: Books I Need to Read Before 2021

  1. I hope you manage to read all of these! I really want to read Black Sun and The Bone Shard Daughter, although it is not going to happen this year!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel extremely called out in this post. xD Hench and Black Sun are also on my list of things I need to read! I really enjoyed The Shadows Between Us, and I actually loved that it was an intentionally unlikable protagonist (who I did, in fact, like, because crappy people are my favorites!). Your discussion post sounds really interesting, and I look forward to reading it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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