2020 Favorites Roundup

In all honesty, your Muses are simply grateful—that we’re here, and that you’re here. That we’re able to write and share our creativity with you. That we’re still able to read and get lost in stories, and to dream of better days. We know this year has not been kind to anyone, and we sincerely hope 2021 will be brighter in every way.

But there were bright spots over the last year, things that kept us going even when we were deep in the valley of darkness. Songs, books, articles, videos, podcasts—bursts of creativity and inspiration. Beacons in the night.

We want to share them with you, in the hope that they might offer some respite, or a laugh, or a new insight, anything to help keep you going. We’re right here with you, cheering you on. (We are the Muses after all!)

MEREDITH

BOOKS: This year I seemed to completely lose my attention span when it came to reading. It’s always been my escape, my way to daydream, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it very much this year. When I did though, I was swept away by a few books. My favorites were:

THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by Alexis Henderson

This was a brilliant and scary book, centered around a woman living in a puritanical/evangelical community in an alternate North America, and who is drawn inexplicably to the Darkwood on the edge of her village. . .I don’t want to spoil too much, because I loved the reveal of all the twists and turns in this, but I absolutely recommend it if you want a chilling and witchy read.

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LA RUE by V.E. SCHWAB

I have been waiting for this book ever since Victoria Schwab teased it a few years ago. I love her fantasy novels, and her exquisite turns of phrase, so when I heard she’d been working on a book about an immortal who becomes a muse through history and art over centuries?? YES PLEASE. Ever since my emo high school days combing through the Silmarillion and LOTR, when I’d wonder what it would feel like to be an immortal elf, I’ve always loved pondering the choice between living forever, or not. Seeing Addie’s journey through the centuries is heartbreaking as she learns the rules of the deal she made with a fickle god of darkness, where she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets as soon as they’re out of sight or mind. But then she meets someone who remembers her, and his story is just as heartbreaking. Again, I don’t want to ruin anything, but I’d definitely recommend this one to anyone who wants to get lost in what it might feel like to live forever.

TV SHOWS: I also fell totally in love with some new shows, including The Witcher (can’t wait for season 2!), The Mandalorian (except for the finale. . .but I would kill for Baby Yoda), and a Netflix original called Medici: Masters of Florence. Was it a bit campy sometimes? Absolutely. Are there a few plot holes? Yup. Did I still get swept up in all of its Renaissance glory, and did it inspire my Venice book quite a bit? DOUBLE YUP.

PODCASTS: I still love and will shout about The Manuscript Academy, and Deadline City. Both have been so helpful and insightful for me, and have provided a welcome friendly voice when I needed to quiet the doubt demons and anxiety ants in my head. I’ve also just heard of a new podcast forthcoming from a writer who is an absolute hoot on Twitter, who’s hoping to share more honest perspectives from authors at all stages of the publishing journey. It’s called The Author Diaries and I can’t wait to give it a listen!

Thanks for following along with my rambles and reviews this year, here’s to finding new things to obsess over in 2021!

JOYCE

BOOKS:

THE MEMORY POLICE, by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police

This book blew my mind. I’d never been a huge fan of dystopian fiction because the setting is always bleak and hopeless and who needs to spend 300 pages in a place like that, right? But even though the setting in this book is also austere and depressing, Yoko Ogawa manages to make it heartbreakingly beautiful through her exquisite, lyrical prose. It’s even made me want to write a dystopian novel of my own after I’ve seen how it can be less steel and glass and more fallen petals in the snow.

DRAMA SERIES:

IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY

It's Okay To Not Be Okay' Premiere on Netflix - Chingu to the World

It had been a long time since I watched a Korean drama, ever since the emotional roller coaster/romantic drama that was Crash Landing on You. And boy, if I thought the latter was intense, I was definitely NOT prepared for IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY.

This drama centres on the themes of mental health and the demons we try to run from, where a seemingly cold and cruel children’s book author (yes, it sounds like an oxymoron but the writers actually made it work) meets an ever-patient nurse with an autistic brother. While one does not think twice about trampling on others’ feelings as long as her needs are met, the other is used to stifling his own needs in order to take care of his brother. The two share a strangely electric dynamic that is basically all sparks and tension and delicious conflict at the start, but as they peel away each other’s layers and get a glimpse of the demon they each try to hide from the world, they come to alter each other for the better, painfully, beautifully.

The show made me BAWL my eyes out so many times, especially when they zero in on each patient in the mental health facility and their issues hit home one too many times. This is the first Korean drama series that went this deep emotionally, and I think it’s fantastic that South Korea is finally breaking free of the stigma of mental illness, because this show has opened up the conversations surrounding the issue. All in all, this is definitely a must-watch. Just remember to prepare a box of tissues.

We hope you enjoyed our roundup of our favorite things from 2020. Let us know what you enjoyed from this past year, and thanks for reading and supporting us. Here’s to more creativity next year!


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