In which Deborah over-uses the word “delightful” approximately 987348749 times. February’s not too late to have a 2020 bookish wrapup, right? *cough*
Of course I have to share my favorite reads of last year (in several categories . . . so, yes, there’s more than 14!), so let’s get to it!
According to my Goodreads, I read 100 books! (A few more on my personal list, but hey, unpublished etc. things don’t quite count. :P) Yes, many of them were shorter, but anyhoo.
Here are some stats:
- 32 new-to-me novels
- 21 novellas/quick reads
- 12 re-reads
- 10 short stories
- 7 picture books
- 6 non-fiction
- 5 anthologies
- 4 graphic novels/comics
- 3 audiobooks
- Total: 100 books
And here are the reviews I posted here last year:
- Ahab (E.B. Dawson) — honorable mentions
- Sword of Soter (Ralene Burke)
- The Road to Bremen audiobook (Kelsey Bryant)
- The Midnight Show (Sarah Pennington) — top novellas
- Mardan’s Anointed (Kathrese McKee)
- An Echo of the Fae (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — favorite
- Beast of the Night (E. E. Rawls)
- The Story Hunter (Lindsay A. Franklin)
- Winter Spell (Claire M. Banschbach) — favorite
- The New Emperor’s Concerto (Hazel B. West) — favorite
- Emberhawk (Jamie Foley) — favorite
- In the Region of the Summer Stars (Stephen R. Lawhead) — favorite
- Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Joanna Ruth Meyer) — honorable mentions
- Fairest Son (H.S.J. Williams)
- Strange Waters Anthology (Phoenix Fiction Writers)
- Cry of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse) — favorite
TOP NEW READS OF 2020
- Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows (Arthur Daigle) — Well, that made it to my top-five-favorite books of all time! Jayden and Dana are some of my favorite characters EVER and I’ve talked about short stories of theirs on the blog here before, but they are finally released in a novel form and I’ve now read it four times and just never get tired of it! I’m hoping to review it this week. I just can’t put into words how much I love it! Jayden’s one of my favorite characters ever (an elegant enchanter with anger management issues but a burning heart for justice) and Dana is just as marvelous (this sturdy girl is #goals) and they make an EPIC duo. The book is just SO FUNNY but also epic and the humor and world and snark all blend together to form one of my favorite books ever. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Discworld, or Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold.
- Winter Spell (Claire M. Banschbach) — This wintry tale is perfection and has some of my favorite characters, pair-ups, and world-building ever! Plus we have ice and water magic, different faeries, a dash of romance, an epic buddy story on the side, and Northern Lights. What is not to love? Tonya, Princess Diane, August, and of course Dorian all wrapped themselves around my heart and won’t let go. I love it so, so much!
- In the Region of the Summer Stars (Stephen R. Lawhead) — This Celtic fantasy felt like coming home and swept me into a world of ancient Ireland that I’d been longing for without remembering that I was. It’s a marvelous adventure with warriors, horses, boats, druids, fae, and our hero Conor, all in the stunning hills and coasts of Eirlandia. It’s fantastic and I really need to finish reading the series — hopefully soon!
- Between Floors (W.R. Gingell) — note: this is book 3; starts with Between Jobs — I’ve been quite enjoying the City Between series, urban fantasy set in modern Tasmania with fae etc., and this was my favorite yet, because Athelas is my faaave! (And Zero. And just all of it.) I love the humor and the snark! Pet and her Psychos are just such fun. I’m reading them aloud with my siblings and the voices are a blast to do. *grinning*
- Fierce Heart/War Bound/Death Wind/Elf Prince (Tara Grayce) — I’m just lumping them all together because I feel like it’s one story, Farrendel and Essie’s story, and I love iiit. (I think my favorite is War Bound, but they all go together. ;)) Farrendel is the bessst cinnamon roll elf, and I love Essie and her brothers (Edmund, though!) and all the humor and sweet romance and banter and epicness. They’re just a lot of fun (and feels)!
- The New Emperor’s Concerto (Hazel B. West) — A fabulous swashbuckling buddy story set in futuristic London, this felt like a fun action movie and was equal parts humorous and epicly exciting. Lysander and Flynn forever! And everyone needs a Sinclair (the butler). It was so wonderfully BRITISH and I adored it. Also, all the Pratchett references.
- Cry of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse) — note: book 3; starts with Mark of the Raven — An amazing conclusion to a trilogy with books that have been on my top-favorites list each year — there’s a reason I cosplayed as Selene. 😉 Just a really wonderful fantasy trilogy, and Selene and Damien and wyverns and the gifts/elements and THAT SCENE NEAR THE END WITH THE FLOWER, AAHH! MY HEART. I just loved how it wrapped up!
- continued —
- An Echo of the Fae (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — This selkie/fae, winter/summer novel is like a perfect summer day. I loved it so much! A fae summer adventure with a dash of Rapunzel, some selkie mysteries, a determined heroine in our young Echo, delightful side characters and creatures — including mini dragons! — it’s just a delight all-around and it makes me smile.
- The Changeling Sea (Patricia A. McKillip) — I can’t even describe this book! *shrieks* It was a totally unexpected amazing book, which I picked up on a whim, and it was absolutely delightful and like an original fairy tale, all enchantments and mysterious princes and magic and the sea and a magician and a girl and a little village. Descriptions fail me but it was a lovely little book!
- The Geppetto Codex (Kyle Robert Shultz) — note: book 5; starts with The Beast of Talesend — Gareth the mild-mannered, nervous faun, and Sylvia, the hotheaded dryad, pair up to go up against terrifying puppets in 1920s fantasy Venice — and yes, it’s just as fun and wacky and thrilling and hilarious as that sounds. *grin, grin* If you haven’t tried out this Afterverse adventure yet, you’re missing out. Also, amazing prologue and epilogues which have bits of our favorites, Nick and Cordelia! *flailing*
- Midnight for a Curse (E.J. Kitchens) — A truly delightful Beauty and the Beast novel, with humor and feels and gorgeousness, mysteries and fun characters, and a wonderful dream-aspect that I super enjoyed! Also, what would happen if the Beat didn’t actually want to be un-cursed? Bwahaha. This one was so much fun and made me happy.
- Emberhawk (Jamie Foley) — I adored her Sentinel trilogy so I was super curious about this set in the same world at a previous time. It was fun! I loved seeing more of Felix (sly snarky fox!) and Ryon’s story and all the other characters, and the woods and adventures and the treetop city! Also, Lysander forever! (Yes, there’s a Lysander in two of my favorite books this year. It must be a Lysander year.)
- Thief of Time (Terry Pratchett) — Probably my favorite Pratchett since Mort, Guards Guards, and The Wee Free Men. This was a fabulous conclusion to the Death series and I so enjoyed all the timey-wimey things in it and Susan and just most of it in general.
- The Islands of Chaldea (Diana Wynne Jones) — I’ve been curious to read this one for a long time, as it’s one Diana Wynne Jones’s sister completed. I quite enjoyed it! It had a Celtic feel and a hot air balloon and yeah, fun as always! I’m nearly out of new-to-me DWJ reads, so it was a delight to read this one last March Magics. (I’ll have to do something for that this year too if I can find time.)
Here are two books that I simply HAVE to mention, because despite not making it onto my personal top favorites, simply for personal preference reasons, they still absolutely BLEW ME AWAY and everyone must know about them. *grinning*
- Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Joanna Ruth Meyer) — Y’all, I adore this author’s books, and I was SO impressed with this story! STUNNING and amazingly well done! A bit dark for my personal taste but I was super impressed with the character arc and loved a lot of what I got out of it. And the Silmarillion vibes near the end were a delight. Yeah, it was wow.
- Ahab (E.B. Dawson) — Aside from a bittersweet/borderline-tragic ending which (personally) I couldn’t handle, this book is definitely one of my favorites of the year! Everything except the last couple of chapters, basically, were ABSOLUTE PERFECTION so of course I have to shout it out! Ahab and Starbuck are LIFE and this Moby Dick retelling set in space is just gorgeous and brilliant and the best aside from some sadness. XD If you can handle some sad, READ IT. IT’S SO GOOD.
BEST QUICK READS/NOVELLAS
Sometimes shorter reads and novellas don’t make it to best-of lists because they’re a little too short to pack quite the punch, which is somewhat unfair and I feel like they deserve their own category since they seem like a different category than novels… So I’m shouting out my favorite novellas/shorter books, because I read quite a few and these were the most amazing! (Not to mention fabulous if you only have a brief amount of time to consume a story.)
- All That Glimmers (Selina J. Eckert) — An incredible modern fantasy Rumpelstiltskin story. This is one of many seasonal fairy tale retelling novellas by this author, all of which stand alone. The “Rumpelstiltskin” character in this is a mysterious fae (I love him!), and the heroine and her best friend (who has antlers!) are college students who get swept into the fae world and must heal from loss and discover fae secrets. It was just lovely. ^_^
- Hand of Steel & The Deathhorn (Jessi L. Roberts) — These are space opera sci-fi adventures with worldbuilding/creatures I absolutely adore. I don’t read much sci-fi but this series is just the sort that I love when I do read it! Hand of Steel is about a bounty hunter (Krys) and how she comes up against space pirates including the awesome feline-like Klate (he’s my fave!). The Deathhorn tells Klate’s backstory and I love it so much. Just such a cool series!
- Fire and Wind (Daley Downing) — Fire and Wind follows a unique character (DG — loved her!) and spans centuries, continents, and multiple fantasy creatures and it’s just a delight. It’s a spinoff from this author’s wonderful suburban fantasy series which includes Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Healers and Warriors. I particularly love how this includes creatures and places and times from all over, from kitsunes to Anastasia/Rasputin to phoenixes to Easter Island to modern-day London or Arizona. I just love it!
- All the Queen’s Sons (Elizabeth Kipps) — A reverse Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, this follows a shoemaker’s daughter who is trying to discover why the queen’s six sons wear out the shoes her father makes for them. It was so much fun and a marvelous new twist on my favorite fairy tale!
- The Midnight Show (Sarah Pennington) — Another Twelve Dancing Princesses story, I loved how this was a 1920s-esque fantasy world and how the fairy tale retelling aspect blended seamlessly with being a detective story! Bastian is a great detective hero and the voice was fun and the worldbuilding was delightful. It was delicious!
BEST SHORT STORIES
- Dawnsong (Bryn Riplinger Shutt) — THIS STORY. *clutches heart* Lyrical writing, amazing characters, funny moments, relatable struggles, a vivid setting I just want to melt into, and a story that touched my heart in all the best ways. And all in a novelette of just 15,000 words! Definitely one of my favorite short reads of the year. (Also, I adore Des, Lilias, and Artair so, so much!)
- Shadow Light (Sarah Delena White) — This story reminded me of The Silmarillion, George MacDonald’s Day Boy and Night Girl, and a short story by Lloyd Alexander (as well as Windswept, another story by Sarah Delena White, and one of my own unpublished short stories), all in the BEST way. Like pure myth/original-fairytale. I loved it a lot!
I don’t have a lot to say about these two other than that I quite enjoyed both and recommend them for creative types. ^_^
- Adorning the Dark (Andrew Peterson)
- Walking on Water (Madeleine L’Engle)
- A Very Bookish Thanksgiving (Note: This was a limited-edition anthology, but I think the novellas may be published individually later, or the anthology miiight reappear for a bit for a limited time?) — I couldn’t not give a shout-out to this lovely collection of Thanksgiving novellas inspired by works of classic fiction. A Promise of Acorns (by Kelsey Bryant; Jane-Eyre inspired) and As Long as I Belong (by Sarah Holman; Mansfield-Park inspired) were absolutely amazing stories that blew me away. I adore them. I also loved The Windles and the Lost Boy (by Rebekah Jones; Peter-Pan inspired) and the Great-Expectations inspired Grand Intentions by J. Grace Pennington about a writer! (A Fine Day Tomorrow, by Amanda Tero, inspired by Little Women, was too sad/stressful for me, but I expected that. XD So it wasn’t to my taste but those who enjoy Little Women will very likely like it — just my personal taste.) Just such a good collection. ^_^ I loved the classic-inspired aspects to them, and the Thanksgiving theme, and they were just so delightful!
BEST PICTURE BOOKS
- The Four Donkeys (Lloyd Alexander) — The Four Donkeys was a delightful folk-tale-esque picture book by Lloyd Alexander. One of the last of his children’s books I hadn’t read yet, I got it for my birthday last year and found it full of his winsome wisdom and wry humor and delight that I always love.
- Marigold and the Snoring King (J.D. Rempel) — I won a copy of Marigold and the Snoring King and it was so fun, original, and adorable! Next time you’re looking for an indie picture book, I recommend this one! It was fun and classic but fresh all at once. Charming. Made me smile!
There we are! I hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite books of the year, and if you stuck with the post this whole time, you deserve a virtual cupcake. *awards it to you*