Happy New Year, everyone! 😀 I’m excited for 2021. I’m trying not to jinx the year by placing too many hopes on it to be way better than 2020, but I can’t help myself.
I know the new year started last week but my mind doesn’t want to accept that. For me, the new year starts today, January 4, on a Monday. So expect many posts this week reflecting on my reading and blogging in 2020.
This is my favorite time of year as a book blogger, end of December into the beginning of January, because this is when EVERYONE — bloggers, newspapers and other media outlets, and even friends and family — share what the best books they read in the previous year are. I get so many recommendations from such lists. And, although not everyone does it, I also get recommendations from lists of disappointing reads experienced in the previous year. I mean, just because someone hated a book doesn’t mean I will. So if a book on such a list appeals to me, I’ll add it to my TBR.
Anyway, I’m here with my list of favorite reads in 2020. They are categorized but listed in the order I read them. If I posted a review, I will link to it.
Novels & Short Collections
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe ★★★★☆
This is a little collection of three of Poe’s short stories, but the one that falls on my favorites list for 2020 is the titular one, which is about a young man who kills a blind old man and is driven by the sound of the old man’s heart to confess his crime. Oh man! It’s such a thrilling read. I love how it’s narrated. I sped through it and couldn’t believe I waited this long to try Poe’s work. (I gave the collection 4 stars because I didn’t like the other two stories as much, but I gave the Tell-Tale Heart 5 stars.)
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen ★★★★★
This is the second novel in the Waverley Family duology (so far) about the women of the Waverley family who live in a small, eccentric town in North Carolina. These books are romance with a hint of light fantasy (I guess). In this book, a circus magician visits the town when the Waverleys are all jittery about the blossoming of their prophetic apple tree and further throws them into chaos. It is a sweet read that’s perfect for the fall. I do hope Allen will write more books in this series.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison ★★★★★
I read this novel thanks to the Wyrd & Wonder reading event and am glad I did. It’s a standalone fantasy novel about a young half-goblin who suddenly becomes emperor of his father’s kingdom. His father had basically outcasted him so, unprepared, Maia had to quickly learn how to rule the Elflands. I loved it. It’s a strongly character-driven story that was such a compelling read that I barely wanted to part from it for long. I’d love to reread it in 2021. I’m sure I missed much on my first read through.
Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb ★★★★★
It’s the first novel in Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy, which is about a young man who believes he is destined to serve as a soldier but gets caught up in some… spiritual intrigues that alters his path and destiny. This trilogy started out promising because I really like this book. This was a strong beginning with what seems like the setup to explore some really interesting themes later on, like colonialism and classism. I was so invested in this story, but the other books took a totally unexpected turn that made me feel as if I was reading a different story. Still, I really dig this book. The characters were interesting and so too the plot developments and world building.
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett ★★★★★
This is the twelfth novel in the Discworld series, the third in the Witches subseries, which I’m currently reading through. It’s a fantasy novel about the Ramtop witches — Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick — travelling abroad to stop a girl from marrying a prince. There are a lot of fairytale influences in it that helped make it a fun read as they were often presented in unusual ways. Witches Abroad was a fun, humorous read that was very entertaining and just what I needed at the time I picked it up. I plan to read the next book soon.
Nimona by Noelle Stephenson (illus.) ★★★★☆
Oh, this was such a delightful read! It’s a YA fantasy comic book about a girl who’s a shapeshifter. She joins a supervillain as his assistant to learn how to be a villain. It was a fun, humorous, heartwarming read that I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. I wish there was another book after this one for the story to continue. The art style isn’t one I typically like, but it works for the story.
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction, illus. by Chip Zdarsky with colors by Becka Kinzie and Christopher Sebela ★★★★☆ ½
The first volume of a fantasy comic book series about a couple who can stop time when they have sex. This is here because it’s an entertaining, humorous story that I had a lot of fun reading. It was so unexpected because I couldn’t see how the story would work out or how it would keep my interest. Although I’m not a fan of the art style, I look forward to reading the next volume.
The Boys, Vol. 1: The Name of the Game by Garth Ennis, illus. by Darick Robertson with colors by Tony Aviña ★★★★★
The first volume in a sci-fi comic book series about superheroes behaving badly and the people who’ve decided to police them. The story sparked my interest because I kept hearing about it from those who watched the show on Amazon, but also because I wondered how a story about a superhero with a skewed moral compass would turn out. However, what hooked me was how gruesome and dark this comic book went because I wasn’t expecting that. I just really liked how unapologetically gritty it is. I wasn’t a fan of the art style, but I liked how detailed it is.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak ★★★★★
This is a children’s picture that has no pictures in it, which, I guess, may seem like it would be boring to kids but is actually a fun read. I didn’t read it to anyone because there aren’t any kids in my house and the adults probably wouldn’t tolerate me doing that and I don’t think we had the cat then so I could read to him. So I read it to myself. I love how silly the book is and its simple aesthetic, which attracted me and made me purchase and read it.
Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (illus.) ★★★★★
A historical children’s picture book about a lighthouse keeper living in a lighthouse. It was an informative read for me because I knew nothing about lighthouses or their keepers prior to reading this. The text is accompanied by Blackall’s beautiful illustrations that are very appealing and eye-catching. I love the colors and textures used, especially for the sea and the waves in it.
Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers (illus.) — Terry & Eric Fan ★★★★★
I love this book so much. It’s one of the most gorgeous books I own. Ocean Meets Sky is a very heartwarming story about a boy using his imagination to say bye to his late grandfather, who often told him stories about the place where the ocean meets the sky. I had a similar passing in my family in 2020, so this story was especially poignant to me because I didn’t get the chance to say bye or attend the funeral due to being in a different country while the corona pandemic raged on. I love the story and the illustrations, which are amazing and beautiful and so detailed. The Fan brothers did a great job on this picture book.
I reread several books by audio in 2020. Many of them were favorite reads from previous years, but the audio versions I listened to in 2020 were so good that they made my favorites list again this year. I didn’t mention them above since they are rereads and I wanted to focus on new-to-me books, but here are the audio rereads that were also favorites:
- Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, narr. by Paul Boehmer
- Tawney Man trilogy by Robin Hobb, narr. by James Langton
- The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, narr. by Lloyd James
- The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey, narr. by Steven Boyer