I know I’ve said in previous years that heeeey it’s been a shit year, but at least the books were good!
Well, 2020 has kind of been the supreme example of that. There’s been so much happening, and most of it isn’t great…but at least the books were good, right? They were amazing, in fact!
ON WITH THE BOOKS. I’ve never been very good at limiting myself with these things so, for this year.. eeeeeh let’s call it an even dozen. ^_^ They’re in no particular order, except that my most favorite is at the bottom.
The Court of Mortals by A.J. Lancaster
Oh my but this series has taken hold of me and taken me for a wonderful ride through magical gaslight fae adventures.
This was another fantastic installment of the story, and I found it incredibly hard to put down once I picked it up. Many late nights were spent curled up in bed reading.
The characters are fantastic, just at they were in the first two installments. Hetta is still one of my favorite characters in all of literature at this point, as is Wyn. We get to visit with Wyn’s brother Rakken again, as well as Rakken’s twin sister Catsmere. I really enjoyed watching them interact with the other characters, especially Hetta’s brother Marius, who gets caught up in his family’s drama, per usual. He’s more than a bit adorable himself, and it’s hard not to want him to live happily ever after too, even if he is a little bit overprotective of his little sister. Hetta and Wyn are still adorable together, and banter with each other in ways that just got all of the smiles out of me. It’s wonderful finding a book or a series with characters as lovable as these. It makes me want to read the series over and over.
I thought this was a wonderful addition to the series, and I can’t wait for the last book. I can only imagine the shenanigans to come, because the ending of this one left all kinds of options open for maximum shenanigans!
Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
This one got slammed into my radar by the insane amount of hype surrounding it, and I have to say that for me, it lived up to it.
The relationship between Ettian and Gal was really well put together (and often adorable). It had a fair deal of the ‘will they or won’t they’ in it, while actually making me both want them to and want them not to (which is super uncommon for me, who typically thinks all characters with even a little bit of chemistry should definitely mush bits of each other together a bunch ^_^). It is one of those romances in which these two really, really don’t communicate as well as they should though. I found this frustrating, but in a… compelling way? It made me want to read more, to see when and how they resolve their problems. I can see this being a sticking point for some people though.
The prose was fantastic, and the world that was built was a very realistic-feeling one, with a great attention to little details. The entire book is quite compelling and fast-paced, but man, the last quarter of this book was an actual emotional thrillride. I highlighted so many quotes that I’m a little surprised that there are still un-highlighted bits of this book left. This is definitely a book that I will want to read again. And again…. and again.
A Dance with Fate by Juliet Marillier
I’ve liked every book I’ve ever read by Juliet Marillier, and this one is obviously no exception. This one follows Liobhan and Brocc, who are the next generation of Blackthorn and Grim (and it’s not necessary to read that series first, though it does give a little bit of context for some background things happening) and their friend and fellow warrior apprentice Dau.
Even with the emotional rollercoaster this book put me on, I absolutely could not put it down. I had to know what happened next. I read this book until 4am one night, because I needed to know what happened. We see this story mainly from three POVs (with one or two exceptions) – that of Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc. They’re told in first person, and so we get to see this action with their eyes, and that served to make my attachment to these characters even stronger. I remember not liking Dau at all in book one. Welp, that’s changed.
If you liked the first book in the series, you are almost certain to like this one as well, as it is largely more of the same. If you liked Blackthorn and Grim or Sevenwaters, you’d probably like this series as well.
Shadows of Ivory by T.L. Greylock and Bryce O’Connor
I can’t resist a book about archeology or mythology, and this one has a fair bit of the former! This one had a lot of characters that I liked. I enjoyed Eska, for a start. She’s smart, snarky, and quick-thinking. She’s not afraid to do what needs to be done, or of hard work. Her friend and librarian Albus Courtenay was also a really great character, and the banter between he and Eska brought a smile to my face more than once. Perrin and Eden were even more characters that I liked a lot. And Manon. I started out not really liking her much at all (she is Eska’s rival, after all) but I ended up cheering for her too.
This was a really well written adventure, with plenty of great dialogue. The plot unraveled slowly and left mysterious things mysterious (not that it stopped me from making every possible prediction). The characters were endearing and grew even more so over the course of the story. This is one of those books that has characters that you want to trust, but you don’t quite, because it’s entirely plausible that just about anyone could be behind the shenanigans. I was suspicious of just about everyone. Even the characters that I really, really wanted to believe were as good as they appeared. Fantastic!~
Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton
“But Kristen, you literally just listened to this!” Yeah, I know, but like I said in the last segment… I can’t resist a book about archaeology or mythology and this one has a metric shitton of the latter. It is and will continue to be one of those books that just tickles every single bit of the myth nerd in me. This one was absolutely no exception.
This world is huge, and having a general interest in some of the different mythologies in it makes it seem even larger in many ways. It’s well described, and the links between characters and their various mythological counterparts are usually well explained. Some people might be turned off by the level of detail that goes into explaining who exactly someone is in the grand scheme of things, but as a myth nerd, this was like pushing the squee button.
As the title suggests, there is a pretty big war between the gods for a lot of the latter half of the book, which isn’t always my favorite thing to read about. But the terrors of war were interspersed with good bits here and there, so that was nice. It was great fun! If you dig mythological fantasy, get you some Paternus!
The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence
This is the story of Yaz, of the Ichta tribe. The tribes that call the ice of Abeth home have made it a tradition to cull those children who their priests deem as cursed. By throwing them down a pit into… uh, oblivion. Yaz survives the fall and goes on some crazy adventures in oblivion.
I liked this one a lot! It takes place in the same universe as the Book of the Ancestor series. It is not necessary to have read that series to read and find enjoyment in this one however. The most you would be missing would be finding the connections between the world Yaz lives in and the world that Nona lived in. Readers of the Broken Empire series may find a link there as well. I found myself smiling as soon as two rather familiar words popped up.
Just like every other book of Mark Lawrence’s that I have read, this one was very beautifully written, with all kinds of intensely quotable quotes and great characters. I wasn’t sure about Yaz right at first, but before I was even a quarter of the way through, I was a total Yaz fan and hoped that she would succeed in the things she did. She meets new people along the way, and every character we get to know becomes memorable in their own way.
Network Effect by Martha Wells
I will never not like Murderbot. It’s just so awesome.
I think it’s because it’s hilariously relatable in so many ways. Everything from its exasperation at nobody listening to it for their own security (despite being literally designed and programmed for security), to its low-key disgust at human bodily functions (ick).
This full length novel adventure takes place after the events of the first four novellas, so I would suggest hopping into this series via them so that you don’t miss any context. You could probably find enjoyment from the story without having read them, as it does give as much of the context as it can, but it really helps to have some of these characters’ relationship to Murderbot explained in a bit more detail.
If you loved the Murderbot novellas, you’re going to love this. If you haven’t experienced Murderbot, then run, don’t walk, directly towards some excellent sci-fi. I cannot wait for more!
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater
Adorable fae-filled regency fantasy-of-manners? Yespls, I’ll have some!
Theodora Ettings was cursed by a fae when she was a child and is now missing half of her soul. Her cousin and best friend brings her along on her grand debut into society in the hopes that they can find the King’s Magician, Elias Wilder… because surely he can repair a soul if anyone can.
I listened to this book in one day, and I really enjoyed absolutely every little bit of it. Dora is a great character, because what she lacks in the average emotional range (due to the half a soul thing), she has an abundant amount of wry snarky bluntness that made me chuckle more than once. So much so that she can even make Elias Wilder, the grumpiest and most ungentlemanly magician the world has ever known, lower his wards around her. The relationship between them was slow burning and often innocently adorable. It made this a lovely warm and fuzzy book to listen to on an otherwise gloomy day. It got me in the feels a few times but in the best way, in the end, I assure you!
The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso
Tali, Tali, Tali. You know what you did. Hiss, hiss, hiss.
The Ikessar Falcon is the continuing story of Talyien aren dar Orenar, the Queen of Jin-Sayeng. After the events of The Wolf of Oren-yaro, Tali is trapped across the sea in the Empire of Ziri-nar-Orxiaro, held there by an embargo placed by… well, someone who really doesn’t want her to leave. Tali is desperate to get back to Jin-Sayeng because her son’s life is in danger. So, she does everything that’s in her power to get home. And shenanigans are very much had.
This series is very character driven, and it has those characters you can’t help but love, and other characters that you can’t help but loathe. Most of all though, Villoso has crafted some of the most tense romantic tension between characters that I’ve ever read. It made this book very difficult to set aside to do things like eat, even despite the fact that I have read it before (that said, food is described in some detail in this book and it makes me hungry every time, lol). I knew… things… were going to happen. And yet, it was almost more feels-jostling the second time around, knowing what was to come.
I think I loved this book even more the second time around. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s gone through some additional re-writes and editing since I read it the first time, or if it’s because I just needed a reread of this book in my life.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
The Once and Future Witches is the story of the Eastwood sisters, Agnes, Juniper, and Bella, who are all brought together one day in New Salem, despite being apart for seven years. Witching was commonplace long ago, but in 1893, it’s nothing but nursery rhymes and bits and bobs. The sisters join the women’s suffrage movement, which before long turns into a kind of witches’ movement, as they and the other women of New Salem fight to bring back the old words and ways.
I loved this book from start to finish, honestly. The only thing that prevented me from reading the entire thing in one sitting was real life getting all up in my reading time. But, I found that drawing it out into several days of reading gave the experience a certain something, like I was savoring it. This doesn’t always happen for me. I consume books as quickly as I can, usually. When it does happen, it is *chef’s kiss*.
This is a book about sisterhood, and about womanhood. It is angry AF, and I was here for it.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
I had this on my to-read list the very second it was possible to put it on my to-read list. I started reading it the very second its words touched my kindle. It was one of thooooose books.
This is the story of Luc O’Donnell, who is the son of a famous rock star from the 80s who spent much of the time between the 80s and the present in and out of rehab. Luc’s never met his father, but now that his dad is making an epic comeback on reality television, Luc is getting more and more press, and his public image is starting to go down the toilet. If he doesn’t find a nice, respectable boyfriend to bring to a work event to prove that he’s not the disaster that the press paints him as, he’s going to lose his job.
Cue Oliver Blackwood. He’s handsome, single, a lawyer, a vegetarian, and is also in need of a plus one to an important event. So, they make a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until each event is over, and then they can go their separate ways.
These guys are adorable idiots and I would fight a feral tiger for them. The relationship between Luc and Oliver was a nice slow burn, and reached levels of adorableness that may yet be unmeasurable. However, there is plenty of idiocy from both sides when it comes to how a healthy relationship (fake or otherwise) works. Enter the heart-wrenching bits. But despite idiocy on both sides, both characters grow in wonderful ways due to the influence of the other. The last 15% or so of this one did me a solid kick in the feels, in a way that made the ending itself even better. It was like gay Bridget Jones’ Diary and I was 1000% here for all of it. Love, love love!~
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
This is my absolute favorite book
of the year ever. If I could pluck every star out of the night sky and give them to this book, I would do it. This is the sort of book that I will read on a gloomy day, to make it less gloomy. If I’m feeling sad: this book. If I’m feeling happy: this book. If I’m feeling hungry: uh… food, probably… but also this book.
This follows the story of Linus Baker, who is a social worker and lives a mostly monotonous life of mostly working. He does everything he’s asked to do by his superiors, and as such, he is a very good employee. He works for what is more or less the CPS of this magical land, and is charged with going to orphanages where magical kids live and make sure they’re doing okay. This time he is tasked with going to a very special and very-very classified house out on an isolated island, run by the rather eccentric Arthur Parnassus. The kids in this house are very special, being anything from a were-Pomeranian to the actual Antichrist. Extremely Upper Management is quite concerned about Arthur Parnassus though, and so things must be looked in upon, and Linus is the man to do it.
It is so heartwarming. A smile-inducing, feels-grabbing, fuzzy-wuzzy book. This story is the epitome of the ‘found family’ which I am realizing as I get older and read more is one of my favorite tropes. The audiobook was absolutely amazingly narrated (I mean it, it was bonkers good), and I sat there and listened to the whole thing in one sitting. Eating while listening, doing work while listening, driving while listening. And I will do it again. And again.
I love this book so much. I haven’t been able to get a review down that wasn’t just ‘guys it’s so good *sob*’ this entire time. So, here you go. GUUUUYS. 😭 So goooood.