My Favorite Reads of 2020

It was really hard to narrow down my favorites because I’ve honestly had a really good reading year. I have pretty high expectations for next year also with the Cosmere Conquest starting tomorrow and some awesome ARCs in my lineup.

I decided to do different categories for my favorites because otherwise there would’ve been too many all together. And to think my goal was to literally just have a top 3 or top 5! Oh no! These are in no particular order within their categories. There will be non-fiction, fantasy/sci-fi, audiobooks, and other fiction.

Non-fiction Favorites of 2020

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers

narrated by the author

This book really taught me to keep quick judgments in check! I hated to admit to myself that I had certain prejudices but listening to this book really changed the way I viewed the world and people in it.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Vagina Problems by Lara Parker

Lara Parker pulled me into her story right away. There aren’t many books that I read this quickly. But she just has a real talent at telling things how they are with no shame and leaving you wanting more. I know that might be a weird thing to say when it is about a topic like this, but it is true. I learned so much about the illnesses she talks about and I am a better person for it. I wish I could make not just every doctor but every person in general read this book. I knew there was a bias about women’s pain in medicine but I did not realize it takes an average of 7 (SEVEN!) years for someone to be diagnosed with endometriosis. That is ridiculous!

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

narrated by Kirsten Potter 

I have had this one on my TBR list for a while and I hate that it took me this long to get to it because it is a really good book with so many really important messages. I have always liked memoirs that teach me something and this one really blows it out of the water in that aspect. We get to hear a lot about Paperny’s own life of course but she regularly interspersed it with information about depression in general and suicide specifically. Kirsten Potter was the perfect narrator for this. She presented the information very matter of factly but also made the personal experiences sound just like I would’ve imagined Paperny telling them with her dry and morbid sense of humor.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Inside the Hot Zone: A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare by Mark G. Kortepeter

As a fan of memoirs that involve diseases, this book had me hooked right from the start. While at points, the order of the chapters may seem somewhat disjointed, he does circle back to make the reader understand the importance of why he tells his story the way he does. If you enjoy action-packed novels or have been held back from memoirs because you expect them to be dry rather than exciting, then Kortepeter’s book is the right one to dive into and be convinced otherwise.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Audiobooks

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward

narrated by Suzannah Hampton

Somehow this just keeps happening with Orbit titles but I am just so intimidated by reviewing books that blow me away with their amazingness. I was convinced to give this title a try by other reviewers and once again was not disappointed by them. I’m really learning who to trust with book recommendations lately. I initially saw the second book in this series in an email by the publisher but it didn’t really stand out to me. I was distracted by The Fires of Vengeance (review here) and Call of the Bone Ships (review here). Boy, was I wrong. And am I glad I listened to those other people because I would have hated to miss out on this book. It instantly jumped to my favorites of the year, if not favorites of all time. Yes, that IS how much I enjoyed this. It is definitely one of the absolute best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to, right up there with To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (review here), which we all know I’m totally obsessed with.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

narrated by Robert Bathurst

Even though this is the 16th novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, please don’t let that keep you from reading or listening to this title! Only recently did I read the first book of the series, Still Life, and I have not yet picked up another besides All the Devils are Here but that did not take away from the great experience I had with this book. Penny does a wonderful job introducing all the characters in the first few chapters and you are pulled into the family very quickly. Murder mysteries are not very high on my favorites list so it really took me by surprise how much I enjoyed listening to this and how invested I became in the characters and their story.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

narrated by Jennifer Hale

I don’t think there was anything I would’ve wanted differently about this book honestly. The writing, the world-building, the character development, the science, the audiobook production, you name it – I love it all. This book is about space settlement and exploration, relationships, deeply personal human strength, wonders, politics, war, and nightmares. It has so many different topics it touches on in amazing detail yet it does so without drowning or overwhelming you with it. It is a long story – or rather experience, especially if you are listening to the audiobook – but when it is over, you find yourself missing your crew and the adventures you went on together. I loved this audiobook so much and I am planning on listening to it again in 2021.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

narrated by Ethan Herisse

Punching the Air is one of those books where I wish I could buy enough copies to give it to everyone I meet. This is such a heartfelt and moving story that leaves you contemplating the justice system and its racial disparities as well as human decency in general again and again throughout the story. There are shock elements to this story, such as Tattoo, that make you want to think that this is too much to be true but when you step back and think about recent events in real life, you realize that it may not be so outlandish after all. At multiple times did I find myself rewinding and listening to the same passages again. If I had the time, I would have listened to the entire book a second time right after finishing it the first time because it is such an emotional and powerful work of art. It is left somewhat open-ended but I actually prefer it that way because it leaves us on a more hopeful note.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

I heard several book blogger friends raving about this book so when I had the opportunity to request it for review, I jumped at the chance. I enjoy fantasy a lot, especially when magic and dragons are involved so I was looking forward to it a lot. Despite this, I was not prepared for how much I would love this book! I mean, I could not stop thinking about it even when I was supposed to focus on other things, such as work! All I wanted to do was get back to the book so I could see what would happen next! I was so glad to have book 2 of the series available right away also and am now anxiously awaiting the third.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Without wanting to give too much away, I just want to say that this book pulled me in completely right from the start and didn’t let go until I finished it that same evening. There are many things I enjoyed about this book but, aside from the themes, some of the other highlights are that books are an integral part of this story, friendship is as important as the romance, and the difficult choice the main character is asked to make has no obvious answer and will find you struggling to make it yourself the whole way through. Also, while it’s always fun to have complex bad characters in novels, it was also a nice change to have one that you can so effortlessly hate the entire way through this time. While I definitely wanted to throw my kindle at the wall at one point, I admire the way the author played with a wide range of my emotions with this book.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

(debut novel)

I had a lot of thoughts about this book but as it happens often with these kinds of books that are making me think a lot, I struggled to put those thoughts down in writing. First off though I want to say that this is a fantastic fantasy debut novel! While there are some things I would have liked to have differently, overall Andrea Stewart is off to a great start in this genre! She has a great mind for plot and interesting characters so I know she has the talent for this. I am really looking forward to the next book and will be reading it as soon as it hits the shelves

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

I don’t want to give too much away because I actually think it was good not knowing a lot going in but the way the technology was integrated into society as well as against societies was very interesting. I am also a big fan of familiars and while that is probably not the right word to use here, it still felt similar to that, which was a lot of fun. The integration of and references to specific music was very well done as well. This book wasn’t at all like anything else I’ve ever read and I stayed up until 1am to finish it, which is not something I do regularly anymore!

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Other Fiction

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

(debut novel)

It is difficult to believe that this really is MacDonald’s debut novel because it is so masterfully done. While I was reading, I continued to wonder how someone that is not affected by this himself could write the character of such an idiosyncratic person and yet make it so believable. But after reading some author interviews with the author, it now makes more sense. Seldom have I found myself so engrossed in a character’s narration and rooted for them as much as I did with Zelda. I am excited to see a new Canadian author get as much attention as MacDonald has been because it is well deserved. I look forward to reading more from him.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

(debut novel)

For a reason that I cannot explain, I avoided reading this book for a while. I could not put my finger on it but I just always felt that the time was not right yet and that I had to wait. Finally, I decided to dive in and I was unable to stop thinking about it for a long time. I was surprised when something very defining already happened at the beginning of the book and was not sure what other big finale could be worked towards, but it almost was the lack of a dramatic buildup that kept me so captivated the entire time. The events of this book are based on a true story and Beanland did a fantastic job of writing this in a way that made you feel like the entire story could be happening right here, right now. It almost felt like I was following along with the happenings in my own community. I am obviously struggling for the correct words but if you are a fan of novels that keep you wondering what happened to the characters after the book is finished, then this is the right read for you. I honestly cannot believe that this is the author’s first novel!

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals by Becky Mandelbaum

(debut novel)

I originally chose this book because it takes place at an animal sanctuary. My husband and I are involved in animal rescue and I love reading about animals just as much as I love taking care of them. While my upbringing was not even close to that of Mona or Ariel, I still think that my connection with animals really helped me relate to the situations and feelings in the book. It had a very slow start for me. I was expecting to read, like it, finish it, and just be done with it. But somehow it really got to me. Maybe the animal sanctuary and the way the characters related to them just made it feel more familiar to me. In the end, this book was really more about feelings and decisions than animals, but that’s okay with me. By the time I turned the last page, this had turned into one of my favorite reads of the year.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

The Butterfly Effect by Rachel Mans McKenny

(debut novel)

This book really took me by surprise! I found the description of the book intriguing but did not have many expectations going in. As a fellow introvert, I expected to be able to relate to the main character Greta pretty well and I was right. While I am not quite as anti-social as she is, I did very much understand her line of thinking and her motivations, hopes, and dreams felt understandable and reasonable to me based on her past experiences and feelings towards humanity in general. At the same time, it was satisfying to also be able to see the faults in her actions and thoughts, which made it even more satisfying to see her growth throughout this book. If you enjoy learning about people’s motivations and why they make certain choices, then this is might be your kind of book.

See my full review here.

Book available to buy here.

Favorite Book of the Year

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

narrated by Daniel Henning

I saw The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune when it first showed up on NetGalley. One of his other books wasn’t really for me and this one didn’t sound like it either so I kept passing it over and reading other books instead. While listening to What Should I Read Next, I heard Anne Bogel recommend it to a guest and based on that, I all of a sudden knew that I just had to read it! I reserved it at the library and it became available way more quickly than expected. I started listening right away and was hooked from the start. Daniel Henning is the narrator and I fell in love so quickly. He was absolutely perfect for this book. Sadly, the audiobook is only a little more than 12 hours long. I avoided listening to the last hour of the book because I was so sad it was ending. I swear I could listen to 12,000 hours worth of stories about this island and its children. This wasn’t the book I was looking for this year but it definitely was the one I needed. It may not be the book with the best world-building, the most exciting battles, or huge dragons flying all over the place (though I did very much appreciate the little one flying all over the place), but it for sure is the book that made me the happiest this year. It is sweet and kind and heart-warming. I didn’t write a huge review for this one like I sometimes do for others because I would’ve just constantly repeated that I love it, love it, love it, but between the variety of wonderful characters, the feelings, the humor, the adventure, the representation, and the ending… you just get an all-around wholesome story that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Book available to buy here.

Time to snoozzzeee…

Well, it’s getting late (for us). There are less than 2 hours left before the year is over but I am about to go to sleep. I’m glad I still got to finish this up though. It was hard narrowing the list down to this even and I still have so many left! What surprised me the most is how many of them were debut novels! It’s exciting to know that we have so many new talented writers! But honestly, what surprised me the most is that Cerulean Sea ended up being my favorite book this year when I didn’t even mean to read it in the first place! But it just made me so happy during a dark year so I guess it’s not a surprise after all. Now my biggest goal for 2021 is to find a signed copy of it so if you happen to hear of a way, PLEASE let me know!

Thank you for all your continued support. I love you all! Goodnight and Happy New Year!

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