My favorite books of 2020

Ah yes. The time has come to talk about my favorite books, which is quite literally my favorite thing to do.

December is the best time of the year to be in the blogging business honestly. I mean, all the hard work is over — you know what you’re doing next. No need to think too hard about what content you need to round out the month. You spend December looking back, which can be quite pleasant, even when the year itself was sort of a mess.

So without further ado, let’s talk about my favorite books this year.

The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir

This series was a wonderful escape from the pandemic this year, and I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy. A blend of science fiction and fantasy I didn’t know I needed, The Locked Tomb trilogy tells the story of Gideon and Harrow, set in a futuristic, spacefaring empire where necromancy has become the main source of power. It’s Star Wars if there were more dead people, and if the main character were a young and untried lesbian Han Solo and Leia was a goth. Irreverent is the best word for this series, but the author is smart — she does some amazing things with the structure of these books and they’re worth a read if for no other reason. As a side note, I heartily recommend the audiobook for Gideon the Ninth — the narration is excellent and really adds to the story. (Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBTQ+)

Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas

I have heretofore avoided Sarah J. Maas, not out of any particular ire, but because I tried to read Throne of Glass a few years ago and couldn’t quite get through it. I have since gone back and read that book (it’s got first book problems, we all go through this stage) but I still don’t like the Throne of Glass series quite as much as I enjoyed this series, which features a love story twist I certainly wasn’t expecting and totally enjoyed and some really epic battle scenes. While I’ve had the first book since the collector’s edition was gifted to me this summer, I hadn’t dug into it until being trapped inside with Covid, whereupon I read the first three books more or less in one sitting. A bridge novella connects the original trilogy with later books, so expect more books in this series, but arguably books 1-3 could be read alone. (Romance, Fantasy)

Gunnie Rose Books by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is best known for her Trueblood novels, but has come up with a very different sort of character in Gunnie Rose. This series is as yet unfinished, but the first book, An Easy Death, scratched that Weird Western itch in a way I didn’t know I needed. I don’t have a single favorite book this year, obviously — I started this list with three series in a row — but I deeply loved the first book in this series and would recommend reading it if for no other reason. It’s got Russian wizards, gunslinging, and secrets within secrets. While I didn’t enjoy the second book as much, I’m very hopeful for the third book. (Western, Fantasy, Romance)

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

I read this book in August, pretty much as soon as it came out, while sleeping on my living room floor. The heat pump in the upstairs of our house went out, and so we dragged the mattress downstairs and stuffed it between the couch and the TV for about two weeks right around my birthday, and it was a little bit like going on a camping trip but with air conditioning and showers. Probably the ideal situation to read this book in, if I’m being honest. If near-future dystopia is your speed, and you want romance in it (I read a lot of romance this year folks, it’s apparently my comfort food) then I invite you to eat this story up with a spoon. Secrets, double crossing, augmented humans of all varieties, and corporate corruption with a healthy side of blistering attraction, it’s got it all. (Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance)

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Finally getting off of the romance train, I invite you to enjoy this cosmic horror story. T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is one of my favorite authors for the simple reason that her characters are so fascinatingly pragmatic. I think this is why she does horror so well. Whereas many of the horror films we know and love require the female lead to run around screaming, there is very little screaming in Kingfisher’s work. There’s a whole lot of possessed taxidermy though, and a few of the absolute creepiest scenes I have read anytime recently. (Horror)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Alright, one of my favorite new authors I have read this year has to be Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I finally got around to reading my copy of Certain Dark Things (mentioned here), plowed through Prime Meridian, and found myself in high anticipation of her most recent release, Mexican Gothic, which I read as soon as I could get my hands on it. Each of Moreno-Garcia’s books are very different, but her voice carries through with rhythms that are nostalgic for me as a child of the Southwest and a long ago student of Spanish language and literature. If you are remotely interested in Latin authors, I can’t recommend her work enough. And Mexican Gothic lives up to its name, with a fascinating story that oozes menace, a surreal dream from which you might never wake up. (Horror, Latin, Gothic)

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Okay, so I read one other Weird Western this year, and maybe I’m just a sucker for these stories but I couldn’t leave it off this list. Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted is properly a dystopia, in that it in a posited future of the United States. Women (and nonbinary folks, too) travel as Librarians, one of the only positions in which femme and gender-non-conforming folks can find any freedom, bringing books from town to town and playing the part of good, patriotic women. This novella has strong opinions on what it is like to live in the margins, and what you have to give up to fight your own oppression. (Western, Dystopia, LGBTQ+)

Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Another novella with strong themes of resistance, this gorgeous story remains one of my favorites from this year. Rabbit is one of the bravest humans I’ve ever found in text I think, and the world of The Singing Hills is one full of ghosts and history, politics and spirits. Another story set in this world was published only this month, and while it wasn’t as dear to me it was nonetheless a compassionate and nuanced read that I heartily recommend. (Fantasy, LGBTQ+)

Dust by Elizabeth Bear

This book was published ages ago, but it’s my list and my rules and it’s not like books go bad. While Elizabeth Bear has had some new scifi come out this year that was also very engaging, I remain most enthused by this story, which was almost magical (and certainly mythological) in its approach to science fiction. That mixture of fantasy and scifi is apparently something I greatly enjoy, and I hope to see more of it going into the new year. (Science Fiction)

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

I almost forgot to add this book to my list because I read it pre-Covid and I honestly forgot that was this year. And of course, similar to The Locked Tomb trilogy I am late to the party on this one. But can I just say, folks — this book made me actually angry. I was actually angry because it was so damned good that I at points had to put it down and just experience my own jealousy in another room. Apparently this is a thing that happens sometimes for writers, which I didn’t realize until this January when it happened to me. Anyway, if you want some fantastic world-building, this book is for you. Enjoy terrorist plots, interstellar conflicts, and an Aztec-inspired high tech empire. (Science Fiction)

Special Mention: Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace

While this book doesn’t come out until May of next year, I did read it this year and can I just say — you want this on your shelf. A longer review is forthcoming, and I can’t wait to share it with you. (Science Fiction, Dystopia)

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