2020 favorite books

Six books I read in 2020 that have stuck with me since I read them

I read many good books this year, but for one reason or another these are the books I keep thinking about.

Four of the six books are by new-to-me authors. Three of the them are audiobooks from my library so I probably wouldn’t have read them if I couldn’t have gotten them from the library. One book–The Bond was a Kindle Unlimited book. I’m really liking my KU subscription. I’ve found so many new authors and good books to read!

This was so fun to read. It was also such a good book about a plus-size main character who is a fashion blogger with a huge following. She agrees to come on a popular reality TV show as the star with lots of single guys vying for her affection.

She agrees to the show because she’s tired of the size zero young women the show usually has who don’t represent American women. Not everything works out as she hopes, but there are laugh out loud moments as well as cringe worthy moments. This is a very readable story, but it also has important messages (without being preachy) about our self-image and the way women are portrayed on social media as well as on television and in movies.

This was so well done. I don’t usually read romances, but I loved this book. I felt such empathy for both the main characters–Khai Diep and Esme Tran. They are both trying so hard to understand the world they live in.

I like the way the author portrays both characters. Esme is a mixed-race girl from Viet Nam where she’s never been treated as though she’s worthy because of her mixed race. Khai Diep is autistic and doesn’t want a relationship because he doesn’t understand feelings and doesn’t think he has any feelings. His family knows he just processes things differently than other people. And his mother wants him to be happy. However, he’s content with his routine, his job and his life the way they are. He doesn’t like change. Esme grew up in Viet Nam and has worked hard to provide for her daughter, mother and grandmother. When she’s offered the chance by Khai’s mother to come to America and meet Khai and perhaps marry him she jumps at the chance to have a better future.

I like the way the author portrays these two people. She really seems to understand how they feel and would act and react to the situations they find themselves in.

This was quite a unique book. I thought the world building was well done. The people of this world use genetics and people are created in a lab. Dinitra grows up fearing men because of their violent nature and because her world is only filled with women. A war was fought in the past by the men in their world so women took over and only use men as sperm donors.

When she graduates from her school she’s chosen to train 12–a fierce mutant dog. She’s terrified of the dog at first, but finally the two bond. The dog is supposed to help finally kill the rebels that beset her world. However, Dinitra and 12 are kidnapped by the rebels and she learns that what she’s thought of her world isn’t all true. I love the bond between Dinitra and 12. I’ve read other reviews who call this a story of a girl and her dog. And that’s certainly true.

A Deadly Education has many overtones of Harry Potter, but this school for magic users is a much scarier place. It’s not good to be alone in this school. Sometimes people alone in a hallway disappear and are never found again. People don’t have friendships in this school. However, an alliance can keep a person alive, but it can turn deadly, too, if you aren’t useful to the people in your alliance. Plus if you’re not from a wealthy family you probably can’t form an alliance.

Galadriel “El” Higgins is an outsider from a poor family and doesn’t have alliances, but she’s learned how to stay alive. She’s a grumpy, sarcastic character and no one really likes her. . . maybe because most of the students have heard of the dire prophecy made about her. She hopes to catch the eye of an important enclave so that after she graduates they will employ her. Therefore, she’s furious when Orien Lake, the most popular boy in the school and a member of the New York enclave, keeps saving her life. How will she make herself notable if she Orien Lake keeps interfering?

I listened to the audiobook and I thought Anisha Dadia did a great job capturing the snarky, sarcastic tone that El uses. She was easy and fun to listen to. Even though there are dark patches in this book it was a joy to read. I like finding out more about this world and more about individual students. I often don’t like young adult books because of the silly angst, but I didn’t find as much of that as I feared. These students are trying to survive to adulthood!

I was unsure if I wanted to read this book (and I’ve owned the book for months). I love Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series and was afraid I would be disappointed. This first book was very different from the Ruth Galloway series, but I loved it and want to find out more about DS Harbinder Kaur!

The Stranger Diaries is a mystery, but the Gothic story “The Stranger” by R.M. Holland is gradually told throughout the book along with the modern murder mystery. “The Stranger” is more in the Gothic horror genre, but perhaps because I read it gradually it didn’t scare me! (I don’t like horror.)

R.M. Holland is central to the book. He lived during the 1800’s in one of the buildings which is now a school where much of the book takes place. One of the characters, Clare Cassidy, is an English teacher at the school and is writing a book about Holland. A friend of Clare’s is killed and there seems to be a connection with Holland.

I felt Clare was the main character in this book even though the series will continue and is entitled “Harbinder Kaur.” DS Harbinder Kaur is one of the police officers who is investigating the murder. I wonder if the author will keep Harbinder more in the background of these stories. She’s certainly a character I’d like to know more about.

The story is told by different characters so we’re aware when they lie or hold something back from the police. We aren’t always certain we’re learning everything they know. I thought the author did a very good job the way she wrote the book.

I loved this! The characters are real and fun. I’d love to have them as friends though I’m not sure I could keep up! I like that many of the characters are retired, but that doesn’t mean they’re retired from life. Elizabeth is my favorite. I love the way she tests her memory with a question each day on her calendar of something that happened a couple weeks before. One day she asks herself what number was on a license plate. And she remembers! I think as we grow older testing our memory is something we all do.

The characters seem real to me–with both good and bad qualities. The characters act in surprising ways. The mysteries surprised me. The whole book surprised me! I am glad I had the audiobook of this. The narrator is Lesley Manville and she really enhanced the story for me.

What books were your favorites last year! Have you read any of these books?

My 2020 reading year

My takeaways

  • I read more books last year–120 books–than I’ve read in a number of years.
  • I read 60 ebooks of which 30 were Kindle Unlimited (KU) books. I try to read at least two KU books every month.
  • I listened to 52 audiobooks this year–a big increase from 2019. Most of them were from the library.
  • A little over 50% of the books I read were mysteries.
  • About a third of the books were fantasy and science fiction.
  • My favorite genres continue to be mysteries, science fiction and fantasy (though I did read seven romance books).
  • 2020 was such a stressful year I hibernated (self-quarantined) and read. Most of the books I read were read to escape what was happening in the real world.
  • I didn’t write any reviews for my blog though I did write a few short reviews on Goodreads.
  • I didn’t participate in any reading challenges.

The three things that stood out to me in 2020

My library

My library was a huge comfort to me. Almost half the books I read in 2020 (55 books) came from my library–almost all of them either ebooks or audiobooks.

The Libby app

I use the Libby app which I love. I can search on my phone by author, subject or name of book to see if my library has electronic copies. I can use tags to put a book on my wish list so I remember to check it out when I have time to read it. (Sometimes I have six or seven books checked out to read at the same time and I don’t have time to read all the books if I only have three weeks.) I can check out a book or place a hold right in the app. I can listen to the audiobook using the app. I can even read the ebook in the app though I usually use my Kindle to read ebooks. Only five of the books I read in 2020 were paper books. Those five books all came from my library.

Library closed

My library was closed most of the year for in-person use although I’ve been able to check out books and a librarian brings the books to our car and places them in the trunk. I mostly did that with cookbooks and other nonfiction which I don’t usually read in Kindle versions. A lot of the nonfiction I skim and read just the sections that interest me so I don’t add them to the books I read.

I checked out fiction books a few times, but often returned them unread when I discovered the library had gotten the digital copy of the book. My library focused on adding more digital items to their library in 2020.

New authors

I read 39 books by new-to-me authors. I usually read about a third of my books by new authors. And that was true again this year. I read most of my new authors either as books from the library or Kindle Unlimited books. The rest of the books I purchased for under $5.00. Especially when an author is new to me I don’t buy books which cost over about $3. (Actually, I don’t buy many books over $5.00 even from authors I love.) I try to wait until their books go on sale.

Books I didn’t finish

The last group of books I want to talk about are the books I didn’t finish this year. There were 16 of those books. I read at least 15% of all the books I designate as “not finished.” I usually decide within the first chapter or two whether I want to read a book or not, but I didn’t add the book to my DNF group if I hadn’t read at least 15%. However, I read over 50% of a few of them before I decided to stop.

  • This year I was much more sensitive to the tone of the book–too sad or too depressing and I bailed.
  • A number of books that other times I might have enjoyed just didn’t hold my interest.
  • A few books that I thought would be calming were just too predictable or silly.
  • One thing didn’t change: I will stop reading a book if it’s too violent for me.
  • One book I was enjoying totally changed at about 50% and I suddenly felt like I was reading a different book.

The numbers

2019

Reading Challenge -95

Books Read-90

Ebooks — 60

Audiobooks — 27

Hardcover & Paperback — 3

Library — 28 (audio-15; ebooks-10; hardcover-3)

Kindle Unlimited — 9*

New Authors — 34

Did Not Finish — 1

*I only started KU towards end of the year

2020

Reading Challenge-90

Books Read-120

Ebooks — 62

Audiobooks — 53

Hardcover & Paperback — 5

Library — 55 (audio-40; ebooks-10; hardcover-5)

Kindle Unlimited — 30

New Authors — 39

Did Not Finish — 16

What about you? How was your 2020 reading year?

My favorite books of 2019

In 2019 I read lots of books that made me happy I can read!

I’m finally getting my favorite books of the year completed. 2019 was a good reading year since I read many books I liked and many that filled me with joy. So I have lots of favorites this year!

I had set a goal for myself to read 95 books and only read 90, but that’s okay. I love to read. I think I’m reading a little slower these days. However, the important thing for me is that I’m still reading and that I enjoy most of the books I read.

I’ve added links to the books I reviewed (only three books). 😦

Mystery

Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger, Cork O’Connor #5

This series takes place in northern Minnesota’s lake country. I love the series which features wonderful descriptions of northern Minnesota and well-written mysteries. However, I need to read them a little quicker since there are already 17 books in the series!

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima, Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries #4

This is another series I love. I’m up-to-date with this series and have read these books since started being published a few years ago. I love reading about working dogs and Robo is a great example of a K-9 dog in a police department. He and Mattie are a wonderful team.

Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong, Rockton #4

This police procedural is set in one of the oddest towns I’ve read about in a mystery and there’s lots of suspense. Each book ratchets up the suspense a little more.

Fractured Truth by Susan Furlong, Bone Gap Travellers #2

Former Marines Brynn and her K-9 partner Wilco suffer from PTSD and both carry the scars from an IED explosion. Brynn tries to control the flashbacks with alcohol and pain pills–not a good combination especially since she’s now working for the McCreary County Sherrif’s Department. She’s also trying to straddle two worlds–that of the Irish Travellers (a nomadic group from Ireland who came to the U.S. during the Great Famine) and the settled townspeople (most of whom distrust the Travellers.) The mysteries are good in this series and the world of the Travellers is fascinating.

The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman, Leaphorn & Chee #13

I’ve read these mysteries since I was a teenager. My mom and I would talk about the books through the years since we both loved them. One of the best things about this series is that it’s set in the United States Southwest. For a while I stopped reading mysteries so now I’m catching up with this series. And I’m so happy that Tony Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman has continued writing the series after he died.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8

The books in this series are so well written. Sometimes they’re difficult to read since heartbreaking things happen to characters I like. Things that happen in one book may have far-reaching impact several books later and then we see how skillfully Louise Penny has intertwined so much into her books.

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie, Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #18

I was so happy to read this book since it has been several years since Deborah Crombie had written a book in the series. When I read about Duncan and Gemma and their family it’s like having a chat with old friends. And the mysteries are good, too!

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, Ruth Galloway #9

I’m always happy to return to Ruth’s world. She’s such an interesting character and I love the mysteries which always have something to do with her forensic archaeology work.

Science Fiction

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries #4

I’ve loved every single one of the Murderbot books. They are original, an adventure story and also thought-provoking.

Borderline by Janet Edwards, Hive Mind #4

I like everything I’ve read by Janet Edwards. This series is one I especially love. Ms. Edwards has a great way of writing exciting stories about characters I care about. And her world building is so good. It takes place in Earth’s future.

Mantivore Dreams by S.G. Higbee, Arcadian Chronicles #1

I like the way this book slowly unfolds so that it gives readers time to try to figure things out themselves. I also like that by the end of the book there are threads for future books, but that this book is a complete story. I need to get that next book read! The world building is especially good and I like the way Kyrillia grows and changes throughout the book.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher

I chose to read this book because it was about a dog! I love the bond between Griz and the dogs. However, the book is a post apocalyptic science fiction so the book is good, but also has an overall feeling of sadness.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

I feel like a lot of science fiction really makes you think in a different way and that’s kind of what this book did for me. It’s also post apocalyptic, military science fiction and during parts of the book I wasn’t really sure what was happening! It went different directions than I thought it would.

Ascending by Meg Pechenick, The Vardeshi Saga #1

Margaret (Meg) Pechenick is a new author to me. (S.G. Higbee @ Brainfluff reviewed this book. I find out about so many good books from her.) I loved this science fiction about aliens visiting Earth and inviting a group of Earthlings to visit their part of space.

Doing Time by Jodi Taylor, The Time Police #1

This was book one of a new series–The Time Police–that came out in fall 2019. It’s a spin-off of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. These are both time travel series and so much fun. I’m doing a happy dance that Jodi Taylor decided to start another series which comes at the time travel idea from a slightly different angle. Can’t wait for the next book!

Urban Fantasy

These are my favorite urban fantasies (which are about the only fantasies I read these days) and I’ve read every book as they’ve been published!

Wild Country by Anne Bishop, The World of the Others #2 (The Others #7)

The world building in these books is one of the most appealing parts of this series. It very different from other urban fantasy series I read.

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs, Mercy Thompson #11

Mercy Thompson is such a great character. She doesn’t always do the smart thing, but she’s such a loyal friend and she tries to do what’s right for the people she’s responsible for. And I love the world Patricia Briggs has created.

Between Homes by W.R. Gingell, The City Between #5

This series is so unique and the last book has really ratcheted up the suspense. I hope another book comes soon in this world where Fae often come and go in the human world, but very few humans manage to survive a trip either Between or Behind. And most humans don’t even know they exist.

Fiction

Doggirl by Robin Brande

I loved this book! It’s young adult which I seldom like or read, but this book about a high school girl who wants to be an animal trainer for movies is just lovely. And the dogs are wonderful!

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

An out-of-work librarian, a bookstore on wheels and remote towns without libraries all come together in this wonderful book. There’s even some romance in it! And it’s set in Scotland!

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

I loved all the dogs in this book plus the human characters are great fun to read about.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

At the end of the book I felt so happy I’d read this which is one of the reasons I love reading. It’s set in Maine which is one of my favorite places and Evvie Drake is a great character. She’s certainly not perfect, but she’s someone I’d love to talk to. Linda Holmes is also one of the hosts of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast which I love to listen to.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

One of my most favorite books of 2019! So glad I read it. The language flows and the characters are so vivid–especially Kya (aka “Marsh Girl”). The book is heartbreaking at times, but ultimately a wonderful read. It’s historical fiction, almost a natural history of the North Carolina swamps and marshland and a mystery all set in swamps along the North Carolina Coast. It switches back and forth between Kya’s childhood in the 1950’s and a murder that happens in 1969. Cassandra Campbell narrated the audiobook and made my enjoyment of the book so vivid and immersive.

Memoir

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I don’t usually read memoirs or biographies, but I enjoyed this one a lot–especially since I listened to the audiobook narrated by Michelle Obama. By the end I felt like we had met! So interesting to hear about her childhood, her meeting and marriage to Barack Obama, and then her life as the First Lady in the White House. She’s such an inspirational person.

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite books of the year?

My 2019 reading year

I like to look back at other years (I’ve added a few stats from 2018) and see how my reading has changed through the years so it really helps me to take the time to count everything. My take-away from these statistics:

  • I missed my Goodreads reading challenge last year, but I read some great books which is more important to me.
  • I’m not sure why I read so many fewer books in 2019 than 2018. It’s partly because of some shorter books in 2018, but that’s not the complete reason.
  • I read books in a few genres I don’t usually read.
  • I wrote very few reviews last year.
  • Most books I read were published in the last 10 years.
  • I didn’t keep track of my reading challenges very well.

2019 Reading Goal

I read 90 books (of my 95 book goal) last year. In 2018 I read 104 books.

Ebooks–60 (41 that I own; 9 from Kindle Unlimited; 10 from library)

Audiobooks–27 (12 audiobooks I own; 15 audiobooks from library)

Hardcover books–2 (from library)

Paperbacks–1 (from library)

Genres & Types of Books Read

My favorite genres continue to be mysteries (especially police procedurals), science fiction and fantasy (especially urban fantasy).

Note: These numbers don’t add up to 90 since several books fit in more than one category.

Mystery

  • Police Procedural–23
  • Cozys–5
  • Other–11

Science Fiction

  • Military–1
  • Young Adult–4
  • Space Opera–2
  • Time Travel–3
  • Post Apocalyptic–1
  • Other–4

Fantasy

  • Urban–14
  • Young Adult–1
  • Other–6

Romance

  • Contemporary–1
  • Historical Romance–2

Fiction

I didn’t read these categories in 2018.

  • Women’s Fiction–6
  • Young Adult–1
  • Middle Grade–2
  • Historical Fiction–2
  • Christmas–1

Nonfiction

Another category I didn’t read in 2018.

  • Memoir–1
  • Other–2

Dogs

  • I read 10 books with dogs as major characters. (Nine books in 2018)

Other Stats

New-to-me authors–34 (My two favorite new authors.) (35 new authors in 2018.)

The author I read the most–Katherine Pathak , DCI Dani Bevan Mystery series (four books)

Reviews posted in 2019

  • of 2019 books read–7
  • of 2018 books read–11

Books Read (by original date of publication)

Most books I read were published in the last decade (2010-2019) though I read a handful of “vintage” books.

2019 books read–26

2010 – 2018–52

2000 – 2009–4

1990s–3

1970 and before–5

(1970, 1947, 1934, 1923 and 1894)

Reading Challenges

I signed up for lots of challenges last year, but partly because of problems with my blog last year and then moving it to WordPress.com I didn’t work much on my challenges. Plus as past years have shown I don’t participate in challenges very well. I sometimes complete a challenge if I just have to read certain types of books, but if I have to write a review or go to a blog to show that I read a certain type of book I don’t do it or I forget about doing that.

The only challenge I kept track of was my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I haven’t signed up for challenges other than the Goodreads challenge in 2020. I might try to participate in my local library reading challenge. That challenge has 12 different categories to read one book from each category during the year. I’ll talk more about reading challenges in my 2020 Goals post.

2015 reading summary

Infographic

My 2015 reading summary is on an infographic this year. I decided to make an infographic, because one of my goals with my blog is to learn new technologies for my blog. This is the first infographic I’ve made and it was fun and quite easy to make using the Piktochart site. There are tutorials and templates which make it quite easy and they even offer to chat with you and help you if you need it. The hardest part was trying to decide what information to include and then how to show it. I hope to make more infographics in the future.

2015Reading

Did the infographic work?

According to Wikipedia, “Information Graphics or Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.” What do you think? Was the infographic a success?

One thing I worry about making an infographic like this is whether the graphic is too big and makes the page load slowly. Please do let me know if the page seems to load slowly on your computer.

Have you ever made infographics for your blog? What do you think–are they worth creating?

My reading year

Reading Summary & Comparisons

My favorite books:

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5 of 5 stars

I achieved my Goodreads goal of 100 books–read 102 books.

Summary

Genres I read (these numbers don’t add up since there’s some overlap)

  • Fantasy–65%
  • Urban Fantasy–19%
  • Science Fiction–12%
  • Mysteries–17%
  • Romantic Suspense–4 %
  • Romances–17%
  • Young Adult–12%
  • Short Stories/Novellas–2%

Book Format (overlap in these numbers, too)

  • E-books–75%
  • Audiobooks–16%
  • Print Books–10%
  • Library books–11%
  • NetGalley–2%

Number of pages read

  • 33,278 pages

Books Read by Year

  • 2014 — 27.4%
  • 2013 — 13.7%
  • 2012 — 15.7%
  • 2011 — 10.8%
  • 2010 — 5.0%
  • 2009 to 1928 — 27.4%

Book Ratings (I use letter grades on my blog, but on Goodreads I have to use the star versions)

  • A — 8%
  • A- — 19%
  • B+ — 37%
  • B — 20%
  • B- — 6%
  • C+ — 5%
  • C — 3%
  • C- — 2%

Author most glommed in 2014–Deborah Crombie

  • 9 books in four months
  • Fueled my return to mysteries

Comparing 2014 and 2013

  • In 2013 I read 88 books so I’m happy to read 14 more books.
  • I read mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy in both 2014 (75%) and 2013 (68%).
  • In 2014 75% of the books I read were E-books; in 2013 it was 100%!
  • In 2014 I read 17 mysteries, but in 2013 only 1.

Check out my posts about favorite new authors and favorite books I read in 2014.

Favorite Books & Reading Summary–2013

Reading Summary

I read 88 books or novellas in 2013–way down from my 2012 total (118 books). I think the main reason for this is that I started my blog which took quite a bit of my reading time. I would like to’ve read at least 100 books which I’ve done for the last several years, but I’m enjoying blogging so I’m going to accept my reading speed plus I read some great books! When I’m reading a book I love I sometimes so down my reading so I can enjoy the happiness and joy of a great book!

Over half the books I read (60 books or 68%) were fantasy or science fiction. This includes paranormal and fantasy romance as well as young adult fantasies and science fiction. Most of the books I read were fantasies–either urban fantasies or just fantasies.

In 2012, I read many more historical romances than fantasies. This year I read 29 romances–including contemporary romance, historical romance and paranormal and fantasy romance. Most of the novellas I read were romances.

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Without further ado…in the order I read the books…

My favorites of 2013:

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Cinder started me reading more young adult books the latter part of the year)

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

Stray & Lab Rat One by Andrea K. Höst (I’m counting this as one book even though it’s a trilogy, because the books are really just one continuous wonderful book!)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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Honorable Mention

Really any of these books could be in my top ten. I loved them, too!

A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

» » » » »

I could continue with a number of other books…I had a great reading year! The above books aren’t always my highest rated books, but these are books which stayed with me through the year. Sometimes after I read a book I can’t even remember exactly what it was about by the next week! The above books are books are really remember and enjoy remembering…lol…not books I hated so much I remember them.

All my favorites are fantasy/science fiction. I’m loving fantasy and don’t see that changing anytime soon!

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What about you? What have you been reading? Have you done a “Best of…” post?