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?

Gothic fiction perfect for my Halloween reads

One Gothic horror story and four Gothics that lean more toward romance

Connect Five Friday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. (The hashtag is #connect5books) This is a fun and creative way to think about my books and reading. Check out Kathyrn’s blog and link up your Friday Five!

The five book-related items need to connect in some way, but each person who participates can decide for themselves what the book subject and connection is. For example, you could write about five books read last year or five books you want to read. It could even be favorite bookstores or five movies made from books.

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My definition of Gothic fiction leans more toward romance than horror. The last four books which I read as a young adult are in that mode. They have some mystery, secrets, spookiness, romance and a female protagonist who doesn’t know who to trust and worries she may have fallen in love with the wrong person! Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is probably the first book of that type I read.

I read The Stranger Diaries last week and as I read it I thought, “this is my perfect book for Halloween.” It is a Gothic story within a police procedural. That made me think of the Gothic fiction I read when I was a young adult. And that is what the four other books I talk about today all are. But they are good books to read for Halloween if you just want a few chills and don’t want something too scary!

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

R.M. Holland is central to the book since 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 in the book is an English teacher at the school and is writing a book about Holland.

Rebecca and Jane Eyre are two of the first Gothics I read. They are both considered classics.

I read and enjoyed most of Daphne du Maurier’s books during my teen years.

I read quite a few of Barbara Michaels’s books though I liked her Elizabeth Peters’s books better since they were more mysteries and less Gothic and/or supernatural. I especially enjoyed her Amelia Peabody series with Egyptology and mysteries central to the stories.

However, I remember enjoying The Master of Blacktower quite a bit when I read it!

Mary Stewart was also a great favorite of mine. I loved her adventure stories about young women in places like England, France or some other European country I dreamed of visiting. They had mysteries and danger and some were Gothics, but all were exciting and took me to new worlds.

Nine Coaches Waiting was one of the more Gothic novels of Mary Stewart’s I remember.

I read many of Victoria Holt’s books as a young adult. If I remember correctly most all of her books could be classified as Gothics. They have romance and suspense intertwined with scary looking lonely mansions. The young women in these books are often governesses so they are on their own with the child in a mansion with sometimes hostile servants and the arrogant often secretive and haunted father or guardian.

Do you like Gothic fiction? Do you tend more towards the horror instead of romance (that might turn to horror)? Have you read any of these books or authors?

August books on my radar . . .

RadarEach month I write about the books I’ve noticed and think might be good. Sometimes they’re from favorite authors and other times by a new author I might try.

I don’t buy all the books (not during the month they’re released at least)–since I already have way too many books to read and sometimes these new books have high prices 😦

But the list I make each month helps me not forget books. The Goodreads links help me keep track of these books and I hope people reading my post may find some new books, too!

Note: This post is almost a week late. I had it almost complete last week before I traveled to Iowa, but lost the post. 😦

Then we left for the North Woods of Wisconsin for a wonderful long weekend, but we didn’t have internet access plus we were all too busy to spend time on the internet. 🙂

July 29

I thought this book came out in August so I missed it in my July list. However, I’ve already bought the book. Ilona Andrews is an auto-buy author for me and I love this series. I’m saving the book for a few days so I can savor it.

magicbreaksMagic Breaks

by Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels series #7

Published by Ace Hardcover

Genre: Urban Fantasy

381 pages

Synopsis: As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

August 5

This sounds very good. And it’s the first in the series. That’s always nice!

dust-and-lightDust and Light

by Carol Berg

Series: The Sanctuary Duet #1

Published by Roc Trade

Genre: Fantasy

464 pages

Synopsis: How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her….After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous….

Unlike Dust and Light (see above) this is book 2 of a series I haven’t started yet, but I’ve heard great things. Book 1–Masks–came out last August.

shadows03Shadows

by E. C. Blake

Series: Masks of Aygrima #2

Published by DAW Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

304 pages

Synopsis: In Masks, Mara Holdfast’s life changed forever. As the daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, she had a clearly defined future: a quiet, ordered life in the capital, making Masks with her father and doing work important to the ruling Autarch. But when her Mask, specially made by her own father, cracked and fell to pieces during her Masking ceremony, Mara was exiled from everything she once knew. Soon, she becomes part of an underground rebellion, rejecting the unjust rules of a Masked society and uncovering a horrifying plot of mind control over the entire population of the empire.

In a moment of crisis, Mara finds herself possessed of a volatile magical power that neither she nor any of her allies can truly control. In Shadow, Mara faces terrifying new challenges and dangers as she struggles to understand her unprecedented ability to use all types of magic—and to tear magic from the living bodies of those around her. With the arrival of Chell, a young man from across the sea, the world beyond the borders of the Autarchy of Aygrima begins to make itself felt. Then an act of brutality tips Mara dangerously close to madness…and in the midst of a desperate and bloody battle, she discovers just how horrifying her power can be….

I enjoy this historical mystery series. It takes place in 1930’s Great Britain. The mysteries are fairly light-hearted and Georgiana is a fun heroine.  However, I’m not up-to-date with this series yet. 😦 So I will wait to read this one until I get caught up!

queen-of-heartsQueen of Hearts

by Rhys Bowen

Series: Royal Spyness #8

Published by Berkley Hardcover

Genre: Historical Mystery

304 pages

Synopsis: Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, knows how to play the part of an almost royal—but now she’s off to Hollywood, where she must reprise her role as sleuth or risk starring in an all-too-convincing death scene …

My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.

Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.

Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!

Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…

August 12

I bought the first book in this series. It sounds like a good new urban fantasy series and I plan to read Dirty Magic (book one) this month.

cursed-moonCursed Moon

by Jaye Wells

Series: Prospero Wars #2

Published by Orbit

Genre: Urban Fantasy

400 pages

Synopsis: When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone’s emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon’s impact is especially strong for Kate who’s wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.

After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.

August 14

I still need to read book 1–Between the Devil and the Deep Blue. They both sound good and I love the names.

betwwen-the-spark-and-burnBetween the Spark and the Burn

by April Genevieve Tucholke

Series: Between #2

Published by Dial

Genre: Gothic Horror, Romance, Fantasy

320 pages

Synopsis: Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it’s easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he’d done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet’s life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River’s other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn’t long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .

August 26

John Scalzi is already one of my favorite authors even though I read my first book by him in 2014. Every book I’ve read by him since then has been great!

lock-inLock In

by John Scalzi

Series: None

Published by Tor Books

Genre: Science Fiction

320 pages

Synopsis: Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the United States, that’s 1.7 million people “locked in”…including the President’s wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse….

This sounds like a good start for a new series.

storm-sirenStorm Siren

by Mary Weber

Series: Storm Siren #1

Published by Thomas Nelson / Harper Collins

Genre: Fantasy

320 pages

Synopsis: “I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

 

The books I plan to buy this month:

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Dust and Light by Carol Berg

Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Lock In by John Scalzi

What new releases are you planning to buy this month?