I think the only joyous part of looking back at 2020 (or at least where I find the most joy when reflecting on the year that passed) were the books that made my year and the worlds I escaped too. I was really lucky to have enjoyed so much of what I read in 2020, but today I’ve picked the cream of the crop and the books that when I think about them, still make me absolutely giddy and excited about books and reading.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert could give a masterclass in writing romances about real people with real problems, bodies and mental health issues. This book is so full of joy and personality and I just about shipped Zafir and Dani from the conception of their fake dating scenario. Despite the humorous banter, swoon worthy romance and steamy scenes, this book also had beautiful tender moments that gave it an ample amount of sombreness that matched its lighter tone. I also loved how there was a bit of role reversal in our characters, with the heroine being emotionally stinted and the hero being a hopeless romantic who reads romance books.
From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
From the beginning this book bought me so much joy and pulled at my emotions. Mariana Zapata really shows she is the queen at slow burn romance. Personally this book was a little too slow burn for me… but the enemies to friends to lovers aspect between competitive figure skaters is what made this book for me. Also Jas has to be one of the most spirited heroines I’ve ever read about, and Ivan is just about my favourite grumpy hero who is not so emotionally stinted as he seems.
The Diviners Quartet by Libba Bray
I’m still trying to figure out how to function in a world where I have no more books in this series left to devour. This book has an amazing cast of very spirited, magical teens who find themselves in a war to save the nation from a unknowing supernatural threat that could end their world. This book has so much to love about it from a fantastic cast of characters, all of whom are outsiders in one way or another, slow burn romances, amazing friendships, eerie atmosphere and with relative historical accuracy (cause you know, magic.)
The Cruel Prince Trilogy by Holly Black
This series was not at all the romance driven fantasy I expected it to be. Jude’s vulnerabilities, ambiguous morals and growing ambition was what I found most enjoyable about this series. I just love how the theme of vulnerability is woven through this series, and I marvelled at Jude’s desire to assimilate with the fae, overcoming her trepidation that her mortality could hold her back from being their equal and proves herself to be cunning and merciless when needed. Rejoicing in Jude’s deceptive ways and the faerie politics of Elfhame is something I miss dearly.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
A romance with enemies to lovers and fake dating is just a match made in heaven for me, in Hawaii no less?! The combination of playful banter, bickering back and forth and fake feelings that leads to real feelings slaps every time for me.
The Abyss Surrounds Us Duology by Emily Skrutskie
Tense- angsty romances between morally grey pirates? The dynamic between the two main characters is one of the most complex relationships I’ve seen in YA and I loved watching them toe the line of their attraction whilst knowing they’re enemies. Not only did I get amazing complex young adult characters and relationships, but also a lot of monster action that satiated me so very much.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I think I’m the last person left in the romance community to read this book. The characters are totally over dramatic and the epitome of the quirky slash spirited heroine and asshole slash emotionally stinted hero type characters… but don’t I just fall for that dynamic every single time. I don’t think I caught my breathe until the I put this book down and knew how it ended.
Educated by Tara Westover
I often don’t gravitate to non-fiction, but when one of my favourite people in the book community rated this highly I couldn’t turn my back from it. It was likely one of the best decisions I made in 2020. This memoir just highlights what a remarkable, curious and resilient person Tara Westover is. Half of my enjoyment also came from the complete and utter disbelief that people live so off the grid. I don’t mean that in a judgemental way, more so I just had never really known that this was a way some people lived. Although at times Tara’s home life growing up is uncomfortable and saddening to read, I was just as easily fascinated by survivalist family.
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Karin Slaughter was my most read author of 2020, reading 7 of her books in total this year and not one was rated below 4 stars. It’s clear at this point that writing crime and thrillers is as easy as breathing to this author, regardless, I don’t ever tire of her stories. The Good Daughter emotionally crippled me for a while, with its subtly brutal and heart-wrenching story. I love how this author writes about flawed femme fatale-esque women, the characterisation just works for me every time. The exploration of the sisters shared trauma and how it ripped them apart, but also bought them together was what makes this book stand out for me amongst her other books. This thriller also gave me want I wanted, but not exactly in the ways I expected it too.
Sea of Ruin by Pam Godwin
This dark historical romance is very much the adult version to Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate Queen. Like that series, this book is held up by its heroine Bennett, a fierce pirate queen who when captured by the ice-cold pirate hunter, Lord Ashley Cutler, continues to fight against the conformities of society and oppressive laws of man. Coupled with great characterisation, the attraction and intense romance Bennett has with Lord Cutler is positively unlike anything I’ve read before and made this book unputdownable. Although I can’t say this book makes me want to dabble more into the darker side of romance, it definitely is the exception for now.
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Whilst I enjoyed the plot – albeit a relatively slow plot with very minimal action until the second half of this book – the excellent characterization, relationships and snarky dialogue (that’s occasionally mean courtesy of Zoya) is what I found most compelling about King of Scars. And although this book is titled King of Scars and Nikolai is very much a central character, this book belongs as much to him as it does to Nina and Zoya. Truthfully, this book could be more aptly named Queen of Storms, because Zoya Nazyalenksy is the heart of this book. I even liked the more sombre side of Nikolai and Nina’s journey with burying her grief. But ultimately Zoya was the heart of this book and I’m most looking forward to her arc in the sequel.