This year has been stuffed with terrible moments, however, one of the shining lights of 2020 was the amount of truly wonderful books to get lost in. The team has come together to select their most favorite novels read in 2020.
Some of Eleni's Favorite Books
The Toy Makers
From the review:
“I will surely be reading it again, (actually fighting the urge to buy the hardback copy as well – the cover is slightly different – since both editions are beauties!! ) and have been suggesting it to friends left and right, some I might’ve given no choice to but they know it’s for their own good, and I *need* people to talk about it with, without worrying about spoilers.”
The Secret History
Being in the context of academia myself and generally fond of many of the subjects touched upon in this, it was high time I read this book. After all it is the first that comes up when someone mentions dark academia. Now this was a powerful character exploration of the flaws and vices and small beauties of college life, elitism, and classism, and it was undoubtedly magnificently written and woven. I will be reviewing this properly, soon in fact. But it also had its flaws and as strong as it was for the most part, it did not hold out all the way through. Nonetheless it definitely deserves a place in my top reads of the yearB
Raven’s Shadow Trilogy
Anthony Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow Trilogy as well as the first book in The Draconis Memoria Trilogy: I discovered this author thanks to a friend’s gift and boy is it one that keeps on giving! Ryan’s style is amazing, his character work thorough, and his action-packed stories riveting. I cannot wait to continue with Draconis Memoria, in fact I hope to finish the series before the year is out, and I’m looking forward to the rest of Ryan’s work in the future.
The Greatcoats Tetralogy
Sebastien De Castell
With a deeply entertaining main protagonist and generally a light style of writing, this series flew me by with how easy it was to read and enjoy. The depth of the characters as well as the breadth of them swept me away into an amazing world and this series quickly earned a spot in my top favorite series of all time! I haven’t stopped recommending it anywhere I could!
The Powder Mage Trilogy
Flintlock fantasy at its finest for me! With a novel and really cool magic system, as well as several badass characters, it entertained, awed, and kept me on the edge of my seat as I read on and on, eager to see the outcomes of the different plot lines and how they would converge. By the end of the series I was even moved by lots of feels and the deep satisfaction of an incredible ending
Master of Sorrows
One of two books to make the rare cut of being read before any of its sequels are out yet, this new epic fantasy promises greatness! This is a villain origin story and yet it begins with an idyllic atmosphere almost. Some of my favorite tropes are touched upon and also tuned on their head in the best of ways. This booked just worked so well to introduce this new world that I cannot wait to dive in even more and learn all about!
Some of Beth's Favorite Books
The House in the Cerulean Sea
I loved this book. I loved it so much that I likened it to a war cup of hot cocoa and whiskey by a fire. It is a light in a sea of crap that 2020 was. My review will be forthcoming for it. But, if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you should.
From the review:
“Nophek Gloss is a science fiction book for science fiction geeks. It is almost a love letter to those out there who find their passions in the wild and uninhibited imagination that science fiction offers. It won’t be for everyone, as some readers might not enjoy the story’s expansive nature. It is also incredibly dark. If there is a genre for grimdark science fiction, this is it. It deals with pain, joy, and grief head-on and does not mince words or details. If you enjoy your reading to be lighter fare, this probably is not the story. But for me, I loved it. Wholly and completely. Nophek Gloss is a thundering debut; it grabs the reader and tows you into unchartered territory.”
J. Zachary Pike
From the review:
“Man, this is a great book. And, five minutes into reading it, I understood all the love for it. It was the SPFBO4 winner, and now I can see why. The relationships, the story, and the allegory to everyday economics are so cleverly done that they might go under people’s radar. I didn’t figure out half of them until I sat down to write this review. It all started to come together, and I realized how creative Pike is. The book was funny, and heartfelt which, in the face of some pretty hard plot ideas, is important and kept the tone light. Had he not done that, this book might be too depressing to read. But, as it stands, it is a perfect balance. I am a fan of this book, obviously, and will be jumping into the next book, Son of a Liche, as soon as possible.”
P. Djeli Clark
From the Review:
“Clark is one of the best authors I have ever read, and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest authors alive. I kid you not; if Clark described what fire was in a book of his, I would expect the pages to start to char and blacken as they internalize the prose he writes. To say this is good would be an understatement. All I can say is that Ring Shout should be studied in school for future generations to marvel and learn from.”
Ryan's Favorite Books
The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing
Raymond St. Elmo
From the Review:
“This book is aimed at people who love books, who would do anything for the feel of a folio, who climb the library stacks searching for their next fix. This is not a book content to be a pleasant diversion. It wants to worm its way into your brain until you start grabbing strangers on the street and yelling at them about how much you love books.”
The Book of the New Sun Reread
Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is more famous as puzzle than story. The journeys of the Torturer Severian through a far-future Earth only ever gives oblique hints as to the real stakes. On my third time through the series, even more pieces clicked. Without concern for the greater story (because I knew what happened) I was more free to search for links and small hints buried in the text. Sometimes, Severian lies. Sometimes, he’s fooled. Sometimes, he tricks the reader by making a description seem like a metaphor when it is, in fact, entirely accurate.
Alex's Favorite Book
Thilde Kold Holdt
“A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods. A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim. A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken. The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.”
Some of G.M. Nair's Favorite Books
Tara Westover’s Educated is an incredibly gripping and almost lyrical memoir of her childhood in – and subsequent escape from – a family of religious doomsday preppers. I don’t typically read non-fiction, but after perusing the first few chapters in a bookstore, this book became an absolute must-read. Westover’s smooth, beautiful prose makes her story read like a fairy tale – even though the content is anything but. Highly recommend for anyone with a family and the realization of how fraught those relationships can be.
Steve's Favorite Book
They Eat Their Own
Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson.
The second book in the Ismae series, this one is a combination of an Ocean’s 11 type heist mixed with a revenge story, if murder and mayhem were also integral to the story. The main characters Syl and Aliara are just such multilayered characters, and you can’t wait to see what they get into next.