Amy June Bates, Anna Lee Huber, C.S. Harris, Christine Trent, Cindy Stark, Cynthia St. Aubin, Darynda Jones, Denali Day, Erica Ridley, Grace Draven, Jodi Taylor, Juliet Marillier, Kate Racculia, Kerrigan Byrne, Kit Rocha, Kyndra Hatch, Laurie A. Green, Maria Vale, Mary Robinette Kowal, Matthew A. Cherry, Milla Vane, Nita Round, Pauline Baird Jones, Rebecca Roanhorse, Susanna Kearsley, Tanya Anne Crosby, Tiffinie Helmer, Vashti Harrison, Vicki Stiefel, Zara Ramm
Assuming I was diligent about updates on my Goodreads account, I read (or listened to) 131 books in 2020. I like to think that I am pretty discriminating when it comes to choosing which books to read. That means that almost every book that I read is a winner. That makes it very difficult to pick out the best of 2020.
However, there are several that have stood out. These are the books that come to mind long after I have read the last word. They elicit emotions ranging from despair to hope, evoking anger, laughter and love. In short – they leave a mark.
Today I am presenting my selections for the WWMB Best of 2020. I hope you find something that appeals to you. Most were published in 2020 and for the few that are older, I’ve noted the publishing year. If you have a favorite you would like to share, please add it in the comments.
(Note: Click on book covers for the Amazon link. Link to Goodreads under each title.)
Science Fiction Romance
Catnip for SciFi Reading Librarians
Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians, #1) by Kit Rocha
In 2020, Kit Rocha (pen name for the writing team of Donna Herren and Bree Bridges) released Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarian, #1) by Kit Rocha. Mercenary librarians. How is someone like me, a librarian that loves Scifi romance, going to ignore this one? Deal With the Devil is a non-stop action, post-apocalyptic scifi thriller. There are evil corporate overlords and supersoldier enforcers. Nina, Knox and their friends are the bright stars in the neighborhood (or wherever they venture to), helping out in their peaceful, quiet ways and also in their deadly, not-so-quiet ways. These are the honorable heroes of the futuristic Atlanta. Previously known for paranormal tales, I am very happy Kit Rocha as entered the scifi realm. Also, this is one of my favorite book covers of 2020.
Changed (The Made Ones Saga, #2) by Vicki Stiefel
Changed is a cross between Scifi and Fantasy that features transportation to a parallel world where the Earth-bound ravages of disease and age are miraculously wiped away. I have to say, I really like this idea. Of course, the miracle comes with a price. One hopes the price will be worth it. Bad guys with a dystopian-like control make things interesting. Parallel worlds, flying horses, DNA manipulation, magic. See – a little bit of everything. Love this series!
Best SciFi Romance Collection
Pets in Space 5 by many authors
Pets in Space 5 – The 2020 release is the best Pets In Space collection of all. Even though the anthology is supposed to be about pets, many of the cats, dogs and otherworldy creatures are so much more than pets. Many are sentient companions, have specific purposes and even seem to be as in charge of things as their partners. Pet lovers can relate to this. I thought all the stories were great, but if I had to single out 1 or 3, they would be General’s Holiday by Pauline Baird Jones, Juggernaut by Laurie A. Green and Finding Mogha by Kyndra Hatch.
Best SciFi Series
Lady Astronaut by Mary Robinette Kowal
Book 3, The Relentless Moon, was released in 2020, but I read all three books in this series, plus a few short stories last year. A lot of research was done to make the story of an early aggressive space program developed to save humanity seem real and vital. Told from the POV of the women destined to be the first Lady Astronauts, the story reflects attitudes toward women and minorities in the 50s. So, our heroines and their friends have a lot to overcome. Notable among the short stories is The Lady Astronaut of Mars, (free to read on Tor.com)a novelette first published in 2012. Read this after reading books 1 and 2. Be prepared to shed some tears. Nebula Award winning series.
Intentional Time Travel
Time is Complicated
Just in Time (Out of Time, #2) by Pauline Baird Jones
This long-awaited sequel to Out of Time is the edge-of-your seat, messing-with-time adventure that appeals to the “Time is Complicated” crowd.
Best Spinoff from a Favorte Series
Doing Time (The Time Police, #1) by Jodi Taylor
Published in 2019, this first book in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s spinoff series features Matthew Farrell, the scion of a pair of awesome, yet calm-challenged parents. Along with his two misfit friends, they form Team Weird, keeping the world safe from illegal time travel. Shenanigans ensue! I love the original series, and I am afraid I am going to love this one just as much! The audiobook is superbly narrated by Zara Ramm.
Steampunk Powered by Women
A Touch of Ice (The Towers of the Earth, #4) by Nita Round
If I think back to book 1 of this series, which I read as a mystery and not much more, I am amazed at how far the story has progressed. Every time I finish a book in this series, I think the story just keeps getting better. While the overall story arc of The Towers of the Earth is intricate and fascinating, these books are ultimately about three strong women who will do anything for each other. Which is the true appeal for me.
We Should All Be More Wolflike
Season of the Wolf (The Legend of All Wolves, #4) by Maria Vale
The Legend of All Wolves is still my favorite wolf/werewolf/shifter series. From the beginning of the series, I have admired the unique take on the wolves that can wear skin. Season of the Wolf focuses on two characters. Evie, the pack Alpha, and Constantine, a shifter that got caught up the battle between the pack and the shifters. The wolves of the Great Northern Pack have a life philosophy that includes family (pack) first, total honesty and taking care of their environment.
The Witches of Port Townsend by Kerrigan Byrne, Cynthia St. Aubin, Cindy Stark and Tiffinie Helmer
This 4-book, 4-author, 4-witch, 4-hoursmen-of-the-apocalypse series was so much fun to read. I read all four books with a few months. Each author wrote a section of each book, telling her witch’s story. Long lost sisters found, the end of the world, sexy as heck heroes, and Lucifer are all thrown into the mix with familiars, zombies, religious extremists, and druids. This series will put a spell on you – I have personal experience. For some reason, while I was reading book 3, I found myself sipping a glass of whiskey at the end each day while I was reading the book (just like the sisters liked to do). The 2020 versions are re-releases.
Characters to Fall in Love With
In the Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven
Grace Draven’s fantasy romance books always top my list. This year I read Dragon Unleashed and The Ippos King. Both were wonderful. But the one I really loved was In the Darkest Midnight. Published in 2018, this novella features two amazing protagonists. The slow burn romance set in the world of the Wraith Kings is beautifully told, absolutely brimming with heart. It joins Master of Crows and Enreat Me to become another one of my favorite Draven stories.
Lord of Shadows by Tanya Anne Crosby
After having read book 1 of the series late in 2019, I was on a mission to read the entire series. The finale, Lord of Shadows, expertly combines English history with Arthurian myth. The author’s dose of imagination was the spice to add richness and piquancy. Ms. Crosby also writes historical romance and contemporary suspense, but this series is my favorite by far.
Fantasy Barbarian Romance
I don’t know if this is a genre, but there were a couple of standout fantasies that dealt with characters that live outside of typical civilizations.
Great New Author
Hollen the Soulless (Dokiri Brides, #1) by Denali Day
“Dokiri Brides” is not typically a title that would stand out to me. Judging a book by cover. I know. But something propelled me to try this one and I got so much more than I was expecting. The Dokiri culture, the amazing characters and the intensive slow burn romance have made Hollen the Soulless one of my favorites of the year. I’ve since read a prequel and 3 sequels. Keep your eye on Denali Day. I foresee many great stories coming from her.
An Author by Another Name
A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons, #1) by Milla Vane
Last February I predicted A Heart of Blood and Ashes would be one of my favorites of 2020. Milla Vane is the alter-ego of Meljean Brook. Like her Iron Seas series, this new series has a complex, yet lush story line. It has sharply defined characters – flawed primary characters that are somehow still perfect and secondary characters that add depth and perspective to the tale. And it has a world intricately built just for them. And for me, the reader.
The Author that Always Makes Me Cry
A Dance With Fate (Warrior Bards, #2) by Juliet Marillier
It is difficult to imagine ever reading a book by Juliet Marillier that will not end up on my favorites list. Marillier’s stories are beautifully imagined, and full of emotion. The characters’ journey is often heartbreaking, but always magical and hopeful.
Most Original Fantasy Setting
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Black Sun is a highly original story of prophecy, honor, revenge and power. Told from the viewpoint of several pivotal characters, the story weaves through a timeline, back and forth. It is full of contradictory characters, long-reaching intrigue and fascinating mythology. The mythology surrounding an eclipse in pre-Columbian America native cultures plays heavily in the story, making this fantasy stand out from the typical Euro-based fantasies. Black Sun will appeal to fantasy readers looking for a fresh treatment of the genre.
The Deadly Hours by Susanna Kearsley, Anna Lee Huber, C.S. Harris, and Christine Trent
This anthology follows the story of a cursed gold watch as it passes through time and people. Each author put their own spin on the curse. Because these authors solve mysteries, rely on facts and believe that the evidence will point to a human culprit, the validity of the curse is constantly questioned. But it never really goes away. I was fascinated and entertained by all four stories.
Something Different from a Favorite Author
The Business of Blood (The Fiona Mahoney Mysteries, #1) by Kerrigan Byrne
Published 2019. In The Business of Blood, Fiona is a protagonist with a dark past and a current life that keeps her alive in an era where single women are not generally taken care of. That she takes on the job of cleaning up after corpses is not the only thing that makes her life a dark journey. Her obsession with Jack the Ripper as well as other activities that could get her hanged complete the picture for Fiona’s grim life.
While I don’t have time to read all the new books that come into my library, I often take the time to read the picture books. Sometimes I am blown away by how wonderful they are!
Anyone Can Be and Artist
When I Draw a Panda by Amy June Bates
What a glorious book! Somewhere between childhood and just a little bit older, most of us forget how to draw. I love how this book shows that all you need to do is put pencil (or chalk or color or…) to paper, keep going, and eventually, you get art!
Dad Shows His Love
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
This utterly charming book is based on the Oscar-winning short animated film by Matthew A. Cherry. It is the story of a young black girl, her quest to make her hair look special and her daddy’s help. Check out the video on YouTube.
Just a Few More
Out of My Box
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Not something I would typically pick up, this book, with so many Poe references, called to me. In answering the call, I was treated to an adventure through Boston neighborhoods while surrounded by several unusual characters whose stories are both fun and heartwarming. The very quirky story of the brainy Tuesday Mooney and her eclectic group of friends takes the reader on a hunt for treasure, adventure, self-discovery, and friendship.
This One Cracked Me Up
Kiss of a Duke (12 Dukes of Christmas, #12) by Erica Ridley
Published in 2018. A lady chemist attempts to make a man fall in love with her because of the perfume she invents. As you might imagine, the unexpected results are not at all what was intended. In the author’s notes she says: “In case it’s not obvious, I spend a good chunk of my work day giggling at my keyboard.”
Brings Back Fond Memories
A Bad Day for Sunshine (Sunshine Vicram, #1) by Darynda Jones
Readers of Ms. Jones’ Charley Davidson series will see many similarities between that series and Sunshine Vicram – in both characters and plot construction. This new series has less woo-woo content but just as many questions to answer. So, if you lamented the end of Charley Davidson, take heart. Sunshine Vicram is just as charming, just as funny, just as complex, just as smart, has just as much heart, and I think I might like her even more than I liked Charley.
Best Title and Timeliest Theme
St. Mary’s and the Great Toilet Roll Crisis (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, #11.1) by Jodi Taylor
Free read on the authors website. (Click on the cover.)