Yesterday, I took you through some of my favorite reads of the year, today we have reached the pinnacle. Like yesterday, I’m writing today in reflection and am linking to my original reviews.
Here are numbers 1-10:
1 – The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Well, my number one even surprised me. I did not love The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and was tentative about giving him another chance. With Evelyn, the concept was so ingenious, trying to solve a murder by viewing it through different characters eyes. The real challenge for me is that I need a character connection to really love a story. And that made many of the chapters really hard to read because I just didn’t like and maybe even suspected the character who’s chapter I was reading.
So for me to tell you that the main reason I loved The Devil and the Dark Water was the characters, you’ll probably laugh. This story had maybe one of my favorite characters of all time, actually it had two characters that I just adored.
This is one of those cases where I am super grateful for Netgalley. I would not have purchased this book just based on my experience with Evelyn, but it didn’t cost me anything to wish for it and boy was I glad I did. I’ve since gone on to purchase a beautiful signed copy from Waterstones… look at those sprayed edges!
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3427538019?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
2 – Greenwood by Michael Christie
I spent most of the year anticipating that this one would be my number one for the year. In 2018, my favorite read of the year was Richard Power’s The Overstory, an epic read about trees and those who love them. Greenwood is a beautiful generational story that uses the rings of a tree to guide you through the life of one family. The way the story is told certainly catapulted this story into the top ten for me but the story itself is intriguing and thought provoking. If you love nature and generational stories, this one will blow your mind.
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3234599330?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
3 – Devolution by Max Brooks
Bigfoot is real… need I say more?! Written in the style of a first hand account, this one is both haunting and scientifically interesting. If you can handle a little gore, bump this one up your list.
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3441175844?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
4 – Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Meet my favorite YA fantasy of the year! Isabel Ibanez has woven (pun intended) the most beautiful story. If you like The Children of Blood and Bone, then I think you will enjoy this one. It takes place in a South America inspired world and the magic that Ibanez has created is absolutely stunning. Ximena is a lovely heroine who reminded me a lot of Fie from yesterday’s The Faithless Hawk. She is fierce and loyal and creative. The political intrigue in this one is Game of Thrones worthy. I have gotten approved on Netgalley for the sequel and I am dying to read it!
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3233383633?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
5 – The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
I have never wanted a fictional character to be real more than I with Adunni! Lots of my least favorite books this year were books who treated women in the worst ways. Adunni is a woman who had been through the absolute worst and always shone with resilience and positivity. She is the best of the future generation and the type of girl who will change the world whether she knows it or not. And in this case, she knows it. This story left me with such a high. Another amazing story out of Nigeria, I’ve fallen in love with Nigerian authors this year and I hope you will too!
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3290240880?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
6 – The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Two Nigerian stories about marginalized people in a row? Well, like Adunni, Vivek will stun you. But in a completely different way. I do not want to give away many details here but this story will break your heart a million times over.
I got this one originally via Netgalley, but I went on to buy a copy for my shelves because I loved it so much! You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3491375994?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
7 – Burn by Patrick Ness
This book completely took me by surprise and had me spending the rest of the year digging into Ness’s backlist. Burn reimagines the world in the 1950’s if there were dragons but not in an ‘oh my god dragons are amazing’ or an ‘oh my god how fearsome’ way. When a Sarah’s family is forced to hire one, their views on this creature begin to change. When a person ends up murdered, everyone wants to blame the dragon but Sarah knows the truth. Where the story goes is really fabulous and is about acceptance and kindness but I don’t want to give you details without spoiling anything. Check it out!
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3375922825?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
8 – Mexican Gothic by Silvia Garcia-Moreno
Where to start with Mexican Gothic?! This story is super creepy! Like yesterday’s choices of The Woman in the Mirror and The Ancestor, this story involves a creepy old house with secrets that will blow your mind. There have been lots of spoilers out there but I will not tip the hand. Just suffice it to say, when Noemi goes to stay with her cousin’s new in-laws she has no idea what she’s getting herself in for! You will revel in her rebellious spirit to not want to be a cowed, obedient woman of her time. She’s fiercely loyal and will do anything to save her cousin. The reveal will curdle your stomach and completely have you freaked out. If you have a strong stomach, check this one out!
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3340511412?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 This one was a Goodreads Choice winner for 2020 so you don’t have to just take my word for it.
9 – Raybearer by Jordan Ifuenko
I struggled with where to put Raybearer on my list. I listened to this one on audiobook and it was FABULOUS! This is a wholly character driven story with Tarisai being one of the most beautiful heroines I’ve ever read. When I debated, I could have swapped this and Woven in Moonlight in the rankings but the magic in Woven pushed it over the edge for my personal preferences (also Raybearer did a time jump mid-story which I generally dislike so that nudged it down just slightly). But the beauty of Aritsar and the strength of Tarisai growing up alone and isolated and then suddenly having to immerse herself in a competition to win a spot on the Prince’s council was inspiring. Do yourself a favor and listen to this one on audiobook, the narrator brings such depth to the story. Dying to see where this story goes.
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3491370887?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
10 – The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Let me start by saying I am obsessed with Grady Hendrix’s work, just like Patrick Ness above, as soon as I read this one I dug into his entire backlog. Second, I am a totally vampire obsessed person. Ok, now that is established, this book was not what I expected at all.
It’s set in the South in the 90’s and it perfectly encapsulates that culture. I’ve seen so many folks harping on the treatment of women and minorities in the book but that was true to the time. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The story needs those elements to underpin why these women in their book club would fall under the spell of someone like James. When the book club is tired of their fluffy selections, they pick up true crime novels and it gets into their heads big time. A vampire naturally uses and abuses people and which ones are easier to pick off? The marginalized. If you can’t see past that context and struggle to read about people being marginalized at all, this one won’t be for you. I think adding that element made it all the more brilliant.
You can read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3032170237?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
These are the stories I just can’t forget and will always recommend to my reader friends. I take you through each in detail over on openmypages.com, if you’re interested in how I made these choices head over there for more details.
Thoughts on these selections? Any of these you loved or hated? Let’s chat in the comments!