Favourite Books of 2020

Hi lovelies!!!

Long time no see! I know it’s been about 600 years since I’ve posted but I wanted to do a post of the top 6 books I read in 2020. Yes 6 is a weird number, but I just couldn’t narrow it down to 5. I loved these so much and it would have pained me to not talk about them all. They were a bright light in a crappy year so I figured I’d share them with you and hopefully they’ll make you as happy as they made me.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness and love and that your reading year was full of incredible books.

1. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood.

2. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Spoiler alert: second book in a series. Don’t read the synopsis below if you haven’t (and want to) read the first book

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

3. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?

4. Well Met by Jen DeLuca

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

5. Beautifully Cruel by J.T. Geissinger

Alpha (noun):
1) Having the highest rank in a dominance hierarchy
2) The most powerful man in a group
3) Liam Black

He was a stranger to me, a dark and dangerous presence who materialized from the shadows one rainy night to save me from a vicious attack. I didn’t know his name or where he was from. All I knew was that the only place I’d ever felt safe was in his arms.

But safety is an illusion.
And not every savior is a hero.
And—as I’d soon find out—having an alpha save your life comes with a price.

Liam Black wanted something from me in return.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review: Jingle Lady by Melissa Williams

Title: Jingle Lady
Author: Melissa Williams
Series: All My Jingle Ladies #1
Publisher: Self-published by author
Publication Date: November 12, 2020
Genre: Christmas romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: 4 stars

I’m a firefighter. So when I hear bells, I run into action.

But the kind of bells I hear when I first see Libby are anything but alarming. They’re angelic.

All I want to do is throw her over my shoulder and make her mine. Her Christmas spirit is endearing, her laughter addictive and there’s nothing I want more this holiday season than her. She won’t be a single jingle lady for long – not if Santa’s on my side. 

Review:

This was a cute novella to kick off the All My Jingle Ladies trilogy by Melissa Williams.

The romance was insta-love but I mean what else would you expect with a novella under 70 pages? It was ok though. I thought Libby was a little too quirky for my taste and she had a lot of Christmas puns up her sleeve. I think if it was a 300+ page contemporary romance I would have DNFed, but it was short so I stuck with it.

I loved the little hints thrown in about the other stories to come in the trilogy. Those got me really excited to read the next two! I think I’m going to adore both of those more than I liked this one. They seem like they’ll fit more under the tropes that I like.

About Melissa Williams:

Melissa Williams lives and works in Toronto, Ontario and loves to surround herself in the random and ridiculous. When not writing steamy romances, she enjoys watching bad reality T.V., drinking wine and basking in the sun. But more often than not she can be found reading in her favorite comfy chair with a coffee by her side. For the latest updates and more about Melissa, follow her on Instagram @MelissaWilliamsWrites

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Sundays In Bed With… Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Sundays In Bed WIth...

Welcome to the Sundays In Bed With… Meme! The meme that dares to ask what book has been in your bed this morning? Come share what book you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed, or which book you wish you had time to read today! This meme is hosted by Midnight Book Girl.

This weekend I’m reading Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. In the spirit of Halloween I decided to pick up a psychological thriller, which is definitely one of my favourite genres. So far I’m kind of in the middle on if I like it or not, but I’m only about 15% through so we’ll see how the rest of it goes. I plan on reading plenty more today and on my day off tomorrow.

Title: Behind Closed Doors

Author: B.A. Paris

Series: Standalone

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: August 9, 2016

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

Review: Tempting Lies by Sara Whitney

Title: Tempting Lies
Author: Sara Whitney
Series: Tempt Me #4
Publisher: LoveSpark Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2020
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads
Amazon

Rating: 5 stars

He’s out to prove he can do more than swing a hammer.

After her widowed mother rushed into a regrettable second marriage, Thea Blackwell vowed never to commit to anything. Not jobs. Not hairstyles. Not men. Yet here she is dreaming about buying a house and having it renovated by the town playboy who never spared her a second glance. Too bad she lacks both the cash and the courage.

Aiden Murdoch put his wild ways behind him to help his ailing father run the family construction business, but he can’t seem to escape his scandalous reputation. Then his childhood friend Thea shows him her money pit of a fixer-upper, and he stumbles on the perfect solution: he’ll provide the labor, and she’ll make him look happily domesticated in front of his father’s nervous clients.

What should be a simple arrangement gets complicated fast when fake kisses lead to real feelings, leaving Aiden aching to prove he’s worth a lifelong commitment and Thea wondering if her pretend boyfriend can truly give up his swipe-right lifestyle. With forever on the line, will they be brave enough to tear down the lies they’ve told each other—and themselves?

Review:

The fake dating trope is by far my favourite trope of all time so when I saw this I knew I had to read it. And I’m so glad that I did. I absolutely loved it!

The reasoning behind Aiden and Thea wanting to fake date made complete sense. They both get something out of it that will truly help them in life. Thea gets her dream princess home that she’s wanted since she was a young girl and Aiden gets his clients to see him as a family man as he prepares to be given his part of the family’s consutrction company.

The romance between Thea and Aiden was too cute. It was clear from the start that they had a connecction and would make a really good couple. Let’s be honest, they put more effort into their fake relationship than I’ve seen other people put into a real relationship. Even their fake relationship was couple goals.

This was my first time reading a novel by Sara Whitney and I adored it. The writing was fantastic. There were some excellent one liners, strong side characters who helped move the plot along, and the romance was just the right amount of steamy.

While Tempting Lies can easily be read as a standalone, I’m looking forward to reading the other novels in the Tempt Me series.

About Sara Whitney:

Sara Whitney writes sassy, sexy contemporary romance novels packed with wit, heat, and heart. A 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award finalist, Sara worked as a newspaper reporter and film critic before she earned her Ph.D. and landed in academia. She’s a good pinball player, a so-so karaoke singer, and an expert TV opinion-haver.

In a funny twist of fate, Sara’s married to a divorce attorney, and she likes to think that her happily-ever-afters help keep their household in balance. She and her husband live in the Midwest surrounded by books, cats, and half-empty coffee cups.  Keep up with Sara by subscribing to her mailing list here.

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Sundays In Bed With… And I Darken by Kiersten White

Sundays In Bed WIth...

Welcome to the Sundays In Bed With… Meme! The meme that dares to ask what book has been in your bed this morning? Come share what book you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed, or which book you wish you had time to read today! This meme is hosted by Midnight Book Girl.

This weekend I’m reading And I Darken by Kiersten White. I was going through my books, trying to find what to read next and this one really captured my attention. Fantasy and political intrigue? Yes please! Sign me up. I’m not too far into it (about 50 pages or so) and so far I’m liking it a lot.

Title: And I Darken

Author: Kiersten White

Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 28, 2016

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.