Welcome to the second post in my End of the Year Series, where I look back at my reading for the year and give you all a recap of the best, the solid, the most surprising, and the most disappointing books. I will also be posting my 2021 Reading Plans and 2021 Most Anticipated Releases at the end of this series, which will be in the beginning of the New Year!
Today, I will tell you the books I read this year that I enjoyed and found to be a solid experience. I will also talk about who may want to try each book, why I added them to this list, and include content warnings for each book. These books almost made my best of the year but didn’t quite hit the mark (similar to my most surprising books), but this list will not include any books from other categories. For example, there are some books in my Most Surprising/Disappointing Reads that could have been on this list (and vice versa), but I made a vow to myself not to repeat books across lists in order to keep things interesting (and make my life harder lol).
All book covers are from Goodreads. Books are listed in no particular order.
What are solid reads?
These books are the ones that I think are a solid experience. They aren’t perfect, nor the best, but I would still recommend them to people, because I had minimal complaints overall. Most of these books are around 3-4.5 stars out of 5, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
I feel like this category of books is often overlooked by the book community. Therefore these books get shoved to the side pretty often, when they could have been enjoyed by so many more people, if we just talked about them. Not every book will be the best of the best or the worst of the worst, and we tend to read a lot of “middle of the road” books, so why not talk about them?!
On to my Solid Reads for 2020…
Crier’s War (#1) by Nina Varela
This YA fantasy novel contains a f/f romance, some SciFi elements, and intriguing politics. The main characters are easy to love and distinguish from one another, and I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for them. Without getting too crazy about it, let me just say that this book deserved much more hype than it got. There are some super important discussions of sexuality, sexism, human rights, politics, and humanity in general. Not to mention, I rarely experience such a wonderfully done exploration of what it means to be human, and this one is from the perspective a girl who is not even human.
If you like queer books, fantasy, SciFi, very light romance (like super slow burn), rebellions, and stories about self discovery and politics, then please, please give this book a try. My only complaint about this book is the cliffhanger ending and the writing style. The writing style just wasn’t my favorite, and I was so angry that I didn’t get to know what happened immediately due to the cliffhanger ending; both of those things are a matter personal preference though.
Full review here.
War, genocide, slavery, murder, implicit sexism, second hand embarrassment, sexual anxiety (no sex is shown, just overheard), anxiety, grief, arranged marriage, assassinations, racism (speciesism?), death of family members, and lynchings.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
All the Stars and Teeth (#1) by Adalyn Grace
This YA dark fantasy is a pirate adventure that follows a princess with powers fueled by bones, a stowaway lacking a desire for adventure and the ability to heal, a fashionable pirate with some intriguing secrets, and a mysterious, strong willed mermaid with an attitude. This hilarious and banter ridden cast encounters sea monsters, new magic, historical truths, and much much more in this high sea adventure. The plot is quick, the romance light handed, the magic dark and gruesome, and the characters a joy to follow.
If you enjoy a darker YA fantasy with a subtle romance and a strong lead female, then I highly recommend giving this quick read a try. I did not personally like the audiobook, so I recommend the physical book if you’re going to read this one. Also, the body related gore in this story is very detailed and very frequent, so if you are queasy around such things, this may not be the book for you. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, but rounded up to 5 for Goodreads.
I personally found the darker themes and more graphic parts of this book to be the reason I loved it so much. This book felt different than others in its genre, and I enjoyed that. The side characters were definitely my favorite, but Amora is easy to follow on this journey. She is fierce, bold, and knows what she wants, even if she is a bit gullible and naive. The plot is not super intricate, and I found it to be fairly predictable, which is why it lost a half star for me, but I did appreciate the ending and the writing style.
Full review here.
Drowning, sexism, anxiety, loss, death, death row, malicious family members, domestic abuse (threats and physical abuse, no sexual violence), slavery, prisoners, detailed gore, body horror, sea monster, pirate battles, failure, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a socially anxious, nonbinary murderbot who just doesn’t care about their job, but has to do it anyway? Well, do I have the book for you! This novella explores humanity in such a unique and entertaining way, that there is no doubt that many people will absolutely love it.
If you like a very short read with countless relatable quotes and funny moments, then this book is worth the short time commitment. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, but rounded up to 5 for Goodreads, because the plot felt a bit rushed and gapped (especially towards the end). I wanted a bit more from the plot, but other than that, this book is a joy. I will definitely continue this series.
Full review here.
Death, gun/knife fights, corpses, sex mentioned as a concept, social anxiety, racism, human/living rights, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
your name. Another Side:Earthbound by Arata Kanoh
This Japanese translated light novel is a companion to the “Your Name.” anime movie. If you enjoyed the anime movie, this book is worth your time (well the second half at least). The second half of this books adds some necessary background information that furthers the readers understanding of what happens in the movie. If you’ve seen any news surrounding the “Your Name.” movie, then you know the movie ran out of budget towards the end, so the audience lost a lot of the story to lack of funding. This light novel fills in a lot of the gaps that the movie left unfilled, and it is very well written/translated.
My husband and I adore the anime movie, so we decided to buddy read this book. He really loved it, but I just enjoyed it. I felt like the last half of this book is a wonderful (and necessary) addition to the original world, while the first half was just a repeat of the movie that I couldn’t care less about. But, that last half is really good, and also quite sad. If you enjoyed the movie, then I highly recommend reading the second half of this book. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE! YOU WILL BE LOST AND CONFUSED.
Death of family member, spiritual experiences, mourning, pregnancy, marriage, in-laws, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole #1) by Kathryn Lasky
This middle grade fantasy features a world of sentient owls of different species that live in kingdoms based on regions. All is well until several hatchlings from different regions begin to disappear from their nests, never to be seen again. This book follows a young owl who is captured by a mysterious cult and has to find a way to escape, but he won’t give up until the rest of the captured owls are set free. What keeps him going during his capture? Legends of heroes, called The Guardians, who may be more than just a children’s story.
If you enjoy a quick, easy fantasy with significantly more depth than the average middle grade novel, I highly recommend giving this one a try. I saw the movie as a kid and enjoyed it, but I never expected to read this book as an adult and love it as much as I did. The only reason it didn’t get a full 5 stars, but instead a 4.5, is because it is too short in my opinion. I feel like the first two books could be combined to actually complete a story arc. The story seems to just cut off at the peak of the action, which let me down a little, since I was enjoying it so much.
Battles, violence between owls, falling from heights, flying, snakes, cult like organizations, brainwashing, kidnapping, war, and weapons.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
Falling Kingdoms (#1) by Morgan Rhodes
This first installment of this six book YA fantasy follows several characters from three different kingdoms (and even a god) as the world politics fall apart. This series is just getting started in this book, but boy does it seem to set the stage for some very interesting politics and world building!
If you like Game of Thrones style fantasy with lots of politics, death, and fast plot, then this may be for you. I picked this book up on a whim (literally I knew nothing about it), and wow was I surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I think about this story often almost a year later, and I can’t wait to read the sequel in 2021! The only reason this got 4 stars from me is that I felt like it suffers from being the first book in a long series. It feels like it is just the set up to something bigger, which is fine if you know that going in. I also found that a lot of fantasy tropes were used in this book and it just wasn’t that “wow” material you normally give 5 stars, but it’s still an amazing read in my opinion.
Death, gore, physical violence, war, politics, murder within a family, cold father, deceit, romantic feelings towards a sibling that do not go anywhere (in this book at least), infant abduction, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
The Messengers by Lindsay Joelle
This short audible original is a SciFi story following a current and past plot that tie together for a wild twist at the end. This story is very short, but also very well written. The full cast of narrators and sound effects make this book listen like a little movie, and the talent behind this short is undeniable.
My only complaint about this story was how dang short it is. I could see this easily being a full length novel with more time given to each character and plot point, because this concept is amazing. I want more, but that’s not what I got. It is still worth the listen, for sure, but I just wish there was more.
If you like SciFi stories, or want an easy introduction to the genre, then I highly recommend this quick little adventure with a big twist.
Generational trauma, fantasy racism, war, slavery, camps, pregnancy, death, space travel, alarm noises, genetic testing/modification, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
Pile of Bones (The Legends of the First Empire #0.5) by Michael J. Sullivan
This short story companion to The Legends of the First Empire series is a fun little story following (my personal favorite characters) Suri and Mina. This story not only let’s us go back to see Suri when she was younger, but we also get to see what Tura was like before her early passing in the first book (that’s not a spoiler, it happens very early).
If you love this series, then this short story is quite a fun little peak into life before the series took off, but it does not add any information or context to the series. For that reason, I do not think this short is a necessary read for anyone reading this series, but it is a fun addition if you’re looking for more. Plus it’s free on audible and Sullivan’s website, so why not? This story is definitely not on the same level as some of Sullivan’s other writing, in my opinion, but it is still well done and enjoyable to listen to/read.
Corpses, death, thrilling moments, heights, caves, and more.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1) by Cassandra Clare
This first installment in The Last Hours trilogy is part of the larger Shadowhunter Chronicles World, and follows the children of the characters in The Infernal Devices Trilogy. This book is full of magic, demons, banter, teen drama, and a diverse cast of characters.
If you’ve enjoyed Clare’s other books in the Shadowhunter Chronicles, then you will probably enjoy this one too. Clare’s writing has improved a lot with this new series, and her characters are much more developed than in her previous novels. If you tend to enjoy YA, then this trope and teen drama filled novel may just be what you’re looking for. I enjoyed this book, but I personally don’t like the way the relationship in this series is starting to develop. I love the characters in this series more than any of the ones in her other series so far, but I just hate them as couples. I think I may just be growing out of Clare’s novels and that is to my own fault, not the book’s, which is why this one wasn’t a 5 star for me personally.
Ghosts, illness, demons, battles, violence, addiction, alcoholism, absent parents, betrayal, forced marriage, internalized homophobia and slut shaming, sexism per the era, and light romance.If we missed anything, feel free to comment. If you have a specific trigger to ask about, feel free to comment.
Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my Solid Reads of 2020! Don’t forget to check out the first post on this series: Best Reads of 2020 from last weekend!
Next will be my 8 Most Surprising Reads of 2020, and there is plenty more coming after that!
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