Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2020: Picks 5 through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! For me, the word “favorite” is an important part of this list. As I go through the last year’s worth of reading, I often found that some books would strike particular chords within me more deeply than others, even if, quality-wise, another book might be stronger. Of course, this just makes it all that much harder to put them in any order. But here it goes! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, five to one. And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!”

#5 “Ship of Smoke and Steel” & “City of Stone and Silence” by Django Wexler

“Ship of Smoke and Steel” Review & “City of Stone and Silence” Review”

I read the first book in a military fantasy series by Django Wexler a few years back. I really enjoyed it, but was following so many other series at the time, that I still haven’t managed to get back to it. But I was gifted the first in Wexler’s YA fantasy series over Christmas and absolutely adored it. Luckily for me, the second one was slated to come out shortly afterwards, so I was able to read both of them in a short amount of time. And what a blast they were! The action is nonstop, the magic system is fun, the monsters are creepy, and the stakes are high with real teeth behind the threats to our main character(s). I liked the first one a bit more than the second, but still really enjoyed them both. I have the third all queued up on my Kindle and will have a review of it coming up here shortly in January. I’m so nervous. I’m so excited.

#4 “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” Review

I’ve liked most everything I’ve read by V.E. Schwab to a certain extent. My favorite probably still is her “Shades of Magic” trilogy. But I was very intrigued when I saw that she was releasing a stand-alone, adult fantasy novel with a really unique concept: a young woman blessed (cursed) with the ability to live forever but to never be remembered by those around her. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into, but I was so happy with the story Schwab presented. It delved much more deeply into the importance of memory and identity, and explored concepts of art and individuality in a really interesting way as well. The magic was incorporated in a very natural way that felt authentic but didn’t overwhelm what was ultimately a more literary, reflective novel. There was a sweet romance at the heart, but the story also didn’t follow the trajectory I had initially thought it might, instead throwing in a few twists and turns towards the end that took my completely by surprise. Fans of Schwab’s work or literary fantasy are sure to like this one!

#3 “Chosen Ones” by Veronica Roth

“Chosen Ones” Review

Talk about a book taking you by surprise! I didn’t really care for Roth’s “Insurgence” trilogy. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain that I didn’t even finish it! I know she also came out with a duology since then which I also hadn’t read. But the description of this book, the story of what happens to the “chosen one(s)” after they kill the big villain, was intriguing enough that I thought I’d give it a shot. And here we have it! Number three on my Top 10 list for the year! It was everything I had wanted from this type of story and more. There was a great exploration of the type of PTSD and trauma that would be long-lasting for the heroes who survived this type of childhood and teenage period of years spent fighting some great evil on behalf of humanity. But on top of the reflective portion of the story, there was an excellent adventure and conflict that kept the pace moving at a swift clip. I really, really liked this book and am definitely more on board with checking out future books by Roth in the future.

#2 “Empire of Gold” by S.A. Chakraborty

“Empire of Gold” Review

Unlike some of the other books on this list, this one comes as no surprise. I’m pretty sure the first and second book in this trilogy also made this list each year they were released. But it’s always the scariest going into the third and final book. Will the author stick the landing? Or will it end in such a disappointing way that it taints one’s ability to appreciate the books that came before? Luckily, this one did just what it should and even more than I had hoped for. With the fall of Daevabad, Nahri and Ali have been forced to return to Cairo. But once there, it becomes clear that they can’t simply leave their other lives behind. How can they fight against the almost all-powerful Dara, though? And does Nahri even want to? Their adventures take them to new and unexpected destinations, and the story unravels an even more complicated history of mixed loyalties and broken promises that we’d had before. And yet, somehow Chakraborty manages to wind it all up in a way that is both believable and satisfying. Fans of the series so far are sure to love it!

#1 “A Deadly Education” by Naomi Novik

“A Deadly Education” Review

Novik is definitely an absolute favorite author of mine, so it’s no wonder that her new book this year is at the top of my list. Really, I think she’s moved into the “instant buy” category for me, as far as authors go. There are only a handful of them, so it’s quite the distinction! This book was marketed as a more adult “Harry Potter.” I can see where this reference comes from with the story taking place in a darker, more dangerous magical school, and it plays around with the idea of “chosen ones” and the limitations of this title. But at the same time, I think this undersells the sheer novelty and imagination to be found in this book. This is definitely not Hogwarts, and not only is our heroine, not the “chosen one,” but the “chosen one” himself is a bit of a weirdo enigma. Also, kids die left and right in this thing to the point that the reader becomes almost equally blasé about it as our main character and the other students. And yet, the book is hilarious and fun, never becoming too dark or depressing. It’s a miracle of master storytelling and balance. The story also ends in a satisfying manner, but introduces a new twist at the very end that leaves you on tenterhooks waiting for the next one. Pretty much any fantasy fan should enjoy this one!

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2020?

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