Badger to the Bone cover image

E’s Reading Year in Review – 2020

Well this has been a year which did not go entirely as planned. Some things happened even if they were delayed, unrecognizable from their original concept, or whose execution became incredibly complicated and other things just didn’t happen. I said goodbye to my time as a expat and moved back to the US, my mom aka Ninja_Mom retired and moved in with me, I started a full-time master’s program, and I competed for my next job. I attended a family wedding via Zoom, virtually baked with my sisters, reconnected with college friends as our milestone reunion became virtual in lieu of physical (first one I would have attended), and I am trying to regain my motivation to work-out on a regular basis.

One of the other things impacted by *waves hands* 2020 was my reading. I had a personal goal of finding more new to me authors and while I have a significant number sitting on my TBR (to be read), in my New Release spreadsheet, and in our Monthly Must Haves, I didn’t make a large dent in reading them. Keeping with the abby-normality of this year I decided to showcase some authors and titles who made an impact on me instead of Top Reads. The first list consists of authors “New to Me” and the second list is authors I have been reading for at least a year. The authors and titles below aren’t exhaustive in either category and oh by the way I haven’t done my planned catch-up glom of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters series yet so those are not included. Regardless, I hope you enjoy seeing what I found stuck with me throughout the year.

New to Me

Oath Sworn cover imageK.N. Banet’s Jacky Leon urban fantasy series, starting with Oath Sworn. Werecats who are loners, werewolves who aren’t, paranormal politics, and getting caught in the middle. This is really a coming of adulthood/maturity series with the heroine as someone who is biologically an adult but is rather young in her were life. I really enjoy the different characters, their backstories, and the different levels/types of tension between them all. This series is still in progress and I am looking forward to the next entry.

Bounty cover imageK.N. Banet makes a second appearance on this list with her Kaliya Sahni series, also urban fantasy. Set in the same overall world as Jacky Leon it starts with Bounty and the heroine happens to be both a bounty hunter and a licensed executioner. She is also an extremely rare member of the paranormal community as a Naga, whose people are being hunted out of existence. She doesn’t agree with filling the role her elders what her to follow and nor is she willing to let go of her personal losses. So when she gets an unusual bounty and red flags start flying she decides to do the unexpected. This is also an in progress series.

A Life of Shadows cover imageKristen Banet, same individual writing books with multi-partners instead of a single partner. Her Redemption Saga stars some misfits and two individuals who are trying to make up for things in their pasts. This is not light and does have some CW: memories of abuse, memories of violent death of child, memories of violent death of pet. The first title is A Life of Shadows. Together willingly or not have to figure out a way to work together, survive their “allies” and others against them, bring down the bad guys, and create a healthy relationship. What got me with this completed series was the complexity of the characters, how they all had to shift and grow, and what happens when you add one person to a settled group dynamic not to mention what happens to that one person. I also liked the world building and the variety of paranormal skills from region to region. This series is complete.

Gladiator Queen box setAuryn Hadley has two entries on this list. The Wolf of Oberhame series starting with When We Were Kings is about a princess who finds herself sold as a debtor to the Gladiator ring. She is determined not to give up and well…things happen. I really really enjoyed this trilogy. It has politics, back-stabbing (literally at times), secrets, intrigue, murder, scandal, and oh yeah lots of fighting. Hadley explores the bonds people build in life or death circumstances, and how far you can go/what you will be willing to do. I also liked how she didn’t shy away from the work required to change a nation for the better. This series is complete.

The Dark Orchid box setHadley’s second series on this list has multiple partners and is pretty explicit. It is much darker and should have some CW for torture. The heroine and one of the heroes have made their living as prostitutes so they take physical intimacy very lightly. Emotional intimacy is an entirely different thing. I enjoyed the world building and rules of magic. I also enjoyed watching the current order get turned on its head once a wild card was introduced. The growth exhibited by the heroes was very fascinating to watch. The heroine’s path was different and in some ways easy to overlook because it wasn’t punctuated with arguments but it was very deftly handled as she learned to see herself as having her own agency, power, and self-value. One of the other things I found interesting was how each individual had their own relationship with the others and yet the heroine was at the center. This trilogy starts with Power of Lies. The series is complete.

The Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore and Bar (Sam Quinn #1)The Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore and Bar (Sam Quinn #1) by Seana Kelly is the first in the series. I liked the introduction to the world of wolves, vampires, witches, and other paranormal creatures. I have to admit my attention was grabbed at the title and I had to see what was inside. There is a lot to this world and I am not sure where it will go next but I am certainly curious to see. CW: the heroine does have memories of torture.

Magic Forged cover imageOne of my sisters, yes I come from a reading family, introduced me to K.M. Shea through Magic Forged Book 1 of Hall of Blood and Mercy. I found the story of a mostly powerless wizard seeking refuge among vampires and learning how to step outside the confines of her upbringing most entertaining. It was filled with moments that made me giggle if not laugh out loud. I eagerly read the rest of the trilogy and when I finished I entertained myself by doing the same through a significant chunk of Shea’s backlist. She has a series of retold fairy-tales and while that is complete she does have another series ongoing in that particular world.

Crown of Shadows cover imageRecently Shea started releasing a second trilogy set in the same world as Hall of Blood and Mercy focusing on one of the supporting characters and what happens after the first trilogy ends. Starting with Crown of Shadows my family and I got to meet some new characters and see more into this fascinating world. The third book releases mid-Jan and I can’t wait!

Death's Dancer cover imageJasmine Silvera is the last author on the New to Me list I am spotlighting for this post. I started reading Binding Shadows but for some reason I couldn’t get into it so I set it aside. Some months later I picked up Death’s Dancer Book 1 in the Grace Bloods series and devoured it. Then I moved onto the next one. As I was reading I kept thinking the world seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite put my fingers on it. Then I realized, these were set earlier than Binding Shadows. Guess what is on my list to go back and read in 2021?

Old Friends
Well this is a bit of a misnomer although a couple of the authors on this list I have been reading since before I discovered an online book community and I have also included a couple of authors I discovered in 2019.

Sweep With Me (Innkeeper #4.5)Ilona Andrews leads off the list with Sweep with Me Innkeeper Series #4.5. This is the most recent installment of a series I reread often. It brings me such joy with the vivid descriptions, the character interactions, and the food. Oh the food. I stayed in a Bed & Breakfast once on vacation and I absolutely loved it. I remember at the time wondering about the stories the hosts had to tell about their guests and this series takes it to a whole new level. Not to mention what is at stake. This is such a fun series and I really hope the authors continue writing it.

Barista and the Bear cover imageNext is Rebel Carter whose historical and contemporary romances I have enjoyed. This year I found out she was writing a paranormal romance series, Oak Fast Fated Mates, and with the first one called Barista and the Bear I had to give them a try. They are quick reads but I found them entertaining. The stakes continued to rise as the series continued and some secrets were revealed. Once again I was reminded that long lived folk view the world a bit differently than short lived folk.

Night Calls cover imageKatharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series, is one I find myself rereading often. This past year I needed the calm steadiness and no-nonsense of her main character. Even as the heroine continued to get into situations, she used everything she knew and then some working towards the best possible outcome. It has been a while since she has been able to write a new installment but I remain full of hope. Her world is very fascinating and full of the normally unseen and unheard. Again not all that is invisible is good or bad. While this series is a coming of age, and marked in some places by grief, the heroine has a loving family and living parents. It is a series of discovery and growth and the value of details.

My Big City Neighbor cover imageJackie Lau has written several contemporary series but the one which really got me started this year, Cider Bar Sisters. Due to my day job I have moved frequently. Some moves I find a place and people I click with and become a “regular” other moves I never quite find my spot. There is something magic about becoming a “regular” in a new place. And oh a grumpy hot neighbor willing to practice kissing, sign me up *grin*. Anyways I really enjoyed reading the first installment and have proceeded to read each succeeding one as they are released.

Badger to the Bone cover imageYou know I really enjoy Shelly Laurenston, and I seize upon any excuse to reread her books. Lately my focus has been on her Honey Badger Chronicles because Honey Badger don’t care! I really enjoy the sisters’ interaction, Charlie’s baking, and even the way their “father” manages to embroil them in all sorts of things. This year brought Badger to the Bone which was Max’s story but one of my favorite scenes revolves around Charlie. I am so excited to find out we get another Honey Badger fix late summer ’21. I also did some rereading of Laurenston’s Pride series because again, no excuse needed.

Delicate Ink cover imageI am not a huge contemporary romance reader, usually I want my romance to come with some Fantasy, Paranormal, and Science Fiction but I decided to pick up one of Carrie Ann Ryan’s Montgomery Ink World books and that was all she wrote. I went through and over this year I glommed every single one available…Checking my order status the first one was a month into lockdown, and then I got serious in June as my stress level increased amidst a high amount of uncertainty about a whole lot of things being impacted by COVID-19.

The Emperor's Wolves cover imageMichelle Sagara is an author I have been reading since probably 2006, back in the early days of Harlequin’s not closed Luna line. I absolutely love her Chronicles of Elantra series and this year, The Emperor’s Wolves Book 1 of Wolves of Elantra came out. This is all about Severn and has so many connections and hints to other things. The world building, the character building, the mystery, and what it all reveals have answered things and yet raised other questions I hope get answered in due course. I had to reread it as soon as I finished so my nascent speculations could have a chance to solidify. As always an incredible read.

The Unbound Queen (Novel of the Four Arts #3)M.J. Scott’s long awaited, by my family at least, third novel in her Four Arts series The Unbound Queen was worth the wait. We all enjoyed this series and have spent quite some time pondering who/what was behind all of the events in the first installment. I have also enjoyed several of her other works and selectively reread them but I have a soft spot for this world. Earlier this year, she provided a novella in an anthology which answered my questions about one of the side characters, while raising some others. I hope she revisits this world again.

The Entity Game (Aurora Donati #1)Lisa Shearin, whose UF series I have been enjoying for a while branched out this year with a paranormal suspense, The Entity Game. It has some romantic elements and some ver intriguing characters, secrets, and murders. As I am sitting here typing this I am thinking I need a reread. I am looking forward to the next one in this series AND what is coming in her two UF series.

Alpha Night (Psy Changeling Trinity #4)Nalini Singh, what can I say. I was able to read Alpha Night Psy-Changeling Trinity #4 and WOW! I have had my eye on Selenka for quite a while but I never expected this. The relationship was intense, their connection intense, and the secrets revealed were stunning. Not only was I captivated down to the micro detail but my concern for the Psynet is continuing to grow. I have no idea how Singh is going to pull any of this off and how much more the characters I have enjoyed over the past 14 years can take. I am on pins and needles waiting for the next release due in July.

A Pale Light in the Black (Neo-G #1)K.B. Wagers has added to the list of authors filling my space opera need lately. A second trilogy starring a former heir to the throne, gunrunner, and more wraps up in February and while I have enjoyed the two Hail Bristol trilogies to date, their newest series, a sort of interstellar Coast Guard series has really hit my sweet spot. A Pale Light in the Black Neo-G #1 is one of my standout reads. The high stakes protecting, rescuing, and investigating. The meshing of new personalities and rebuilding a team when one individual was promoted away. The baggage, expectations, and support brought with family and long time friends. And then the pressure of the games…oh the games! I can’t wait for July and the next installment even though I know Wagers is going to put their characters and readers through an emotional wringer.

Rules of Redemption cover imageT.A. White currently has three different in progress series I am invested in. One is epic science fiction romance starting with Rules of Redemption and currently my favorite with the most recent release. The second is UF with a veteran turned Vampire with an interesting lineage who wants nothing to do with other Vampires. Except in Shadow’s Messenger she keeps encountering them and other supernatural beings. And the third is epic fantasy with one arc completed in the first three books and a second arc starring a supporting character in progress. Each becomes my favorite series by White with their respective newest release.

Burn cover imageMy last author for this year’s post is Suzanne Wright. She has written both contemporary and PNR with several series in the same world. While I enjoy going back and rereading them all, this past year I went back to her Dark in You series more often. Starting with Burn I really enjoyed reading about demons, their anchors, and the general chaotic nature of their lives. Especially certain characters. While the first few books focus on one couple, later books branch out allowing the supporting cast their time in the spotlight. Again I can’t wait for the next one to release.

*looks back over the length of this post* Apparently I have missed writing about books. I am hopeful that when this degree is finished summer of 2021 I can get back to more regular book chatter and reviews. Until then I plan to continue doing the monthly Must Haves posts and popping in and out of Twitter as time/energy allows. Happy New Year’s Eve and may the upcoming year be better for all of us.

Happy reading,

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