Top Books of 2020

I read a wide variety of genres when it comes to books, but romance and horror are two of my favorites. One of my goals for this year was to read from a wider variety of authors–more indie press and more marginalized authors, especially. Looking at this list, I’d say I accomplished that goal! All links within this post are to GoodReads pages of the books in question. (The reviews are short because the word count for this post is already over 900 words.)

I’ll be making this a top 10 list, but it’s not in any particular order.

The Four Profound Weaves, by R. B. Lemberg

I had no idea how much I needed a book with trans characters who were elders, until I read The Four Profound Weaves [link]. This book is not only a fantastic fantasy novella, it’s also a very comforting read. Being trans myself, seeing characters like me mostly in young adult books gets…tiring? I’m not sure what the word I want is, but seeing truly *old* characters who’d transitioned was something I *needed* to see.

The Blind Owl, by Sadegh Hedayat

I genuinely do not know how to describe the plot of this book [link]. The meme of “it has no plot, but the vibes are impeccable” applies well to The Blind Owl. It is bizarre, written in a stream-of-conscious style of narration, with lots of repetition of certain elements (i.e. the black horses.) The writing is beautiful in a really odd way, but part of it could be due to translation (this novel was originally written in Arabic) and being written in the late 1930’s.

It reminds me a lot of both Edgar Allan Poe, and House of Leaves. Considering that Poe is one of my favorite authors, and House of Leaves left me scared of the dark–that’s very high praise to give to a book.

The Good House, by Tananarive Due

I’ve never read a horror novel [link] that treated voudu and the lwa with such respect as this. If this wasn’t incredibly well written, book would make my top reads list, just for that. Voudu is often used in horror as “oh, spooky” shorthand, ignoring the very real religion that’s still being practiced today.

I picked this up on a whim, and found an author who’s now one of my favorites. I loved this so much I bought my own copy after I returned it to the library.

The Worm and His Kings, by Hailey Piper

I wrote a review [link] for this book [link] not long after it was released. As I said to Hailey on Twitter, “you had me at ‘queer cosmic horror’.” Making the list of “books so queer I hugged my Kindle” is something that means a book is almost guarantee to get 5 stars. My review can mostly speak for itself, but this is a book that I highly recommend to any fan of cosmic horror.

The Queen of Cups, by Ren Basel

Another book that was so queer I hugged my Kindle in joy. This is a short story [link], which sets it apart from the longer novels on this list. But it brought me so much happiness in a short 30 pages, that it had to go on this list. I love the fantasy, the growing queerplatonic relationship, and seeing a fantasy story with an autistic main character.

Knit One, Girl Two, by Shira Glassman

Despite being a knitter myself, it took me way too long to realize the title of this novella [link] is a pun on “knit one, purl two.” This is a very sweet f/f romance between two Jewish women, and introduced me to a wonderful author. There wasn’t much to speak of in the way of conflict, but that was what I wanted when I picked this book up.

Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh

The title of this book [link] sounds ridiculous at first. But, given that Sascha isn’t supposed to feel any emotions, let alone (romantic) love, it makes sense. This book had something I wish more paranormal romances had–characters who are *truly* not human, who have different norms and cultures than humans. I’m also very happy to hear that the first part of this series is complete–season one is a 15 books long! Season two has four books out right now. I’m really excited to read more of these.

Ayesha At Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin

I confess, despite being a romance reader, I’ve never read Jane Austin. I picked this book [link] up because I was seeing rave reviews, and there was also a lot of Shakespeare influence (and some Rumi) as well. I do wish there was another chapter or an epilogue that showed Khalid and Ayesha together as a couple, rather than they “they’ll get married next year” comment.

The Luckiest Lady in London, by Sherry Thomas

This book [link] was recommended to me when I was looking for a historical romance that was a proper courtship, rather than wacky shenanigans. I’ve never read a historical romance with such a tight focus on the main couple before. No side plots. No random kidnapping thrown in during the last quarter of the book. Beautiful, beautiful writing.

Hate to Want You, by Alisha Rai

I normally don’t read a trilogy of novels [link] one right after the other. But, I flew through the Forbidden Hearts series in about a week. I was invested in learning what had happened to cause a family rift so deep these people wouldn’t even be seen at the same grocery store. And when I learned what happened, I understood why these people hated each other so much.

We Are Wolves: First Impressions

I normally wait until I’ve finished a book to review it. When I picked up We Are Wolves [link], which is edited by Gemma Amor, I had plans to spend my Saturday casually reading, taking notes on the stories, and then typing a review on Monday. I love horror anthologies, both as a way to find new authors, and for a quick, creepy story.

As you can see, this is the “first impressions” review. I think this book will take a few weeks to read through all the stories, since I found myself needing to take a break after the second story. I got about a fourth of the way through the book, and realized I should probably slow down and space out reading this collection.

If I needed one word to describe the stories I’ve read so far, it’s “Intense.” The stories are beautifully written, and there are amazing authors are in here. But the stories are also visceral. I can almost feel some of these sticking with me.

I’ll be back with a full length review of this in the future. For now, I’m giving it two very enthusiastic thumbs up, and going to read something fluffy for a bit.

The Worm and His Kings, by Hailey Piper [Review]

The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper [link] is not only one of the queerest horror novels I’ve ever read, it might be one of the best horror novels of the year. I stayed up way too late reading it the night I started it, then way too late again last night to finish it. There were moments where I’d stop and re-read a sentence, just to take in the sheer beauty of the language in this book.

“Subway buskers, used to fighting train horns and railway clatter for listening ears, would’ve drowned out the choir, no trouble. They understood music. It’s purpose was to fill the soul, with no purity in the Worm’s name, and instead littered with the taint of mortal desires. The choir’s pure reverence left Monique’s soul empty.”

That’s just one example of the subtle beauty in the writing in this book. That moment I quoted above comes at about mid-way through the book. Monique’s musing on music are fascinating considering her circumstances. The scenes involving the Worm’s choir are chilling, yet strangely beautiful.

(There are spoilers after this point. Proceed with caution.)

Continue reading

Waiting For A Voice, by Ashton Nyte [Review]

I’ve been an Ashton Nyte fan since I discovered his work with The Awakening [link] way back in 2011. I was new to the goth scene at the time, and what an introduction those albums were. Even after nearly 10 years, his work (both solo and with his band) remains some of my favorite.

Ashton Nyte’s latest album, Waiting for a Voice [link], is the album I’ve been listening to on repeat as I write. I normally don’t listen to albums on repeat like this. But I’ve found that once “Icicles” ends, I hit the play button on “Waiting for a Voice” again.

“Dark Star” might be one of my favorite songs on the album. I adore the violins that appear on the breaks in the track. This is also one of the catchiest songs, it’s often stuck in my head long after I stop listening to the album.

The stripped down acoustic arrangements really allow Ashton Nyte’s voice to shine. It also fits the melancholic lyrics of songs like “This Isolation,” and “I Asked For Nothing.” I’ve started learning how to play “This Isolation” on guitar, and I have to say his guitar work is amazing in it’s simple beauty.

“Soon It Will Be Morning” is the song that hits me the hardest. Not only does the stripped down, near a Capella beginning put Ashton Nyte’s voice front and center; the lyrics are so hopeful. A song like this is just what I need right now.

This album is amazing, both as music to write to, and simply as something to listen to. This might become one of my favorite albums of the year. I regularly listen to a wide variety of music; that I keep going back to this album on repeat says a lot about how much I’m enjoying it.