H. M. L. Swann
#1 My year in BOOKS
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Oh 2020... what can we say about you?
Yup. It's been... something.
Quarantines, the pandemic, wild fires across the globe, a whack election, and oh yeah... Borat made a come back?
Needless to say, 2020 has been a year.
This month, I'm going to be looking back at the good moments of 2020.
And you guessed it, those good moments can be found in BOOKS!
This month, I'll be ranking my TOP 3 books of 2020.
Sunday, December 13th: Favorite Fantasy/Sci Fi
Sunday, December 20th: Favorite Crime/Thriller
Sunday, December 27th: Favorite Literary Fiction
Each book will be getting it's own post as to why I picked it and why I think you should read it too!
Now, these are not exclusively 2020 releases. Rather these are the books I read this year.
In this first post, I'll be going over all the books I read this year, with a month-by-month breakdown. So let's do this!
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin
I read the first installment of Martin's fantasy series after I finished reading Samantha Shannon's Priory of the Orange (another master piece & if you haven't already read it, please do). While I enjoyed A Game Of Thrones A Song of Ice and Fire, I felt that it read like it was a dated fantasy, especially having finished a recent fantasy publication from a female author. The depiction of woman's breasts, nipples, and hair was a little trite in my opinion. That however, doesn't overshadow the intense political world building that Martin achieved! It is an incredible feat! The story was immersive and I loved Dany's transformation (though her age is questionable is the book~ she is still my favorite character).
The Woman in the Window by: A. J. Finn
I love a good thriller, and The Woman in the Window was definitely that. While Anna being portrayed as a wino was a little cheap, I found it really fascinating to read from the perspective of an agoraphobic. The ending had a twist I didn't see coming!
Vicious (Villains 1) by: V. E. Schwab
V. E. Schwab is brilliant and Vicious is no exception. What I enjoyed most about it was that it brought a unique twist to the fantasy genre. Imagine if modern fantasy had a love child with marvel: that's what this is: the story of two college students who crack the secret to magic, to power, and they are absolutely vicious about it.
Where the Crawdads Sing by: Delia Owens
This book was passed on to me from my mama-in-law who finished it on her flight to visit us. It is a totally captivating read. This was Delia Owens first novel and it is a triumph. Her prose paints the time and place in southern America so beautifully. Part coming of age story and part mystery, the ending was awesome!
The Innocent (Will Robie 1) by: David Baldacci
I adore David Baldacci; he's a master in research and political thrillers. The Innocent introduces us to Will Robie and is as full of suspense and twists as it is a character development story.
Baldacci is a prolific writer, and while I enjoyed this read, I think a great place to start with his work is Absolute Power.
The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1) by: Stephen King
The man in black haunts this bizarre chase across the barren landscape of The Gunslinger. A wonderfully weird mixture of fantasy and the wild west, don't expect this novel to end leaving you feeling finished, rather it leaves you needing to read on in the series to find out more. I've never seen the movie, but I hear it didn't do the book justice.
The Girl on the Train by: Paula Hawkins
You've probably heard about this book or seen the movie (I haven't yet, but it's on my to watch list), but I assume the plot is well known. Basically, alcoholic Rachel can't get over her ex, and obsesses over the people that live next door to him on her train ride each day. It all goes down hill when the neighbor girl goes missing and she gets wrapped up in a murder mystery. I had one beef with this novel: that Rachel can't remember what happened on that fateful night but she vaguely references it ALL the time. It drove me nuts. I just wanted her to remember, and really, that's where most of the mystery was: in her lack of memory. IMO a slightly annoying writing technique.
Circe by: Madeline Miller
Circe is one of those books that you want to savor like a sip of good wine. The writing was lush without being too flowery. The novel weaves ancient myth into something new, captivating, and empowering. A must read!
June, July, August
Dune by: Frank Herbert
The months of June, July, and August caught me in the middle of obtaining a visa and moving continent all while dealing with COVID. I read Dune intermittently during this hard weird summer. Frank Herbert created an immense and realistic world that I could escape to. Literally, he created a whole new planet with its own intricate eco system and political intrigue. The writing did feel a bit dated to me, but the story was compelling. I can't wait for the movie to come out in 2021 and I really hope they do this masterpiece of fiction justice.
The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) by: Brandon Sanderson
This was my first Sanderson novel. After much hype of his works being a staple in modern fantasy, The Final Empire was what I chose to read first. I loved his magic system. He lived up to the hype for sure. The magic system was unique and well thought out. It was believable and enticing and a unique take on a heist story, this book is a read that rewards its readers with twists and payoffs.
The Girls of Slender Means by: Muriel Spark
An interesting insight into young women in London after the war. The writing is descriptive and lovely to read. Spark utilizes anachrony well with plenty of hints and foreshadowing through the use of phone calls interspersed in the narrative.
At the Mountains of Madness by: H. P. Lovecraft
This was my first time reading Lovecraft. I can see now why he is like the father of modern horror. While I didn't find At the Mountains of Madness scary or suspenseful, I did find the vivid descriptions inspired. He really thought out the strangeness of the creatures and the bizarre place they would live in the artic.
Bird Box by: Josh Malerman
I loved this book. I was literally gasping as a read it, gripping the book up to my nose and pressing myself to read faster as she rowed on the river. This was a book I couldn't put down and forgot to eat because I was reading. I watched the movie the night I finished reading it, and found the both compelling and well done!
The Demons of Isabelle Grace by: Miriam R. Davis
This is a self-published novel written by Miriam R. Davis. A book that follows Izzy as she fights off demons and finds out her sacred lineage. A Christian fiction that uses morals to write a compelling story.
Slaughterhouse-Five by: Kurt Vonnegut
This book subverted my expectations. "So it goes."
I guess I don't know what I expected, but the surrealism of the novel, the visit to alien worlds, and the horrors of war were all threaded together in one bizarre narrative. Kurt Vonnegut is truly an American treasure, as my peers have told me, and I now can concur.
Blue Ticket by: Sophie Mackintosh
I heard about this story through the Manchester Literature Festival. I was so intrigued by Mackintosh's poise and ideas that I went out and got her book. The writing is modern and by that I mean it is distilled, edited, and perfected until the words on the page all serve a purpose. No space is wasted. Some have criticized this book as being too similar to The Handmaid's Tale. I would counter with yes you can see some obvious inspiration, but Blue Ticket tells it's own story.
A Clean Well-Lighted Place, The Killers, Big Two-Hearted River, Hills Like White Elephants by: Ernest Hemingway
I read this as part of my MA course at the University of Manchester. I adored these short stories, specifically Big Two-Hearted River because it made me think of home. A man in the Northwoods walking towards Lake Superior. That is my homeland. The smell of pine. Cold water that raises goosebumps on the skin. The taste of food cooked on a camp fire. It made me feel and taste and remember my home, and isn't that what good writing does? Transport you to another place and time.
Mrs. Dalloway by: Virginia Woolf
Potentially unpopular opinion, but I found Mrs. Dalloway a bit... boring. I can respect it for its literary purpose and the brilliance of Woolf. While Big Ben chimed the theme of time was interesting, but I couldn't help but check my own watch as I read it. I just didn't care much about Mrs. Dalloway's party. My favorite character was Septimus, and when he died (spoiler sorry!) I was so sad!
Madame Bovary by: Gustave Flaubert
"The cravings of the flesh, the yearning for money and the melancholia of passion, all were confounded in a simple sorrow..." So goes the story of Madame Bovary. A long winded flowery book that reads like a story from 1857, when it was first published. But despite its age, the story speaks true to the longings and apathy of life.
The Turn of the Screw by: Henry James
This story had me constantly wondering, is this woman going mad or are there really ghosts? James does a brilliant job leaving both notions a possibilities. A slow read for sure, but an interesting one! I can imagine this would make a good book club read during some Spooktober season.
*The books I read in December will be updated as the month progresses, but they will, unfortunately be left out of the running for the top 3 since I won't have adequate time to critique them.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by: V. E. Schwab
Surviving Schizophrenia by: E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Pale Fire by: Vladimir Nabokov
Check out my top books of the year next Sunday here on The Nest