End of the Year Post · Uncategorized

The Best Books We Read In 2020: Adult Edition

Hi all! The year is almost over, and thankfully, we read some really great books throughout it. So many, in fact, that we’ve split up our posts talking about them into two categories – adult and young adult. Today we’re talking about all our favourite adult books that we read this year! We’ve spit them up by genre, so hopefully it’ll be easier for you to find what you’re interested in. Maybe you’ll find one of your favourites on this list too! 🙂

🌨 Related post: a general reflection on our year (ft. reading, blogging and life stuff)


Sabrina

MYSTERY / THRILLER

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
This sci-fi thriller kept me glued to the page.  It was really fast paced and I was so excited to find out what would happen next – because lots happened, and it kept shocking me and making me think about things in a different way.  Sure, the characters weren’t unique, but I didn’t hate them either and I think they were right for the story.  I kind of wish it was being turned into a movie rather than a tv show though lol.


The Guest List by Lucy Foley
This book was almost everything I was looking for in a typical mystery/thriller this year that I hadn’t been getting.  I loved the multiple mysteries that were teased and the large cast of characters, each with their own point of view chapters.  I did end up guessing a couple things, but the story was so much bigger than I was expecting and some things caught me off guard.  The setting and timeframe was also perfect – an isolated island with a harsh, but beautiful, landscape that everyone was visiting for a wedding.  And to top it off, the ending was perfect!


The Sun-Down Motel by Simone St. James
This mystery/thriller with (significant) horror elements had me so engaged and actually freaked me out a few times too.  Some aspects to the ending left me a little perplexed, but the plot the rest of the way through was so intriguing.  I loved how it involved an old rundown hotel (so atmospheric and creepy!) and investigating the past.  And to go back to the horror elements – I thought it was so clever how they were incorporated and added more to the story than just a scary factor.


Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I’ve never read anything quite like this slow-burn historical mystery about two complicated women.  It has so many twists and turns and nothing turned out exactly as I was expecting.  I loved the morally grey characters this focused on and the ways they changed (I wouldn’t necessarily say grew, lol) over the course of the story.  It’s quite a long one, but it makes the twists feel earned and the ending all the more rewarding!

FANTASY / SCI-FI

Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
Among all the books on this list, Monstress is one of the special few that genuinely makes me feel excited simply thinking about it.  I finished the first volume and immediately put the next three on hold from the library.  The graphic novel series has intricate and fascinating world-building with intriguing characters and mysterious aspects that all worked together to stop me from being able to put it down.  In addition, the art style is absolutely stunning and works perfectly with the story.  There’s some disturbing scenes (including cannibalism, which you may know is something I try to avoid in my books, lol), but even they enhanced the atmosphere and added a sense of urgency.  I am really looking forward to picking up the next volumes.


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My experience with this amazing fantasy novel was a bit of a rollercoaster.  Of course, I went into it expecting great things because that’s all I’ve heard about it, and the writing style immediately drew me in so I got excited.  And I was enjoying it, but at some point I started to doubt if I was going to grow to love it.  And then something changed and it instantly became a new favourite.  The book incorporated so many things that I love in novels – and I was especially engaged by the idea of the deadcivs and the obelisks.  The world-building in this truly shone and I can’t wait to get to the next book.


Gideon the Ninth & Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Where to start with these two?  I can’t even categorise them as either fantasy or sci-fi, because they’re a satisfying mix of both, and also involve a lot of mysteries that kept me enthralled.  The books involve a lot of necromancy and monsters, which are both exciting, as well as interesting characters to care about.  I love Gideon a whole lot and Harrow is okay too.  I can’t wait to read the third book when it’s released.  I’m expecting it to be long and confusing, but ultimately fantastic.

ROMANCE

A Duke By Default by Alyssa Cole
So much about this book made it an almost perfect read for me.  The main characters, Portia and Tav, are absolute sweethearts and I would protect them with my life.  The setting was so intriguing and I loved the whole plot of Portia being an apprentice at an armoury. Her personal development over the novel was also incredible and I loved seeing her progress.  It’s definitely one of my favourite books of all time.


The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
I went into this one not expecting to take it too seriously – it is about a robot falling in love, after all – and yes, it made me smile and actually laugh at points as well, but as the story went on, I grew truly invested in the characters and the outcome of the additional non-romantic plot too.  I loved the main characters and the way they changed over the course of this very fun novella.  I also enjoyed the action scenes, which were a pleasant surprise!


If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
There were a lot of little problems I had with this book, but I overlooked almost all of them.  It had a lot of tropes that I like (for example, fake dating) and I really enjoyed the writing style – it made me smile. I liked the main character a lot and felt for her when she experienced any sort of problem throughout the book, and I liked the way everything wrapped up in the end.

OTHER

Disfigured: On Fairytales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc
I can’t recommend this nonfiction book enough, and in fact I kind of want to force it onto most people I know, lol.  It is about exactly what the title says and incorporates autobiographical passages as well as research.  I appreciated both aspects of the book and found that they intensified each other effectively.  I really hope to read some of the author’s fictional works soon and I am excited for The Centaur’s Wife to be released next year!


Lanny by Max Porter
While I do go into literary fiction expecting to get something out of it, I don’t usually expect these books to become new favourites.  Lanny however, really touched my heart and made me enjoy the experience of reading it.  The writing was beautiful and the relationships explored made me extremely attached to some of the characters.  If you enjoy contemporary stories with a bit of magic and small town vibes, I would definitely recommend giving this relatively short book a go.


Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Another book I would classify as literary fiction, this collection of short stories still haunts me to this day.  If I could pick just three words to describe it, as a whole, I would go for: intense, compelling and striking.  It’s very dark and often violent, but every story reflects the world we live in and made me reflect.  The speculative elements to the stories enhanced all these effects and made for an unforgettable book.


Vera

HORROR AND THRILLER

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
I love horror films, and 2020 was the year I finally fell in love with horror books. Horror books rarely – if ever – freak me out as much as a film can, but they are just as good and usually more atmospheric / engaging. The Twisted Ones, my favorite book of October, was such a pleasure to listen to, although it did manage to freak me the hell out quite a few times. It’s a wonderfully written folk horror novel with creepy creatures, magic, a lovely dog, and a narrator with a dry sense humor.


The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
After The Twisted Ones, I had massive expectations for Kingfisher’s newest release, The Hollow Places, and this book met all of them. This one follows Kara, a young woman who discovers a portal to another world in her uncle’s house / creepy museum. Kingfisher has a fantastic writing style; she creates the creepiest settings while being able to make her characters feel real and likable. Yet again, I listened to the audiobook – narrated by Hillary Huber, as is The Twisted Ones – and it was a fantastic experience.


Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
This is my first book by Danforth, but it certainly won’t be my last and I really hope she’ll write more horror novels in the future. Plain Bad Heroines centers around messy and morally gray female characters, in both its past and present timeline, all of whom are incredibly captivating. It is a slower book but in the best way possible – it’s atmospheric as well as a story I got lost in relatively fast. It is also sprinkled with lovely illustration by Sara Lautman, which helped set the atmosphere.


Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
Tender Is the Flesh takes place in a slightly futuristic version of our world where animal meat has become infested, thus humans eat “special meat,” otherwise known as, well, humans. It is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read – as humans are bred, treated, and kept like animals – as well as a really clever one. With its less than 250 pages, it’s on the short side, but nonetheless, it left a big impact on me; I basically haven’t stopped thinking about it since I put it down back in October.


Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
This is a longer book, but I honestly didn’t feel that, because I was captivated from start to finish; after all, who doesn’t like murderous mermaids? I sure do. In terms of characters, Into the Drowning Deep did something few books I read this year were able to do. It has a big cast, with certain characters appearing for only a short amount of time and being somewhat unlikable, but Grant was nonetheless able to humanize each and every character and make me emphasize with them, if only just for a moment. I really appreciated that, and I also liked the f/f romance.

MYSTERY AND THRILLER

Sweet Pea by C.J. Skuse
I’ve been meaning to read Sweetpea for quite some time, and I’m so pleased I finally got to it, as it’s a thriller like few others I’ve read. Essentially, we follow Rhiannon, a psychopath who has built a seemingly normal life for herself, but who finally starts to spiral out of control, which is what we see throughout the novel. Rhiannon is not a good person, but her narrative voice is – dare I say it? – entertaining as hell. If you can, do opt for the audiobook, as it’s extremely well-narrated. I can’t wait to read the sequel.


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I swear to god, Riley Sager never disappoints. There is something about his stories, characters, and writing style that grabs my attention immediately and doesn’t let it go even after I put down the book. Home Before Dark was no exception, as I found it to be a captivating, atmospheric thriller that managed to creep me out quite a few times. I loved that the ending was filled with twists, so there are bound to be some that will shock you even if you are able to figure out some of them. As always, I thought that the heroine was well-made, as well as someone I was genuinely rooting for. Fantastic read.


A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
Would an end of the year “best of” post be complete without queen Nalini Singh? No, it would not. (And this is not even the only book of hers on this list!) A Madness of Sunshine is Singh’s mystery-thriller debut and she did such a fantastic job here. The book takes place in a small town in New Zealand and it introduces us to a variety of the town’s residents, many of whom are suspicious as heck. It has a touch of romance, but only a touch, which was a fun addition to this already fantastic novel. I can’t wait for the author’s future mysteries.


The Dry by Jane Harper
I read The Dry towards the beginning of the year, but even so, this is a mystery-thriller I still remember vividly. Jane Harper is a fantastic writer – her settings are incredibly vivid and thus easy to visualize, and her characters are realistic and likable. The novel follows Aaron, who reluctantly returns to his hometown and attempts to look into the circumstances surrounding his childhood friend’s death. At the same time, he is also forced to face his own past and a secret he shared with his now deceased friend.

FANTASY

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
This is my official thank you not to everyone who hyped up The Poppy War, which led me to finally pick it – and The Dragon Republic – up this year. I loved this book – it’s a fantastic fantasy novel that I flew through despite its length. Its characters and pacing are fantastic, and I’m so bloody excited to get to the third and final novel! I expect to be devastated by it, but even so, I can’t wait.


Alpha Night by Nalini Singh
Every time a new Psy-Changeling novel is published – so, basically, every year – I go into extreme fangirl mode and scream my head off. I love this series to the moon and back, and I’ll probably never shut up about it, so uh, bear with me? This is the 19th Psy-Changeling book, but Nalini Singh is still able to impress me with her skillful world building and her beautiful romances. If you haven’t tried the series yet, well, you should because it’s so worth it.


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This book, you all, this book is probably my favorite of the whole year, and one that makes my heart soar whenever I think of it. The House in the Cerulean Sea follows Linus, a caseworker who is sent to give a report on an orphanage that houses six magical children with concerning abilities. I loved Linus, Arthur, as well as all six children – and I generally think that children are unpleasant creatures, so that says something – and the strong found family vibes this book had. I laughed, teared up, rejoiced, and overall went through a wide variety of emotions while reading.

ROMANCE

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
I had a fair share of expectations about this f/f Pride and Prejudice retelling, and Written in the Stars exceeded all of them. I had so much fun while reading the book, and I especially loved how different Darcy and Elle – these absolutely adorable fools who start fake dating and expect not to catch feelings – were, yet how well they fit together. I loved the audiobook, so if you enjoy consuming books that way, that’s a great way to go.


Something To Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Something To Talk About is such a soft, slow-burn romance and it’s exactly what I needed when I picked it up. It follows Jo and Emma – boss and assistant – who are photographed on the red carpet while laughing together, which starts rumors about their supposed romantic relationship. I loved this book so much and I appreciated the way Wilsner handled the question of the power imbalance between these two and how she portrayed both the negatives and positives of Hollywood culture, especially with regards to sexual assault.


Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
If you are looking for a laugh-out-loud funny romantic comedy, look no farther! Boyfriend Material, a fake-dating m/m romance, is easily one of my top books of the year, and one I’ll surely reread in the future. I love the characters in this one – they were fleshed out and imperfect, which is exactly what made them feel so realistic and likable. I can’t wait to dive deeper into Hall’s backlist – I already read and loved Glitterland – and of course, I can’t wait for his future works.


Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Girl Gone Viral is based on the PlanBae debacle – if anyone remembers that – and I think Rai did a fantastic job covering / retelling that mess with respect. This is a sweet, slow-burn romance between Katrina and her body-guard and I genuinely loved every moment of reading it. It handles some heavy topics, like PTSD and anxiety, but it is nonetheless a soft novel about friendship, family, and love.

OTHER

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This was my first novel by Backman – since then I’ve read Beartown and I can’t wait to read even more books by him – and I definitely understand why he is such a beloved contemporary writer. His writing is engaging and his characters are witty and wholesome, even though they are absolutely imperfect, as all humans are. Ove is a grumpy old man whose life is changed by his new neighbors, as well as by old friends he reconnects with. If you are looking for an emotional read, this one’s for you.


Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus is a second-generation Holocaust graphic novel that tells the past and present of the writer’s father, who was a Holocaust survivor. I’m not a big fan of graphic novels and I wasn’t sure how emotional some black and white illustrations could make me, but turns out? Very-very emotional. I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to read second generation Holocaust literature.


Night by Elie Wiesel
This novella follows Elie Wiesel – I suppose a fictionalized version of him, as this is a novella, even if it is based on real life events – who was sent to a concentration camp alongside his family, some of whom he never saw again. Wiesel tells what him, his father, and other Jewish people around them went through during the Holocaust, thus Night is an incredibly hard read, even though it is short. It also packs a strong punch and is hard to move on from.


What do you think?

Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? Which target audience do you read the most books directed toward? What are your favourite adult books you read in 2020?

14 thoughts on “The Best Books We Read In 2020: Adult Edition

  1. The way you have both made me want to read all these books 😂🥰 I have been eyeing up The Sun-Down Motel for a while but you’ve definitely made me eager to get to it!! I love all the elements you described!!
    I’m so excited to try Monstress and The Fifth Season too.
    Disfigured sounds like a really good read and I hadn’t heard of it before. It sounds really interesting with the autobiographical aspects and research. I will definitely have to read it at one point.

    Okay I definitely want to read The Twisted Ones and Plain Bad Heroines as well. They both sound interesting and I really have been meaning to read more horror/thrillers.
    Yay The Poppy War, a book I have actually read 😅 I really did enjoy it and I’m excited to carry on with the series 🥰
    I’ve also been meaning to check out Fredrick Backman’s work for a while but I’m so glad you enjoyed his work!!

    I really enjoyed hearing all your thoughts on these books, thank you for sharing 💞

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  2. I am glad to see If I Never Met You up there. I felt like I was one of the only people that liked it. Ove owned my heart. I am currently listening to Anxious People, and then I will. have to wait for Backman to write more books. 😢

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  3. I loved The House in the Cerulean Sea as well, Vera! I am definitely not a fan of children either, but this novel made me love the children in the book! It was such a heartwarming story.

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  4. Vera, I also absolutely adored The House in the Cerulean Sea! It was a perfect heartwarming read for 2020, one that I will definitely reread in the future.
    I also liked A Man Called Ove and Maus. I grew fond of graphic novels this year, I think it’s an amazing format.

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  5. I loved seeing what adult books you enjoyed, as I’m always looking for more recommendations! The Sun-Down Motel sounds good, though I’m also a big scaredy cat, so idk how this will work out 😱 I have The Fifth Season high up on my TBR as I’ve heard so much praise for it!! The House in the Cerulean Sea is also a book I’ve heard so many great things about 😊

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  6. You both have read a lot of books I want to read and haven’t gotten to (and a couple I have). I’m using this list as a guide to what I really need to get reading (which I know is The House in the Cerulean Sea before Vera mentions it me again). I also really want to get around to reading Gideon the Ninth and Into the Drowning Deep.

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