Random (but not really)

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Books of 2020: Fantasy

Although the number of fantasy books I’ve read in recent years has remained relatively consistent, fantasy has dropped as a percentage of my reading, especially in recent years, with just under a third of the books I read this year having fantasy elements. (31% this year as opposed to 36% over the past decade.)

There are several series that I have been following ages for that remain auto-buys that made the list, but almost all of them are urban fantasy. Pretty much all those series need you to start at book one and move forward, but that’s not a bad thing, since a lot of these should be available to borrow from the library as ebooks or audiobooks.

False Value
False Value (2020) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London)
Urban, Mystery, Police, Ongoing Series

This is the 8th book about Peter, although there have been stories about other characters in the series (especially comics).

The first part of the book jumps back and forth in time as we see Peter applying for a job at a Cybernetics Company. And Bev is pregnant–so Peter is living with her, so this is extremely confusing and somewhat worrisome.

Luckily, this book has all the snark you would expect from Peter.

“No,” she said. “I don’t want a personal friend in Jesus.”

I showed her my warrant card.

“But have you let the Metropolitan Police into your heart?” I asked.

Don’t even think about starting here. Go back to the first book and move forward, and check out some of the comics along the way.

And I highly recommend the audio books, since Kobna Holdbrook Smith is one of my favorite narrators, and makes everything he reads better.

Smoke Bitten
Smoke Bitten (2020) Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson)
Supernatural, Ongoing Series

This is the latest Mercy Thompson story, and we get to spend a good deal of time with both Aiden and Wulfe.

Wulfe is one of the most fascinating characters in the series. He is a true chaotic neutral.

“Not fortunate,” demurred Wulfe, answering Aiden with a coyness that would have been more appropriate from a Southern belle in an old movie. In old movies, overacting was standard fare. “Not mere luck. I am stalking Mercy. Of course I was around, because that’s what stalkers do, or so I’ve read. It’s my new hobby.”

I love reading about Wulfe, but I am very very glad that I do not ever have to have an in-person reactions with Wulfe. Interestingly, there are other authors who have tried to have chaotic neutral characters in their stories–the problem is that once you spend time with them, then tend to be more chaotic good than chaotic neutral, which means when they try to make them the bad guys again, you don’t really believe it.

With Wulfe, you are fascinated, but also remain terrified of him, because he is terrifying.

Spells for the Dead
Spells for the Dead (2020) Faith Hunter (Soulwood)
Supernatural, Mystery, Ongoing Series

Unlike the most recent Jane Yellowrock book, this book mostly concludes the main story arc between the covers. Which is good because the past several Jane books have been exhausting, and nothing is better yet.

One of the strengths of the Soulwood series is just how annoying and realistic it makes work for a supernatural government agency come across. Nell is always doing paperwork as well as a fair amount of scut work when her particular skills aren’t needed at a site or investigation.

“Which is why you’re down here with us,” T. Laine said cheerfully. “Among your many talents is the ability to use old-fashioned equipment. Competency comes with repercussions.”

“Do not ask me to milk a cow or darn your socks.”

“You know how to do that?”

“No,” I lied, stern faced.

Additionally, we see her continuing to work out her relationships with her family. This has been important from the start, and I absolutely love how Nell comes to understand past actions in a different light, and uses that knowledge to try and make the present and future better for her family.

If you’re looking for audio books, this is another series with a fantastic narrator. Kristine Hvam does an excellent job.

Undeading Bells
Undeading Bells (2019) Drew Hayes
Supernatural, Ongoing Series

The latest book in the Fred, the Vampire Accountant series sees Fred and Krystal finally getting married! Unfortunately, there are things to do before that can happen.

You’ve got a whole day to be anxious, so don’t use it all up tonight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This series is a delightful romp, and perfect for when you want something fun. Definitely start at the beginning, but you can easily gobble up all of these like potato chips.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) TJ Klune
LGBT, Alternate Timeline, Stand-Alone

If I tell you that Linus is a casework at an agency that looks after/regulates magical children, you might wonder how that could possibly be interesting.

He put on his pajamas, buttoning up the front. They were monogrammed with an LB on the breast, a gift from the Department after fifteen years of service. He’d selected them out of a catalogue he’d been given on the day of. The catalogue had two pages inside. One page was the pajamas. The second page was a candleholder.

It’s not just interesting, it’s fantastic.

We see Linus–an man stuck in a rut in his life, never expecting more, slowly stretching and growing, and it’s lovely.

Also, there are supernatural kids who are difficut and moody and also wonderful.

“You can pick out two flavors,” Arthur told her. “Nothing more. You don’t want to spoil your appetite for dinner.”

“Yes, I do,” she assured him.

It’s really lovely and I highly recommend it.

Wolf in Sheeps Clothing
Thrown to the Wolves (2019), Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (2020) (Big Bad Wolf)  Charlie Adhara
Supernatural, Mystery, LGBT, Ongoing Series (boinking)

This is the fourth book in the series, and again, do not start here. Go back to the first book.

Werewolves exist, but they are hidden from the normal world, and they aren’t much like fiction portrays them (you are born a werewolf–you can’t infect someone else).

Our characters are continuing to work on their relationship (I really like that aspect of this series, that the two have a good relationship, but things aren’t easy, and they have to learn to trust themselves and each other) when their agency sends them undercover to a werewolf couples retreat.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Cooper nodded. “Very helpful. How on earth will an evolved couple like us convincingly pretend to need counseling?”

I have really liked all the books in this series, and did a re-read before reading the most recent book because I enjoyed them so much.

Spooky Business
Spooky Business (2020) S.E. Harmon (The Spectral Files)
Supernatural, Mystery, Police, LGBT, Completed (?) Series (boinking)

This is the third book in the series, and finds the main characters attemping to make their relationship work, but there are still a lot of issues with trust. Which is a problem.

Also, Rain’s old boss at the FBI not only wants him back in his employ, but also hits on Rain–even knowing Rain is trying to make his relationship work.

Rain sees ghosts–he spent years trying to deny this, but at the start of the first book reached a breaking point and is trying to deal with that power and use it to help solves cold cases.

Rain is aggravating; he has spent so many years denying his ability to see ghosts, he often flat-out refuses to take steps to try and control that power. Which initially felt stupid, but then 2020 happened, and, well, people do stupid, self-sabotaging things.

The Immortal Conquistador
The Immortal Conquistador (2020) Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville)
Supernatural, Historical, Stand-Alone

This books is tangential to the Kitty the Werewolf series, and is about one of my favorite characters in the entire series: Rick the Vampire.

The story opens with one of my favorite short stories, “Conquistador de la Noche”, which tells how Rick/Ricardo became a vampire, and how he has managed to be a very different vampire than others around him. Rick–despite everything–does not lose his faith in G-d.

Captain Ricardo de Avila, you must accept what you are, let the creature have its will.”

Ricardo smiled. “I am a loyal subject of Spain and a child of God who has been saddled with a particularly troublesome burden.”

It’s a fascinating look at what someone might do with their immortality if they refused to accept tradition and what they are told they should be.

Spellbound (2019), Starcrossed (2020) (Magic in Manhattan) Allie Therin
Historical, Mystery, LGBT, Ongoing Series (boinking)

This is set in New York between the two world wars.

Rory works in an antique story, authenticating items brought to the store, because he can read an items history by touching it.

Arthur is a veteran of the Great War, and looking for someone to authenticate a relic.

(F)inishing school in London just makes you interesting.”

Arthur sighed into his drink. “I want to be the boring one. If I’m the most interesting person in the conversation, then I’ve chosen the wrong company.”

One of the interesting things about this story is that it is not just the illegality of homosexuality that is a problem for the two character, but also class differences. Arthur comes from a wealthy family while Rory is little more than a street rat, and it is very difficult for them to spend time together without rousing suspicions.

Gentleman Wolf
Gentleman Wolf (2019), Master Wolf (2020) (Capital Wolves Duet) Joanna Chambers
Supernatural, Historical, LGBT, Completed Series (boinking)

As a two book series, there is romance, but there is definitely no HEA/HFN in the first book, so don’t pick this up thinking it’s a romance.

This is a werewolf story that spans decades (and for some characters, goes back centuries)

There is a lot of angst in this story, as well as uneven power dynamics and torture (mostly off the page) and self-harm. So be aware of that if you think this story piques your interest.

Turning Darkness Into Light
Turning Darkness Into Light (2019) Marie Brennan
Historical, YA, Stand-Alone

This is book is related to the Lady Trent series, but is about her granddaughter, Audrey, who is making her way in the world.

But it’s so hard when I can feel everyone looking at me, waiting to see what I’ll do. Not my family, of course; if I decided I wanted to retire to a country cottage and spend my life growing roses— not even award-winning roses; mediocre, aphid-chewed ones— they would hug me and wish me well. It’s the rest of the world that expects me to do something spectacular, because Papa did, and Mama, and Grandpapa, and above all Grandmama. When am I going to prove my right to stand with them?

She receives an offer to translate some ancient Draconian texts which may shed light on both Draconian history as well as their interaction with humans.

There is an element of mystery to the story, as well as (much like the main series) so much anthropology and linguistics.

This story is a slow unfolding, and unlike her grandmother, Audrey doesn’t want adventure, but does love research, so we get to see Audrey doing the work she loves.

I know that sounds boring, but it isn’t. Its not a fast-paced adventure story, but it is a good story, and if you like it you should definitely read the Lady Trent series if you have not already.

The Books of 2020

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Categories: Books & Reading,Yearly Round-Up  

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Books of 2020: Mysteries

A third of the books I read this year had a mystery element, and not only because I re-read Agatha Christie‘s Miss Marple mysteries. Mysteries have always been comfort reads to me–especially historical mysteries, so I did a lot of re-reading in that genre (which obviously isn’t reflected here).

I also read a fair number of cozy mysteries, because after March I just couldn’t handle violence and tension (and angst).

I’ve noted the various categories to which a story belongs, in case you’re wanting something specific (like I’ve been wanting this year).

Slippery Creatures
Slippery Creatures (2020) K.J. Charles (The Will Darling Adventures)
Historical, LGBT, Ongoing Series (boinking)

Will Darling returned from the Great War without a job or any direction. He discovers a bachelor uncle who takes him in, to Will’s surprise, leaves his bookstore to Will.

Will had gone to the War at eighteen, and come back five years later to find himself useless and unwanted. In Flanders he’d been a grizzled veteran, a fount of professional expertise who knew the ropes and had seen it all. Back in Blighty he’d become a young man again, one with little training and no experience. He’d been apprenticed to a joiner before the war, but that felt like decades ago: all he was good at now was killing people, which was discouraged.

Everything is going well until a thug insists that Will hand over an item–and Will has no idea what the man wants. The leads Kim to Will, a young rather dissolute man who ends up being much more than he seems on the surface.

Kim pretty much lies to Will throughout the story, but considering the work he does, it’s not really that surprising. Nor is it surprising that Will doesn’t take Kim’s lies very well, even if the two personally get along marvelously.

I have a soft spot for WWI mysteries, so this worked well for me. The second book in the series was also published this year, and it was good, but it wasn’t quite as good as this one.

A Stroke of Malice
A Stroke of Malice (2020) Anna Lee Huber (A Lady Darby Mystery)
Historical, Ongoing Series

This is the latest installation in the ongoing Lady Darby series. Sebastian Gage is a private inquiry agent, and Lady Darby (now Mrs Gage) was the widow of a notorious doctor who forced her to draw the illustrations for his anatomy textbook.

Oh. There’s a cholera outbreak. Which, well, 2020.

Her eyes gleamed in her pale face. “The cholera outbreak.”

Her simple reply sent a chill of fear whispering down my spine. The deadly disease that had ravaged Russia and the Baltic lands had reached the shores of Britain— despite all efforts to prevent it— in early November at the Port of Sunderland in northern England. From there, it had begun to spread to the north and south along the coast, leapfrogging its way closer to the densely populated cities, leaving death in its wake.

I highly recommend this entire series.

Hither Page
Hither, Page (2019) Cat Sebastian
Historical, LGBT, Romance, Stand-Alone (boinking)

This is another post WWII story, and possibly one of my favorite stories by her.

The main characters was a doctor during the war, and suffers from battle fatigue so much he is no longer to operate, but instead has become a country doctor.

“No, I assure you that I’m farther gone than most. And I wasn’t even a soldier. All I did was, as you said, stitch people up. What right do I have to—”

“No.” Page laid a hand on his shoulder. “What you’re not going to do is talk about shell shock or combat fatigue or brain fuckery as if it’s a special treat that you haven’t earned.”

Page was a spy and an assassin during the war, and the two of them end up looking into a local murder.

The Deadly Hours
The Deadly Hours (2020) Susanna Kearsley, Anna Lee Huber, Christine Trent, C.S. Harris
Historical, Anthology

This is four novellas, tied together by a single object–a cursed pocket watch.

I loved the idea, although the execution was a less than I wanted.

One story I straight-up hated.

Three of the stories had characters from existing books, which was somewhat problematic for the story tied to the book I hadn’t read, because I felt like I was missing something.

The final story, however, was fantastic. Plus, I did love how the themes (and the cursed watch) were woven through all three novellas.

The Safety Net
The Safety Net (2017/2020) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Inspector Montalbano)
Police, Ongoing Series

I’ll be honest. This book may have made the list because Andrea Camilleri died in 2019, so there are a dwindling number of Inspector Montalbano stories left.

As with all the other books, the story has loving descriptions of food and meals that Montablano has eaten.

The mere mention of the Baltic Sea got Montalbano’s brain whirring. Were there mullet in the Baltic Sea? Were there purpiteddri, baby octopi like the kind Enzo fed him, in the Baltic Sea? And, if so, what did they taste like? Surely they must have a different flavor, since he’d already noticed, for example, that the fish from the Adriatic Sea tasted slightly different from the fish in the Tyrrhenian. So one could only imagine the difference of flavor in a fish from so far north as Kalmar.

Unlike the previous book, this one had a decent mystery–although we don’t really quite see it until the second half of the book.

You shouldn’t start here but instead go back to the first book, The Shape of Water. Then you’ll have decades of these books to slowly savor as we rapidly approach the end.

(The English translations generally come a couple years after the Italian publication, so we do have a few more books left.)

Imperial Stout
Imperial StoutCraft Brew (2018), Noble Hops (2019) Layla Reyne (Trouble Brewing)
Police, LGBT, Romance, Completed Series (boinking)

This is a MM action-adventure-mystery. It’s a sequel of sorts to her Irish Whiskey series, which I utterly devoured. I didn’t love these characters quite as much as I did Jameson & Aiden, but I still gulped down the books.

You don’t need to have read the previous series to enjoy this, but you definitely need to read these on order, since both the mystery and the romance progress through the series.

Murder at Pirates Cove
Murder at Pirate’s Cove, Secret at Skull House (2020) Josh Lanyon (Secrets and Scrabble)
Cozy, LGBT, Ongoing Series

Josh Lanyon writes several LGBT mystery series, and most are the opposite of cozy, with romantic turmoil and explicit sex. This series has no on-the-page sex or violence, and although there is no romance yet, the main character has a crush on the local law enforcement officer.

On the one hand, it was nice to experience a profitable day. On the other hand, Scene of the Crime was probably not a sustainable business model.

Also, he’s the new owner of a struggling bookstore.

I really enjoyed these and have the next several books in the series on pre-order.

Southernmost Murder
Southernmost Murder (2018) C.S. Poe
LGBT, Romance, Stand-Alone (boinking)

Aubrey is the caretaker for an historical house–it’s a job he he is good at despite his narcolepsy. But he is not good at dealing with the skeleton that mysteriously appears in the property he cares for.

I eventually reached a fence in someone else’s yard I had to scale. And I did scale it, which impressed me to no end— but then I fell off the other side and into the Smith garden. At least there was no one around to see that.

It’s a fun story and although it’s tied into her Snow and Winter series (which I also recommend) it can be read by itself.

Requiem for Mr. Busybody
Requiem for Mr. Busybody (2020) Josh Lanyon
Short Story, Romance, LGBT

I love a good short story. But they aren’t always easy to find, as evidenced by the number of bad short stories and novellas I read this fall.

But Josh Lanyon usually writes good short stores, and this one is no exception. In 66 pages we have a murder mystery and a second chance romance, both well done.

Also, she did her research on disabilities, which is even more excellent.

Michael used to be a crime reporter, and used to date Len. Now his world is limited mostly to his apartment complex and his PA. So when his neighbor disappears, he calls his ex, who is a NYPD detective, to ask for a favor.

Ramen Assassin
Ramen Assassin (2019) Rhys Ford
Action, Romance, LGBT, Stand-Alone (boinking)

Trey Bishop’s life went up in flames, sprawled across all the tabloids. But he’s been sober for several years now–slowly putting himself back together. So stumbling across two men moving a dead body–men who then try to kill Trey–is not what he wanted or needed out of life. Luckily for him, the owner of the ramen shop (who Trey has had a crush on for months) appears seemingly out of nowhere to save Trey.

Trey was a disaster, but even though no one really believes it, he’s better, and tries every day to keep it together.

He’d taken his first drink in that office, stealing a sip of something expensive from an unmarked crystal decanter. It burned going down. Much like it burned coming back up. But the numbness it left on Trey’s tongue and eventually his brain was glorious.

Plus, there’s always something fun about an ex assassin turned civilian.

The Books of 2020

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Books of 2020: Comics

I read a fair number of comics this year, but didn’t love some of them, and others were published well before 2019, which is generally my cut-off date (unless something has been re-released).

Check Please Sticks and Scones
Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones (2020) Ngozi Ukazu
LGBT, Romance

First, you MUST read Check, Please!: # Hockey which is the first half of this story. Although volume two is the one published this year, I’m going to talk about volume one. Because that’s where you need to start.

Check Please Panel

This is absolutely the sweetest most adorable thing I have ever read. It’s like being folded in a hug, and I’m not even kidding. I read through the entire thing online at least twice and also purchased and read the paper books, both to support the artist and because I prefer reading comics on paper.

Eric Bittle has gotten a college scholarship to play hockey. The only problem is that he was a figure skater and is terrified of being hit. So the team captain takes him under his arm and helps him out.

AND THERE IS LOVE! I just… I mean… this is one of the best things I’ve read in forever, and I have read a lot of books.

There is language (as you can see in the above panel) because these are college students AND hockey players. But really, aside from that it’s quite wholesome.


It’s just SO SWOONY! Don’t believe me? You can read it online.

Heathen Volume 1 (2017) Natasha Alterici
Historical, Fantasy, LGBT

I put this in because volume two was published in 2019 and the third and final volume this year. Honestly, the first volume is far and away my favorite, but the whole story is fascinating. I am going to re-read the third volume in a bit, because I couldn’t decided quite how I felt about it.

Heathen Panel

It’s the story of a young woman who is exiled from her community when she refuses to marry after being caught with a friend. She gets a talking horse and goes on an epic adventure, meeting Valkyries, pirates, and even Odin.

Lady Mechanika
Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte (2017), Lady Mechanika Vol 4: Clockwork Assassin (2018)  Joe Benitez
Fantasy, Steamponk

This is another comic I discovered this year, and read volume after volume until I ran out of published books.

Lady Mechanika Panel

Lady Mechanika has no memory of her past. Which may be for the best, since she was obviously part of a horrible experiment, where I mad scientists replaced her arms, legs, and eyes with mechanical ones. These give her amazing abilities but also set her apart from the rest of society.

Which she searchers for the monster who made her what she now is, she takes jobs and is a bit of an adventuress.

It’s a great story and has utterly gorgeous art.

This is another series where you are going to want to start at the first volume and work your way forward. Each volume is a mostly completed arc, but the main story arc is Lady Mechanika learning about her past with her discovering hints and clues in each volume.

I have ordered the latest volume and am eagerly waiting it.

The Books of 2020

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Books of 2020: Great Romance Covers

I read a lot of romance this year. As the dumpster fire that is 2020 continued, I simply couldn’t stand to read anything that wasn’t going to end well. Really, I picked mostly happy, fluffy books, with little to no angst.

Because 2020.

Something to Talk About

Something to Talk About (2020) Meryl Wilsner – Berkley
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design and illustration by Vi-An Nguyen

Cover the first that promoted me to read a book that I might not otherwise have been interested in.

The story was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked the cover.

There’s something her that makes me keep looking at all the different bits, as my eye rovers around. In some ways it’s very simple–almost a line drawing–but you also see immediately what is happening–one woman is whispering into the ear of the other. It’s also a scene from early in the book, which is lovely.

Boyfriend Material

Boyfriend Material (2020) Alexis Hall – Sourcebooks Casablanca
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design and illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

I love absolutely everything about this book.

I love the bold colors and the boxes and subtle drawings of things and how Luc (it’s obviously Luc) is leaning casually while Oliver is upright and in a suit.

All I can think of is Luc saying “In the end I went with my skinniest jeans, my pointiest shoes, the only shirt I could find that didn’t need ironing.” Even if he’s not wearing a jacket here.

UGH. This story. Even looking at the cover makes me want to read it all over again.

Blank Spaces

Blank Spaces (2016) Cass Lennox (Toronto Connections) – Riptide
Contemporary, LGBT, Mystery

Cover art: L.C. Chase

This is another perfect cover. I love all the things about it–the colors, the space between the two, the pinkie join–everything.

Real Men Knit

Real Men Knit (2020) Kwana Jackson – Berkley

Cover art and design by Farjana Yasmin

This is another book where I was drawn to read book because of the cover, and ended up disappointed, because the story didn’t live up to the cover. Which makes me sad because I love almost everything about this cover, from the colors to the guy knitting to the yarn loops around the title.

Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient (2018) Helen Hoang – Berkley

Cover design and illustration by Colleen Reinhart

I think these drawn / comic style covers just really work for me. But the fact they’re standing on the long division symbol makes the entire cover for me.

Get a Life Chloe Brown

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019) Talia Hibbert – Avon

Cover design and illustration by Ashley Caswell

Chloe looks precisely as described in the book.


I love all the rep this cover gives. It’s lovely.

Meet Cute Club

Meet Cute Club (2020) Jack Harbon (Sweet Rose)
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover by Jack Harbon

He designed his own cover.

Let that sink in for a minute.

This cover that initially drew my attention to the book, was made by the author.

This shames every single terrible cover we’re still getting from major publishers.

Upside Down

Upside Down (2019) N.R. Walker – BlueHeart Press
Contemporary, LGBT

N.R. Walker & SJ York

This is a non-comic/drawn cover (thus breaking the trend) but I really adore it because everything about it matches the story. It’s simple and eye catching and cute.

Glass Tidings

Glass Tidings (2016) Amy Jo Cousins
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover art: L.C. Chase

This cover is gorgeous. No, it doesn’t tell you it’s a romance, although it does give you a hint of the story, with Eddie walking away.

But mostly it’s just so very pretty and evocative and I really want that as a Christmas ornament for my tree.

The Remaking of Corbin Wale

The Remaking of Corbin Wale (2017) Roan Parrish – Monster Press
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design by Natasha Snow

Again, this book doesn’t tell you it’s a romance, but it also isn’t something you’d likely be seeing on the shelves of stores, and chances are someone looking at this story already knows about Roan Parrish, so if that is the case it does hint that this is going to be a somewhat less angsty story than is normal for her.

It also gives hints to the fact that you’re never quite sure if this is actually a fantasy or not. (I lean towards not.)

All the blues blues and the sky and the snow–it’s just another flat-out gorgeous cover.

The Books of 2020

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Categories: Books & Reading,Covers,Yearly Round-Up  

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Books of 2020: Great Mystery Covers

A Murderous RelationA Murderous Relation (2020) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell) – Berkley

Cover art and design by Leo Nickolls

I love the covers for this series. Just two colors with everything looking embossed. Embossed shapes above the silhouette of Veronica. It’s just so simple and lovely.

Who Speaks for the DamnedWho Speaks for the Damned (2020) C.S. Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr) – Berkley

Jacket art: cloaked running man by Roy Bishop / Arcangel
Jacket design by Adam Auerbach

Although my favorite cover will always be the original first book in this series, I do like these covers. Again, we have the character in silhouette, and everything monochromatic.

I love the ships in the background.

I love that although the basics of the above to covers are the same (two colors, characters in silhouette) each is recognizable as being to that author and that series.

A Stroke of Malice

A Stroke of Malice (2020) Anna Lee Huber (A Lady Darby Mystery) – Berkley

Cover by Larry Rostant

This cover is also primarily composed of two colors (although some of the earliest books in this series had far more color) but is quite different from the other two, and also recognizable as a Lady Darby cover, with her in the foreground, facing away from you looking towards a somewhat barren or empty landscape.

The green here is lovely and eye catching, really making the cover, especially since greens often look artificial to me.

The Art of Theft

The Art of Theft (2019) Sherry Thomas (Lady SHerlock) – Berkley

Cover Design by Vikki Chu

This cover also follows the pattern of the previous books in the series, with Charlotte Holmes centered and looking behind her, mists or fog obscuring the scene beyond her.

As you might have noticed, Berkley swept the field this year, which isn’t a surprise because they produce my favorite mystery covers, year after year.

The Books of 2020

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Books of 2020: Great Fantasy Covers

I didn’t read a lot of new fantasy this year–most of the new books I read were automatic pre-order authors, and even then in some cases it took me months to actually read the books I pre-ordered.

Spells for the DeadSpells for the Dead (2020) Faith Hunter (Soulwood) – Ace
Supernatural, Mystery

Cover art by Cliff Nielson
Cover design by Katie Anderson

Every single cover in this series has made by best-of-the-year list.

They’re gorgeous and they are very clearly part of the same series, although I’ll note Nell has broken out of the circles of of the previous books–which pretty much describes Nell in this book, that she has pretty firmly broken with her past.

I adore the swirly colors in these covers.

Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds (2019) Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock) – Ace

Cover art by Cliff Nielsen
Cover design by Katie Anderson

Even in the first books, when they clearly didn’t have a cover budget, Ace managed to portray Jane pretty perfectly. I love that they now consistently have a Native American model for Jane, and I adore how from the start it is clear that Jane is the hero of her own story.

These covers have become more monochromatic as the series has progressed, and the colors have shifted to icy whites and blues.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (2019) Alexis Hall – Ace
Steampunk, LGBT

Cover design by Adam Auerbach

This is a simple but effective cover. The silhouettes which are currently so popular in mysteries are giving you a clue (ha) that in addition to fantasy (see the tentacles) this is also a mystery. And her dress gives you the idea that it’s going to be some Victorian flavor.

It’s simple and good.

A Study in Honor

A Study in Honor (2018) Claire O’Dell (The Janet Watson Chronicles) – Harper Voyager
SF, LGBT, Mystery

Cover design by Richard L. Aquan
Cover illustration by Chris McGrath

I love this cover, and it does a good job of representing the content of the book. The story has so many elements hidden in the shadows it feels precisely like this cover looks.

A Wizards Guide to Defensive Baking

A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking (2020) T. Kingfisher – Red Wombat Studio

This is another cover that accurately represents the content: pissed off gingerbread men.

It’s a fun story and this simple cover perfectly illustrates that.

Passing Strange

Passing Strange (2017) Ellen Klages – Tor
Historical, LGBT

Cover art by Gregory Manchess
Cover design by Christine Foltzer

This cover is so very pretty.

It actually depicts a scene from the story, and also (with the shadows in the corners) hits at the mysterious elements of the tale.

Turning Darkness into Light

Turning Darkness Into Light (2019) Marie Brennan – Tor
Historical, YA

Cover art by Todd Lockwood

Although this cover isn’t as gorgeous as the covers for the Lady Trent books (which are some of the most beautiful covers I saw in probably the past decade) it does have a similar feel to the other related books, while also telling you this story is about different characters.

It also feels like it could well be an illustration of the book the two main characters are translating.

The House on the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) TJ Klune – Tor
LGBT, Alternate Timeline

Cover art by Red Nose Studio

This cover is very different from any of the other fantasy covers I particularly liked this year, which is perfect, because it’s very much not like the rest of the fantasy books I read this year.

The colors are bold and eye catching, and the house teetering on the edge of the cliff is a perfect representation of all the main characters in the story.

It’s lovely.

Ace – 3
Tor – 3

It looks like this year is a tie between Ace and Tor, which is a good showing for Tor, because Ace usually, well, aces the best covers in any given year.

The Books of 2020

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Yearly Round-Up  

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Books of 2020: Covers I Hated

As is traditional, I’ll start with the book covers I hated. That way we can be positive from there on out.

Pleasantly, there were only three covers I really disliked this year, and as expected, they were all from Avon.

Emerald BlazeEmerald Blaze (2020) Ilona Andrews (Hidden Legacy) – Avon

This isn’t as awful as the other covers in this series–but that’s not saying a whole lot, since it’s still pretty awful.

I do not understand what they have done to get such abysmal covers, but they are always awful. I don’t recall her wearing a dress even once in this story–and the dress in the picture is ill-fitting. They did an awful job photoshopping her knife/sword into her hand, and the guy just creeps me out, with his blank stare and no neck and terribly photoshopped hands.


A Delicate DeceptionA Delicate Deception (2019) Cat Sebastian (Regency Imposters) – Avon

His shirt unbuttoned and tucked into his pants. Besides that there’s nothing explicitly awful about it, yet it creeps me out.

Daring and the Duke

Daring and the Duke (2020) Sarah MacLean (The Bareknuckle Bastards) – Avon

Again, there is nothing specific about this cover I can put my finger on, but I hate it all.

The Books of 2020

Written by Michelle at 8:35 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Covers,Yearly Round-Up  
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