Sabetha’s 20 Favorite Books From 2020

January

Ninth House
By Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

 

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

Fantastic!

You can always tell when an author loves the topic of their book so deeply, and has true knowledge of the real world places they are writing about. This book breathes tradition, and alumni. I loved that with each chapter, it had me questioning if I could really go and see this, if this was what life was like at yale. It made the magical elements of the story that much more engulfing.

The story isn’t written with a linear timeline, which adds so much to the suspense. I was on edge for the whole book, I needed answers so many questions, and I couldn’t read fast enough to get them! The ending was perfection, left just the right questions opened, but gave a solid closure.

The magic has boundaries / rules, it’s so believable. This could be present day, a haunting true story. No wand waving or unimaginable spells. Very well researched, and written. I can’t wait for the next book!

The Final Empire
By Brandon Sanderson 
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

okay so this book was amazing!!!

The layout was perfection, the characters had layers, the magic was fascinating. World building on point. yes, more of this please!

I LOVE that Vin was naive yet had the ability to learn & grow. Her personal growth arc made me tear up at the end. So enthralling. The full cast had backstories that made you want to care about them as people. Even the Lord Ruler has in intriguing past. I loved format used to give us all the information needed backstory wise. The plot was deep with commentary on cast, religion and segregation.

Can’t wait to get the next book!

February

The Girl Who Steals Christmas
By C.G. Drews 
Genre: YA Contemporary 

A prequel short story about the De Lainey family from The Boy Who Steals Houses. It’s set a week before Moxie meets Sam. Available for free on author’s blog.

Last year Christmas didn’t happen because their mother had just died…

It’s a hot miserable December and the De Lainey family are actively ignoring the festive season, but when Moxie finds her little sister’s screwed up letter to Santa in the bin, she decides to bully Christmas to life. Includes various sibling dramas, a too-small tent, and confusion between Santa and a potato.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

An emotional short story that will bring you to tears. I’ve followed paperfury on instagram for a while, had to give one of their books a try. Loved loved loved this little story of loss and healing. Probably going to have to read The Boy Who Steals Houses now.

March

Night of the Dark Fae Series
By Angela J. Ford
>Indie Author
Genre:  Classic Fantasy

Set in an expansive fantasy world with monsters, magic and mysteries, the Night of the Dark Fae series is an epic fantasy trilogy birthed from the mind of International Best Selling Author, Angela J. Ford. Readers who love action, adventure, romance, sword and sorcery will be held captive by this series.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

Book 1 – Honestly, I had no idea what this book was going to be about. I just love Angela J. Ford, so I had to read it. I was imagining that it was going to be some sort of pro-fae warrior book lmao. I should read blurbs.

ANYWAY- It wasn’t that, it was much much more than that. I was instantly swept into Maeve’s personality and can’t wait to see her kick some ass in the upcoming books. This story (in true Angela fashion) has many moving parts, with the readers gaining more knowledge than the characters.

I am excited to see how all that we discover in this book will affect the quest that Maeve is on, and if she will make it out alive. 100% already on my list for best book of 2020.

Book 2 – Wow!!

Pawn was only a glimpse into the world, this book was the raw soul of it. Didn’t think I was going to be able to finish it in a day but it was impossible to put down.

So much self discovery, surprises and action packed into one book. I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Each character has depth, the world is expansive and the climax was perfect. All things I’ve come to expect from Angela. With each book, she visible grows as a writer and creates a drool worthy reading experience.

If you love epic adventures with deep emotionally charges characters you’re going to love this series. Pure badassary.

Book 3 – A perfect ending to an epic adventure.

Throughout this series Maeve struggles with so much. From her selfish need to be free, to who she is, and where she came from to who to trust, and if she really is the hero the world needs. It’s a fantastic ride. Her journey is heartfelt, and emotional.

This final book in the trilogy wraps up Maeve’s journey in an epic battle, that had me on the edge of my seat. So many die, and Maeve has to repeatedly decide the path she wants to take, and work through her past do figure out what future she wants for herself and the world. Her internal struggles are palpable. For a girl that was thrown to the wolves at a young age, and knows nothing but battles and destruction, can she truly envision a life where she can trust freely and live in peaceful happiness?

Angela is a marvelous wordsmith, she weaves stories that are hard to put down, and suck you in so deep you will beg for more! Even though this series is over, I am dying to know more of this world and the many adventures within it.

You’ll love this book if you love stories of underdogs, quests for power & for the good of the world, and the knowledge that we all have a choice in who we become no matter where we came from.

April

Road Seven
By Keith Rosson
Genre: Magical Realism

Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman’s farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

This book is drool worthy. I am once again book drunk thanks to Keith Rosson.

I’ll admit, I doubted him being able to top Smoke City. Which is an amazing mind fuck of a book. But Road Seven delivers.

I’m a sucker for fiction books about books/writers/libraries/anything literary so one of the main characters being a washed up writer was swoon worthy for me in reading the blurb. Disaster characters are my favorite characters.

The complexity of the plot and every single character in the story is great, it’s better than great, it’s relatable. Every. single. person. in this book could be your neighbor, your friend, that weird guy in your city.

The story has so many moving parts, as you read it’s hard to see how they will ever fit together, or who might be hallucinating but they magically piece together in a terrifying yet mystifying way.

By the end you’re left wondering if you’re living your best life, if you’ve made the right choices, and what you can do to start doing so. If you love books that are deep yet fantastical, light but heavy- you’re going to want to pick up Road Seven. This book will take you to places in your mind you probably avoid and make you ponder your mortality.

It was hard to put down, and left me puzzled in all the right ways.

Ink & Sigil
By Kevin Hearne
Genre: Humorous Fantasy

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

The cover for this book is so amazing!!! I’ve caught myself drooling over it multiple times. It’s 100% the reason I picked this book up to read. Didn’t read the blurb or who the author was, just had to read whatever was behind that cover.

Thank goodness what was there was awesome! Loved this book so much! From the sigil magic to the lizard wizard van to all the hierarchy. ugh. I’m ready to reread it.

I’m a sucker for inks & pens, and the research the author put into the main characters craft is high five worthy. The book is life like and mystical. You can feel the time put into to making sure the setting is culturally accurate, and all lore lines up. Some books fail at sinking in real world dialect into a fiction novel but this book works so freaking well. I feared i was going to be referencing the authors notes and half confused at the crazy spellings, but it never happened. The flow of the sentences supported the dialect perfectly.

All of the characters are well crafted, and the personalities of each are distinct and compliment the story perfectly. The grey of the ‘villains’, to the grey of the ‘good guys’ so much yes for this one. I’m also here for the commentary on ‘human’ trafficking, and how the magical world is dealing with the same problems we are dealing with in humanity.

Book one hasn’t even released yet, but I’m ready for book two. Also a poster for my wall of this cover *drooling*

I received this book via NetGalley.

Gideon the Ninth
By Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Fantasy, Scifi, LGBT

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

After finishing this book I immediately screamed NOOOO! I am so mad and book drunk, and sad, and damn it!

I can’t believe the ending, it’s a lie. I swear it’s a lie! This snarky, perfectly dark book has wrecked me.

I LOVED the writing style. It’s so immersive. It’s refreshing to read a book on my level of snark. The banter was perfection between all of the characters. Gideon stole my heart and then shattered it into a million black pieces.

The world building so great, so many levels of deceit and lore. Ugh. It all played out so beautifully. Dark, tragic, and lovely. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator added so much emotion to the story. Great pick.

I can’t wait to read the next book!

Catharsis
By Travis Bagwell
Genre: LitRPG

Tired of video games and books where you always hear the hero’s tale? Perhaps it’s time to embrace your evil side!

Jason logs into Awaken Online fed-up with reality. He’s in desperate need of an escape, and this game is his ticket to finally feeling the type of power and freedom that are so sorely lacking in his real life.

Awaken Online is a brand new virtual reality game that just hit the market, promising an unprecedented level of immersion. Yet Jason quickly finds himself pushed down a path he didn’t expect. In this game, he isn’t the hero. There are no damsels to save. There are no bad guys to vanquish.

In fact, he might just be the villain.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

I wish I would have bumped this book up on my TBR list way sooner! I had no idea it was going to have necromancy elements, swoon.

I had been putting it off because over all I was unsure about how I would like the litrpg elements. I’ve only read a few other books with light game mechanics, and they were humorous so more poking fun instead of laying it all out there.

I loved the format Travis put the stats in, it made it easy to skim them, as I wasn’t as into those parts of the book. I felt that it really opened up the readership that loved necromancy/dark fantasy, but not so into gaming.

All of the characters were so well written, each unique and relatable. I love the real world intrigue that is happening in the story, and how it mixes with the in game intrigue. I was on edge for the majority of the book, and could hardly put it down. I loved the game aspects, and all of the mysteries surrounding Alfred.

So many strands are opened in this book, I can’t wait to move onto the next in series.

May

Docile
By K.M. Szpara
Genre: Dystopian, LGBT

There is no consent under capitalism.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him.

Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects―and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. Aside from the graphic nature of the story, the mental state of two main characters is intense. (Rape, Sexually explicit, PTSD triggers, etc) But with that being said, it is so well written.

Getting both points of view is perfection, makes the story so immersive, and I couldn’t put it down. The events were life like, at points relatable, and told a complete emotional journey. When I was in the middle of the book I was so sure by the end I was going to be broken over it, but the story doesn’t leave me with the level of pain that it had me experience. Personally I loved the ending, it was choice, growth, and really wrapped the overall message up in a pretty red bow.

My biggest take aways from the book are, anyone can be conditioned without realizing it, or with it being blatant. Conditioning knows no bounds, it doesn’t care of sex, gender, financial situation. Everyone is conditioned just by the environment they are raised in. Conditioning can happen with or without drugs, with or without direct violence, disguised as love or safety. This book speaks to society on so many levels.

But that everyone can change, anyone can learn new truths, as long as we are all given a voice, respect and autonomy. People are a work in progress.

Also, it is crimes against humanity to past down debt. Debt should always dissolved with death. Everything boils down to economics, and human rights. Where does one end, and one begin, which should rule the life we lead? Can their be a balance? Such a great book.

June

The Sound of Stars
By Alechia Dow
Genre: YA, Scifi, LGBT

When young Ilori commander M0Rr1S finds Ellie’s library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more.

Humanity’s fate rests in the hands of an alien Ellie should fear, but M0Rr1S has a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous journey with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

Simply beautiful. My anxious soul skipped a beat with this read.

The musical references ugh, so perfect. I want more music obsessed characters in books! Seriously love this book. It was exactly what I needed to read right now.

I loved the social commentary, the fact that it is set in today’s world, the fear, the hope, the book love. So many great aspects of this story.

The way it displayed how easy it could be to have a gender understanding society, it felt normal and fluid.

The characters were so life like I could feel them as if I knew them personally. I laughed, cried and cursed with them throughout the book. I am usually not one of young adult books, as the characters are often portrayed horribly inaccurate. But this book hit it out of the of the park.

If you love books set in our world, with fantasy elements, and come with a deep messaged packed into it, you’re going to love this book.

Dragon’s Reach
By J.A. Andrews
>Indie Author
Genre: Epic Fantasy

The truth is neither plain, nor simple.

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she’s indebted to.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived.

On the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire.

Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone.

With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

The Keeper Chronicles: The Complete Epic Fantasy Trilogy was one of my top 5 reads for 2019, so when I discovered JA Andrews was releasing a prequel trilogy I was all over it!

This first installment bring me back to all the things I adore about her writing style. The way she uses words to convey emotion is phenomenal. Through out Sables journey I experienced an array of emotions as if Sable herself was speaking directly to me. < see what I did there lol have to read the book to get it. 😛

I loved the back stories for all of the characters and hope that many of them will continue to appear throughout the trilogy. The world building sets us in a much different time than we were in the Keeper Chronicles. It’s stunning to see how different yet familiar the universe is.

If you love books full of underdogs, betrayal and hidden magic, you’re going to love this series. I am on edge to discover how the next two books unfold!

July

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas 
Genre: Fiction

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

So well written. Each character, even the ones that were only in a scene or two came alive on the pages. They were well crafted, and felt like real people. I cried throughout the whole book, Star is written so honestly, and she shows us her world with clarity and depth.

While I was relieved for her family and community by the end, I also was left with the feeling that it doesn’t always workout that well. It’s rare that I am so touched by characters that I find myself thinking about where they’ll be 10 years from now. But the great thing about this book, is that I can see for myself where our world will be in 10 years. Will we have grown?

The message is weaved so well into the story. It really just reinforces everything that is being said, and happening in real life. A wake up call, that is a must read. I want to live in a world where zero parents are required to sit their kids down and have a police talk. That is not the police I want my tax dollars paying for. I’m tearing up all over again just thinking what to write in this review.

Bottom line, just read the dang book. No matter if it’s a usual genre for your or whatever. Just read it.

“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.”
― Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

August

Realm of Rulers
By Angela J. Ford 
>Indie Author
Genre: Epic Fantasy

A magical stone, a sea demon and treacherous love.

When Citrine and Tor Lir survive the darkness that consumed the mountains, they awaken their latent powers and realize they are falling for each other.

However, Citrine knows dark secrets about Tor Lir. Now, frighted by the truth, she needs to decide how to stop him.

But first, Citrine must fulfill a promise.

As a reward for defeating a sea demon, Citrine will earn a safe haven for her beasts.

Enlisting the help of Tor Lir, Citrine travels into the heart of the underwater world.

During their time in the depths of the watery world, they work together to unravel the mysteries surrounding those who dwell under the sea. But as Citrine discovers the depths of Tor Lir’s magic, she realizes she’s left with no choice.

If she is to save the world, she has to destroy Tor Lir.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5
Another wow read! Angela is a master at creating emotionally deep characters, and a storyline that keeps you guessing.

In this book we venture to another fascinating part of the world, which is built so well. At many points I felt like I was in the water with Citrine. We also get to meet new beasts, [how she keeps adding in so many unique creatures, without making it feel overwhelming I will never know] plus make a few enemies and friends along the way. Tor Lir and Citrine are fantastically written and with each book we get a more in depth look at their personal struggles, this installment has to be the most turbulent yet as far as their characters go. By the end I was yelling at them to just COMMUNICATE with each other! lol

i loved the level of reflection both of them had through out the book, and how they each had their own way of coming to terms with their past deeds.

All I want is for Citrine and her beasts to find a home that will allow them to spend the rest of their days in bliss. They deserve it! It’s going to be a long hard wait for Book 5 to come out, I am desperate to know where the story will take them next.

Legend of the Nameless is a must read series for anyone that loves sprawling fantasy worlds with multi POV and well crafted character arcs.

April

The Ten Thousand Doors of January
By Alix E. Harrow
Genre: Magical Realism

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
 
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
 
 
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
 

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

I was told if I loved The Starless Sea then I would also love this book, and so when I finally found a copy, I dropped my entire currently reading list to be taken in by this story.

Wow, no review could do the book justice. The whimsical nature of this tale is breath taking. It and The Starless Sea are in a genre of their own. Books within books, stories about worlds unknown, and characters with an untapped sense of adventure and discovery.

I’m overcome with emotion after finishing this book. The words are woven so elegantly, a fable written to the reader with the purpose of opening their eyes to endless possibilities.

I want more, the many adventures of January, but yet, I am also left with a satisfying feeling of undying happiness. What a magical ride this book was. A comforting, odd, story that will take you into the unknown.

As with The Starless Sea, this book is unconventional, and if you have a hard time with whimsy and loose story lines, it might not be the right book to read. But, if you are looking to get lost in a tale of heartache, determination, and love ever lasting; throw caution to the wind and let this book lead you. It’s a must read. One that I will certainly revisit.

A Song of Wraiths and RuinA Song of Wraiths and Ruin
By Roseanne A. Brown 
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

While this isn’t something I would normally read (YA, love triangley, saving the world rests on a teen, etc tropes) the reviews on it drove me to picking up a copy.

I LOVED the duel POV, it gave the world so must depth, as Malik and Karina are from vastly different upbringings. They each viewed the events in ways that drew me into their unique stories, while giving so much world info without dumping. The books doesn’t read like the cliche tropes at all.

The magic system is fantastic, the more i learned about it, the more i wanted to experience people using it and the lore of the city was unique. Love me some fantasy festivals. The culture, political intrigue and characters were well written and kept the story moving at a need more pace. There were so many things at the end that i was like OH SHIT, didn’t see that coming. But it also followed some tropes so some thing were as predicted. Overall, I would say it was a great balance.

Karina’s character growth throughout the book is palpable. From her unwanted beginnings to her assertive endings. I am excited to see where the next book takes her, as she has so many strengths, but also a lot of baggage to work through.

While i have predictions for these two characters, I do hope that the author put s spin on tired YA tropes in the second book. There is so much redemption, revenge, and world building that I want more of, so I will for sure be reading it!

September

Of Honey and Wildfires
By Sarah Chorn
>Indie Author 
Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy, LGBT

From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.

What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.

The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.

Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

If you were looking for a typical fantastical read, that has magic, politics, love and heartbreak- I’m sorry to say this isn’t it. Nothing Sarah Chorn writes is typical, but it is all must read.

She weaves poetic words into an intoxicating vision that tears your heart out and attempts to put it back in only to rip it out again. I could read this book a thousand times and still be just as affected by the beauty in her words, while taking away different themes and meanings with each read. I cried in so many places, so much sadness, but also tears of joy. How can a book make you so freaking sad, but also fill you with hope?!

The world building is fantastic, could totally see it playing out as such in a current society. Replace the word Shine with any coveted resource, and monsters will be created to try and monopolize it. I adored the use of timeline jumping and multi POVs. Gave the story a depth and transcends storytelling as we usually see it.

Having a terminally ill child, Ianthe’s character struck home a little too hard for me. Ugh, I could rave about how well written the characters in this book are FOREVER!

This book includes: deep family values, love/hate, loss/acceptance, morally grayness, and LGBT characters written so fluidly/perfect it was one of the most natural depictions I’ve read, all tied up in a nice little package.

You’ll love this book if you love multi pov character stories, with deep seeded messages to ponder, and books that make you feel.

October

The Stormborn Saga
By J.T. Williams
>Indie Author
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Valrin has always sought adventure… He’s about to get it. 

 On a desolate island in the far North, Valrin is an orphan surrounded by empty oceans with a yearning for life beyond the icy shores of his home. Little does he know that this morning would set him on a path he never expected. Chosen by the ascended and destined for darkness, he will soon learns what it means to be Stormborn.

Facing dwarven pirates, exploring forgotten ruins, and eventually obtaining a sailing vessel with the secrets of a lost race, he’ll race across the oceans as he prepares to take the helm of his destiny in this coming of age adventure like none other.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

Instead of putting all 14 reviews here, I will put a few of my favorite and link to the rest. This is only one series with an expansive world of many spin off series. They are all must read, and while I’ve read many of them this year I wanted to read them in the intended order.

Book 1    Book 2

Book 3HELL YEAH. This book climaxed in all the best possible ways. Death, growth, crew bonding, what more could you ask for? Maybe a glimpse at a 30 years younger REDACTED, and the pre badassary he was capable of. Okay, that’s in there too.

There are so many strong characters in this series, it’s really hard to pick a favorite, even the villains have depth. This book connected a lot of dots for me, and gave more insight to future events.
 

Book 4   Book 5   

Book 6 – Aieclo hurt my heart.

Fadis and Aeveam were forefront in this book and both of them are favorites of mine. I was screaming at the pages many times during the final chapters. I don’t want to give spoilers but this book felt like a pivotal turning point in the Stormborn series.

With each book the crew of the Aela Sunrise have personal battles, along with the main battle of the book which I love. Every person feels like a main character, so within Aieclo, there was a lot of sorrow.

Having read books that come much later in the chain of events I’m beside myself with wondering how Valrin will wrangle all the craziness in, and what happens to every crew member to lead him to where he is in Half-Bloods Rising.

If you’re looking for an epic series that spans the world, follows many characters and tugs at all the emotions, this is one you’re going to want to dive into.

Book 7   Book 8   

Book 9 – How can a book make you cry into your celebration cinnamon coffee?!

Shadow Cry is an epic conclusion to the Clockmaster’s Shroud segment of this saga.

I was on edge for the whole book and while I knew some would end up dying—It’s a battle right? The team can’t all survive—I was not expecting those that did. This last battle is going to change the crew indefinitely, and that hurts my heart. But if we have learned anything from this series, it’s that everyone has a choice in how they let their past define them. I look forward to learning how these events will define this crew.

I fear for where this series is going, but seeing Valrin’s journey is clicking things into place within the Half-Elf series. He needs a hug, and a 12 year siesta after the events in this segment. But I doubt he is going to get anything other than more battles.

Looks like the only thing on the menu for these guys is revenge with a side of saving world.

Book 10   Book 11   Book 12   Book 13

Book 14After reading this book, I am sooo glad JT Williams decided to break up 13 and 14. Going back and forth between all of the events in these books would have KILLED me!

If you stopped reading this series because of events in book 9, let me tell you, you’re going to want to pick it back up because it’s all going to make sense once you get to book 14.

Series enders are always heartbreaking for me and this one is no different. We’ve been with this crew through so much chaos, and a ton of bonding. But it was the perfect ending for an epic tale. It’s hard to review this book as far as the plot goes because everything I want to say is spoilery, so just know, it’s wrapped up so well. All characters get their arc, while there is death and sadness, if you’ve been paying attention you probably saw it coming.

My favorite part of the Dwemhar world is how expansive it is. No matter your fancy when it comes to fantasy, it’s in this series. Time travel, every fantasy race known to us, creatures of all types, Gods, and of course, various magical systems. Plus epic battles in every book, and storylines that span various series. No matter which series you start with there will be hidden references to other books within it. It’s a birds eye view of an entire world, not just one single characters view of it.

If you’re looking for an expansive epic fantasy world to get lost in, this is it.
 

November

The Once and Future Witches
By Alix E. Harrow 
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
 
But when the Eastwood sisters―James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna―join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote―and perhaps not even to live―the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
 
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
 
An homage to the indomitable power and persistence of women, The Once and Future Witches reimagines stories of revolution, motherhood, and women’s suffrage—the lost ways are calling.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5
This book is the kind of story that feeds souls.

Stories within stories, deeper meanings woven into every sentence, themes of broken people doing what they can to make the world a better place. I adored every word of this book.

Alix E Harrow is a master of words, and has soared to the top of my favorite authors. I fell so deep into this story, much like The Ten Thousand Doors of January. When I tried to come up for air, the fables and workings of witch ways followed me. The heartbreak, the battles, the inevitable failures and the triumphs. All worth the pain of a lingering book drunk I doubt I’ll shed for a while.

The cast of characters were mothers, sisters, friends and family that I knew. Every person was built raw and relatable. Grey morality. Relatable antagonists. I can’t gush enough about how well crafted this story is.

You must read this book if you love character stories, that have much more whimsy than your average. Stories that inspire, and comfort. If you loved The Starless Sea you will also love this author.

Note: LGBT characters written flawlessly.
 
 

December

Cinderella is Dead
By Kalynn Bayron 
Genre: YA Fantasy, LGBT

Girls team up to overthrow the kingdom in this unique and powerful retelling of Cinderella from a stunning new voice that’s perfect for fans of Dhonielle Clayton and Melissa Albert.

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

Cinderella is one of my favorite fairy tales. I love all the various tellings, and the messages that each have. As a child it was a tale that reminded me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was worth fighting for. The prince was a metaphor for happiness.

This idea, of what happens after the fairy tale, where the town within the story is centuries after the princess is dead was enthralling. I loved the way the author played with the way that stories can shape our beliefs. How not everything we are told by those in power is true, but many will follow it willing because they either have accepted defeat or have heard it so many times they believe it to be so. But like fire, it just takes a spark of defiance. A single soul to question the truth, and it will ignite a resistance.

This book held many parallels to our current society. They were woven into the story is such a manner that wasn’t overbearing, but after reading it, one can’t help but feel inspired and stabby.

You’ll love this book if you love retellings, fairy tales within fairy tales, and books with happy endings. While it’s YA, and the MC makes some of those dreadful YA choices, it did not feel like the typical YA.

Note: LGBT Characters, Own Voice

Every Heart A Doorway
By Seanan McGuire 
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

Sabetha's Review:

5/5

This book was a dream! I can’t believe I let it sit on my tbr list for so long.

The cast of children were well developed and raw characters. They all carried their experiences in a way that shaped their personalities. So well done, and believable. These kids are the outcasts that we know, the people that spend their life searching for the place they belong. The lgbtqia reps were flawless, they flowed into the story seemlessly.

I was not expecting the murder mystery at all, and did not pick the correct culprit either. The final twists were well laid out, and crumbs were dropped now that I look back at the story, I just didn’t catch them.

And finally, all the social commentary was spot on. It really shined light on our twisted view of raising children, and more.

If you love The Ten Thousand Doors of January or The Starless Sea you’re going to LOVE this book. Has the same whimsical fantasy air about it. I can’t wait to read the next in series.

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