romance writer
The best books I read in 2020

Is it just me, or is the idea of disappearing into the pages of a book highly appealing in times like these? 

 

It’s the beginning of 2021, and with that, a time to look back on what books I’ve managed to read despite the craziness that was last year. Sometimes, when life gets super hard, the best thing to do is to escape into a book, and I’m pretty sure my reading choices for 2020 reflect that. 

 

I’ve put together a list of the best books I read this year, sorted by genre, and I’m convinced that if you pick up any of them, you’ll find a great new story to sink into. Whether it’s romance you want or a gripping thriller, there’s something here for everyone (even your kids if you check out the Fantasy section). 

 

I’ve also added short descriptions to help you out! 

 

*The links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from any purchases you make with zero additional cost to you. Read more about it here.*

 

sweep series by Ilona Andrews

 

Romance novels for the hopeless romantics like me

  • Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (start the series with Burn for Me) - Look, if you haven’t read this series yet, just DROP EVERYTHING, read it, and thank me later. :) It just keeps getting better and better, and I love Catalina’s trilogy as much as Nevada’s. When a new preorder in the series is announced, I preorder it, then over the course of the next couple of months, I try to panic-preorder it again and again, certain I’ve forgotten and I’m about to miss their release day.
  • Sweep With Me by Ilona Andrews (start the series with Clean Sweep) - This sci-fi romance series is so good, I even managed to get my brother hooked on it. The worldbuilding is so good it makes me weep, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. The plot is insanely well-written, and the subtlety of their characters is the source of much awe. 
  • Honeymoon Sweet by Allison Temple - Temple writes the perfect MM romances with humor, kick-in-the-gut tender moments, and loveable characters. This one was especially cute as it takes place on a cruise ship (a nightmare vacation for me, so I was doubly impressed that she managed to pull off a fantastic romance in such a setting)!
  • Whiteout by Adriana Anders - I loved the audiobook version of this (I listen to audiobooks on Scribd), but I’m going to reread it soon. It’s got one of my favorite tropes: a grumpy hero and a sunshine heroine, plus it’s set on Antarctica where the environment is harsh and unforgiving. This is romantic suspense at its best, and I can’t wait to read the second book.
  • When She Was Naughty by Tessa Dare - this was a freebie on the author’s site (check whether it's still free!) when I grabbed it and is a cute holiday novella that nevertheless packs a powerful punch of emotion and a ridiculously elaborate but perfect declaration of love. I’ve missed Dare’s books this year (I’ve read them all), so this was a very nice holiday surprise.

 

Reverse Harem Romance for those who want triple (or quadruple!) the fun

  • Dark Arts by Fiona Starr - this academy series really pulled me in, and has good worldbuilding. I read the second book in the series already and will definitely be reading more of Starr’s books. It’s also a rare academy series without bullying.
  • Seraphim Academy: Wicked Wings by Elizabeth Briggs - Briggs is quickly becoming one of my favorite reverse harem authors. She’s built a fantastic, sexy world with a succubus heroine, and I loved how she took no shit from her harem, even though they were mean bullies at the start, and paid them back with interest for every prank they pulled.
  • The Royals of Villain Academy series by Eva Chase - this was another academy reverse harem series (it seems like I’ve read a lot of them this year, haha!) that I liked. Chase is definitely a great find of 2020, and I also read Shadow Thief, which was great.

 

the cruel prince by holly black
 

Fantasy novels to (literally) take you out of this world

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black - I’ve read Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown before but this was her first series I read, and it’s fantastic! It has a bully trope and takes place in Faerie. Since Fae are some of my favorite supernatural creatures, this was exactly right for me. So much intrigue and twisty angst! A perfect YA fantasy read.
  • Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab (start with City of Ghosts) - I’m loving this series. It’s the right amount of scary even for me - it’s a Middle Grade story about a girl who sees ghosts and has parents who are ghost hunters. Really awesome worldbuilding!
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (start with Throne of Glass) - this was a great undertaking as Kingdom of Ash is the last book in a 7-part series of massive books, haha! But I loved the conclusion and I’m definitely not sorry to have invested my time and money in reading it, which is more than I can say for a lot of series. The series turns from Young Adult to New Adult at about book four!
  • House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City) by Sarah J. Maas - a great, steamy beginning to a new series by one of my auto-buy authors. I’m really looking forward to reading the next one!
  • Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan - I reread the entire series this year and I love it just as much as I did when I was 17 and first discovered them. This is high school witchy drama at its finest, and Hunter is one of my OG book boyfriends, haha! Can’t recommend this enough! If you can’t find the books in print, try a used books shop - they have loads of options online and the books are super cheap. 

book of shadows by cate tiernan

 

Miscellaneous books that proudly defy being stuffed into any of the above categories 

  • Five Years from Now by Paige Toon - this was a wonderful romantic story (not a romance, though!) that had me both crying and laughing. It hit me right in the chest and came at exactly the right moment.
  • Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong (start the series with City of the Lost) - I don’t often read thrillers but Kelley Armstrong’s series is one of my favorites! It’s so atmospheric and beautifully written, and after being immersed in the series for several books, I love it even more. Audiobooks are also awesome!
  • The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley - another thriller on the list. This was a psychological one that I enjoyed a lot, and it kept me guessing right until the end! I’ll definitely be reading the next book by Lucy Foley.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I’ve been meaning to read a Tartt book for ages and finally managed to chew through this for an online book club I attended. I loved it! It’s so beautifully written, the characters are insanely compelling, and I had extreme writer’s envy as I marveled over her words.

 

Non-fiction for writers who want to take charge of their destiny

  • Writing and Marketing Systems by Elana Johnson - this was definitely the book that made the most impact on my writing career this year! In 2021, I’m planning on working through it and revamping the organization (or lack of it, rather) of my business. I’ve read all three books in the series, and they’re all great.

 

Go on, try one - you might just find a new favorite author. I hope you’ll give these amazing stories a chance! And if you’d like to follow along with what I read from week to week, follow me on Instagram where I often post short reviews of the books I’m loving at the moment. 

 

Happy reading!

xo, Zoe

 

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Hi! I'm Zoe Ashwood, a contemporary romance writer with a passion for sweet stories with a sexy twist. I want to make my readers fall in love with romance because I believe we all need a dash of love in our lives. Join my other followers to receive reading recommendations for all genres of romance, learn more about my writing process, and even read exclusive snippets of my novels and other writing endeavors. 

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