Another year is in the books, and boy oh boy, I think we can all agree that we are surely glad that 2020 is nearly behind us! I mean seriously… what a shitty year this has been, amiright? I don’t need to rehash the gory details, I’m sure we’re all trying to forget about most of it, but one thing that has certainly gotten me through some of the hard times was—of course—reading some absolutely amazing books!
Below I have gone back through the course of these months since January and have looked back on some of the books/series I’ve started and have compiled a list of the top ten of what I considered to be the much better stories. This list is in no particular order, and feel free to share with me what you considered your favorite books of 2020! I’m always looking for new recommendations to add on my “To-Read” list on Goodreads!
Just a few reminders: This will be my last post of 2020, and you can also check out my full book reviews by clicking on any of the hyperlinked titles!
This book series has been an unexpected hidden treasure of 2020, I’m so completely obsessed with it! Poppy and Hawke are an absolutely amazing couple to read, and 2020 gets even stranger when I say I’m such a big fan of a Vampire/Werewolf fantasy series! Strange times indeed, but If you haven’t read these books yet, I can’t say it enough: GET ON IT!
It should be NO surprise that if Sarah J Maas has a book published that it’d end up on this list… that woman just checks off so many of my needs in order to make a book utterly addicting, and if not, I know to check out other authors instead of bashing her to change her stories for me! Oka rant over… This is her first “adult” fantasy novel—it’s also the first in a new series—and despite a weird beginning clumped with WAY too much worldbuilding information, it’s just as entertaining as her other books if not more, and is filled with every “fuck” that Aelin wasn’t allowed to say.
Serpent and Dove was a surprisingly fun debut novel about a young witch and witch hunter who (of course) fall in love despite the world—that’s a little too similar to France—threatening to tear them apart. It’s a slower read than what I usually look for in the fantasy genre, but I still say this is one to check out for those who love a good forbidden romance. There’s many tropes like “marriage out of convenience,” “there’s only one bed,” “enemies-to-lovers,” and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, and Lou and Reed give me some major Nina and Matthias vibes from Six of Crows!
4. The Fever Series: by Karen Marie Moning
It honestly feels so weird to think I only started this series at the very beginning of the 2020 year, it almost feels like it’s been a favorite of mine for many, many ages already. I am so entranced every time I open the latest installment in this addicting book series, and I can’t believe the final book comes out already in Early 2021! Full of mystery, scorching romance, and brilliantly executed plot twists, the whole Fever series is of course on my list. With having the whole series included, I don’t have the hyperlinks to each of my book reviews or the Fancast, sorry for the inconvenience!
The sequel to From Blood and Ash that you came across earlier up on this list, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire is so much bigger and even so much better than its predecessor. So many secrets are revealed yet so many more that are merely hinted at, some absolutely smoldering romance, plus a major war on the horizon! That’s only a small tidbit of what this epic series entails. I’ll say it again: READ THESE BOOKS!!!! I’d even go as far as to say this was the best book of 2020 that I’ve read, and that Casteel Da’neer is my favorite Book Boyfriend!
I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but WOW did it sure impress me when I clicked on it to read on my Kindle! Its darkly intense, sexual, aggressive, but an extremely fun and (kinda) sexy start to a fantasy trilogy starring a developing LGBTQ+ (M/M) love story! I definitely will be checking out the other books that continue this story!
This was definitely the best contemporary titles I’ve read this year, I just loved both the main characters so much! It’s a new-adult college romance, and both Drew and Anna grow so much through the course of this story, and I couldn’t get enough of the hot romance blooming between the two of them.
Whenever these two authors get together and write an LGBT+ new-adult romance, it equals to a very happy Nick Goodsell! This was another college romance between two fraternity brothers who also compete against each other to become the next president, each of them having their own secret/personal reasons for doing so, but their love story begins all because one’s girlfriend wants to try and have a threeway! They anonymously find themselves on a dating app (not knowing they’re literally next door neighbors in the frat house), and the fun goes off from there…
The second part—and conclusion—of one of the only graphic novels I’ve read, this book was a gigantic anticipated release for me ever since I’d first discovered the first book the year prior. It’s an amazing coming-of-age college story filled with laughs, first love, hockey bros, friendship, courage, and also plenty of baking from our cinnamon roll of a main character!
I had to end this list on a high note! The epic conclusion to this series was an exciting if not bittersweet tale, but it was certainly a great way to end the year in books that also didn’t disappoint either. I can’t believe this series is now over, but I also cannot wait to see what Sabaa Tahir comes up with next!
If you’ve been following my reviews as they release on my website, you should definitely know by now that if Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write and publish a book together, I’m going to want to read it! They just create amazing work whenever a cover shares their names. In case no one has read anything by them yet, here’s a list of what their works usually include:
College Hockey Players
Sassy and/or Quirky Heroines
Hilariously Witty Dialogue
Equal Amounts of Fluff and Steam
Running Jokes That Always Have a Humourous Conclusion
There’s plenty more to add to that list, but that pretty much sums it up. They write such amazing New Adult (NA) Romance books; they have great storylines and relatable characters that go through daily struggles, who don’t don’t simply fit a typical stereotype, or are held back by past traumas that are realistic; I just wish I could learn how the two authors co-write their stories. They’re usually told through dual point of views with the two main characters who are love interests. Do they stick to one character each, or do they just share a single doc and tag each other in? I’d love to find out their method of how they get it done!
Before I go deeper into my thoughts about this story, I feel like I should mention that this book is actually the start of a spinoff series that branches off from the authors other duology that I loved: Him and Us. To be fair, this book is just as enjoyable if you haven’t read those before this, but you do meet both the main characters of GoodBoy in these books first, and you do get some context into the relationship between Blake and Jess, so I guess I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you feel like you need to start from the very beginning!
Personally, I was RELIEVED that Blake was much more bearable in this book compared to Us… He’s still somewhat obnoxious and makes (somewhat) terrible nicknames and phrases, PLUS he kept interrupting sexy time between Wes and Jamie when they hadn’t seen each other in forever, so that rubbed me the wrong way…. no pun intended with that. Luckily, Blake grows on you and becomes much easier to deal with in this book if you weren’t a fan of him in the last book like I was.
As far as this story goes, expect all that you would if you HAVE read their books before with the content, but I don’t think this tale will be anyone’s favorite of these author’s works. It’s not to say this isn’t a good book—it is!—but there wasn’t really anything to make this stand out amongst the other titles of there’s. I think the humor is still there, but I can understand that it may be a bit reaching, and won’t be for everyone. I don’t want to say it’s slapstick humor—I’m sorry, I had to add that in here somewhere—but the humor does still have it’s moments.
I felt like both characters really did have relatable issues, both external and internal, that seemed like real-world issues just about anyone could have to deal with. You definitely also see the two love interests grow throughout the story as their relationship grows with them, and I also really liked their chemistry. There was a subtle hint in the Him duology of the two main characters here had something go down off-screen, or page I guess in this case, so I’m glad I caught that and I was right! I’m getting better at catching small things in every book I read now a days *humblebrag*
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody – absolutely nobody! – can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.
Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor, and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.
But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?
Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear.
What I Liked:
Even though It’s a Spinoff, It’s Still Enjoyable for New Readers! This story actually continues past the duology I mentioned above, and while there are some instances where there is some context drawn from them too, I say this book is still able to be read if you haven’t read those books! I definitely think you should read them because they’re amazing, but it’s not absolutely necessary for this book!
What I Didn’t Like:
Blake Riley’s Cheesy Lines…While his charm took awhile to grow on me, and him and Jess together are amazing, he still has his weird nicknames that he makes up and catchphrases that he thinks are so hilarious and witty… They aren’t actually all that terrible, but I did find myself rolling my eyes quite a bit, and not in a good way at all…
Another greatly written NA Romance involving Hockey players from Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy; it has just about everything you’d love from anything written by them if you’ve gotten your hands on any of their other titles. While that is true, it’s honestly not their most memorable work, and nothing about it really stuck out to me like their other titles.
Fear not though… If this is what I consider to be their weakest book yet, that in no means makes this not something to check out, because it’s still a sweet, sexy romance that’s still probably a lot better than quite a few of the other titles out there.
I absolutely adored the first book, Him, by these two amazing authors! They’re my go-to writers for anyone who’s looking for a funny, raunchy, well written, and overall entertaining contemporary new adult romance series to get into! Looking at a few reviews of this sequel, I was curious why some people were hesitant to start it…I mean, the first book could totally work as a standalone with how it ended, but if people loved it so much, wouldn’t they want to keep seeing what happens next? Sure, some people brought up the cash cow argument, and I can understand that argument, but kept an open mind as I’d opened this book and got back into the world of Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning.
Overall, I wasn’t disappointed in this book and enjoyed it immensely! It had all the characteristics of what I’d enjoyed so much about the first book besides the obvious “second chance” and “friends to lovers” romance tropes. If anything, this sequel showed an incredibly realistic portrayal of the struggle of finding ones place in the world as the newly emerged adult group aged 18-25. The struggles of finding that dream job, financial worries, even still the coming to terms of one’s sexuality and their first serious relationship. The relationship is explored and shows how both people need to work in order to make the relationship work past its initial honeymoon phase.
While I enjoyed this book a lot, I can say I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book too. I felt like Him would’ve been just fine as a standalone novel, and despite the relatable issues the characters dealt with in this title, I felt like maybe this book was a way for the authors to possibly bridge into another project of theirs, and I’ll go more into that later on in this review. The main thing I dislike the most about this book was the issue of the lack of communication between Jamie and Wes, but it wasn’t for the same reasons I usually dislike that conflict.
There also was a big emphasis on a fictional lamb disease that was treated similarly to the bird flu and even the 2020 COVID-19 situation, but on a much smaller scale. I was scratching my head about this plot point, mainly because it really makes a bigger presence in the story than I thought it needed to, and with how the world is right now with the novel virus, I was hoping for less and less focus on this sort of issue…
There were a great amount of side characters, a lot more this time around than in Him which is great! The main characters had more people to really interact with that were around their age and for us to get to know and fall for too! Blake in particular is an acquired taste, and is a lot to take in at first, but he does eventually grow on you.
I would argue that this next title is actually a stronger novel than the previous book, but maybe because of it being too realistic with the real world issues, it’d diluted the entertaining factor and was less “fun” I think. That, along with repetitive issues we thought were solved in the first book, and with my thought on it being a bridge into more future projects amongst these authors, maybe that’s what people didn’t like as much this time around.
Despite all that, It’s still an incredibly well written continuation of an amazing queer love story!
What It’s About:
Book #2 has us brought back into Wes and Jamie Canning’s world five months after they reunited at the end of Book one. They’ve confessed their love for each other, they’ve moved in together into their apartment in Toronto, Jamie introduced Wes to his family, and Wes started his rookie season in the NHL and is absolutely KILLING it on the ice!
Everything seems perfect for the two childhood best friends-turned boyfriends in love, except for how they have to keep their whole relationship a secret…there’s never been an openly gay player in the NHL, and who knows how it’ll go if a rookie were to come out of the closet and cause a media field day. While it isn’t the greatest set up, Jamie and Wes both agree to wait with the news until his first season is over and their schedules aren’t both so hectic. It starts off easy enough, but soon the secret becomes a much bigger burden to carry on their shoulders.
Jamie’s job isn’t exactly what he signed up for either, and the hiding really takes a toll on him especially, but at least when it’s just him and Wes in their apartment, everything goes back to euphoric bliss and they can just be themselves…at least, until Wes’s noisy teammate moves in upstairs and pops up at their door without any warning!
The world seems to want to keep them apart, and is constantly throwing just about everything it can between the two of them, so can they overcome it all? Their relationship will definitely be put to the test…
What I Liked:
The Hint of More to Come! What I mean by this is there is a spinoff book series that gets going that I definitely saw coming after a few interactions between two secondary characters: Wes’s teammate, Blake, and Jamie’s sister, Jess. There’s a few moments between them that had me guessing, but then they both disappear for awhile, and part of me wondered what’s going on there…turns out, plans for them to start a spinoff were happening! The first book is called Good Boy, and based off some other characters, there’s a slew of stories coming our way for the WAGS series these authors have going for us!
What Comes after the HEA! We all know the first book could actually totally be a standalone with how much of a Happily Ever After we get with Wes and Jamie! This book showed us what goes on after that moment, after the honeymoon phase, and how a relationship needs work in order to survive. Both guys try to do so much to make each other happy, and both realize how hard the real world can be, even for a pro hockey player. I thought the idea of them trying different things and trying to work at their relationship was an intriguing and realistic portrayal that anyone in the New Adult age range can relate with, queer or straight.
Just as Sexy as Book #1! While there’s plenty of fluff to melt out hearts with the soft and tender confessions of the heart from both male main characters, BUT there is plenty of raunchiness and sexiness in this book that smut lovers can also appreciate.
Great Secondary Characters! There were actually quite a bit of fun side characters that added to this sequel, and more people closer to Wes and Jamie’s age than the coaching staff at the camp, and the teenage players they coach. There’s Blake, Wes’s teammate who moves into their apartment complex (I go more into him below), there’s Jess Canning who is always finding some new business venture to try out, and there’s Wes’s other teammates who tease him for his bright green dress shirt. They added a lot to the story, and I can see some of them starring in the spinoff WAGS series I’d mentioned above too!
Jamie Canning’s Struggle! Wes was kind of the star of the first book for me, so I’m glad it got switched over to Jamie for book #2. Let me also make it clear that I’m not happy about Jamie’s suffering in this story—I’m not really a sadist, masochist or whatever term you say—but more with how it was handled and the issues that were brought up. I get Jamie’s growing frustration with him and Wes having to keep their relationship under wraps. With it was a growing fear of losing each other, and whether they’ll be able to overcome all the adversity, and some of the communication issues with that. A lot of people struggle with talking about that emotion: fear. Those fears turned to doubt on both the situation and themselves: Do I sound unreasonable?…Am I being selfish?…Is it worth bringing it up?…Am I asking too much?…Do I love the person enough to put them through this?…Do they love me enough to stick by me not matter what? Both guys ask themselves these questions, and both are terrified of ending up having their hearts broken in the end, and adding the fact that they hardly see each other as much as they’d like, neither guy wants to bring up these heavy topics with the time they are allowed, and thats totally valid and a realistic worry we all can relate to. These communication issues I can get behind…
Jamie’s Mom! The woman continues to be a total saint who doesn’t change this time around in the net book, and continues to be a great mom for both Jamie and Wes, especially for Wes since his parents are pretty much MIA and have left him behind to rot.
What I Didn’t Like:
The RepetitiveLack of Communication…Now, I usually get annoyed by this being a big issue in ANY romance novel, which is ironic because I know I am someone who is terrible at communicating my feelings. I am such a moody bitch sometimes, and will do the passive aggressive act with the silence or the “I’m fine.” line—I can’t help it, it’s a character flaw of mine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lie awake at night kicking myself for it—and for a m/m romance I can see why it’s an actual plot point. Speaking as a guy myself, I can say that guys are not the greatest when it comes to sitting down and communicating that stuff…it’s just the way we’re programed, and I’m not trying to make this a toxic masculinity thing; it’s just not all guys like talking about that stuff, even if they’re queer. Not all girls like to either, so don’t get at me! The issue I have with the communication issues in this book in particular are because we’ve already dealt with the same issue in the previous book. They’d already gone through it, so I’d hoped they’d learned their lesson this time around…yeah, not so much I guess.
Blake’s Immaturity…I like Blake; he really grows on you. At first, he’s pretty obnoxious and does the text lingo in his dialogue and gives people lame nicknames (example: Jamie is “J-Bomb“… #lame) Plus, he’s yet another obstacle that gets in the way of Jamie and Wes’s happiness, so that alone instantly makes you annoyed with the guy. Like I said, he grows on you, but it takes a while for that to happen.
The Use of Illness and Medications for the Plot…Maybe it’s because as I’m typing this, America is in a pandemic with COVID-19 and I’ve been in the whole isolation and #socialdistancing, but this whole part of the story didn’t resonate all that well with me, and also just became a bigger thing than I thought it needed to be. I understand the whole thing that happened with Jamie and his meds, it’s happened to me in the past and is an actual side effect for certain people and medications they’re prescribed, but it felt like the whole thing could’ve been handled differently to make it better for the story.
A good sequel to an iconic LGBTQ+ m/m sports romance, but not as strong as its predecessor; I still enjoyed the real world struggles Jamie and and Wes faced not only with themselves, but also their relationship and the steps they both needed to take in order to keep their relationship still working past the HEA. It felt incredibly realistic and is completely relatable to anyone who’s close to their age and trying to find out where they exactly belong in the world today as a new adult. The issues they both face are great examples of the emerging genre between Adult and YA, and prove it can be more than just the angsty romance that has filled a lot of the genre itself.
While showing more of Jamie and Wes’s relationship, it also lays some easter eggs for the next project the authors are working on, which is a WAGS series that most likely will star the notable side characters you meet in this book as well, which just means us readers can remain in this world of queer hockey players, and the romance on and off the ice!
This was something that everyone can enjoy; a simple feel good story! I enjoyed this title, which was the story of two friends reuniting and discovering that sometimes it’s worth testing those bonds and moving into a deeper and more romantic territory. I know the subject matter isn’t for everyone: an LGBTQ+ love story (M/M specifically), and it being revolved around sports (Hockey specifically), but anyone who can enjoy a love story with two great characters that have such great chemistry and obviously just belong together, this is a title to look into!
The two MC’s complemented each other quite well, in my opinion, and were easy to get behind and support, and were overall just a delight to read! I especially enjoyed the self discovery that one character went through in order to accept himself and how things happen in the story. It wasn’t as angsty as other books have been, which is different, but not an all that bad choice. It still felt genuine and natural with the turnout still being oh so satisfying.
This is only part 1 of a duology, but I still felt that it stood as a standalone with how things turned out in the end. There were still some things left up in the air and had a few easter eggs of what was to come, but the ending is heartwarming nonetheless!
What It’s About:
Our mouths fit together so perfectly. Everytime we kiss, I fall even more in love with him, and it has nothing to do with sex or lust. It’s him. His closeness and his scent and the way he soothes me.
– Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, “Him”
This story stars two college hockey players, Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley. They’re total opposites; Jamie’s the golden boy from California with laid back, lazy good looks while Ryan’s demeanor is tattoos, piercings, and smart-ass remarks that tries to hide his disdain for his east coast aristocratic background. They met at a sleepaway hockey camp when they were 13, and had become friends over the years until the summer they turned 18. The final night of camp, something happened, and they became cut off from each other. Alcohol and a stupid bet got involved, and then eventually confusion and regret.
Years later as they’re about to graduate college, Ryan and Jamie run into each other again at the Frozen Four finals in college Hockey, and all the memories and anxiety come rushing back to the surface as they come face to face once again. Ryan is now out and proud, at least to his teammates and coaching staff (his parents know too, but thats a different story), and always regretted how far things went that last night at camp years ago with Jamie. He honestly never thought he’d get the chance to try and make amends, but he does, but the lingering feelings he had for his straight friend come back stronger than ever.
Jamie has always been frustrated at the situation at that final night years prior, mainly for never getting a response or any sort of answers. Fate ends up giving them a second chance, and they wind up being coaches and roommates at the very same camp where they met, years later for the summer after graduation.
It will be there that they reconnect, and Jamie gets some answers, but new ones rise up along the way, including one about the kind of person he is…
What I Liked:
It’s A Sports M/M Romance! It’s becoming a favorite romance-genre niche of mine, but I’ve figured it’s because jocks are my personal preference in a potential lover. This story is definitely one of the best ones I’d read within this specific genre, but even someone who’s not into sports can enjoy it; it never gets too wordy on the mechanics of hockey, so no worries there!
The Hot Sex Scenes! For fans of smut (like myself, no shame…) there’s plenty of steamy scenes between the MC’s to fog up the windows, hand against the glass and slides down and all that… I can only shrug and laugh at this one honestly! While hot, it was also fun to read Ryan and Jamie’s connection and see how vulnerable they get with each other as they peel away layers and become their true selves with each other and develop deeper feelings.
The MC’s Are Both Incredibly Likeable! Both Jamie and Ryan are great main characters to follow as you read their story. The story switched back and forth between their point of views, and it worked fairly well; it was easy to distinguish between their two voices, they have some great qualities to make them great MC’s for the story to revolve around.
Ryan’s Unrequited Love Story-Arc! What I mean by this is that Ryan has known he’s gay for a long time, and he also knew he was in love with Jamie since when they first met, even when Jamie still considered himself straight. Part of Ryan always thought it’d never work out; that he was absolutely pathetic for being in love with his straight friend who’d never return those feelings. I loved it later when they start to be together and Ryan would step back and remember all those sad thoughts, but then gaze at Jamie when he thought he wouldn’t notice, wondering how he got so lucky after all. It was such sweet and tender moments in the story, it gave the hopeless romantic in me the major feels!
There’s Plenty of Humor! Just what I expected with Elle Kennedy, but there were plenty of hilarious moments in the story! I won’t give too much away, but some of it does involve coming out to parents and siblings through a Facebook group chat, a condom-couch, and two jocks trying to hook up in the back of a (really) small car!
Loved you every summer since I was thirteen years old. Love you even more now.”
– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Him”
What I Didn’t Like:
The Dialogue Can Be Juvenile…Elle Kennedy is so great with hilarious and witty dialogue between her MC’s in her romance titles, and this one doesn’t fall below that expectation, but I can say at some points in the story that it gets a little eye-roll worthy…BUT try to remember that while these guys are gay, they are also 22 year old athletes/jocks and have grown up around that locker room talk between the bro’s and the guys and all that; jocks are just kind of like that! I can attest to it; it wasn’t far off from what I’ve heard in a high school locker room while prepping for Football Games under those Friday night lights. The two authors get it pretty spot on and really, it doesn’t really mean anything; it’s pretty innocent. Luckily, things get much better when it’s just the two of them.
There’s One Homophobic Character…So maybe a trigger warning, but there is a part of the story where the two MC’s have to deal with an older homophobic minor character. I kind of saw it coming; the setting for most of the story is a small lake-town (the kind midwesterners go visit whenever they spend a weekend at the cabin), so storyline-wise it was bound to happen, especially amongst a bunch of men playing a sport where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject depending who you talk to. It’s still such a bummer that similar situations still happen like that in real life, that two men who have feelings for each other can’t even hold hands for fear of judgment or persecution from other people’s ignorance and inability towards acceptance…Hopefully we’ll evolve past that someday… Luckily, I can happily add that not all the adults/coaches/parents/PR agents are like that in the story, and I give Coach Pat a huge shoutout!
A definite feel good, low angst, New Adult M/M sports romance that anyone who’s looking for some more LGBTQ+ titles can enjoy! Like other titles I’ve read by Elle Kennedy, it’s filled with witty banter, funny and relatable characters, steamy love scenes, and heartwarming fluff on top of it all. It was harder than I thought it would be to get my hands on this book, but it was worth the battle; it’s a definite shelf-keeper for me!