5 Beach Reads to Dive Into

Dreaming of sun and sand? Me too!

Hi everyone! I’m sorry for the delay in posting lately, but I have been so busy with preparing for the Pie-Jinks launch! Every day we get closer, and I’m getting more and more excited to share Vanilla Bean Vampire with you.

Just to give you a quick rundown before I get into this week’s book recommendations, here is all the stuff I’ve been setting up for your enjoyment:

Yeah, quite busy. As I said, I’m seriously excited for this launch, so please feel free to join in wherever you are and however you feel comfortable! Even if you can’t purchase the first book, just attending the launch event or sharing it with your friends is greatly appreciated. ♥

And now, the reason you’re here: BEACH READS!

I’m going to be visiting the beach soon, so it feels like the perfect time to share some books I’ve read that feel just perfect for a trip to the beach (and yes, there may be some mermaids in here… I can’t help myself, I love those creatures!).

Here we go!

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Ann Noble (Fantasy)

Okay, so yes there is a mermaid here. But the story centers on her sister, who arrived at their adoptive family’s doorstep from a stork. One day, her sister begins transforming into a mermaid, and they must return her to the sea before she dies.

And so the adventure begins.

This tale is told in such a warm, familiar way of storytelling that it feels like you’re sitting around a campfire. Even better, to me it has the same kind of feel as Stardust… a bit of whimsy and fantasy mixed in with a road trip adventure.

I definitely recommend this fantasy for your next beach trip!

Say It’s the Sea by Kristina Mahr (Poetry)

Okay, first of all this cover!

Now that that’s out of the way, this is something a little different. It’s a book of poetry that I actually did read at the beach (I think last year), and it was honestly so fitting. Many of Mahr’s poems focus on heartbreak, but her imagery and senses in her works are so evocative and emotional.

What better place to absorb words like these then with the sounds of the ocean waves and gulls?

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (YA Contemporary)

Of course I have to include something with a touch of romance! This book occurs during summer break after the main character’s father, a political figure, is swamped by scandal. She’s home for the summer and decides to start walking dogs… and meets someone incredibly intriguing.

This feels like the perfect summer break book to me; it’s sweet and wholesome and entertaining all in one.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Speculative Fiction)

This is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s kind of fluffy, but it’s also very big on the self-discovery scale. This story follows a tech gal who is overwhelmed by the demands of her job and still searching for her place in the world.

And then, she is gifted a magical sourdough starter and everything begins to change.

Seriously, if you’re looking for something a little silly and a lot heartfelt, this is it.

This One Summer by Jillian & Mariko Tamaki (YA Graphic Novel)

This is a Printz award winning graphic novel, and for good reason. Like The Unexpected Everything, this book is a summer break book. But it has a lot of growing up feels and coming of age. It’s a little heartbreaking but also provides a lot of hope and may just make you reminisce about your own childhood.

Bonus: Cold Snap by Selina J. Eckert (Fantasy Novella-fairy tale retelling)

Of course I have to include this one. Cold Snap is one of my favorites… partly because I FINALLY got to write some mermaids and partly because it is one of my own coming-of-age stories. Those kinds of stories always make me think and wish and dream. They evoke so much emotion.

Plus… Snow White is a mermaid? So there’s that.

Final Thoughts

I think I end up making a post like this every year, and you know what? It’s a lot of fun! I love thinking of beach reads, especially when I’m preparing for my own trips. All of the books above were ones that I love and highly recommend.

But there are so many more! And that is why I make this post every summer.

So how about you? What are your favorite beach reads? What do you recommend? Tell me in the comments below!

5 Books to Read for Pride Month

Hello and happy June! I hope everyone is having a good summer (or winter, for the southern hemisphere).

In case you didn’t know, June is Pride Month in the US. This means that it is a month of visibility, acceptance, support, and protesting for the LGBTQIAP+ community and their rights. I know I haven’t previously shared a list like this, but I have been trying to be wider in my reading and inclusivity this year, finding books with different experiences that teach while being a great story.

If the idea of this kind of wide reading is new to you, that’s ok! I hope this post can be a jumping off point for you and that you find some new stories you love.

Without further ado, let’s get into my list!

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Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

This book is a fantasy set in (you guessed it) a desert! I don’t know what it is about desert fantasies, but I’m on quite a kick for them lately. This book follows two women – one a magical storyteller and one the daughter of a bandit terrorizing the other’s village – as they navigate a terrifying world that really wants to kill them in an effort to find themselves and follow a buried line of poetry. It’s so exciting and moving and well-written. It is a sapphic story and has strong Latin-American inspiration and weaves lots of Spanish into its telling.

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Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

This was one of my favorites this year! It’s written by a Lipan Apache geoscientist and author and is from the perspective of Indigenous people in a world just a little different from our own – one in which the main character, Elatsoe, can summon the ghosts of dead animals (including ancient trilobytes) and is set on a path to figure out who murdered her brother. This book features an asexual main character (a person who does not experience sexual attraction or only experiences it under specific circumstances), which is explicitly stated in the text, and is an identity that is a bit harder to find in traditionally published work.

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Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

This one is a middle grade that deals with SO MANY difficult things. Hazel is a girl with 2 moms, and one of them is pregnant again after suffering pretty devastating miscarriages in the past. She’s also trying to get through her last year of middle school while drifting apart from her best friend and finding new ones. It is a simple book that packs a powerful emotional punch that really had me by the heart by the time I finished reading it.

This book has a ton of representation, too: lesbian parents, a trans friend, and a main character portrayed as asexual and aromantic (someone who does not experience romantic attraction or only experiences it under specific circumstances). It’s a really wonderful array of experiences written in a heartfelt, emotional way.

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Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

If you want a tremendously cute graphic novel with all the fall feels (in fact, I read this to put me in the mood for Pie-Jinks!), then this is it. It follows a young witch with hearing loss and her childhood crush, a werewolf named Tam, as they confront an evil together to save each other and the town. I loved the art and the story, and it really has all the cozy autumn feels to it!

The representation in this book is awesome, too. The main character, as I said, has hearing loss, and Tam is non-binary, there is a romantic relationship between them, and they are both Chinese-American characters. The young witch also lives with her two grandmas, a lesbian couple.

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Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Last but certainly not least is this body horror, nature horror, young adult sapphic book that was *chef’s kiss*. I don’t know what it was exactly: the atmosphere, the mystery, or the characters, but this book grabbed me and didn’t let go. It was another I could not put down, and it gave me ALL the feelings. It’s just a touch creepy and a touch disturbing, but I just loved every bit of it!

I hope this list has intrigued you for some new fantasy reads. I can’t stress enough how much I loved each and every one of the books I shared with you today.

And if you are hesitant to pick something like this up, I urge you even more. Books are so important for helping us understand and empathize with the people around us. They can open so many doors to so many hearts, and they can teach us how to be better, more accepting, more loving people.

To close out this week’s post, here’s my question for you:

Have you read any of these? Do you have other suggestions? Let’s chat in the comments!

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NEWS!

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks, but guys. I have 2 books up for preorder!

Seasons of Magic

The first Seasons of Magic anthology is coming at the end of July in both ebook and paperback. It includes all four of the first Seasons of Magic stories (you can see them here) PLUS the previously paperback-exclusive bonus content for Of the Clouds. It’s going to be a beauty of a paperback, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Pie-Jinks

Next is book 1 in Pie-Jinks, a brand new series based on my novella, Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. It’s not necessary to read the novella to appreciate the books, but it will definitely prepare you! The first 3 will be coming this fall, and the pre0rder for book 1 is up for August 27! These will also be in both ebook and paperback.

Preorder Seasons of Magic Volume 1 here (ebook preorder only)

Preorder Vanilla Bean Vampire (book 1 of the Pie-Jinks series) here

5 Books to Close Out Mental Health Awareness Month

Let’s talk mental health books.

Hey everyone! Happy Memorial Day weekend to my US friends, and for everyone else, happy end of May!

Today is the post I’ve been putting together for Mental Health Awareness month, and as I was reviewing the books on my list, I realized two things: 1) I have shared many of these books multiple times before, and 2) I need to read some new ones! So if you have new favorites you’d like to share with me, drop them below and I will add them to my list!

Anyway, here are 5 books I loved that deal with mental health topics (plus one of my own with mental health themes).

Valkyrie by Sophia Elaine Hansen

Sophia Elaine Hansen is one of my favorite contemporary poets. Every one of her poetry books has just gotten better, and it was her book soul like thunder that got me into reading poetry for fun!

Valkyrie, of course, does not disappoint. In my opinion, it is her best work. It deals with a lot of heavy topics, so be sure to read the content warnings if you need to, but they are such powerful, empowering words about difficult times, depression, and overcoming circumstances and past trauma. Highly, highly recommend!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is one that I have shared over and over again. It’s one of those books that readers seem to either love or hate, but I connected to Cath so hard that I felt every peak and valley of the book. It’s got themes ranging from mental illness in a parent to social anxiety to coming of age, and all of them are handled masterfully, in my opinion. I will never stop loving this book!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

This is another book I loved that gave me many of the same feelings as Fangirl did. It also deals with a creative person who suffers from anxiety, but it adds in a character with past trauma to be explored in the story as well. I also recently learned that the author sees Eliza as an asexual character, though not everyone agrees with the way she is presented and how it is not explicitly stated in the book.

Regardless, this is a delightful read full of emotional highs and lows, good relationships, and a solid discussion on mental health.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve talked about this one before, too, as well as several other books by this author. This is, I believe, one of her best. It deals heavily with themes of PTSD and family with PTSD, and how deeply it can affect life. It was a heartfelt and intense read, and it is very much worth the time.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Finally, one of my favorite mental health books is this one, and not just for its gorgeous cover. This is a very real, very moving look at the aftermath of a suicide attempt and the path toward healing. It doesn’t sugarcoat it; Stork does a good job of showing how it actually is, how difficult, how painful. There is no idealizing here. But it also leaves the reader with such a sense of hope and peace at the end.

Bonus: This Cursed Flame by Selina J. Eckert

And of course I want to discuss how Cursed Flame fits into mental health awareness month. Mental health is a hugely important topic to me, very close to my heart. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life, and so it often makes its way into my writing.

In Cursed Flame, Janan struggles with some PTSD symptoms as well as intense anxiety that her friend, Safiyya, helps her to cope with… because Safiyya herself has been through similar. It shows how we can use our own pain and struggle to connect with and encourage other people, which is one reason I write.

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Your turn! Tell me what books you read this month with mental health themes or what books are you favorites. Did you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let’s chat in the comments!

My 5 Favorite Books About Grief

Let’s talk about grief.

Around this time last year, I released my first spring fairy tale retelling, and it was a story I didn’t really intend to tell. It centered all around a young woman who was dealing with the loss of a close friend and how it affected the relationships she had around her. It became a story of grief and rebirth, renewal and acceptance, a theme that I think was appropriate both for the season and for the state of the world.

So this year, for part of mental health awareness month, let’s talk about grief books. Next week, we’ll close out the month by talking about my favorite mental health novels.

All That Glimmers by Selina J. Eckert

Yes, I know I’m cheating with this one. But honestly, ATG is one of my favorite grief stories. It made me cry when I was writing it and editing it, it made my betas cry, and it still makes me cry when I hit a certain scene.

Plus, when a beta reader says they hope lots of people read it, not for my sake but for theirs, that means something.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

I’ve mentioned this book before, and I will keep shouting about it. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read dealing with the aftermath of a close death, in this case the main character’s mother, who died by suicide (so, content warning there). It is a real and raw exploration of the people left behind and coming to terms with the world as it is after that person is gone.

I highly, highly recommend this book.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This one is grief of a different kind, and another book I absolutely love. It deals with the sister of a person who seriously injured a boy when driving drunk and her feelings of guilt around the situation. It’s grief for the change that occurred in her family following this incident – and the incarceration of her brother – and the process she took toward healing and finding herself. A truly beautiful story!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you want to talk about powerful books, this is it. This book deals with a LOT of difficult topics, but it is also a story of grief and rising to do something to make the world better because of it. It can be hard to listen to at times, but grief isn’t easy. Pain isn’t easy. And this book certainly does not take the easy way out.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

And finally, to round out the list a little (I shared a lot of young adult novels today), here is a nonfiction memoir of a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of the author’s mother. It’s a deeply introspective story of family, grief, and rebirth, and especially as a person who loves these kind of nature stories (I also loved Antarctic Tears and A Walk in the Wild…but we’ll save those for another day), this was a really fascinating and thoughtful read.

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So there you have it! I have more books I love that deal with different aspects of grief in different ways, but these are a few of the ones that moved me the most. They are all powerful stories of pain, growth, and self-discovery, and I love that about them.

But I’m interested to know your thoughts. Have you read any of these? Do you have other recommendations? Tell me your favorites in the comments!

A Tale of Ashes Book Review!

Have you seen this debut yet?

First of all, happy mental health awareness month! I will be sharing more content this month related to that, and you can also check out my Instagram for related posts.

But today I have something that is loooong overdue: a review of my friend Ann Dayleview’s debut YA fantasy book, A Tale of Ashes.

Guys, I’ve been privileged to read this a few times at various stages. I’ve fallen in love with characters and worldbuilding. And I’ve gone along on Freddie’s wild ride. It was so worth it. But because I have been so involved, I’m not going to give it a star rating. Instead, I’m just going to talk about it.

So let me tell you a little about this book.

A Tale of Ashes takes place in a modern town that is situated right on the border between the human world and Faerie, and so it sees immigration from Faerie as the magical folk are at war. But the humans aren’t all so welcoming. (Heavy themes here… immigration, racism, prejudice…)

In the middle of this setting sits Freddie, a girl with a love for journalism and a passion for justice (and a controlling ex-boyfriend who also happens to be the Faerie Prince of Summer). So when students start disappearing and the police begin blaming the Fae, she of course has to dig her nose in, where she finds nothing but trouble.

So now that you have the gist of it, let me tell you some things. Let’s start with the characters. Dayleview has built such a cast that grabs the reader and makes them fall in love, starting with the two main characters and spreading out to all the secondary and minor characters. Each of them truly feels like they have their own story.

Freddie is one of those characters who I love but who gives me intense anxiety. Like a true protagonist, she gets herself caught up in all sorts of trouble and does not let anyone tell her what to do. Cue the anxiety.

Aiden, the second point of view in the story, is a lovable, damaged cinnamon roll that I just want to hug and love forever. He does horrible things, but he doesn’t want to. And he also is adorkable, as they say.

And then there are the secondary characters: Jefferson the friendly vampire and his girlfriend (Freddie’s best friend), Ginnith the tiny but terrifying bodyguard who ex-boyfriend assigns to Freddie, and a wide range of magical and non-magical people who either make your heart swell or your skin crawl. Dayleview does that really well.

And then there’s the worldbuilding. The way Faerie overlaps with the human world is so well done and thought-provoking, and the magic system is well-developed and interesting. There’s plenty that the reader may find familiar, but this series (yes, this is the start of a series) does a good job with twisting it just enough to make it brand new.

Finally, let me talk emotions, since a good part of how much I like a book has to do with the emotions it evokes. Freddie will call for the adventurous at heart, but I connected so much to Aiden. He struggles so much to connect with Freddie and wants to do things right, and it is adorable and heartbreaking to watch his journey. There are such ups and downs throughout, from rage at certain characters and their behavior to heartbreak to those d’aww moments we all love.

So overall, do I recommend this book? Absolutely I do. It’s a fun adventure, and it made me feel things. If you love urban fantasy, Fae, and some romance, I’m sure you will enjoy this as well.

If this has intrigued you to want more, you can check it out here.

Until next time, happy reading!

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NEWS! I have finished the paperbacks for all my backlist books! I just submitted the last four today, so as long as the vendor has no issues with the files, they should be available this week. If you want to see which ones are submitted, check it out on my TikTok!

My Top 5 Mermaid Books to Celebrate Release Day!

It’s release day! So let’s talk about my favorite mermaid stories.

Happy end of February, everyone!

Today I am so very, very excited to share that Cold Snap, my Snow White retelling with mermaids and ice magic, is available today! (If you’re interested in a paperback… it’s coming soon! I’m just waiting for my proof copy to arrive.) You can grab your ebook copy today, or if you want to have that physical copy (this cover is so, so worth it!), join the newsletter for the announcement!

(PS, joining the newsletter will also provide you with the link to the free prequel This Cursed Light and my currently-free short story, Freeze Thaw, the book before Cold Snap in the Seasons of Magic series.)

(Image: Release Day graphic for Cold Snap, by Selina J. Eckert, Seasons of Magic: Flurries & Phantoms #2. Includes the book cover on left, featuring a blue and teal cover with a dancing mermaid in front of an ice cave, on a blue luminescent beach photo with the tagline “Sometimes the frozen heart doesn’t melt…” Image created by Dragonpen Designs.)

You can grab your copy by clicking on the image above or following this link.

Now let’s talk mermaid books!

When I was younger, I actually thought mermaid myths were stupid. I don’t even know where that feeling came from, and these days, I love a good mermaid story! Do you? If not, share your favorite fantasy creature in the comments. 🙂

Since I got into mermaids, I started creating a list of my favorite mermaid stories. I’m a bit picky, so I’m only including the ones I’ve read and loved!

1. The Siren by Kiera Cass (standalone)

I absolutely loved this book! (And if you’ve been here a while, you might have heard me talk about it before) It’s a captivating tale of the relationship of the Ocean with a trio of sirens – the Ocean provides, but demands annual murders to appease it. Such a dynamic, complex story that I can NOT get over!

2. Lost Voices by Sarah Porter (trilogy)

This is probably my favorite mermaid series of all time. It’s three books long and settles on the mythology that mermaids are created when the world abandons a girl – and she gives up on the world, too. It’s so sad, but also draws them into a place where they belong, which is heartwarming. So complex, so good. I will never get over these books either!

3. Born of Water by A.L. Knorr (multiple series)

This is part of an entire world by A.L. Knorr involving elementals, a secret society, and really cool powers. The mermaid mythology here is particularly prevalent, with a deep story between a mother and daughter that goes deep into history. Very cool world, and the mermaid stories in particular are so delicately crafted.

4. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (currently standalone, maybe more later)

This one is not for the faint of heart – mermaid horror. The mermaids here are real monsters, and the book itself is intense and suspenseful! I also enjoyed the characters here, as there was a huge, involved cast, all trapped together on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

5. The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble (standalone)

And finally, if you’re looking for something a little more whimsical and fairy tale-like, this book is for you! It definitely gives me serious Stardust vibes (I love that movie!) and is centered around a powerful found family.

And don’t forget to grab Cold Snap while you’re stocking up on mermaid stories!

Sometimes the frozen heart doesn’t melt…

Mermaid princess Iclyn finally inherited her magic and hopes it will bring a closer relationship with her distant stepmother. But those hopes melt away when the king departs on a diplomatic mission, leaving her alone with Queen Hali—and under the queen’s influence. Hali takes the opportunity to enchant Iclyn with illegal dark sorcery, sending her to her death. But instead of killing her, the would-be assassin delivers her safely away from the city and out into the ocean, alone.

With only a map to a potential safe haven, thought to be nothing more than a myth, Iclyn must find her way without the comfort and protection she had always known and learn how to use her newly born magic. But the queen’s plans are bigger than Iclyn, and if Iclyn can’t stop her, not only her life will be forfeit.

The life of the king—and perhaps all of Iclyn’s people—will fall under the queen’s cold rule.

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Do you have any other mermaid stories you’re particularly fond of? Any unique fantasy creatures you love? Tell me in the comments!

5 Romantic Reads I Fell in Love With

Some feel good reads!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve never been huge on celebrating this holiday, even now that I’m married (we exchange gifts but don’t really do anything too crazy…we’re usually at a convention, though obviously not this year).

Anyway, I know romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Honestly, it’s not really mine either. That said, I do enjoy a fluffy romance now and then (of the sweet variety, NOT steamy). So today, especially since we haven’t chatted in a few weeks, I figured it was time to share some of my favorites.

So let’s chat!

1. A Chance for Sunny Skies by Eryn Scott

(Image: The cover for A Chance for Sunny Skies, featuring a girl in a red dress holding up an umbrella on a blue background)

I think the reason I liked this book so much was that it wasn’t heavily focused on the romance, like a lot of romances. A lot of it was self-discovery and growing up and finding your dreams. Also, the main character wants to be a weather forecaster on the local news station! Which I thought was kind of cool. I’ve liked everything I read by this author, though these days she seems to be more in the cozy mystery writing than she used to be, which I don’t really care for.

But I do love the books in this series and plan to finish them.

2. I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill

(Image: The cover for I Temporarily Do, featuring a woman in a wedding dress holding crossed fingers behind her back.)

This seems to be a trope I enjoy: fake relationships. A whole mess of circumstances leads the main character to marry a guy so she’s not homeless – a guy who, conveniently, was just dumped by his own fiance days before their wedding. It was a fun, funny story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it’s one that I’d love to read again!

Speaking of which, perhaps it’s time to thing about that re-read…

3. Settling Up by Eryn Scott

(Image: The cover for Settling Up, featuring a woman with glasses wearing yellow on a yellow background)

This is another by Eryn Scott that I really enjoyed. A statistics professor seeking a relationship! As an academic woman myself, the main character’s profession really pulled me in, and it was definitely an exciting ride to watch her search for true love. Like the other books, this was a fun, light read.

4. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

(Image: Cover for Saint Anything, featuring a photo of a lit carousel against a dark blue background)

This one is young adult, but it was so well-written and emotional! It follows a main character grappling with some pretty heavy family stuff – a brother who accidentally killed someone while driving intoxicated and is now in jail. It follows her making new friends in a new place, struggling with guilt over her brother, and finding new love. Truly a deep, thought-provoking story that I absolutely loved!

5. Spice Bringer by H. L. Burke

(Image: Cover for Spice Bringer, with two hands holding a plant and a fire salamander)

I previously featured this author’s book Ashen, which also has fantastic romance, but today I want to talk about Spice Bringer. This is a fantasy with a main character who has a debilitating, possibly deadly condition and a traveling stranger. They are thrown together and must traverse a dangerous land, so, naturally, some feelings develop. And man, does this book give you feelings! Also, if you need a good cry… yeah, this is the one.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your feelings on Valentine’s day, I hope these books all give you good feelings. Do you have any go-tos for this time of year? Any you can’t stop thinking about? Any that make you really FEEL something?

Share them with me below!

And until next time, let’s keep loving those books! ❤

The Best Books I Read This Year (2020 Edition)

It’s been a good reading year!

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back on everything I read this year and pick out my favorites. I’m not going to limit myself on numbers in this post, but I will make sure to divide it into categories to make things easier on you. 🙂

To recap, this year I read 90 books (and I anticipate finished at least 2 or 3 more by December 31). Of those, 8 were my own (I count them for the year I write, since I read them so many times, and I re-read Pie-Jinks to prepare for an upcoming full series next year). Finally, I beta read one of those books.

I also read in a variety of formats and genres including (but not limited to) audio, ebooks, and physical books. For genres, I read a lot of fantasy and young adult, but I also read some nonfiction, adult fantasy, manga, and general fiction.

If you want to see the breakdown of everything I read, you can find it over on my Goodreads page.

And now, let me highlight my favorites!

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share I enjoyed myself and either purchased or received through my library or as an ARC!

Fantasy (Adult)

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone

This was one of the first books I read this year as part of an online book club I’m in, the Fellowship of Fantasy (you can find them on Facebook by that name). This book is an amazing retelling of the minotaur and the labyrinth, and it had the BEST ending (in my personal opinion). It was unique, exciting, and deeply engaging. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves unique fantasy and Greek mythology!

Throne of Sand by Elm Vince & Helena Rookwood

I’m not sure if this one was meant to be an Aladdin retelling, but it definitely gave me that feeling! It’s full of a cast of unforgettable characters and so much drama and emotion! Also, Zadie gives me so much anxiety. So yeah. I will be finishing this series for sure!

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison

I love Jemison’s writing, and this was certainly no exception. Fifth Season is a fantastic high fantasy with a unique magic system and a world ravaged by nature. It’s intense and exciting and this is another series I will be continuing!

Ashen by H.L. Burke

I previously reviewed this one, but in case you missed it, this is a fantastic fantasy inspired by Iceland. It was so much fun with good characters and unique magic! I also loved how unique it was as a retelling of Cinderella. Definitely worth getting (I even got myself an autographed copy because I loved it so much!).

Wrought of Silver & Ravens by E.J. Kitchens

This is another one I reviewed this year, and it is such a good, solid high fantasy! It it set in a place reminiscent of Greece (I think), and it has an intricate magic and history system! It was another one that I highly recommend and enjoyed SO MUCH.

Shadow Hunter by B.R. Kingslover

This is one of the urban fantasies I read this year, but I share this one because it’s the first in a new (to me) series and is very good! The protagonist is a cinnamon roll assassin, the magic is cool, and it has all the elements of found family that I adore!

Young Adult

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

I read this one just last month after a long library hold. It is so worth it! It is a unique fantasy with a Mexican-inspired desert setting that takes a critical look at traditions and beliefs. It’s haunting and captivating all at once. It is also an LGBT+ read, if you are looking to expand your diversity in reading!

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

This is a contemporary starring a girl who loves the… well, the stars. She gets conned into a glamping trip with her ex-best friend, and then they are abandoned by their companions in the wilderness. There’s also some SERIOUS family drama and stuff for the main character to deal with and a discussion of step parents (in a good way). Also good for your diversity, the ex-best friend has lesbian parents. Warning for those of you looking for clean reading: this book contains sex.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

This is such a ride of a book. Inspired by K-dramas, this is a tale of a gumiho, or fox spirit, who must eat men’s souls to survive. But when she loses her fox bead, which could let someone else control her, she must rely on her new friend and her own wit to recover it without giving away what she is to the world. Book 2, Vicious Spirits, is also out now!

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

I fell in love with this one as soon as I started reading! It reads like a historical fantasy, but I’m not quite sure what inspired it. It follows two sisters, one chosen, and excited, to be buried with the king (who is near death) and the other determined to save the king’s life – and therefore also her sister. It’s such an interesting dynamic and an intense mystery within the palace walls. Bonus: book 2 just came out this month! I am reading it now. 🙂

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Similar to Ashen, this is a Norse-inspired book. It follows a Viking shieldmaiden who goes into battle to come face-to-face with her brother – who was supposedly killed years ago. She sneaks away to find him and lands herself in a whole lot of trouble. It is so well-written and vivid. Warning: this book is very violent and gory.

Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh

This is the conclusion to an Ice Age fantasy duology I started a couple years ago. It is truly a unique read. I can’t quite explain the feelings it gives me, but it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. This particular book (book 2) focuses on what people will do for their family and deciding how to navigate family and romantic relationships – particularly when both you and your betrothed are suddenly meant to inherit your own clans. So, so good! I am so happy with both of these books, and these are some truly beautiful covers. (Book 1: Ivory and Bone)

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

This book still haunts me. Like, seriously. I’d call it a psychological thriller. Basically, it involves the main character realizing her best friend just… disappeared. And no one seems to notice or care. It follows her searching for the truth and the unexpected answer to all her questions. Just be prepared. Like I said. Still haunted over here.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Oh my goodness, I read this in a single sitting. If you love survival stories, THIS IS IT. It follows a girl with dreams of college track who goes to a party in the woods. When she comes across her cheating boyfriend (not a spoiler… this literally happens at the opening), her anger drives her to run away. But then she can’t find her way back and must both survive and find her way out of the wilderness. It is intense and powerful!

Between Jobs by W.R. Gingell

This is another found family sort of story, and an urban fantasy. It combines so many Selina-catnip items! But seriously, it’s so good. It’s set in Australia (or New Zealand… sorry, I can’t quite remember) and involves some fae and vampires, as well as an orphan girl hiding in walls until she can buy her murdered parents’ house. Recently, I won the rest of the series in a contest, so you can bet I will be continuing this one!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a contemporary fantasy, but more importantly, it is a powerful story of grief, suicide, and those left behind. It is beautifully written, set outside of the US for most of the story, and is one of those works that just stays with you.

Manga and Graphic Novels or Collections

Seven Little Sons of the Dragon by Ryoko Kui

My husband bought me this collection of 7 stories for Christmas because it’s by the same person who made one of my favorite manga (Delicious in Dungeon). Overall, I loved all the stories! They are full of humor, unexpected twists, and fascinating thought experiments. I am so happy to own this, and I’m sure I will read it again!

Fangirl Vol. 1 by Rainbow Rowell & Sam Maggs

Fangirl is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of all time, and they are turning it into a manga! The first volume came out this year, and I loved every minute of it. Can’t wait for the next one!

Laid Back Camp by Afro

I have been searching for camp/camping stories for about a year and a half, and my husband randomly stumbled across this. It is slice of life, it’s calm, and it’s all about camping and friendship! I ADORE this series, and I’m up to 5 volumes already! (Still need to read the last 3 though, as I just got them)

Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi

This is another one my husband bought for me (he likes to get me different ones to try out). It’s a really cool fantasy world where people dungeon dive in this pit of monsters and treasures to make a living. But, the deeper you go, the harder it is to come back. And trying to come back from the very bottom kills people. It’s really a cool concept!

General Fiction

Beach Read by Emily Henry

This was another family drama/secrets story, but also a really unique romance between two competing writers. I deeply enjoyed this, as a writer and a person, but this is another one that’s got some sex, so beware if that bothers you.

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

This is also a romance, but it’s EVERYTHING fall. And… coincidentally stars another author? Weird. But it’s all about a woman who travels back to her hometown to keep her grandfather out of a home. The twist? Her bestselling series trashes the residents of the town, and she abandoned her high school sweetheart there after he broke her heart.

Nonfiction

Romance Your Brand by Zoe York

This is a good book for indies looking to build a marketable, profitable brand. It’s a step by step guide to building your next series in a way that readers (and you) will love. I highly recommend this to every indie author!

Dear Author by Laura A. Grace

Finally, this is a cute, sweet, heartfelt little collection of hypothetical letters to you, this reader’s favorite author. It’s full of encouragement, joy, and heart, and if you need a pick-me-up for your writing, give this a read! (also, the ebook is so cheap, there’s no reason not to get yourself a copy!)

Final Thoughts

I read so many good books this year! And there are so many others I can’t wait to read on my list!

Personally, I love doing these posts at the end of the year to really reflect on the joy I got this year from what I read and remember my favorites. Do you do anything like this?

I also would love to hear about your favorite reads of 2020. Did you find anything good? Any new books or series you love? Share them with me down below, and let’s talk books!

And until next time, happy reading! ❤

This Cursed Shadow COVER REVEAL!

IT’S FINALLY COMING!

I know, I know. I’m slow. It’s been a year and a half since This Cursed Flame came out. But I really wanted to be sure I had something special for you! And believe me, it was a lot of work. I rewrote this beast from the ground up and completely changed a lot of what the story had been when I originally wrote it… 7 years ago.

Yeah. The first draft was 7 years old. Crazy!

I think you’re really going to like the results of this rewrite, though. Let me tell you a little more about this story.

First off, while your favorite characters from This Cursed Flame are here, they take a back seat to the new story and new characters (but don’t worry… they are back in book 3!). In This Cursed Shadow, we meet Lacey, a Jenari (part human, part djinn) with aspirations of being a magical archaeologist and finding her lost father, and Senka, a Soul Shadow Guardian, or a creature made of light and shadows tasked with protecting the citizens of the Shadow Realm.

Here’s the official blurb:

Sometimes the darkest shadows lie within.

Senka, a Shadow made of light and dark, is finally a Guardian of the Shadow Realm, years after her parents were killed by the same deadly creatures now trapped there by the djinn. But when the creatures ambush her on one of her first days on the job, she finds herself with a fatal curse, and decaying barriers eject her from her home—threatening to release hordes of the shadow-creatures right along with her. Her only choice is to find the one person who might be able to reverse the curse and get her home in time to warn the other Shadows of the impending disaster.

Lacey, granddaughter of the great Ghadir, has been living among the humans with her brother since the Candrani revolted and plunged the Djinn Realm into chaos. When her mother, still in the Realm, suddenly stops answering Lacey’s calls, Lacey is desperate to bring her to safety. But when Lacey returns to the Realm, she finds a world far different from the one she had left years before.

Escaped shadow-creatures attack Lacey, and Senka comes to the rescue, thwarting everything Lacey had ever been taught to fear about Shadows. Then, news of a once-lost Shadow artifact reaches them—an artifact capable of leading them straight to the man who can save Senka and maybe even to Lacey’s missing father. But a power-hungry djinn official, Auretta, is determined to hide the most powerful artifacts to steal control of the Realm for herself. With time running out, can they escape Auretta in time to stop the wards from breaking?

Or will Auretta succeed in destroying everything?

So are you ready for the cover now? Let’s see it with the previous covers!

Isn’t it GORGEOUS??? Savannah over at Dragonpen Designs made another wonderful addition to this series!

You know what else is pretty great? The book will be here on December 20, and This Cursed Light (the prequel starring everyone’s favorite shapeshifting wild cat) is now FREE on all platforms!

I’m also setting This Cursed Flame at a special pre-release sale price of $1.99, so be sure to check back to see when that goes live (I’m currently waiting for the price change to be approved). It will be on sale all the way through Christmas! This is a great time for those of you who haven’t read it yet to pick it up and give it a read before TCS comes out!

Here are all the links you need (pending approval for some of them, so check back later if they don’t all work yet):

  1. Get This Cursed Light on Amazon or other retailers for FREE! (as of the time of this post)
  2. Pick up This Cursed Flame on Amazon or other retailers on sale! (please check for the sale price of $1.99 before purchasing, otherwise full price is $3.99)
  3. Pre-order This Cursed Shadow on Amazon or other retailers! (There will be a paperback, but you’ll have to check back closer to the release date as I work on formatting and checking a proof copy!)

Thanks for reading this far, and we’ll chat closer to the release date about this story again. Until then, stock up on these deals, catch up, and enjoy!

Happy reading ❤

The Alchemyst’s Mirror Blog Tour… And a Recipe!

Looking for a steampunk read? How about one that comes with its own recipe???

Hey folks! I have an extra special treat for you this week. I’m a smidge late on this one, but I am helping out to spread the word for a brand new steampunk release, The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton! And even extra special, this post comes with a recipe from the book so you can have some delicious bites to eat as you read!

And there’s also a Facebook launch party coming up on November 10, so head on over for some fun and festivities!

First, let’s hear a little about the book itself.

Petra and Maisie Everturn just want to run their family’s tea shop, but when their explorer brother Jiordan goes missing while looking for an alchemycal artifact, none of them are safe.

The sisters must enlist the help of another explorer in order to find Jiordan or the artifact—before the mysterious alchemyst society finds them first.

However, when one of the sisters stumbles into the clutches of the most dangerous alchemyst in the city, the race to unravel the clues becomes desperate. And when they discover the truth about the artifact, their quest to infiltrate the alchemyst’s secret society becomes a matter of life and death.

I love the idea of a tea shop in this story, and secret societies? Definitely sounds like a ride!

But I did promise you a recipe. And what better than some sandwiches fit for a tea shop themselves? I could picture settling in with this book, a whole plate of these delicate treats, and a nice big mug of Irish Breakfast (my favorite tea, currently).

And that recipe card is so cute! Feel free to print yourself a copy for your own recipe box. 🙂

The author herself also sent over a couple of delectable pictures so you can envision it for yourself. Check them out!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try out a new book, and maybe some tea sandwiches! The blog tour may be over now, but the book is just waiting for its next reader. 🙂

You can get your copy here!

About the Author

Liz Delton writes and lives in New England, with her husband and son. She studied Theater Management at the University of the Arts in Philly, always having enjoyed the backstage life of storytelling.

She reads and writes fantasy, especially the kind with alternate worlds. Liz is the author of the dystopian Arcera Trilogy, and the fantasy Realm of Camellia series, and the new steampunk novel, The Alchemyst’s Mirror. World-building is her favorite part of writing, and she is always dreaming up new fantastic places.

She loves drinking tea and traveling. When she’s not writing you can find her hands full with one of her many craft projects.

Visit her website at lizdelton.com or find her online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Amazon.

And don’t forget to grab your copy of The Alchemyst’s Mirror, available now, and head over to the Facebook party on November 10th!