2020 has not been the year it was supposed to be. (Not fit for purpose. Can I get a refund?) I didn’t get anywhere as much writing done as I could have, but I read, and re-read an awful lot. Some of these books have been lockdown lifesavers. Now that gifty time of year is almost on us, Time to start ordering. Here are my recommendations.
Of course, I’d love it if you bought my books too, for yourself or for your friends. Buying their books is the best present you can give any author. Go to my website at http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk for details of mine. Copies are available via Amazon in the UK or Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any good bookshop in the USA and Canada. (I heartily recommend Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto; one of my favourite SF bookstores.)
And while you’re at it, when I sang with Artisan we made a number of CDs – all still available – including some Christmas themed ones which make good gifts. If you like harmony singing, go and take a listen: http://artisan-harmony.com/albums.htm
Anything by Jodie Taylor. Her St Mary’s books feature a bunch of disaster magnets who investigate historical events in contemporary time. (Don’t call it time travel.) Start with Just one Damn Thing After Another. This year’s offering is Plan for the Worst, the 11th book in the series with a delicious reveal about Markham as a twist in the tale. (Markham is one of my favourite characters.)Books are light and funny with a serious thread running through. New out this year is Hard Time – the second book of the Time Police. If you want to start with the first it’s Doing Time. This is a spin off series from the Main St Mary’s novels featuring Matthew Farrell, offspring of St Mary’s regulars, Max and Leon. Ms Taylor also writes the Frogmorton Farm series starting with The Nothing Girl. I’ve never read a book of hers that I didn’t like.
Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold. She writes both fantasy and science fiction. My current favourite book is Curse of Chalion, a fantasy set in a country not unlike medieval Spain featuring the best hero ever, Cazaril. Her Science fiction is set in the universe of the Vorkosigan family, dubbed the Vorkosiverse by fans. The first two book (chronologically) are the duo now available as Cordelia’s Honour, about Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan, but the main character in most of the books is Miles Vorkosigan, their song. Born stunted and brittle-bones onto a society with a proud warrior tradition, Mikes has to thing his way out of situations that his overthinking has got him into in the first place. The Warrior’s Apprentice is a good starting place.
John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy is thoroughly absorbing. Set in a universe where the routes between human habitats are gradually disappearing. Start with The Collapsing Empire, then The Consuming Fire, and finally, The Last Emperox.
Guinevere Glasfurd’s The Year Without Summer is set in the aftermath of the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies in 1815. Here are six separate interwoven (and sometimes desperate) stories, connected only by the effects of the Year Without a Summer. More literary/historical than SF.
Juliet E McKenna has written a series of books about a half Dryad who (because of his heritage) ends up dealing with magical threats from British myth and legend. Start with The Green Man’s Son, and then go on to The Green Man’s Foe. This year’s offering is The Green Man’s Silence. Think: urban fantasy gone rural.
I’ve read two very different books by Katherine Addison this year: The Goblin Emperor a fantasy with a lot of court intrigue, and The Angel of the Crows which is set in a variant of Victorian London, and riffs off Sherlock. Both excellent.
My friend, Liz Williams, has an excellent new book out, Comet Weather, featuring four very different sisters, attuned to the magic around them, in search of their missing mother. Highly recommended.
T. Kingfisher is the pen name of well-loved children’s author, Ursula Vernon. She writes grown-up books as T. Kingfisher. This year’s books are A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, (which would also be fine for a teen reader). My absolute favourite of hers, however, is Swordheart, which I read last year. Also Paladin’s Grace – another fantastic romantic fantasy book.
Last year I discovered the Greatcoats quartet by Sebastien de Castell. I loved these so much I raced through all four back to back. Titles are: Traitor’s Blade, Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne. Four books, one long story.
I’ve mentioned Leigh Bardugo on previous book lists. I still think Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are the best things she’s written. Massively complex characters, dark plot lines. These are supposedly YA books, but I think they are better than her more recent book which is supposedly for adults.
If you like light, racy historical romances, you can’t do much better than Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton and Rokesby books. The two families are intertwined. She handles historical romance with a light touch. Expect humour and witty dialogue. The Bridgertons are soon to be a TV series. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read in order.