#BestBooksOf2020 Retrospective | The 2020 End of the Year Reading Survey : The stories behind #JLASblog’s 7th Year!

Posted Monday, 4 January, 2021 by jorielov , 6 Comments

End of the Year [2020] badge created by Jorie in Canva. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven and used with permission.

The Questions for the 2020 End of the Year Survey are posted by Jaime @ the Perpetual Page Turner, who created this survey as a personal reflection of her year of bookish wanderings and readings, and never thought it would turn into a book blogosphere yearly event! I am thankful she encourages us all to participate even though over the past five years I haven’t had the best track record of joining in on the community in which she’s curated to share a summation of our readerly lives.

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*Please be Advised:*

This *End of the Year Survey* first landed on Jorie Loves A Story in [2016] whilst celebrating the previous year of [2015] and I made a determined effort to bring it back in [2017] except those plans are still in my Drafts folder for #JLASblog! Smiles. I have decided to create #timecapsule posts this Happy New Year 2021 to re-explore what my top favourites were as a book blogger for the *missing years!* of the Survey itself! Stay tuned for some bookish revelations,… whilst I have decided this year to bring back the Survey in its rightful place of cheerfully championing a signal of #booklove as one year exchanges itself for a new one – rather than withhold my responses til my next blogoversary as I had done in year’s past on the 31st of March.

As you already realise if you’re a ready reader + follower of Jorie Loves A Story – these posts become EPIC and MASSIVELY descriptive as I reveal my final thoughts, ruminations and musings about the STORIES which truly left the impressions this survey attempts to reveal about our past twelvemonths as a reader and inquistive book blogger.

This being said – this post is a full balance OF all the stories I’ve read and discovered giving a fuller scope of how I ended my 2020 as a reader who happily is blogging her life as a book blogger. As well bringing myself back to centre with my ruminations – allowing me the chance to re-think about the stories I’ve read and to put to rest the final thoughts I’ve had on behalf of the stories themselves.

Be sure to brew yourself a cuppa joy as you sit, read and ponder which of my #BestOf2020Reads need to seriously become added to your own #TBR!

If you’ve filled something out like this survey (OR this actual one!) – be sure to share your link to your post(s) in the *threads below this post so I can take a gander at which stories | authors | series | genres joyfully intrigued you throughout 2020! As I would like expand my own TBR with the stories you’ve read yourself which could be a wicked good fit for me.

REMEMBER: if a story wasn’t my cuppa it could be one better suited for you and vice versa if you had a story which you felt fell short of your own expectations and might resontate with me better. Reading is subjective to our individual experiences within the stories themselves and all our reactions are valid and important as they are markers of our readerly lives.

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Let’s break this down a bit, shall we?

You can use this as a ‘preview guide’ of how to use my Story Vault. <— fully updated!

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A Full Listing of all my Book Reviews in 2020 by Genre:

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Classical Literature: After Canons

| Focused on sequels of ‘Jane Austen’ & ‘ Jane Eyre’ |

The Jane Austen After Canon Anthologies by the Quill Collective

The Jane Austen’s Dragons series by Maria Grace

| Focused on ‘Mythological Re-tellings’ |

Contemporary Fiction:

Inspirational Fiction: Contemporary INSPY

Contemporary INSPY | Sweet Romance

Contemporary INSPY | New Adult Romance

Inspirational Fiction: Historical INSPY Romance

Harlequin Love Inspired : Contemporary Romance (imprint series)

Realistic INSPY Fiction: (Contemporary & Historical)

Juvenile Fiction | Middle Grade:

YA Fantasy | YA Sci-Fantasy:

Hard-boiled | Contemporary Suspense | Thriller:

Traditional Historical fiction:

Biographical { Historical } Fiction:

Biographical { Historical } Fiction {sub-focus} Biblical History:

Hard Science Fiction:

Science Fiction Anthologies:

Middle Grade Fantasy:

Dark Fantasy:

Superhero Fiction: (graphic novels)

Historical Fantasy:

Women’s Fiction | Contemporary Romance:

Harlequin Heartwarming (imprint series)

Historical Romance Fiction:

Christmas Stories | Romances:

Non-Fiction:

Select Biographies, Autobiographies & Memoir:

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Total Number of Book Reviews for 2020: 64 *I nearly felt faint when I realised this!
Lowest number of books read and reviewed in seven years of book blogging.

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Looking back on [2020], I admit, I initially felt a bit downtrodden by the results of what my blog’s calendar revealled about the trajectory of my readerly life this year. Until of course I factored in *everything!* which transpired this year and the stats confirmed something I hadn’t even realised had happened. I was not reading as actively this year as I thought I had been but that wasn’t too bad considering how actively I was maintaining my blog and my presence on the bookish side of Twitter – both on my regular feeds for @joriestory and on my chat’s feeds for @SatBookChat.

Not to mention, I helped co-host our 3rd Year of @WyrdAndWonder in May, 2020 – a celebration fo Fantasy I love being a part of every year with Imyril @Imyril and Lisa @deargeekplace. When I took a step back and reconsidered 2020 I realise what took me out of reading and what derailed my efforts to read more – it was the LIFE of HOURS being lived outside of the book blogosphere and the twitterverse which dictated where my focus was spent, how I was using those hours I had wherein I would regularly be reading and of course, some key factors I had overlooked were how those IRL changes were also limiting the hours I could read and/or blog my ruminations as well.

Some years you have to fully pull back and re-examine the year in order to better see how the year was lived. I suppose for some reason, I just felt I had read as much as I used to read but in reality, I read a heap less and when I wasn’t able to read I was turning to watching serialised television. Which in of itself wasn’t half bad because I was still actively seeking out STORIES – I just choose a different medium of interest in 2020 to pursue.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Best in Books 2020:

Unsplash Photography (Creative Commons Zero) Photo Credit: Peter Neumann
Unsplash Photography (Creative Commons Zero) Photo Credit: Peter Neumann.

1. Best Books You Read In 2020?

(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2020 release vs. backlist)

Consecutively now, I have decided to elect to pick the stories which truly wicked out a hearty sense of place and style of voice as I read the stories. If I reached a particular genre and you only see ‘one title’ this is because that particular one had such a strong heart within it’s pages, nothing else could match it. When it came time to spilt the genre by two or more titles, the titles that remain are too attached to my heart and mind; thereby unable to make a tie-breaker! I believe I did a bit better this year than last year, but only you can decide if I did!

I personally love so many stories per year it is hard to fill out this survey!

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Stories like trees,
give root to compassionate joy.
– self quote o f Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story (2014).

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Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Archive

These awards are representing the authors who lit my mind afire with their world-building, character development and central heart of narrative wherein I ached not to be pulled back to reality after I had reached the end of their stories. I dearly wanted to remain – pensively elated for the encounter and filt to the brim with questions about ‘what comes next’…for the characters and writers alike. These are the writers and stories of whom gave me my most memorable reads of 2016. They are a cherished few who stood out from the selections I was reading throughout the year – in some instances inching out another title by how well they represented their chosen genre or styling of story-telling. They challenged me as much as they touched my soul; sometimes they accomplished this in equal fashion.

Other times, I felt my spirit lift in the purity of readerly connective sensibility to know they’ve stumbled across a writer whose palette of chosen words and character-driven story-line illuminated a particular niche of my literary wanderings – giving me much to contemplate and remain forevermore grateful for the experience. This is to celebrate the story-tellers & the daring souls who create a fully realised reality within the scope of their imagination; guided by their pen & stitched inside a reader’s heartprint of bookish happiness.

This is my final note of gratitude – an endnote after my ruminations.

These were my #unputdownable reads of 2020!

You will notice these are not solely limited to ‘new releases’ but encompass the full breadth of stories I read throughout 2020 which wicked out such a breath of joy to devour!

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BEST Classical Literature “After Canon” :

Quote banner from jorielovesastory.com review for "Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl" provided by Christina Boyd.

You have to know before you visit my review for Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl how much love I have for Jane Austen as a Janeite *and!* how much appreciation and absolute JOY I’ve had in finding the Quill Collective as a book blogger! As December came round, I had fully intended to listen to their YULETIDE anthology and finish listening to E:OHG as well. Those plans are now being rolled into what I am going to begin referring to as #Austentide – which is bringing Jane Austen into my #WinterReads starting this January.

The reason I am mentioning being a Janeite is ALL Janeites and Austenites alike will fully understand how much gushing and admiration is on my initial partial review of this audiobook! I truly *loved!* writing this review – especially as Tessa Dare spoke to my Janeite heart and I instantly connected with the narrator Elizabeth Grace, too! Which is why I was wickedly thankful I had the chance to interview Ms Grace and our conversation is on this review.

The reason I am including Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl for my 2020 awards is because I listened to nearly the full audiobook before 2020 concluded. I simply didn’t get to make a second pass at hearing the stories in order to formulate the words on a fuller extended review as I was appreciating the stories being listened to first and then, I had planned to go back and re-listen to them in order to shape how I wanted to discuss them on a fuller review. Thereby it was heard but I simply wasn’t able to share all of my ruminative thoughts during 2020. Which is why when I mentioned a moment ago “to finish” this audiobook, I was directly referring to finish hearing it whilst composing my final review.

Her (Elizabeth Grace) articulation of the words is top notch and her ability to recite monologue is amongst my favourites out of all the ones I’ve heard save Jake Urry and Kim Bretton who are her equals. Whilst it is how she can shift voices and accents – between characters and give you this representation of a wider world beyond the scope of how each story is rooted in step with Elizabeth Bennett. She gives you the impression this is an ensemble cast not a one woman performance and that in of itself is also a benefit of her experience as both an actress and as a narrator; as not everyone can pull this off at this caliber of a deliverance.

The ways in which she punctuates the characters voices gives you full merit of having the whole cast playing in your mind’s eye and of seeing them not just ‘hearing’ them as they go through their entrances and exits in the stories themselves. I cannot speak higher on behalf of her performance!

Except to say, this Elizabeth was bourne to bring Elizabeth Bennett to life!

[on voicing the words of Tessa Dare] Grace gave such an interpersonal narration of Dare’s words, I felt connected heart and soul to those declarations of one reader’s ardent search to give voice to why Austen and her stories have sustained interest for her throughout her life and how in particular it is Pride and Prejudice which has remained a fervent favourite of the lot. I connected to so much of this side of the audiobook (per my own reactions on this post, but even more left unsaid) and that has a lot to do with Grace herself – who at times I felt could co-relate to Dare as much as I was myself.

It was how she put emotion into the words and the ways in which Dare was articulating her own thoughts on behalf of the topic she wanted to explore ahead our own disappearances into the anthology which I felt both heightened this listening experience and grounded us in the breadth of the collection itself. Of such, I could consistently re-listen to this and draw out new takeaways!

Quote banner from jorielovesastory.com review for "Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl" provided by Christina Boyd.

-quoted from my (partial) review of Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl

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BEST Classical Literature Variant Cross-Genre Story: (ie. the world of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” crossed with a dragon fiction world of Fantasy)

Pemberley Darcy's Dragon by Maria Grace

When I first learnt of this variant which crossed Jane Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice within a world built out of dragons – I was curiously hopeful the transitions I would listen to as an audiobook listener would be one of wondrous joy and guess what? They were! The ways in which the world is manipulated through what we ALL know of Pride and then, lovingly respun and retold through Grace’s depictions of how the world and characters of Pride can be re-transitioned into a world of dragons was such a celebration for me as a reader in the very early part of 2020. In fact, I hadn’t expected to find an #unputdownable Fantasy read *before!* #WyrdAndWonder!

What I was struck by the most is how the dragons were as easily inserted into this series as the wizards of Harry Potter! You don’t have to speculate too hard to distinguish how either is plausible because at some point both writers gave you the illusion that they were always inclusive to those worlds and thereby they didn’t have to hard sell the point towards why there are wizards and why there are dragons; they are simply naturally inclusive and have always been round. Another happy revelation was what the titles of the novels are giving you about this world you’ve now transitioned into visiting – Pemberley, Longbourn and Netherfield are not strictly ‘places’ nor ‘settings’ to be visited but they are some of the more impressive dragons of this world! Therefore by that reckoning each installment of the series is focusing on a singular dragon and how their presence in this world has a larger effect on the world itself. (at least by what I am speculating)

Ms Grace took us through a conjoined and mutually admired lens of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice storyline – keeping us clued into the familiar and then taking us into heightened new additions – not just the dragons but how she constructed this world ‘behind’ the lore and legend which has become the Jane Austen universe. It is in that breadth of entrance I could definitely see why the narrator Mr Fife was talking to me in my forthcoming interview about how expansive this world is going to become – because it isn’t locked into strictly resonating with our memories of Pride but will endeavour itself to re-transition through different components of theory and thought from each of Austen’s novels.

I truly loved her instincts – such as how she put in a new reason and central arc of intrigue into why the soldiers would be in Meryton and how this had a cross-effect of importance with the dragons. Similarly to how she enlarged the mindfulness of understanding why female heirs were not giving real estate and how this new component of needing a Dragon Keeper (a person who can hear and see dragons) is just as relevant as the old rules for the entailled property to go to a male heir. She takes the traditions of the story itself and then re-visualises how it can become augmented into a dragon society living adjacent and cohabitating with the humans who reside here. I found it wicked brilliant!

-quoted from my review of Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon

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BEST INSPY Contemporary Women’s Fiction:

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish by Bethany Turner

This was one of the books I received when I hosted a few blog tours for JustRead which is a primary touring company for INSPY Lit. The tour I had joined to recieve a copy of the novel was a promotional tour wherein you created your own book photography to share on social media – wherein it is featured as a ‘takeover’ tour on your social profile. It was the first of this kind of tour and I was curious about how it would work out. All in I admit I had quite a bit of fun with this one and I had meant to begin reading the novel shortly after I hosted the takeover tour; however, as 2020 would continue to vex me with disinterest in reading (as I binge watched far, far more tv series this year than books I’ve read!) – this one came into my hands and heart during my *favourite!* INSPY readathon in the Summer.

From that first moment I started to read this lovely novel – I was hooked! Which was partially due to the narrator in my ears and partially due to the author herself, Bethany Turner! The combination of the two together is golden – just like the simbiotic connection Rachel Amphlett and her narrator Alison Campbell share with the Kay Hunter series! (which is a series I cannot get enough of!) As you will see in my review and in this quoted portion of it – Hadley Beckett made my year! Golly, I wish there were a SEQUEL.

What endeared me the most about how Turner wrote Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is that if you needed a wicked respite from everyday life, this is a novel writ in a tone of narrative that not only makes you feel like you’re on a self-directed holiday but you can’t help but soak into her words, the twists of phrase she uses to illuminate the drama and to feel yourself relaxing into the story. If you are blessed to be able to hear this story in audiobook with the delightfully brilliant Aimee Lilly its a sweetened journey for you because Ms Lilly performs as if this were a one woman play bringing to life every nuanced moment of the story and giving you a narration that feels larger than life! I loved the intimacy of this performance – of how Lilly hugged so dearly close to the words of Turner and how in combination of each other, they built this beautifully sophisticated world ‘behind’ not only celebrity chefs and the cookery arts but behind how the path for any woman to find success in a field of men is one incredible Mt Everest to climb!

For a girl who watched every incantation of Law and Order (save one “Trial by Jury”) – I was smirking like you wouldn’t believe when Turner used this as both a frame of reference and as a marker of how time might take its passage in our lives but sometimes tv series regenerate themselves to ride out the waves of time with us! When she started referencing top Food Network chefs like Emeril, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray – honestly, I was full of smirks! Mind you, I think it helps if you’ve been binge watching that network for over two decades now (*cough* like a certain book blogger) as you gain a lot through observing their individual personalities and how fittingly real her side humour is about them, too! Turner has found that beautiful balance between etching out living reality and fictional realism to where the two become brilliantly blurred together in one harmonious symphony of insight!

When Turner takes you through the needle threading us closer to the heart of what turnt Max into the Max Hadley herself couldn’t stand to be round into the Max Hadley had trouble recognising as er, Max? is a feat of genius. She doesn’t rush anything about this new incantation of a bloke we all felt we knew and gave us a firm set of reasons why sometimes its hard to tell which rattish bloke is a rat and which bloke simply needs to find a new chapter to call his own. The ways in which she captured both of those characters – the slow soothing pacing of getting inside their hearts, heads and emotional states countered against how they interacted with each other was some of the best sequences of the story for me. Just to follow in Turner’s footsteps as she took us through my least favourite tropes of Romance (ie. enemies to lovers) and gave me a reason to engage with a plot that truly left me wanton for more! Especially more time with Hadley and Max,.. sequel anyone!?

I loved how Turner gently tucked in both life lessons and Hadley’s walk in faith into the background of the storyline. For all the humour within the telling of this story, there is a heap of heart and a firm grounding of a faithful resolve built on the hope of what life can bring as long as you remain open and adaptive. One of my favourite kinds of INSPY stories are the ones which showcase faith in the everyday hours of life being lived and Turner excels at this style!

At the same time what was such a refreshing change for me was the innocent and clean humour! Every pop cultural reference felt as if it had spun itself into this novel by extracting those tidbits out of my own life’s history! I mean, she even mentioned The Golden Girls! It was wicked wonderful seeing all of these points of references – yet it took me nearly til the end of the novel to realise the reason I was as hugged inside this novel as much as I were is because someone shared my generation and thereby it was an interpersonal novel from that perspective above and beyond how much I loved the story itself. It is a rare treat to share so much with a writer who writing Contemporary Romances – from INSPY or mainstream markets and thus, my memories of #HadBeck will endure long after I’ve finished the experience of reading and hearing this story via the narration of Ms Lilly!

-quoted from my review of Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

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BEST INSPY Contemporary Romance (tie):

His Daughter's Prayer by Danielle Thorne

I was delighted to cross paths with Danielle Thorne this year – as she gave me the chance to read and review two of her novels. Her debut with Love Inspired on the Contemporary Romance side of their imprint (as read more of their Suspense line than their Contemporaries these last few years) and her very first Regency romance Josette.

There is a lot of reasons why I felt so dearly anchoured into the setting, the community and the lives of her lead characters within His Daughter’s Prayer. A lot of that praise is directed at how Thorne anchoured us into her story and how she’s illuminated this world so well as to grant us the impression we’ve lived there for awhile alongside her characters to where it is as readily familiar to us as it is to them. I also knew this novel deserved a sequel or rightly, a series of its own and blessedly my instincts were rewarded with a lovely surprise in regards to the future of this community and the characters within it.

I appreciated the immediacy of connecting with Callie – you have such a strong scope of who she is and why she is meeting us at this junction of her life within the first few pages of His Daughter’s Prayer. I appreciate this smooth transition into Callie’s life and world because you don’t have to hunger after the details to help you fully feel connected to the heroine of the story and you can also identify with her motivations of relocating, re-identifying herself and pursuing a new path in a towne she knows intimately well. It was for that immediate reaction I had wherein I knew this could become expanded into a series. Interestingly enough, this was also brought up during our #SatBookChat discussion wherein this story was pitched to become a series and only time will see if that becomes a reality. I, for one, would love to continue living in this world Ms Thorne has created because it is a wholesome community with down to earth characters and the beauty of starting over and coming home.

As I read His Daughter’s Prayer, the story felt as if it had been with the author for a very long time – although having spoken to the author during #SatBookChat, I know the fuller truth of how quickly this story was knitted together and then published. It feels like a story meant to be told and one that was fully realised as it was been created which is a credit to Thorne. She has good instincts on how to write an INSPY Contemporary Romance in the same vein of my beloved Harlequin Heartwarming novelists – the story she’s created in this INSPY Rom is the kind of story you long after because it refreshes your spirit. I definitely hope this will lead to more Love Inspired INSPY Contemporaries or even Suspense by Ms Thorne – whether they are connected to Ragland or not, I’d be keen to read them!

With watery eyes and a full heart, I read the Author’s Note at the conclusion of the story and found myself with a keen bit of insight into why this story felt as real to me as it did! Ms Thorne tapped into a part of her own soul and heart and left it inside this novel. She put a lot of herself into the story and a lot of her personal wanderings into the aesthetic of what became the towne and setting. This went a long way towards feeling emotionally rooted into the storyline and wanting dearly to know they’d be a sequel due to how wonderfully enriching it was to read a story that has lived such a wonderful life in our hearts and imagination. This is an author to keep your eye on dear hearts, there are many wonderful stories yet to be read from Ms Thorne!

-quoted from my review of His Daughter’s Prayer

and

Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson

Magnolia Storms was a novel I had won in a previous cycle of the Christian Fiction Reading Safari and a book which has remained on my bookshelf ever since – unread until Summer, 2020. I almost felt it was kismet how the story re-entered my life this year because it seemed meant to be read now vs awaiting another time entirely! It was also interesting how reading this story lead-in to hosting the author during @SatBookChat and how through tweeting with the author I discovered another INSPY novelist (Victoria Bylin) of whom I was starting to read novels by and also hosted during @SatBookChat!

This is one of those brilliantly immersive stories you simply cannot put down once you’ve begun reading it. It hugs close to your soul and your heart – you ache for these characters because you want them to have a better ending than they had a beginning and more than anything – you simply cannot take your eyes off the pages! I loved how this began a series and also how it became one of my most #unputdownable reads this 2020 which I had on my shelf!

You see – this wasn’t a book I received for review consideration – it was a bookaway I had won and a story which completely etched itself into my bookish heart. I’d like to hope I can make more discoveries like this one as the New Year arrives and read more of the books on my shelves to see what else waits me like this lovely hidden gem of a novel!

What I loved most about how Ferguson approached writing the opening novel for this series is how realistically authentic it felt about how she wrote the emotional drama percolating behind the scenes as they were unfolding. It is one thing to speak the truths about what those hidden emotional scars could elude to after Katrina but Ferguson found a way to knit us closer to those realities and to those wounds which survivors might still be reckoning to resolve even today. Our minds have long memories for things which devastate our lives and erase the familiarity of what made living a life worthwhile. Pain and loss take time to reconcile but when your constantly on edge about the ‘next’ storm which could approach your region, I would imagine it would be soul wrecking to find your own sense of balance and to re-affirm a bit of normalcy in order to move forward. Ferguson tucks you close to what is affecting her characters’ both internally and externally to give a sense of depth and perception about where we are entering their lives but also to feel their emotions and their unresolved angst.

Each INSPY author chooses to show how faith can be integral to a person’s life and how living a faith-lived life will look like through the telling of a story through a novel. I truly admired the instincts Ferguson was using – especially at the very beginning wherein we find Maggie (ie. Magnolia) trying to calm herself down with a short and direct prayer in the car. It is those small moments of ordinary complications which root you in the contemporary feel of the novel – because life happens in a blink and sometimes a shorter prayer is better than feeling you can’t settle your mind on one at all. The stories which tuck us close to the character’s journey through their moment of adversity and how they leant on their faith to shift through that adversity are the stories I enjoy the most to read.

I liked how she kept the children in the story (Cammie’s daughter Dahlia, age ten and Josh’s son JD age three) to be believable for their ages. To oft I find authors trying to accelerate a child’s age in a story or have them talk in a way that seems older than their years. Blessedly in Magnolia Storms the children sound and act like their ages which is wicked wonderful. They also add to the context of the story and have insight of their own to impart to the adults which makes this feel like a homespun INSPY at the height of an emergency crashing through one family whose still trying to find healing from their traumatic past.

In the background of the timeline of this story, we have weather and climate metaphoric revelations etching out through how Maggie views her life, the moments therein and how climatically there is a cycle to both life and weather. Concurrent to this are heartwarming passages wherein Ferguson ties her continuity and nuanced in-story references together as well. She has a way of tucking into the quieter moments of a story in the same vein as Hope Floats (the film) – little moments other authors might have omitted or overlooked to include – such as the repeat aroma of a spilled dinner on the floor of Maggie’s car.

-quoted from my review of Magnolia Storms

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BEST Middle Grade Fantasy:

During #WyrdAndWonder every May for the past three years, I’ve strived to focus on Indie Authors and Self Published authors who are writing the kinds of Fantasy stories I desire most to be reading as a reader. I love showcasing these authors on Jorie Loves A Story year round across multiple genres of interest but for Wyrd And Wonder as we’re celebrating Fantasy, my focus is on this particular genre.

During #WyrdAndWonder Year 3 it was a runaway year for reading Middle Grade Fantasy! I had 3x authors who kindly sent me their novels to read and each of them was wholly appreciated, devoured and loved for different reasons. I consider them amongst my top favourite reads of the year and this is why they are being focused on now during my Cuppa Book Love Awards on Jorie Loves A Story.

The reason this section is heavy on winners within the category is because each story represented in this category had a different entrance into the Middle Grade Fantasy realms! Each was so individualistically unique and wicked brilliant in their own right – it made it easy to realise it was a cross-win for this category for each of the stories! I loved all of them dearly for different reasons and it is an honour to honour them in return for the #bookJOY they gave me as I read them!!

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Esme's Wish by Elizabeth Foster

Starting with Esme’s Wish, this is the #dragonfiction story I’ve been aching to read ever since I first discovered Redheart and concluded reading the Leland Dragon series. It doesn’t happen very often when I become so wholly attached within a dragon world such as the one presented by Ms Foster within this world she’s created for us and Esme! I remained in contact with her and I will be reading the sequel to this lovely novel in 2021 as after I tried a few times to reconnect to this world, my IRL adversities and health afflictions made connecting impossible at the times I was attempting to read it.

However, what was so visually stimulating about this world she’s given us is how authentically true it is to read. This is a fantastical realm but it has such a firm sense of self and grounding about it – you nearly forsake it for our actual world than the world in which it is in the fantastical side of the ledger! I loved her emotional etchings behind her characters and how this world is also fractured in its own rights and needs to have some healing within it. There is so much to love and I could definitely see a younger Fantasy reader truly feeling as if they had ‘gone home’ to live next o Esme with this story!

As Foster starts to pull us closer into her Fantasy – where the ordinary bits of this world start to fall into the fantastical – she does it with a measure of grace for being artfully intuitive to Esme. The girl is awash in grief and although she doesn’t dissolve completely in a state of unrest – she has the added burdens of being charged into a new family environment which psychologically is causing its own kind of harm. I appreciated how we started to ‘shed’ the tether this part of Esme’s world had on her as we re-shift forward into where the fantastical starts to intercept with her path. It was here as we gently make those changes in perspective we see how Foster is guiding us towards understanding more about the history of Esme’s Mum’s life and the women of her family as well. There is a strong sense of lineage and familial ties leading us backwards in time as if we are unravelling her living histories bit by bit and gaining empathy and compassion for her family as we do.

Esme lived in an archipelago – a series of islands wherein the ocean was not just her closest comfort but it was also the lifeblood of this area. I’ve been drawn to stories set round these locales in the past and I personally love reading about the ocean and/or the mountains (as both are of equal delight) whenever I am visually being taken elsewhere in a story – however, this world has a hidden veil to it. Where you can feel the truth of what is here but you cannot yet see it for yourself. It hides in the shadows of what people are saying and what they are holding back from disclosing – or to put it in a more contemporary way, it is almost as if Esme’s great-grandmother Lucinda, her Mum Ariane and Esme herself are part of a community of whom see a different part of reality. Either that, or they are not of this world at all and are trying to blend in wherein they simply have to find courage to be themselves.

There are riders of dragons in this world, too. Their known as Rangers – I personally wanted to get to know what it was like to be in their positions – to have that kind of relationship with the dragons and what their lives must be like – which is why I’m hopeful in the sequel Esme’s Gift perhaps this part of the world might be explained a bit more in detail. Either that, or perhaps there is a third installment wherein we can learn more about dragons and Rangers? Honestly – I could re-visit Aeolia for a very long time and multiple installments would be wicked brilliant!

As I reached into this world to see where it would take me, I was left with a reverence for loyalty, determination and the courage of how if you remain pure in your pursuit of something you’re seeking a resolution you are not expecting could become your future blessing. It is a world crafted by the Gods of Greek lore – of a world far removed from its own origins but not too far removed to where their traditions are still intact. It is a world on the brink of being found – if for the first time in a way that befits its own legacy. In essence, if you pull back the layers of the story where Esme fits into the timeline, you’ll find Aeolia has something remarkable to share with you.

I have been attracted to wordsmiths for most of my readerly life – especially the ones who have a bit of poetic delivery in how they tell their stories. For me, I found Foster’s voice within Esme’s Wish refreshing because of how it arched through a narrative which is realistically set in a world similar to our own and delivers you into the heartache of a young girl who aches for information about her long lost mother. Foster has found a way to emotionally bridge the gap of absence from Esme’s mother to Esme herself now in the present by etching out how a mother can still be a paramount influence on her daughter’s life even if she isn’t physically with her anymore. You immediately connect with Esme because of how Foster wrote her introduction to her life – there is an immediate emotional pull which gives you a buoyancy into her story.

Foster has this enveloping effect on her readers – she tucks you into her story as if you’ve already been living inside it, gently encouraging you into new pages and giving you reasons to stay hugged into the fantastical journey you’re about to discover. What I loved most though is how the Fantasy bits of her story were simply there in the background of Esme’s story, giving you beautiful glimpses of how reality and Fantasy are not wholly separate entities but can become a merger of a living experience. She also set this story with the backdrop of a lighthouse and his keeper (Esme’s father) and I have been charmed by lighthouses and their histories for years. There was always something a bit magical about them – how they served sentry over the seas, helped guide sailors to port and were a beacon of hope which might feel lost in the ruts and undercurrents of life.

Foster has this way of using words and visual imagery I personally love to find – how she chooses to use her style of descriptive narrative to articulate not only an emotion or an action but a sense of what is happening within Esme’s sphere is wicked brilliant. For instance, she can take a seemingly normal storm on approach and turn it into a interesting metaphoric shift in perspective about how clouds can behave like certain animals who are having a bit of a dust-up of their own. It is these kinds of visuals and exploratory nudges which re-illuminate this world as your reading. You cannot help but feel hugged by a master storycrafter.

-quoted from my book review of Esme’s Wish

AND

The Monster Apprentice by Felicity Banks

Originally Odyssey Books reached out to me on Twitter and mentioned this might be a wicked good fit for me as a reader. However there was a bit of a delayed response on my end due to various reasons and when I reconnected with the publisher, we collaborated with how I could host their authors with a series of guest features (ie. interviews and guest posts) during #WyrdAndWonder whilst I might be able to read and review a few of their stories. This was the first novel I was able to confirm to receive to read and review during the event in May, 2020.

Uniquely the Indie publisher soon became a fast new favourite of mine and I wished I had had the ability to purchase the other books I featured during #WyrdAndWonder as I would have loved to have read each and every one of them as I truly connected to the authors I hosted through their guest features as much as I loved reading both The Monster’s Apprentice and Esme’s Wish.

Part of the reasons I loved reading this story is because of how water-centred it is and how the sea plays such a strong role within the timeline. This is a world built on what it can survive and thrive off of from the sea traders and the limitations of what can be forged on the island itself. You cannot be afraid of water or ice; as you’re completely consumed by both here and yet, there is a quietness about the world, too. There are passages of thoughtfulness where the natural world is shown to be in close kinship to Dance and her people whilst the sea and the ice are respected for how dangerous they can become for humans who live here.

The life lessons Banks etched into the background of this story I believe would inspire younger readers to recognise that even at their young ages, there are still moments where they can have influence and a say about what happens in their lives. The key lesson is that everyone can choose how they react and how they act in times of uncertainty. I appreciated how she anchoured the life lessons into the fabric of how she first introduced us into this trilogy whilst it was how she phrased the narrative in descriptive revelations which was a treat to read.

At the heart of this story is the coming-of age transition Dance is undergoing as she starts to emerge from childhood into adulthood. She has to sort through what her mind and her heart are telling her are the truths of the situations she is experiencing whilst she has to find the balance between the duties of her people and the will survive against the odds she has to overcome. Similar to Weaponry not believing she had any self-worth anymore since the weapons were removed, Dance also has a struggle within herself to accept her own talents and her own wisdom.

Banks does a wonderful job of keeping this first installment beautifully connected on her characters and on the priming of our introduction to their ice and sea world. Things are not quite as you expect them to be here – there are hints of magic, of intrigue and of binding bargains which may in the end be worse than their initial acceptance. Each person here – young or old alike has to find their own individual truth and path; similar to life, everyone is working through their own headspace and has to find the courage to be a bit braver than they feel.

One of my favourite features of this novel are the Heest – mostly because Banks keeps us in the dark for most of the novel about their truer nature and how they operate as a species. There is far more to the Heest than what is presumed and that is the true beauty of their kind for me. I’d love t see how this trilogy continues to develop – especially if we can entreat more into the magical perimeters of the world and the concepts of how those magical extras operate within a place that is a rather harsh physical environment of both ice and sea.

-quoted from my review of The Monster Apprentice

AND

Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven by Owen Crane

This was quite the extraordinary find for me this #WyrdAndWonder, as when I was seeking out Indie Authors to showcase and/or read or review during the fantastical event in May, 2020 – Mr Crane found me and I had the chance to read his first installment of the Dawnhaven series. Similar to The Monster’s Apprentice I wasn’t sure what I was going to find inside the chapters of the novel as both were written such wickedly differently than most Middle Grade Fantasies that I was wicked thankful I could read such lovely entries in MGFantasy during #WyrdAndWonder this past year.

Whilst I read the novel, Owen Crane also was a guest author on @SatBookChat when #WyrdAndWonder tookover #SatBookChat, along with Felicity Banks who wrote The Monster’s Apprentice.

I enjoyed how Crane organised his novel – how we first get to alight onto the stage where Ariella is receiving the gift of passage – of hearing her name announced and realising that for her at this moment in her life, she’s about to enter into a different chapter of her life wherein she has lost favour with her mother. It is a unique perspective because generally speaking we do not oft have children and young adults her age in a title role where they can not just voice their independent thoughts (which some might mistake for rebellion) but to own those choices and those thoughts to confidently rise out of those moments to take-on their parents as they assert their independence and free will.

What was further interesting is the oath the Guardians must vow to protect, uphold and honour during their five year Quest to becoming a Guardian themselves. It is an oath which speaks of loyalty and of honour; of choosing to let Light* and steel (methinks swords?) guide them and be their closest companions whilst finding duty and hope in the journey they are currently undertaking. It was such an intriguing ceremony – where each paired boy and girl from each of the five kingdoms was matched into a grouping called a ‘Knot’ as those groups would remain together through the five years as they made their path through Dawnhaven. Each group had 10 sojourners which represented the five kingdoms as well. I’m not a student of numerology but there is a critical case for numerology in this world as the number 5 is represented well!

The whole purpose behind the Guardians evokes a beautiful back-history of this world. The reason behind the splitting of the kingdoms and the reasons why the Guardians in of themselves are the peacekeepers of this world. I truly loved how Crane allowed different characters to approach relating this to Ariella and her Knot; to give them equal voice and opportunity to mentor the Knot themselves and to showcase why they feel there is a steadfast important to maintaining the order of the Guardians.

-quoted from my review of Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven

AND:

The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria Walker

I am unsure how I missed hearing about the Sebastian and Melissa series of stories when I was younger as I was a Fantasy appreciator at a very young age – as my top favourite films were Pete’s Dragon, The Neverending Story and although it scared me in places Willow. As soon as I learnt of this blog tour, I felt mesmorised by what the story might yield and the world in which I might have the chance to explore – it is hard to even put into words the experience I had with this audiobook as it was a magical entreaty into a fantastical realm which reached past what can be reasonably explained which is the best part of Fantasy! To encourage you to accept the unknowns and take a very extraordinary journey into somewhere ‘else’!!

Walker plunges you into this world of mystery and magic with such an ease of alignment, you wonder why you’ve not yet traversed through her lens of enchantment sooner! From the nuanced details about the ways in which she built Sebastian’s world – to the foods his cook prepared for him to the more curious details how his life and world was now co-merging into another world’s dilemma. You found connection through the details but she also encouraged you to think further outside the box of what is unthinkable and plausible to imagine. She acts as the guide to give your imagination good folly to exercise its limits and I love her for it!

As I was listening to the story – I saw moments of familiarity within the story – of how it was being told and some of the entanglements of the magical bits of the world. I felt it had a brilliant cross matching of themes and events which could be pulled straight out of The Neverending Story and Jumanji and yet, I wasn’t sure if those stories were writ first or second to this one. Whichever way round, the beauty of course is recognising certain themes and story threads whilst finding a wonderful new world to entreat inside which plays by its own rules.

I liked how the story was ahead of its time showcasing the differences in boys and girls – and how girls should be seen on equal grounds with each other. Whilst at the same time, I liked how cheeky the fourth wall was broken in some places like when there is a point in the story where the focus is off of Sebastian and Melissa and the reader is acknowledged. I love how subtle this was done and how well those moments fit within the context of the story itself.

One of the best blessings though is her command of language and phrases – she has such a firm presence of wordsmithing this series into a wonderful display of descriptive narrative and sharp bursts of dialogue – the whole story simply feels alive on its own accord. You can almost feel the leaves which are part of Autumnus and you definitely feel like giving a big hug to each of the Seasonal Guardians Sebastian had met on his journey.

I was not quite prepared for how this story ended as I had a feeling there was going to be a surprise ending and I was happily entertained by the conclusionary chapters! However, in reflection of the ending – both in the final showdown with the Enchanter (whom I felt might have been slighted a bit as Sebastian and Melissa stole the scenes!) and the after effects of the resolution when Sebastian re-entered his life and world – were brilliantly etched out of a journey I am so thankful to have taken! Your heart is hugged so closely to the ending moments of the story though! I could barely breathe – urging Bretton to reveal more of the plot and the curious tangents of intrigue at the end as I wasn’t sure if I could wait any longer to find the revelations! It was with such bated breath I waited for the ending and then, upon realising what had happened or was happening rather – I was could do nothing but smile.

Walker wrote not just a satisfying adventurous Portal Fantasy but she endeavoured to give us a lovely bout of Suspense with her fantastical journey, too! I shall not soon forget Mantari, Sebastian or Melissa! This is a Fantasy all readers of the genre need to experience for themselves as it beautifully encaptures everything which Fantasy has even given to me as a reader, as an experiencer of fantastical worlds and as a deep appreciator of the genre itself. It will enrapture your imagination with so much stimulus and wonderment, I daresay you will be equally a loss for words at its conclusion as I am myself!

-quoted from my review of The Winter of Enchantment

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BEST Historical Fantasy
: sub-focus Feminist Histfic
with an LGBTQ+ character lead:

Merchants of Milan by Edale Lane

I am unsure I realised at the time I received this novel how much I would enjoy diving into the Night Flyer Trilogy. One of the mash-ups in genre I am an easy sell for are when you combine Historical Fiction with Fantasy or when you alter History into a new variant of Speculative Fiction or entreat into bridging Science into what I refer to as Sci-Fantasy or in this regard Historical Sci-Fantasy with a brilliant Feminist bent LGBTQ+ character lead at the helm of a Historical Suspense series!

This is one of those novels which is hard to place in genre because it owns its own genre and space on the shelf! I love the instincts Lane used to tel this story but also how she credited a lot of what went into the stories stems from her own curiosities in History and the knowledge she gained by what she studied in school. She interweaves quite a bit of historical artifacts of life into the background of the series, too. Such as how Leonardo da Vinci is a credit to the series – yet he isn’t theoretically physically present within it. You’ll have to read it to find out how he’s ‘there’ without being ‘there’ per se!

By the time the sequel Secrets of Milan came out and I was able to read an advanced manuscript ARC of it – I was seriously ready for the conclusion within Chaos in Milan!

If I had hadn’t been listening to the Ruriatarian Rogues series, it might have taken me a bit longer to get started in this story – however, Lane’s writing style and her foundation of setting down the bones of her trilogy mirror Richard Storry’s series. They both allow you to see their villains before their heroes – where there is this oppressive notation of power inclusive to their worlds. Here, Lane is reflecting on how due to the right of place as a merchant of Milan and the legacy of wealth attached to that position, a person in this world believes themselves to be as untouchable as Storry’s characters! Both writers happily love using poison as the conveyor of death – whilst they each have their own distinctive styling of re-alighting us into a Historical Fantasy Suspense narrative!

When we first saw the map in Maddie’s brother’s study it was an apt reminder of what was known in this timescape and what was left undiscovered. None of the Americas were represented because at that point in time, they were a mere questionable void – they knew it was the Pacific but what of it? What was contained within the largeness of that particular ocean? You had to smile as you contemplated what it must have been like to only have half the world charted and known; with a fuller gap of the rest of the continents and countries – just shrouded from sight and knowledge and yet, lingering awaiting their first discoveries.

There is a secondary focus on the villain’s family – wherein his wife Daniella and his daughter Agnese are discussing their health and how the mother feels that perhaps her own health was destroyed by the personal care products she had been using ahead of her own health’s decline. Products such as cosmetics and hair dye – which I felt were a fitting reference, as in other historical narratives it is revealled how toxic those products were to be used and how uninformed people were of what they were actually using on their hair and face. It was also a stark contrast to today’s world where there is still a misalignment with safety when it comes to personal care products and cosmetics overall.

I loved how approachable Lane made this world – you took up residence in the story as soon as it began – with the presumption of a horrid man getting away with a despicable truth and wherein two women join together to take-on the conspiracy of injustice they both mutually shared. I loved the descriptions of the objects in the novel, too, from Florentina’s father’s clock to how Lane wanted you to have a fuller appreciation for the engineering and production of things in this world.

-quoted from my review of Merchants of Milan

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BEST Adult Fantasy : subniche Dark Fantasy

Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee

Uniquely, when the blog tour came round for Kings and Daemons, I hadn’t quite had my druthers together to share my review. As I had come off a bad migraine and hadn’t even remembered I was meant to read this novel that particular week! A kind nudge by Justine @ Storytellers on Tour allowed me the grace of a two day window in order to read, ruminate and post my review on behalf of the story itself.

I was thankful for the small extension and for the message of concern by the touring company as I had come to love hosting for Storytellers on Tour. The key issue then had been the fact, this is one of the first years where my worst of the worst migraines was starting to rob me of my short term memory in such a capacity as I was forgetting blog tours!

Having said that, I was also a bit unsure what to expect within one of my first Dark Fantasy novels which caught my eye to read. As I digested the story, saw the world-building and drew close to the characters Lee has created, I felt spellbound by the novel. Which was interesting because I took some issues with the heavier handed layers of violence and a few other flies in my ointment – though in truth, those didn’t deter me from finishing the story! Ergo, this was a second challenging read for 2020 and one I enjoyed to the brink I’m spearheading a RAL for it during @WyrdAndWonder Year 4 in May, 2021.

I was truly bewitched and enchanted by how Lee has writ this novel – you feel so dearly rooted to both Maya and Taran whilst your reading that you can barely notice anything else in your own world after you’ve entered theirs! So much so, when Maya was being pursued by a hunger-mad pack of wolves it brought me back instantly to seeing The Neverending Story for the first time as a child and the terrifying moment where Atreyu has to defend himself against a wolf. Not since that cinematic moment have I found another writer whose writ such a harrowing account of predator vs prey when it involves a wild animal and a human. You are on the very edge of your seat as you want to encourage Maya as she flees for her life but then, at that moment where both instinct and hope seem lost – it is a battle of will to turn the pages and see what happened!

When Lee reveals another layer of Taran’s gift in that tavern it gave an interesting new spin on telepathy and how that skill set has more power behind the talent than what can be readily surmised by what telepathy can reveal to the person who has the gift. It was an interesting exercise about how sometimes the best way to diffuse a situation is not by taking the straight path towards that end but by taking a secondary option which has an even fuller response than the first action might have had itself! I loved how Lee balanced both the truths of this world he’s built – wherein the people are both war hungry and violently motivated to do the bidding of their King whilst at the same time, there are opposing forces coming into play from such unsuspecting warriors that it illuminates how sometimes heroes and heroines are not found where you think they are but they have the most incredible story to be told.

The character who I would have felt would have been the clear-cut antagonist for this story (Rakan) had much more to him than meets the eye. Yes his back-story tells a difficult story of survival and an equally hard to swallow path he took towards vigilante justice but when you see him showing mercy when it wasn’t asked of him and how his own perception of his life had become altered through the intervention of another – you saw that the lines between good and evil are more blurred than they are easily defined. A credit to Lee for spinning the script in front of us and surprising us by such a clever twist in the plot!

This is a cautionary tale about what you seek out and what is sought can become a worse nightmare than the reason behind why you sought what you did. In this instance there is an unleashing of demonic daemons which have a profound effect on both the King and the men who serve under him to the point that whomever they were in their former lives became erased by this exchange because the daemons in this world which were drawn from the gates of darkness itself were not benign but rather insidiously evil. Their own influence on these men provided their own solitary horrors and the only escape was through death. Death is both a penalty and a release of torture in the Ember Kingdom – it is widely used as the number act of punishment for whomever steps out of line as the magistrate herein is known as an overseer and trust me, that is not someone you want to cross! Why this King and his followers chose to seek such a dark entity to bring such a soulless and deathly pallor to cover this world thick and through is beyond me! You would have thought they might have come up with a better solution to their troubles but they instead went straight for the answer which was worse than any living nightmare they could have imagined!

I grieved before even Maya could grieve herself – of how challenging it was now for her to process the limitations of her gift and what her gift truly was about to give others who had forsaken her since she was a child. If nothing else – Lee had writ into her story a small churning of redemption when observers of her newfound fate realised something imperative – if what they witnessed was an act of healing how was that suddenly wrong and a measure of the dark arts? It was like her act of selflessness was a proving of a point within her community that not everything led to believe is true and sometimes the truth is muddled by what it is disguised as by others who are in power.

Similar to traditional stories of Sword and Sorcery plots Kings and Daemons leans heavy on the action sequencing and the repetitive fighting which ends in a bloodbath. The only difference is Lee has tempered the violent showdowns and only every now and then leads into a scene or passage I felt was a bit too much for me personally and I could have had those moments more glossed over than described. The fuller truth of it is that this is a war hungry world – everyone finds a reason to fight and if death is the end result so the better. It is a hard world to live in as a reader because of how its painted black with all the darkness erasing all the Light – a leftover effect of the daemons presence in the hearts of certain men and the insanity of behaviour on behalf of the Witch-King who has become overtaken by the worst of the daemons living in the Ember Kingdom.

-quoted from my review of Kings and Daemons

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BEST Contemporary New Adult Romance: (which uniquely is not an actively read subniche of genre I read!)

Formula for a Perfect Life by Christy Hayes

This novel truly surprised me – both for being a New Adult Romance and for giving me such a wicked good read! I am definitely a hard sell when it comes to New Adult – I’ve sampled a few of these over the years and tried to find my way into this subniche of interest across the genres I regularly read but generally speaking I lean on the Romances moreso than the other offerings. Evenso, very few give me such a wonderful read as this one did and I couldn’t be happier to have found the author Christy Hayes! She truly resets the standard in my mind.

What I liked about how Ms Hayes approached telling this story is that she roots you in the life of a University student as they are living their life – but not in a way that is either a) nauseatingly cliche or b) predictable to the point of boredom like too many stories I’ve read in the past. Instead, she presents a well-thought out scenario about how a girl from a good family gave into her emotions and the feelings of a singular night and choose to take a risk she felt wasn’t going to alter her future because in that one singular act she had acted with forethought even if the outcome was less than stellar from what she had hoped might be one reckless night in the midst of an ordinary semester.

Hayes tucks you close to the mindset and emotional state of Kayla – digging into her fears, her emotions and the ways in which her thought processes were trying to make sense of how altered her life was now that she had a confirmed pregnancy test in her hands. It was a moment that defines you and a moment where you have to sort yourself out before you can hope to move forward – something you could tell even Kayla’s roommates understood a bit before Kayla herself. Whilst at the same time, there is a definitive style in this novel – as Formula for a Perfect Life has the beauty of a Rom-Com within its folds – as it is told in a light-handed manner of exploring what a twenty-something college co-ed is going to to after a test is taken to determine her future. It is a novel hinging on Kayla’s actions and reactions to the test itself whilst everyone round her also has to react and adjust along with her – that in of itself was a bit genius as it takes the films I loved previously to a new area of enlightenment. Where the characters are younger, not quite as seasoned on life and still find themselves in a bit of a pickle when it comes to sorting out love, parenthood and the artful imbalance of romance and life!

One reason I like to read upcoming voices in Contemporary INSPY Romance is because of the changing ways the voice of the market is able to yield a wide field of narratives giving us a better grounded array of stories, characters and sequencing of stories to read. I sometimes find some of the authors’ have a style which is hit or miss for me personally, but I love the ability to seek them out all the same. With Hayes, I feel a bit vindicated that my openness to seek out new authors of Contemporary INSPY was well-placed because she’s struck the balance I was hoping to find with the ability to carve out a wicked good Contemporary Romance!

-quoted from my review of Formula for a Perfect Life

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBEST Contemporary Romance:

I ought to be add a note about how much I love Harlequin Heartwarming as an imprint series of the publisher Harlequin Books (of which merged in recent years with a Top 5 publisher but for me it will always be ‘Harlequin’). I had forgotten I had discovered this imprint on my own when I read my first Karen Rock novel as I more recently remembered I had been nudged kindly by Tressa @ Prism Book Tours to give Heartwarming a chance as she felt it might become a wicked good fit for me as a reader who loves relationship-based Romances. She couldn’t have been more right – because of her encouragement, I started accepting blog tours featuring Harlequin Heartwarming novels and their authors.

This is how I discovered the Rocky Mountain Cowboys (by Karen Rock) and of course, the Blackwell family written by five authors who are curating a series of stories I am especially grateful to have found. I also read them individually with their own series within Heartwarming as much as I love their serial collaboration with the Blackwells (Brothers first, Sisters second and I hope Cousins are next!). Aside from those lovelies, I’ve come to know Claire McEwen who has such a wonderful sense about how to infuse realistic environmental concerns and cowboy romance stories into her writings as much as Cathy McDavid has with surprising us with an extra story I we hadn’t expected to conclude her Sweetheart Ranch series this past 2020.

Each Heartwarming novelist I come to know and read is a special treat of bookish joy because I love the realistic instincts these authors have in telling honest and authentically real modern love stories whilst at the heart of them all are family, friends, community and the building of a relationship. It is something I have always loved and sought out of Romance and am thankful I have come to rally behind Harlequin Heartwarming due to how wicked wonderful these stories are an uplift of joy to read every year in a similar vein as Love Inspired Suspense which I read in tandem with my Mum.

I was not surprised quite a few of these lovelies made my top favourites of the year and you’ll soon find out what stood out about each of them as I give you a quote from my reviews. The highlight of 2020 though was truly being able to bridge my love of Harlequin Heartwarming into hosting @SatBookChat wherein I featured Claire McEwen and the authors behind the new sequel series #BlackwellSisters: Carol Ross, Melinda Curtis, Anna J. Stewart, Cari Lynn Webb and Amy Vastine.

Second Chance for the Single Dad by Carol Ross

Carol Ross is one of the Harlequin Heartwarming authors I’ve felt connected to through her stories – as she has such a keenly realistic styling about her series; from the way she crafts the back-histories of her characters, to the settings she chooses and the ways in which she gives you an emotional tug of narrative. I was not surprised to find myself bemused by Rhys and wanting to find a way to distract Camille off the disappointments of having to have multiple jobs just to make ends meet or at least the illusion of it. Camille definitely needed a few more friends to commiserate with and Rhys just needed a firm nudge to get himself out of his own headspace for awhile!

In so many regards, Second Chance for the Single Dad is a potboiler of a drama waiting to reach the point where all the parties involve have to take a firm look at each other and decide what is the best course of action to take knowing all the details of what brought them together. You have one family pitted against another due to a custody battle and on the other hand, you have a woman whose trying to em-better her future by what she can achieve in the present. Both situations require a bit of dexterity and gumption because neither side wants to yield – Camille is fiercely independent and is working actively towards her own personal goals whilst Rhys has a reason to be protective of his private life and affairs. It is how Ross chooses to take you through their lives and to show how resolution can come in unexpected ways which gives you the best uplift of all to read the story!

What I loved about how Ms Ross paced this novel is how she let you get into Rhys and Camille’s lives – Camille is holding back a bit from Rhys and he’s befuddled in such a cleverly keen way because he doesn’t understand what is holding Camille back – that in of itself was ingenious because Rhys has this personality for being single-minded and all-inclusive to himself. It would be fitting for him to be set-up in this way (so to speak) if only to teach him a lesson about sociability and how to properly interact with others which is definitely his downfall.

Ross expertly moves through the trickier parts of grief and the long reaches of how grief can affect people’s judgement of each other. At the heart of this story is the tragic loss of a young woman’s parents and how that has a ripple effect on those left behind. It is a story rooted in having a convicting belief in doing the right thing and knowing you are the right person to step into the shoes of those who have passed on in order to rise through the adversities of their absence to be of a benefit to the child they left in your care. What I felt was beautiful about how Ross approached telling the story is how muddling it is to sort yourself out in the process of trying to do the right thing and be the person someone else can lean on as you both find a path towards healing after such difficult loss.

-quoted from my book review of Second Chance for the Single Dad

and

An Alaskan Family Christmas by Beth Carpenter

I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard as I had when Natalie mistook a flag stop for a short respite from the train taking her to the city! Mind, I never heard of a flag stop either but I’m not from Alaska and I could see the pickle I’d be in if I ever did that myself! A bit like when you exit the interstate and realise there is no on-ramp to re-join the interstate and you’re basically re-routed through endless miles which take you so far off the mark of the map point you’ve left that you might as well make lemonade out of the extra hours of driving you’ve been forced to undertake! In that regard, a flag stop is something I could relate from my own travels on the road.

If you’re going to find yourself stranded in the dead of Winter during Christmastide, you might want to find yourself at that flag stop that would allow you to snowshoe yourself to the cabin Natalie found herself in with this family! She had kids, a Mum, an Uncle and a bloke who melts your heart along with a sister who was just grateful for her brother’s kindness during her time of adversity. The cabin was filled with the warmth of the season and homemade stew; with a studio out back and loads of snow and the kind of weather which makes you grateful for snow blowers, snowshoes and a dog which can pull a sled! To me it sounded like absolute blissitude – the best place to just turn off the world, snuggle in with your family and enjoy Christmas the old fashioned way where its just you, the natural world and the memories you create as Christmas starts to unfold. What more could you hope for over a season of blessed thanksgiving?

When it comes to Mums like Debbie, I had a sneaky suspicion she was more clued into the goings-on in this cabin than the persons involved in the situation! Laughs with mirth. Seriously though – she had an approachable personality, a golden heart and the kind of winsome attitude you’d hope to find if someone like Tanner randomly brought home an unexpected visitor to their Christmas cabin festivities! When it comes to Mums like Debbie, honestly I think they knit the truth together before anyone can even sort out the details of what lead to the happiness spinning itself into their lives and watching it unfold from a distance was absolute joy for me as a reader!! Especially as Debbie reminded me a lot of my Mum and how she’d have handled this situation herself!

And, then Carpenter adds in the old world arts and crafts and even I want to trek myself to this cabin! I mean what more can a girl hope to find in a family like this one!? I’ve heard of crewelwork but as a knitter I haven’t had the chance to explore the rest of the arts & crafts I desire to better understand. I know I want to learn the hypnotic art of spinning, the artistic way you can quilt and patch your memories into quilted stories and of course, there is so much dimension to fibre arts its hard to know what to chase after once I sort those two new paths out! Hence why I love reading or learning (via podcasters on YouTube) about new ones I haven’t yet stumbled into myself.

I fell hard for this family and for the warmth Carpenter brought into how she told this story – reading it was such a refreshing balm to my soul after such a long hard fight to get my health realigned recently. Curling inside the beauty of how Carpenter took two strangers and a Wintry backdrop situated in a state I have held such a fond affection for from afar is what I loved most about reading An Alaskan Family Christmas. In the end, all that matters is the family we love, the memories we create and the willingness to be open to the unexpected – to fully embrace life in whichever way it alights in our lives and to give ourselves the chance to welcome into our lives a relationship we never expected would arrive the day we were thinking about everything else but our own dreams for the future. This is the kind of heart-lifting romance to give yourself a treat during the holiday season – fully enraptured in the mirth of how serendipity and a bit of Christmas magic can sometimes give you the present you need at a time where you felt you couldn’t be surprised anymore!

-quoted from my review of An Alaskan Family Christmas

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BEST Western Contemporary Romance:
subniche Cowboy & Ranchers Romance series

After the Rodeo by Claire McEwen

I could not love this story more if there were better words to express my love of reading it – McEwen has captured me heart and soul by her realistic Heroes of Shelter Creek series which establishes a firm footing within Contemporary Western Romance for anchouring us in realistic lives being lead in today’s world which could readily be composites of persons we would recognise in our own everyday lives. I heart this series so much!

I loved the metaphoric healing prose of McEwen to relate directly to Vivian’s diagnosis and her keen ability to see the positives in life even when she had to face down her helicopter Mum who only wanted to wrap her in cotton away from the world. Vivian’s re-genesis was partially due to a change in both climate and environment; shifting from the East to the West Coast allowed her not to just change her zip and area codes (distancing herself from people she’d rather disconnect from right now) but it allowed her a chance to drink in a wholly new natural habitat which had a self-healing vibe emanating out of how its wide open landscape provided the kind of soul-immersion a woman whose going through a major life shift needed to have in order to find respite from her illness and the weight of how her life had fragmented in half. It is here where McEwen shined to give us a heartwarming bit of prose which shifted the focus off Vivian’s physicality limitations and replaced them with a purposeful look towards how we can fester on what we cannot change or we can choose to right our attitudes on what we can still achieve and accomplish. Attitude is everything.

I loved how realistically this story was penned – how McEwen tackled the harder topics of kinship placements wherein rather than seeing the world through your own eyes you have to start to see the world through foster care eyes – which comes with its own set of rules, restrictions and regulations about the home, your property and the friends you keep in your company. The rules are in place to keep the kids safe first and foremost but their a bit lengthy and the process towards a home study for any foster placement takes a lot of patience to work through the list of what needs to be fixed in order to pass inspection. Simple things like keeping medicine in a cabinet has to be stored in a locked cabinet and the same with cleaning supplies under the counter – but the larger issues are effectively what McEwen tackled with Jace’s friendship with Caleb. How this veteran who had invisible scars of service had a struggle with anger and his temper – something that was flagged by social services. These kinds of judgement calls are hard to process and to sort through whilst working towards the final acceptance by your social worker and I felt McEwen humbled Jace by having to juggle both his internal struggles as a new father and the responsibilities this presented as a foster kinship parent.

There is a conscience of environmentalism at the heart of this story as well – from conservation, preservation and the connectedness of the living ecosystem concurrently alive next to our own habitats of modern living. The natural world places a strong role in this novel as much as McEwen has found a way to re-adjust our understanding about wildlife and the curious ways in which nature ‘finds us’ when we least expect to be seen ourselves. One of my absolute favourite passages of any story which is pro-positively focusing on the environment and/or the natural world is within After the Rodeo. McEwen shared a notation about trees and how they use biochemical communication – it is by extension a theory of my own about the old soul murmurings of trees and how these stoic giants in our world say more as silent warriors against time than any word we could express ourselves about the amount of time they’ve witnessed. There is another saying about how if you spend time next to a tree it begins to whisper to you as well – trees have ancient wisdom and ancient knowledge; we’d be wise to respect them more than we do as a global society.

-quoted from my review of After the Rodeo

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BEST Scene Stealing Secondary Character
(Contemporary Romance):

A Ranger for the Twins by Tanya Agler

Ooh my dear stars! Caleb’s Mum stole the show for me! And, I loved her for it!! She had the most to lose and the most to gain but in the artful way Agler chose to give us a winning scene wherein Tina herself became the champion of her own story was the best moment of A Ranger for the Twins! It bespoke to the underlying theme of the story – about family, redemption and second chances – about rebuilding a life after the ashes have erased the past and of having the faithfulness of believing in the beauty of tomorrow! Ooh my goodness, what a wonderful toasting of mercy and the beautiful ways in which you can find yourself redeemed!

I loved the tender moments Agler created between the twins, Mattie and Ethan with their Mum, Lucie as she gave you this wonderful warm home and hearth setting wherein a young family was patchworking their way into a better tomorrow. The young twins respected each other and their Mum, whilst they also had quite a large collection of animals to care after which gave you a burst of smiles because of how eclectic they were in species! It was the kind of home where you’d feel comfortable on your first visit and might not want to leave too quickly because of how engaging the family was to everyone who graced their home. It was a wonderful burst of life and love and I loved discovering this side of Agler’s writing style.

I definitely have found a new series to keep my eyes on for Heartwarming! I know this series isn’t officially named or even declared but for me, Hollydale is my new favourite small towne I can’t wait to revisit!! Here’s to more installments and more lives being healed and restored through Agler’s vision for her growing community where hearts and lives intersect with a lot of love and hope! Agler has a style for Contemporary Romance which is smooth as key lime pie and as charmingly lovely to read as a cool Autumn afternoon.

-quoted from my review of A Ranger for the Twins

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BEST Ending of a Series:
(Western Contemporary Romance)

Her Cowboy Sweetheart by Cathy McDavid

One of the reasons I’ve grown attached to the Sweetheart Ranch series (and the Harlequin Heartwarming line overall) are the realistic story-lines which continuously greet me whenever I make a return visit. What is hard about letting go of this series is the fact once you take up residence inside a series you love reading its hard to simply ‘let go’ and ‘let live’ wherever you last see the characters and where they have gone with their lives. It would be great to re-visit this series again in the future (if the author is inspired to do so) and to rekindle the joy of the Sweetheart Ranch.

Having said that – I loved how this installment focused on some rather difficult topics and remained true to its core about how those who come to the Sweetheart Ranch find a way of renewing their spirits, finding second chances and have taken some unexpected twisted turns to arrive in this small towne and to intersect their path with the Sweetheart Ranch. Some might call that fate but the beauty of the series is how serendipitously McDavid wrote their lives. In particular for this novel – if Carly hadn’t taken a chance to distance herself from her ex, she might not have had the opportunity to run the boutique at the ranch nor to raise her son without the fear of what ‘could’ happen if she had staid with her husband. Percolating in the background of this sweet and idyllic setting are dramatic lives of people who are overcoming their circumstances and finding a true way forward even if the path didn’t feel as assured previously. We all need a bit of hope and encouragement at any given time and the Sweetheart Ranch series feels like such a brilliant lift of joy to be reading.

McDavid also brought in a particular kind of craft Carly could make to turn a profit – I loved the ingenuity of what Carly chose to be a creator of as it ties into her love of the ranch and the lifestyle of a single Mum who lives on a ranch. I felt she had the right kind of instincts you need to make it in this life whilst at the same time, it felt right that she and JD might want to hope for ‘more’ for themselves rather than shortchanging their chances at happiness.

I am unsure if I am ever fully prepared to ‘let go’ of a series I love reading – learning this was the final installment of the Sweetheart Ranch series was a bit difficult to process as I had a feeling there were more stories within this world yet to be told. Thankfully Ms McDavid hinted towards this being true for her as well – though there will be a pause in the stories being written. I loved how she let the door stand ajar – where this isn’t necessarily the ‘end of the end’ for the series but a moment for her to develop new stories and most likely a new series.

All I know is that I’m thankful I was able to take this journey with her and with my fellow PRISM book bloggers who’ve had the grace of blessing to be on the blog tours as the series released. It became a top favourite memory of mine as both a reader and as a book blogger because you do not oft get to see the growth of a writer and of a series as a book blogger. This will be one of those special memories of mine and I am truly grateful to be able to continue cheerleading on behalf of Ms McDavid’s writings – both now and wherever they take her next in her career. I cannot wait to see future announcements about the new characters and stories she’s currently working on to release!

-quoted from my review of Her Cowboy Sweetheart

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BEST Sequel Anchour Story: (this anchours the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series to the Blackwell Sisters series with brilliant continuity between both series)

Montana Welcome by Melinda Curtis

One of the reasons I felt so deeply attached to the original series for the Blackwells were the layers of loveliness within the stories – from the drama of family, to the case for redemption and of course, those cheekified moments of humour which knit themselves between the scenes and sequences wherein your growing more attached to the characters who are at the centre of the current story in the series. Curtis has brilliant instincts in how to begin this second series of installments as we all have the chance to hug close to the Harrison-Blackwell sisters and find out what makes them who they are in the wider scheme of their world and the world of the Blackwells.

The best way to put anyone in a situation they cannot control is to have someone else in charge of their activities and that is exactly what Curtis did with Lily! As evidenced by the humour and the realistic manner in which Curtis proposed Connor being Lily’s chaperone after being handed off by Big E is what makes this such a charmingly sweet romance.

She purposefully found a way to get her taken out of her living environment with her sisters and family to take this unexpected detour across country wherein she met two women she hadn’t expected to meet and a curiously handsome cowboy who was making her reconsider her options! Laughs. The best bit of course is how Curtis knits the story together – you truly cannot help yourself from smirking, laughing and turning the pages fast enough not to wait in rapt suspense about what will ‘happen next’ in this delightful Contemporary Romance about how life doesn’t have to be written down to the nth degree and how sometimes you can allow yourself the grace of being ‘elsewhere’ if by being there you can resolve the direction of your life.

I couldn’t stop laughing my socks off – in the end, it is once again Big E’s turn to give you a reason to find the humour in life’s situations and how you can emerge on the other side of adversity. Yet, it is his new travelling companion which made me holler in laughter the most! So, so unexpected and yet it felt so honestly right! Curtis has found the best entry back into the life of the Blackwells and given us a new reason to love the rascal Big E is whilst eluding to bigger moments yet to come in the series which is now one of my favourite sequels!

-quoted from my review of Montana Welcome

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BEST Adaption of Classical Mythology:

I will admit, I never thought I’d get so wickedly curious and *excited!* about reading Mythological retellings and/or after canon sequences of sequels until of course, a bookish mate of mine Louise @foxesfairytale inspired me into this exciting new niche of Lit through her @Mythothon events! Mind you, since the first year of #Mythothon, I’ve barely been able to participate with the same gusto of intentional readings – but each year she chooses a theme for the event, inspires me to find stories and/or authors who are publishing within that context of the Mythos canon of choices.

Thereby when the author approached me about this collection of stories which retells Odin’s journey and takes us through the original canon of Norse Mythologies but re-envisioned for today’s audience by Searfoss himself – I was hooked! It simply had taken me while to get into the context of the stories themselves and to bring my thoughts to my readers on their behalf. I am hoping I can read the next cycles in sequence from January to May of 2021 and finally conclude my readings and reactions to the tome of what Searfoss has given us all to chew on!

I readily admit this is one of the more challenging undertakings of my readerly life and I am wicked thankful to have such a challenge I can share on my blog to hopefully inspire new readers to Searfoss’s epic tome of Norse Mythology *and!* to consider finding their own exodus into the Mythos which is being created by today’s writers in all formats of publishing as its quite an exciting time to be a reader!

Cycles of Norse Mythology by Glenn Searfoss

What I loved most about how Searfoss approached writing this [storied] novel in six different acts of insight into the back-histories of the Norse legacies interwoven through this concentration of Classical Mythology is how he aided your journey with keen insight into how to write a descriptive arc of story whilst grounding it with a catalyst attached to his lead character (Odin) who is not necessarily the kind of bloke you want to feel attached but of whom is an unreliable narrator of a story because he is more antagonist than he is a leading gent or hero.

He has a beautiful descriptive narrative styling within the pacing and context of how he wanted to tell this story. He illuminates the sequences of Odin’s journey with visuals which not only allow you to tuck closer to his characters but to see the world itself – to draw closer to how this world is allowing you to find it and the characteristics of how it reacts to those who dare enter its boundaries. For instance, there is a moment where he is describing how the cold desolate weather has wrecked havoc on trees and how the trees themselves seemed to have found a way to be a supportive network of strength for each other. He visually gives you a firm grounding about the world and about his characters in ways which is a delight of joy to a reader who loves illustrative descriptions whilst their engaged in a fantastical journey.

I, admit, when we were in the throes of how the body of Ymir was the foundational layer of this world was birthed and built – there were moments where I nearly lost traction with the context of the storyline involving Odin. Not because it wasn’t fascinating but because of how complicated this world is constructed. I find most of origins of Mythology to be heady reads and Searfoss doesn’t disappoint on that angle of it – as Norse Mythology origins are just as complicated as the Greek! What he does make entertaining to read his depictions of this world is how viscerally layered he’s endeavoured to create this world visually. He doesn’t just want to recreate and recant the events – he wants you to see, feel and live within this world as if you were Odin on this journey yourself. This makes it more interpersonal and in a way, a more gratifying read.

-quoted from my book review for Cycles in Norse Mythology

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BEST Non-Fiction:  Memoir

My Life in Plants by Katie Vaz

Each type of plant within this memoir serves as a moment of entrance into the annals of Vaz’s memories – owning to a particular time and age of her life wherein the plant itself is the stepping stone and acts a metaphor for the memory (or memories) the plant brings back to mind. It is a clever way to tell a memoir – re-routing us as readers into your life plant by plant, which in of course is also a reflection on the author’s personality – per the curiosity of choice of plants and how these plants in particular offered such a wealth of insight into life as it is lived by her and her family.

Vaz is definitely a foodie with a foodie soul – as her love and affection for food as well as plants shines such a bright light throughout her memoir! She has a way of inserting us into the height of a memory pulled forth by a particular food or a meal and redirects that to the plants themselves as everything is tethered to each other and connected to how her mind has remembered the hours in which she has lived. I found this approach to be wicked relatable because I too am a foodie with a food centric memory wherein I like to route back to specific time intervals within my own living experiences simply through the foods I’ve eaten and the people of whom I shared a meal.

It takes strength of heart and soul to dive into the corners of our memory which produce the hardest memories to relate to others. When Vaz was speaking on behalf of losing her father it took me back to losing my own loved ones over the years from age seven to twenty-four and how each death in turn took its toll. She was quite right to point out that even whilst we’re in the height of our own grief – others are still living their lives as if nothing happened at all. And that’s a truth of how life and death are walking hand in hand everyday – for each person who is grieving there is an opposite experience of happiness in another. The two must balance each other out as for each person who passes on from this world there is a new person who is just becoming bourne to it. Our lives have a similar pattern of cycles as plants – from seed to maturity, a plant also returns back to the Earth consumed by what it had lived during its time in nature.

The beauty of how she shared how she grew out of relationship with her first serious relationship showed not only a compassionate kindness for her past and the choices she had once made which felt like they had been important at the times she was living through those experiences and yet, in retrospect held other truths that were now humbling to recount. Vaz owns all of her memories – the good, the bad and the in-between and giving her listeners and/or readers a chance to feel like their own lived lives might have that kind of duality to their memories as well.

By the time you’ve reached the conclusion of this autobiographical collection of nuanced snippets of the author’s life, you’ll want to revisit certain chapters again to ruminate over a second or third time because of how this became a living picture of how she grew through her experiences, gained insight into how to best live her life through the cultivation of plants and how the plants themselves played a role in how her life was better for the presence of the plants whilst she was occupied by life itself. She honestly gives you inside glimpses into how she grew as a person and how humbling the journey towards finding both yourself and the life you want to live is an act of progressive discovery. Especially when if you get the chance to look back of the accumulation of what you’ve gained against the chance to have a new companion in fur in your life – sometimes the universe loves to give you a curveball you weren’t expecting and then diffuses the situation whilst you were too busy worrying over the details that never materialised.

I loved her capacity for etching out the humbling truths of all our lives within the fragments of given us so much of her own life to use as a barometer of understanding our own experiences. It is a wonderful collection of stories and the uphill climb in realising that life is best understood in the future when the fullness of our past can be better seen and processed. Sometimes it takes the journey towards the future to know why we had to walk the path we took to arrive inside the hours which give us the most joy of all. In other words, there is no need to rush towards where we want to be because eventually the past, the present and the future have a fitting lesson to give us about how we’ve spent our hours whilst we’ve been alive.

-quoted from my review My Life in Plants

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BEST Audiobook Narrators for 2020:

Elizabeth Obstinate Headstrong Girl audiobook cover by the Quill CollectiveHadley Beckett's Next Dish by Bethany Turner

Elizabeth Grace for “Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl”

It is a spoken narrative performance but the depths in which Grace can ink out of this kind of performance is a mark of her depth as an narrator and as an actress. She can take the words and re-twist them into a performance that not just articulates its message and the heart of what is meant to be seen and heard by the reader (ie. listener) but she endeavours you to see past those lines and to re-attach what is being said into your own heart and mind. I love whenever I find a performance like this one because it becomes such an interpersonal experience!

The sound quality is perfection and there isn’t too many extra bits in the background to provide the ambiance – at least, not from the sections and portions of the audiobook I was listening too. I didn’t even think they were warranted – Grace’s voice is all you need to transport yourself into Jane Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice as it is both respun and rewritten through these after canon stories by the writers in the anthology. Mind you, I haven’t yet stepped outside that world myself as I have only completed listening to the first story but in of itself it is an experience not to miss!

-quoted from my review of Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl

and Aimee Lilly for “Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish”

I definitely was wickedly delighted by how Ms Lilly articulated the novel – she had a way of turning the spin on a word and owning it in such a way, you knew whom you were hearing in your ears as you read / listened to the story! She had great instincts for drawing out the words to put empathsis on the emotions behind them but she also had a cheekiness about how she styled Hadley Beckett herself which was both refreshing and entertaining!

She even had a way of intuitive articulating how Hadley was feeling emotionally which is a tricky slope to pull off – to give you the kind of performance you’d see in a play or in a feature film, where you know the actress felt the emotions of her performance – Ms Lilly encapsulates this in her audio performance to such a high level of believablity it was one of my favourite aspects of the story! You can feel emotion through the author’s words and how the story is set to develop therein but when you add-on a narrator, they can make/break the experience for you. Ms Lilly is one of the exemplars of her field where she not only carries the story past the writer’s vision of it but she enables you to see all the hidden layers of a character’s soulful journey such as Hadley Beckett!

Ms Lilly has a way with charming you quite immediately after you first listen to Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish as she has this conviction of character and setting in her voice. To me, – she owned this story and she truly became Hadley Beckett!

-quoted from my review of Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

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I was pleasantly surprised to find I read a bit more than I realised and moving into a New Year this 2021 – I had a better understanding of my reading starts/stops in 2020 whilst realising sometimes when you feel you’ve had an #epicfail kind of year, you really didn’t. It just *felt!* that way!

Congratulations to all the authors & narrators
who blessed my reading life in 2020!

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Andrew Furlan.
Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Andrew Furlan.

2. Books You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

By the by, each year I journal my Bookish Events (top menu) I leave behind a small clue about which books weren’t my cuppa. If you’ve spied the differences in the entries your ahead of the game in knowing my answers to this particular question! There are a few exceptions, such as I keep covers hidden for ‘cover reveals’ and sometimes I only have a banner rather than a book cover; thus, my little system has a few hiccups! lol Keeps my readers on their toes, come to think on it! Each year, I try to continuously add the stories in ‘search of readers to love them’ to my LibraryThing List. Otherwise, by each year’s end and a new year’s beginning, I add the remaining titles.

This is a two-part response from me – all these stories which are listed were what I classify as being disappointed reads or in my own terminology “not my cuppa” reads; some were DNF and others, despite having spent a considerable time with the stories in the end left me feeling disappointed. Some I did finish reading completely and still was left with thoughts I had no place to put because that would have revealled too much on the reviews. A few of these were sequels within a series which really surprised me as not appealling to me and two were by authors I regularly have read and this particular release just wasn’t one I enjoyed reading.

  1. The Secret Heir Janice Broyles (see also Review)
  2. The Runaway Heir Janice Broyles (see also Review)
  3. Salt the Snow Carrie Callaghan (see also Review)
  4. A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate (see also Review)
  5. Metropolis by Ellie Midwood (see also Review)
  6. Sense without Sensibility by Keena Richins (see also Review)
  7. Netherfield: Rogue Dragon by Maria Grace (see also Review)
  8. The Prince and the Wedding Planner by Jennifer Faye (see also Review)
  9. Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe Canzano (see also Review)
  10. Two Thousand Years by M. Dalto (see also Review)
  11. Solomon’s Bell by Michelle Lowery Combs (see also Review)
  12. Solstice Shadows by Avanti Centrae (see also Review)
  13. Jesse’s Girl by Tara September (see also Review)
  14. The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew by Denise Heinze (see also Review)
  15. Jorvik Calling (Soul Riders) by Helena Dahlgren (see also Review)
  16. Dreaming of Tomorrow by Michelle de Bruin (see also Review)
  17. The Adventures of Tom Finch, Gentleman by Lucy May Lennox (see also Review)
  18. The Dark Horizon by Liz Harris (see also Review)
  19. The House Called Hadlows by Victoria Walker (Clayton) (see also Review)
  20. The Cowboy’s Holiday Bride by Cathy McDavid (see also Review)
  21. Ultra Squad by Julia Devillers (see also Review)
  22. Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow Julia Devillers (see also Review)

I average around 20 (review) books* per year where I feel were simply ‘not my cuppa tea’ and apparently according to this list, I’ve surpassed my average! I honestly did not notice this as the year progressed, as despite the difficulties in soaking inside the narratives, I found other reviewers on the blog tours had found them to their liking.This is a bit of an inside look into how I’m a particularly particular reader, wherein I am most critical about the stories I am reading because I’m looking for several factors whilst I am reading the novels, short stories and works of non-fiction. (To read what is a book turn-off, please read this previous disclosure and/or my extensive Review Policy.)

What goes through my mind as I read and decide a book isn’t my cuppa:

Is the confluence of timescape, setting and place, characterisation and overall portal inside the world before my eyes drinkable? My way of asking the story, are you relatable in such a way as I can peer into your world and believe what I am reading? Am I enjoying how the stage was set, decorated and given ambiance to your own particular voice and style of story? Was the author generous with her narrative prose (I personally abhor short descriptive narrative and click-point dialogue; it gives me nothing to chew on.) that led to being the vehicle that stilled my heart, uplifted my imagination to a newer height of enjoyment and gave me an entreaty into the story’s heart?

The heart of the story is what I am seeking most. This special central thread where the unification of a story’s whole can be found. If I can find the heart, I shortly find the soul; for me as a reader, I love dimensional stories where there are layers of depth and layers of spirit. This applies across the board – no matter which style of crafting a story can be found, I am seeking the onion! (i.e. personal reference to if you cut an onion, you’ll be greeted by an intricate layered center; as observed and spoken in ‘Doc Hollywood’)

The challenge of course is how to articulate my discomfort and find a way to thread a conversation out of the discourse of what becomes my review ruminations. I might find an issue with a novel (or non-fiction work) but I find it a credit to the author(s) to leave behind a critical review which is both open and honest about how their story resonated with me as much as what went wrong in the story itself. How what I read either translated to me their vision of the story or left me with a wanting for something not quite ready to be seen. For each story I pick up and find ‘isn’t my cuppa’ invariably I find something within it which did agree with me. Except to say, I write all sorts of reviews including negative-neutral (where there is a bit of positivity) and full-on negative if I simply could not find a way inside the narrative at all. In very rarer occasions, I put the book down before concluding it (ie. the traditional DNF). The same can be said for the reviews where I am full-on positive about the story-lines; there could be wrinklements of displeasure which I am also openly vocal about. (those would be considered positive-neutral)

In each of these stories, I found vexation rather than exhilaration; blockages of joy rather than a heart full of merriment for it’s greeting; turnt off by how it was told rather than finding it unputdownable in other words. And as this section implies, I truly was by and far *excited!* for these reads (as I only request stories for review if I’m wholly enthused to read them!) but each in their own turn, fell short of my expectations and my acceptance of how they were told.

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I encourage you to visit the reviews, wherein my words upon each title will explain my reasons for not enjoying my time inside their pages. Let those words I’ve left behind explain why these became my disappointed reads and I encourage you to comment on those reviews – especially if you’ve read those stories and had a different reaction or takeaway about them. I love hearing different perspectives and reactions to stories because we all interpret what we read differently and we all have different reasons for loving a book and finding them not our cuppa.

*the number of books I put down via borrowing from my local library and personal purchases is quite a bit higher. I still remember amassing such a high number of check-outs that disappointed me, I had to take a breathier from making requests as they kept ‘boomeranging’! This was prior to being a book blogger (by a gap of five years of active library reading) but it was a bit of insight towards understanding myself as a reader whose seeking stories that enlighten my literary wanderings. Hence the subtitle of my blog! (composed in [2014] and still remains true)

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3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2020?

In a bad way a book starts to shift away from where you were hoping it will lead you:

One of the best examples is ‘The Dark Horizon’ (see also Review) – as I simply was not prepared for the length of how hard my soul would feel crushed by this novel. It wasn’t just that I could not connect nor draw empathy for Joseph (who was the worst morally grey character I have come across in recent years – as he truly took his sense of morality to a different level of quirks; except of course for the characters within Marcus Lee’s The Gifted and the Cursed series – they fall in sync with Joseph in regards to where their allegiances lie and the choices they make) – it was the ending which killed me dear hearts.

I just could not reconcile the ending – the very final scene in fact, wherein I just completely grieved for these characters as the injustice done to them and the resolution at the end of the novel I still to this day took issue with as I felt it was the wrong way for the story to end. I’ve felt truly conflicted with emotions and I realised right then and there, I never should have read the book because it just wasn’t my cuppa at all. My review doesn’t go into a lot of details about the ending – as I would have to walk a very fine line of not entering into spoiler territory but the more I turnt over the story in my mind and heart, the more issues I took with it. Sometimes we just encounter a story which for whatever reason is one we regret reading and this one was mine for 2020.

The reason this shifted away from where I hoped it would lead is because for me – at the end of the story, I thought the better resolution would have been handled completely differently where another life wouldn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of saving another. You’d have to read the book in order to understand what I’m referring too – but let’s just say I felt the worst for the second wife who was caught in the middle of a firestorm she never had a chance of surviving.

And, the best way a book can surprise you:

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by and far became the breakaway surprise read of 2020! (see also Review) I could literally not put this book down – from the narrator in my ears to the story in my hands by Ms Turner – there is so much GUSHING going on with my review, it is a small miracle I was able to articulate myself as well as I could for this story lock and hold captured me by heart and soul!

I loved how it was told, how it was set in a very contemporary familiar world and of course, what truly, truly SURPRISED the heck out of me was how she convinced me to like a character I otherwise would have felt repulsed by completely! Yes. Bethany Turner wrote a character of a bloke who isn’t the kind I seek out as a reader and totally flipped the script on my own opinions about the kind of character he is and quite literally charmed me by her capacity to tell this story as compellingly realistically as she had!

I took my time reading this novel, too. I wanted to savour every inch of it and I am so thankfully I had the chance to do that as usually I am reading under deadlines (we all are as book bloggers) and it is nice for a switch-up to read a book on our own time and just let it absorb into us. As that is how I felt this story resonated with me – it etched itself into my heart and I am forever grateful for it.

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4. Best series you started in 2020?

This was definitely the year for starting to read series!! I love serial fiction as a whole because despite the fact I read a considerable amount of one-offs, I love series because I can revisit beloved characters and re-explore the world I’ve come to love in a new and different ways. As most of these were my top favourites of the year, I want to focus on Becky Wade’s novel.

I knew of her stories for a long time as I found them in my local library’s card catalogue but it wasn’t until I started hosting her blog tours wherein I found myself drawn into reading her books. This particular release was my first foray into a new series of hers and it left an impression on me – I liked being able to tuck back into a world she’s created and to find myself enjoying the time I’ve spent there. Previously although I loved the first series I read by her – I had some issues with plot directions and who was coupling with whom. This time round it was just a wicked good read and a very enjoyable beginning to a new series.

Stay with Me by Becky WadeI was truly attached to seeing how Wade would handle the family secret – as this at the core of the novel was the greater story to be told. It had the potential to have a rippling effect on the outcome of their lives but also, it had tentacles too. There was grip of terror here where their lives could become altered from the one they had been living and that in of itself, kept me personally hugged into the chapters and the disclosures of what Geneviere and her sister were rooting out of the past. By the time they revealled their findings, I was most concerned for the final outcome – of what would happen once the truth was finally spilt and out in the open? How would the truth seek to heal the past as sometimes despite the good of a truth being shared it can have the opposite endgame?

Wade has written a dearly realistic romance – where at the heart of the story itself are two people who are struggling to find themselves in the wrecking mess of their lives. They each have baggage and they each have a reason to fight into tomorrow to seek out a different path and a way in which to right the past against the future. The hidden secret of the family was the kind of secret which can either seek to heal or destroy lives by what it would shatter about what people believed about the family itself. I was truly hooked on stepping through the chapters and peering into how Wade was seeking redemption, enlightenment and clarity of spirit for each of her characters. Each of the characters she focused on had something to give, something to gain and something to repair about themselves. This is truly a well-rounded story of a faithful walk in mercy.

-quoted from my review of Stay with Me

Best Sequels of 2020?

  • Secrets of Milan (Night Flyer Trilogy, Book Two) by Edale Lane (see also Review)
  • Montana Welcome (Blackwell Sisters, Book One) by Melinda Curtis (see also Review)
  • Tristan’s Folly (The Gifted and the Cursed, Book Two) Marcus Lee (see also Review)

I don’t oft get to read sequels of novels during the same year I’ve read the first installment – however, 2020 offered me the chance to do this twice! Both for Edale Lane and Marcus Lee’s series – a special treat indeed for a reader. What truly captured me about Edale Lane’s series is how intricately brilliant it is threading the conspiracy in the background of the romance and how the romance is secondary to the conspiracy plot and yet, keenly important in of its own right to the continuity of the series! It is one of those lovely Historical Fantasies you love to read because you like revisiting with the characters and are once again hopeful for an ending a bit of restitution for them due to the upheaval they’ve experienced in their lives.

I’m on pins going into reading Chaos in Milan this January, 2021 as I am unsure if I’m fully ready for all the disclosures which are going to come to a head in the dramatic conclusion of the series! Likewise, with Marcus Lee – his trilogy is also coming to a close early in 2021 – given how challenged I felt reading the Gifted and the Cursed up til this point, I can not even fathom what it will be like to read The End of Dreams. When it comes to Dark Fantasy, I am not the demographic of a reader who gravitates towards those kinds of stories. The fact I became so wholly enthused to read this particular one is still a happy surprise to me as a reader.

There is a lot of Light ebbing out of the shadows of Darkness in Lee’s world – without it, I might not have lasted as much as I had. The interesting bit is I enjoyed Tristan’s Folly for different reasons than the other readers on the blog tour – as most of them preferred the action bits and the depictions of the battles. For me? I could have had a bit less of those as the heart of the story has always been what has moved me forward in the series. What is going on with the lead characters and of course, what is fuelling the darkness to continue to grow and expand. This is a world build on layers and layers of intrigue and suspense – you have to pull those layers back bit by bit to see the truer story which emerges out of the chaos.

Whereas with Montana Welcome it was old home week for me! I felt like I had returnt to a family reunion and I simply took up residence until my stay with everyone had concluded! I love the Blackwells and in this new sequel series #BlackwellSisters, the authors are wickedly keeping me on my toes! I love how we never truly know what is going on until the final chapters and even then, they love to throw in a few twists which gives us more incentive to read the next installment! I can’t wait to continue reading and blogging my reactions to this series as my #NewYearReads get underway this January 2021!!

Best Series Ender of 2020?

Her Cowboy Sweetheart by Cathy McDavid

I was so wicked happy to see this series get a fourth story with the hope of more stories yet to come down the road!! I wasn’t even sure how this series could end at this junction which is why I braced myself for whichever way it would end before I even picked up the book!

I shouldn’t have worried too much – I was in good hands with Ms McDavid! She took the perfect story to conclude this section of the serie and still managed to leave the door ajar for future in case she wanted to return to writing more installments of the series or if there were shorts or novellas instead coming in stead of this quartet of the series.

I am just thankful I caught sight of this blog tour or I might have missed my chance to read this in 2020. I felt it was one of the happier blessings and surprises because I had taken the journey with the Sweetheart Ranch series since the first blog tour celebrated the first book! This series allowed me to get to know the author’s voice and style and she’s become one of the Heartwarming authors I enjoy reading – which is why I counted it as a double blessing I read her first Wishing Well Springs novel in 2020 as the Sweetheart Ranch took its final bow.

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I was hoping to read the concluding chapter of the Tipsy Fairy Tales series by E. Chris Garrison this 2020 – as I received Mean Spirit – however, the timing was wrong for me and I’ve shifted my readings of it into 2021. This is a trilogy I have enjoyed since the very beginning with Blue Spirit and the sequel Restless Spirit. Which is why I suspect this is going to be my answer for 2021’s Survey!

5. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2020?

[(debut novelists) of whom published their first book in 2020]

  • Edale Lane (the Night Flyer series) with Merchants of Milan (see also Review)
  • Marcus Lee (the Gifted and the Cursed series) with Kings and Daemons (see also Review)

Uniquely, both debut novelists who won me over this 2020 were Fantasy novelists! I could not be happier announcing this, too! Especially each year during #WyrdAndWonder when I take stock of the amount of Fantasy other participants have read in comparision to myself, I do feel severely underread in a genre I help champion and celebrate every year. However, as we’re all on our own individual paths into genres we explore I am appreciating taking the longer road and discovering Indie and Self Published novelists along the way!

With Edale Lane you have a wickedly Feminist Historical adventure to soak inside wherein you are given delightful inventions to leave you curiously aching for more chapters to see how the Night Flyer is going to survive her outings in a world that has more than one conspiracy afoot inside it! Whereas with Marcus Lee, you have to be fully ready to tackle the deepening darkness of his world where light does penetrate the dark but only if you look carefully enough to see where the light is trying to push itself back against the forces which seek to destroy it. In comparison side by side, Lane is writing stories which give you an instant uplift of joy once you’ve completed your readings whereas with Lee’s novels, you feel ruminatively reflective and somber for the experience.

Depending on which kind of mood reader you are yourself – you might want to read one of these series at a different time than the other in your readerly life.

6. Books from a genre you don’t typically read &/or was out of your comfort zone?

I simply never felt truly attached to the New Adult Romance category of Romance because for me generally speaking a lot of those stories were aimed at Millennials and I never felt being Gen-X they were a good fit for me personally. Similar to why most of ‘Chick-Lit’ goes unread by me as I constantly seek out relationship-based romances instead. Not to say Chick-Lit doesn’t have those but they have the tendency of being few and far between as they’re more about the causual routes people take in their dating lives than the permancy of finding your life’s partner.

What happily surprised me with Hayes’s approach to writing this story is how she rooted me into her characters’ lives and how I was itching to read more – not just of this story in my hands but more of Hayes’ collective works! I consider that an impossible feat when it comes to New Adult and I am thankful I have found one author so far whose writing the stories within New Adult I find wicked fascinating to read.

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What can I say about Dark Fantasy? I hardly read it! I cannot even begin to start to answer why I selected this blog tour via Storytellers on Tour this year either! It was one of those random tours which caught my attention and one in which I signed up to receive the book for review before I could reconsider what it was exactly that tipped the scale of interest for me to delve into such a dark dark world such as the one within The Gifted and the Cursed. For starters? I like a lot of Light in my worlds – this one has the light but its so oppressively regressed you have to be patient to find it!

What I think endeared me to the characters and to the overall arc of the series plot is how Lee fuells his Fantasy with a lot of conjecture of what is morally acceptable and what is morally grey. He delves a lot into the human condition and from a strictly sociological layer of intrigue – his stories give you a heap to chew on as a reader of his world! There is also the conceptional backdrop of his world-building and how he has written a wonderful continuous series where each installment bleeds into the next one and gives you a wholly good grounding of setting and place within the series overall.

There is a lot of reasons why the Gifted and the Cursed is a series I shouldn’t have read this year and yet, there is a lot of reasons why I am so very thankful I had – which you can read on my reviews. It just begs to reason that sometimes you find stories and authors right when your meant to discover them, even if what they are writing is so far removed from your readerly life it becomes a hearty challenge to not just read the story itself but to fully understand the world in which it is set. And, that dear hearts is another reason why I loved reading this series – it was a challenge!

7. Book You Read In 2020 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

  • Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, narrated by Glenda Jackson (Argo Classics)

It goes without question I would want to re-listen and re-read Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish because of the wicked good feeling I had whilst I experienced it for the first time. I might even notice things I hadn’t picked up on originally as it is one of those kinds of stories who has more layers to share with you each time you seek it to revisit.

One interesting bit of trivia: whilst participating in the Christian Fiction Reading Safari I won two books by the publisher this year. The two books they disclosed on the readathon’s website differed from the two I was shipped – as guess who received a beautiful unread ARC copy of Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish? Yes. I did. I was truly gobsmacked. Of all the ARCs to receive, this one was a special surprise for me because it is one book of 2020 I dearly hugged the life out of after I finished it. It just gave me back so much it is hard to even put into words how delighted I was to find the ARC was sent to me. It definitely found a loving home on my bookshelf.

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I reached a point with my NetGalley queue of audiobooks this Autumn, 2020 where I could no longer attach myself into the stories. I was burnt out on reading (overall) and when it came to the audiobooks for whichever reason I kept expiring my time with them as NetGalley only gives you a certain block of time to hear them. Blessedly nearly all of them are now available to listen to via Scribd and its my intention to listen to them within the first quarter of 2021 if not sooner. Especially as my % on NetGalley is holding at 22%.

A feat I am proud to say I accomplished because it involves requesting some of the books I requested in February, 2020 via my local and regional libraries for purchase as I had misunderstood when you read the information on a book’s page – other formats are not available to request via NetGalley except ebooks (esp in February!) or audiobooks (Summer, 2020 – forward). Thereby some of those books are being read in print and I’m submitting my reviews on their behalf as I resolved the key issues about why I could not review them at the time of my original request.

One of the stories I began late in Autumn was The Secret Garden and I was thoroughly enjoying my time spent in this world. It is a world I know well – I grew up watching the adaptations of the story in motion pictures – seeing different variants of how film-makers have interpreted the story and the Summer before I began high school a new version released into theaters. In 2020, I noticed I have a new interest in short audiobooks (under 5 hours or less) – this now includes having a keener interest in listening to Classical Literature within 2-3 hours of abridged adaptation. The Secret Garden convinced me how there is a newfound beauty in this kind of release of a Classical work of fiction.

It is interesting I say this as I spent forty-one years of my life feeling indifferent to abridged Classics and *always!* preferred the unabridged versions of the stories! Apparently I’ve shifted my opinion. I want to start The Secret Garden over from the beginning this January as it is only a few hours (just shy of 3 hours) long but its the breadth of story the narrator brings to life with her interpretation of the story which makes this sound longer and fuller somehow. I truly loved how it is performed and I want to recapture my joy inside it.

8. Most Thought-Provoking &/or Life-Changing Books of 2020?

One of my NetGalley finds this year was My Life in Plants – a curiously written story about one woman’s journey through a chronicling of her life as she situated her memories and her life experiences against the backdrop of ALL the plants which acted as markers over the years to retreat inside and revisit. It was one of the most cleverly written stories I’ve read and it didn’t even read to me like a traditional memoir or autobiographical work of a person’s collective memory. It felt more alive than that and somehow, as you’re listening to the story unfold you start to see why she’s organised her life through the plants who were her mainstays and observers of her hours.

I felt this was a tome of thought-provoking rumination – as the entire time you’re listening to her story, your beginning to generate new thoughts about your own life and re-flipping how you felt about different transitional periods of your own life. Sometimes these kinds of memoirs re-ignite a moment of reverence in our own minds for the hours we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had which have shaped us into the persons we are today. It is a nice reminder to take stock of the past, to find peace with our memories in the present and to step forward into the future with a clean slate – mentally, physically and emotionally.

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I’ll be the first to admit, when I first accepted Cycles of Norse Mythology for review consideration, I took it as an epic challenge to dip my toes into Norse Mythos. What happened instead is I nearly freaked out about the depth of this tome of Mythos and almost nearly talked myself out of reading it completely! Soon after I received the book, my health afflictions muddled the waters for entering into the book and it took me nearly a full year before I could start reading it with a fever of joy – however, once I was fully entrenched into the story, following in the footsteps of Odin and his journey – I must admit, despite feeling completely out of my depth with reading a collection of Norse Mythology such as this one – Searfoss encouraged me with his words and the ways in which he re-wrote Classical Mythos rooted in the Norse Myths.

#Norsevember badge provided by Alex @Blogspells and is used with permission.

When I saw Alex @BlogSpells had created this delightfully epic event in November called #Norsevember, I *knew!* I had to participate – except for the fact, I lost all the hours to join the event by month’s end. Although I have have broken down the readings of this epic book into the individual cycles of its organisation – it still takes me approx. a month to devour the prose and to sort out my thoughts on the narrative. It is one of the hardest and most challenging reads I’ve undertaken as both a reader and as a book blogger. Which is why my original timeframe to read and review this book were way off the mark.

Instead I’ll be following in the stead of the participants who were able to get their posts and reading queues accomplished during the event itself. As my participation this year was merely in spirit rather than in actuality. Alex blessedly has the full archive for the event earmarked into his top header of his blog and I’ll be using that page as a resource to jump off of throughout 2021 as I re-acquaint myself with Odin’s Quest and dig deeper into this tome of Classic Mythos Searfoss has left for us to find.

To say it was thought-provoking is putting it mildly. There were times where I thought maybe I was the wrong reader for the book as I wasn’t sure if I was picking up on all the hidden meanings of the context of the story but Alex blessedly mentioned to me privately ahead of the event he hosted that Mythology like Fiction is highly subjective and individually reactive. It was a good nudge of a reminder that even if we feel out of our depth with a particular subject we’re exploring to read  – it doesn’t mean that we cannot own our reactions to the story or the book or the subject. As we read further into that area of interest, like other genres we seek out, the more our understanding will solidify and expand. Thereby, if you visit my reviews for Cycles of Norse Mythology throughout 2021 – I look forward to your own takeaways, comments and notes of graceful nudging in case I’ve missed something quite imperative which needs mentioning.

Uniquely enough, when I first started listening to Jorik Calling – I hadn’t made the connection to Mythology as I had as I listened to more of the story itself. I was also highly disappointed I could not listen to the conclusion of Jorik Calling as it was one of the more disappointing listens of the year.

9. Books you can’t believe you still couldn’t read in 2020?

*le sigh* Continuously the worst guilt per year is the fact I’ve not been able to read most of my backlogue – though throughout 2020 I not only attempted it but found I couldn’t always tuck into the stories. I lacked a lot of ability to focus on reading this year due to different reasons – most of which I disclosed throughout the year. From my parents medical emergencies to the ER visits to my own health afflictions and a staggering number of migraines from May-September (the latter month having an epic 8x!). When I consider all of that again, I wonder how I finish *any!* books this year coupled with the adversities and difficulties we faced as a world through a pandemic.

I have so many I want to be reading but I have to remind myself to take it one book at a time and not to feel overwhelmed. Plus, like most readers – I’m a mood reader, so I might move through generes and focus on different kinds of stories rather than just go straight down the line and read all the stories I need to be reading in one particular genre of interest. I am hoping as 2021 progresses I’ll have more positive updates in regards to my backlogue and to the books I was able to soak into which previously left me feeling elusively outside their chapters.

10. Favorite Book(s) You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously:

I took this to be interpreted a second book by an author we’ve read – whether prior to or during 2020 – as this is how Edale Lane and Marcus Lee are listed. I first read Edale Lane early in 2020 and had the chance to read the sequel to the novel lateron in the year. Whereas with Marcus Lee’s series I read the first novel in August and the second in November. This rarely happens where I can continue a series and/or continue reading a favourite author within the same calendar year.

  • Secrets of Milan (Night Flyer series, Book Two) by Edale Lane (see also Review)
  • Tristan’s Folly (The Gifted and the Cursed, Book Two) by Marcus Lee (see also Review)

By Harlequin Heartwarming authors:

Each year, I am truly grateful to hosting blog tours for Prism Book Tours as they host a lot of the Heartwarming authors throughout the year. This is why I have come to have a well rounded appreciation for different Heartwarming series and different authors under the imprint. I am hoping to continue to expand my knowledge of Heartwarming authors throughout 2021 as my library sometimes carries their novels (either directly or through interlibrary loans) and sometimes I can find their stories secondhand as well.

11. Best Book You Attempted to Read In 2020 Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

I would LOVE to say it was Cemetery Boys – however, the copy I borrowed had to be taken back to the library before I had the chance to settle into the story. I felt the synergy of excitement about this novel long before I had the happiest of pleasures to interview the author!!

I nearly read one of the books mentioned during the #12DaysOfCozies chat in December, 2020, too! I had requested and received To Kill A Mocking Girl by Harper Kincaid only to realise I wasn’t going to be able to read it during the holidays as I had planned too. Thankfully more Cosies came through my regional library which were inspired to be fetched by the chats I participated in as well – so I’m going to have a very happily Cosy New Year binge fest!

12. Best 2020 Non-Fiction Debut you read?

What is quite hard to swallow is despite all the Non-Fiction stories I attempted to read in 2020, only one was actually completed and able to be reviewed! If I hadn’t joined NetGalley in February, 2020 I wouldn’t even have stumbled across this author or others in fiction who truly helped me reset my reading interests at different intervals of the year. I also credit being an influencer with LibroFM as helping me discover authors and stories, but I wasn’t able to finish listening to those audiobooks until January 2021.

The only reason I could join NetGalley this year was due to the promise and hope of listening to audiobooks through their platform. Blessedly I hope to do more with my NetGalley account throughout 2021 as I just started to find my rhythm listening to their audiobooks and sharing my reviews either on their website directly and/or cross-posting them here on Jorie Loves A Story. Likewise the same is true for LibroFM as one of my key issues throughout the year was getting to listen to the audiobooks – as previously I had to download them from their site and listen to them off my hard drive – however, in late December 2020 I finally had the LibroFM app work for me on my tablet! I felt I had accomplished the impossible and it felt freeing! With the app for LibroFM, I can now listen to more of the audiobooks per month and make positive headway on sharing those listening experiences with my readers on Jorie Loves A Story as well as those whom follow me on Twitter as I already started to tweet my magical joy in finding Jingle Jangle!

In short, there was ONLY one Non-Fiction story which I reviewed in 2020 and it was dearly loved:

My Life in Plants by Katie Vaz

My Life in Plants by Katie Vaz

As Vaz readily points out – not every memory is entirely positive, as sometimes our memories can also contain the questionable and less than ideal associations such a how the scent of lilac is a double-bladed sword for her as it has two truths of reference rather than merely an ideal one of joy. Each of her sections re-directs your focus on a different part of her life and a different period of growth therein. You get to meet and greet her family, especially her grandparents and her sister of whom she fondly has included with such regularity as to become a secondary character. You can tell they both share quite a strong bond even if over the years their relationship changed since the one they had in their childhood. Likewise, Vaz owns to the curious way the mind relates its own storage of our memories – how what we fuse one memory with can alter our understanding of that moment and/or redefine how we process memory as a whole.

Vaz is not shy about unpacking the growth she gained as a young adult about to enter into adulthood through her memories of being in high school whilst experiencing her first serious relationship. It was one of the chapters where she discussed choices she made and how some of those choices were based on what she believed due to advice she had been given but realised lateron where not views she had shared herself but rather she chose not to go against that kind of advice out of what she felt was expected of her at that age of growing into your own skin.

-quoted from my review of My Life in Plants

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13. Best Worldbuilding &/or Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

When it comes to world-building – I have the tendency to focus more on Science Fiction and Fantasy (or any Speculative Fiction world being built). There is a high level of expectation whenever I read Speculative stories because I want to feel both viscerally inspired and transported to this ‘other place’ I have never traversed previously but can feel as wholly comfortable and at home inside as if I had. Each of the stories listed here gave me such a strong impression of themselves I would recommend them to anyone who wants to take that portal jump out of this world and into the author’s vision for theirs.

Best Worldbuilding:

When it comes to setting – I like it when I can feel as if I have travelled to a particular setting as if I left my life where it was and took off on holiday to visit the setting in the novel instead. Whether that is Contemporary or Historical (ie. if Historical a bit of time travelling is required!) – as you get to see a different cross-section of society and see how others are living. I also love when setting becomes a character of its own and adds to the background texture of the story you are reading. Each of these paints their settings alive in such a way as to give you the kind of experience you are seeking out of a story being set where the setting is as important as the plot!

Most Vivid Setting:

14. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face  &/or Was The Most FUN To Read?

Technically I could have listed ALL the Harlequin Heartwarming stories as those give me a ready bout of joy to read whenever I tuck myself into their pages – however, thinking a bit outside the Heartwarming box, there were two which struck me as embodying the essence of the question quite well indeed!

The first one will not suprise anyone at this point – (laughs) however the second choice was one of those random Historical Romances I took a chance on reading in 2020 and found myselt tickled into a feast of laughter and joy! Sometimes when you try an author on a lark and throw in an unexpected book into your current reads, you sometimes walk away with a load of smiles!!

15. Top 7 Hidden Gems Of The Year?

When I think of hidden gems of the year, I think about the stories I hadn’t expected to be reading and the stories which happily took me by surprise. They were the kind of stories which were wickedly enjoyed and there was something about them which bubbled to the surface of my overall memories of the year spent in books. In regards to Ms Radcliffe – I was overjoyed I could finally read a story by her as I’ve known her off/on over the years and that made her story a hidden gem!

  1. Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner (see also Review)
  2. Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson (see also Review)
  3. The Highlander’s English Bride by Vanessa Kelly (see also Review)
  4. Stay with Me by Becky Wade (see also Review)
  5. His Daughter’s Prayer by Danielle Thorne (see also Review)
  6. Ready to Trust Tina Radcliffe (see also Review)
  7. Esme’s Wish Elizabeth Foster (see also Review)

16. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?

  • The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria Walker (Clayton)

I don’t even know how to properly classify what I read within The Winter of Enchantment – because it was such a full step removed from most of the Children’s Fantasy stories I regularly read! It has its own set of world rules and how it can manipulate how the world functions and how time factors into it as well. I was bewitched by it and I was so wholly intrigued by how this world was set and gave us an itch to see it expand, that by the time I entered into the sequel – my imagination was soaring so high it was a hard disapointment to realise I could only read the first installment of the series!

This was seriously the most unique book I’ve read bar none in my LIFE and yet, when it came to the sequel the let-down was too much to bear! I felt like the author had done an injustice to the reader because the two stories simply didn’t seem anchoured together. There was a complete disconnect for me between the two installments and it took me awhile to reconcile my joy of the first over the second. This still remains a favourite of the year but I had to extract my memory of the sequel in order to resume loving this story as much as I originally had without the angst of the sequel present in my mind.

17. Book That Made You The Most Mad

(doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Hands down there is ONLY one book which percolates to mind which befits this category because I was truly *committed!* to the character and the world in which she lived and at one point in the context of the story, I realised I just couldn’t take it anymore! There were choices in direction of the story and of the characters’ arc of journey which didn’t sit well with me as a reader and for those reasons and others mentioned on my review I had to exit the novel. The sad bit though is this is completely an about-face from a genre I love reading (ie. Science Fiction, Space Opera) and even knowing it was a firm step removed from my regular reads, I wanted to live in this world! If only to see if Suzy would survive the ordeals she was being given to transition out of and of the myraid ways in which she was in constant danger of being killed – but! the worst bit is realising you love a character but you simply cannot read their story.

So, for me, the book which made me the most grievously upset from not being able to finish it is none other than:

  • Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe Canzano

I blogged extensively about this novel, too! I had so many THOUGHTS about it as I was reading it – everything just poured out into the review itself. Similar to how I shared character notations for the Gifted and the Cursed series, I also shared them for the Suzy Spitfire universe. Here is a small snippet of a quote from my review which points towards why this became a DNF for me – however, due visit the fuller review to see everything else I had to share because not all of it was negative and I had quite a few good reactions to Suzy herself and to the story.

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe CanzanoCanzano had me hooked with his backstory about Suzy and her family; he convinced me to hang on for his descriptive narrative arc (minus the heavy handling of vulgarity which I honestly felt the story could handle to be diminished) and I was even ‘there’ for the curious way in which Suzy’s life kept spinning and spiralling out of control! Whilst at the same time, she was faltering to understand what was drawing her closer to Ricardo and how her relationship with him was going into places she never felt she’d tread. I was convinced I could handle this story because there was enough heart within how Canzano breathed life into it to get me to rally behind Suzy… Unfortunately for me, he made some choices along the route towards securing the destination of Suzy’s journey in Space which left me questioning why I hadn’t quit this novel sooner. And, for those reasons I had to opt out and admit, despite the positives, this story will forever remain a DNF for me.

-quoted from my review of Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

My Bookish & Blogging Life:

Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Alexandre Perotto.
Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Alexandre Perotto.

1. Favorite review(s) that you wrote in 2020?

I decided to pick a sampling of reviews to share under this prompt – some I am outright gushing over and others were a bit more challenging to write due to my reactions to the stories. Some challenged me in different ways and all of the reviews listed here gave me a lot of joy to compose because whether I was talking about a story I truly loved reading or found a story conflicting with my tolerances in fiction – each of the reviews here showcase a different side of my readerly life and my blogging style and voice.

The comments are open on all posts on my blog – if you visit one of these, I hope to see a note from you underneath them. I’d love to have your reactions and/or takeaways after you’ve read them. Especially if you were considering reading one of these yourself OR if you have already read them. I welcome conversations on Jorie Loves A Story – even if we have different opinions!

2. Best discussion &/or non-review posts you had on your blog?

Throughout 2020, I truly wanted to branch out and post betwixt and between my book reviews – I’ve been striving towards this for a number of years. Either through the memes I’ve selected as being ones I’d like to actively participate in throughout the weeks and months of the year as they appeal to me to join and/or through different kinds of posts I have yet to develop which would offer something ‘else’ than my traditional book reviews, my spotlighted book reviews (their shorter, sometimes due to finding an DNF or sometimes due to lack of time to finish reading the book) or my #25PagePreview reviews.

I felt this was the first year where I had a lovely high yield of different kinds of posts alighting on my blog and because of that I noticed I had a lot of new engagements and interactions. I am truly grateful to everyone who chose to tell me they were on my blog by hitting the ‘like’ button on my posts and/or who took a bit of extra time to leave me comments. The likes are a kind nod to know whose visited with me and the comments are bursts of random joy as I get to read someone’s thoughts and hear how a post or review resonated with them. Those are golden especially to anyone who blogs throughout the year as it is hard to know what is resonating with our readers and what isn’t – as much as I always encourage differing opinions to be shared as we all have different perspectives and opinions about everything we read.

Towards that end – I don’t have a particular ‘top favourite’ post which suits this category but I do want to reshare and showcase what I accomplished in regards to posting content outside of my reviews as I think I had a wicked stellar year for this kind of content and it is an encouraging nod of joy for me moving into creating content for 2021!!

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Total Number of Bookish Memes I joined: 5 (by type)

The reason I enjoy participating in the bookish memes I find in the book blogosphere is they are a brilliant way for me to expand how I’m interacting with my subscribed readers, followers and visitors. I like to find alternative ways to engage with my audience but also have a bit of a quirky road of fun throughout the year in how I present different thoughts about the stories I’m reading or desire to read next whilst giving myself a chance to interact with others I might not regularly see or cross paths with in the reading community online. Plus,the fact you can tweak all of these lovelies to your own interests and style of how to join the memes themselves makes it a wicked good exercise in blog writing for me (or anyone else) who wants to participate.

Top Ten Tuesday: I was wicked thrilled seeing how many of these lovelies I was able to share throughout 2020 as this is one of the memes I’ve been wanting to become more active inside for quite a few years now. I am encouraged to continue participating in 2021!

I shared a bit more #TopTenTuesday love with my readers and followers but those entries will be under Guest Author Features. These specifically were the entries I created myself without respinning them into a working theme for an author which is one of my favourite discoveries of how to reuse a meme idea and turn it into a wicked new guest feature for Jorie Loves A Story!

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Waiting on Wednesday: I wanted to do more of these throughout the year but for the ones I was able to put on Jorie Loves A Story, I had loads of fun sharing the content I was able to give my readers. I am hopeful I can find new ways of joining this lovely meme more in 2021.

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WWWednesdays: Clearly a meme I enjoy joining but one where I seem to have trouble sorting out how to generate posts to give the community of the meme. Oyy.

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10 Bookish, Not Bookish Thoughts: I had a lot more of these drafted and they weren’t released. Somehow I get these lovely ideas about how to join this particular meme but not all of those ideas translate into published posts. I’d like to requeue this one for 2021.

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The Sunday Post: Again this is ideally a meme I enjoy as it allows me a bit of flexible space to blog and yet, somehow I haven’t had the chance to flex it to where I can continuously join!

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Number of Special Event Features: = 50 (before #blogmas!) + 18 (during #blogmas)

When I feature a ‘Cover Reveal’  or ‘Book Spotlight’: you’ll find more than the press materials! As I like to explain why the title interests me to read it inasmuch as I love chatting up books I will one day get to ‘meet’ in print or audio! Thereby you won’t find a run of the mill post from me whenever I am hosting a reveal for a book, a spotlight ahead of reading the novel or another kind of promotional feature.

There are ALWAYS extras on those posts from me!

2020 was definitely THE YEAR of spotlighting stories on Jorie Loves A Story. I knew very early-on in the year (ie. the hours after New Year’s Eve, 2019!) I might have a difficult year of reading because even at the turning of the last year into the new one, I saw how hard it was for me to soak into a story and find my traction within reading. It started the year off wrong-footed and I just never quite ‘captured’ my ability to read in the same way I had in prior years of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story.

Having said that – it was also the year where I felt more engaged with the bookish blogosphere and the bookish community on Twitter, so despite feeling dearly under-read for 2020 – I did feel the year was a wicked good one overall.

NOTE: Some of the stories I spotlighted were stories I was meant to read for review and others were stories I attempted to read and review and were just not my cuppa. The rest are lovelies I discovered throughout the year and haven’t had a chance yet to read. A smaller few were Digital First releases – meaning they are not yet released in a format I can read (ie. print or audiobook). Quite a large number of these are featuring extracts from the books themselves.

#blogmas 2020:

Ideally, I usually *only!* participate in the Fantasy for Christmas & Sweet Romances for Christmas blog tours hosted by Prism Book Tours. However, this year, I found several tours with Xpresso I wanted to host as they were offering stories and/or anthologies which also appealled to me as a reader who cannot get enough #ChristmasReads. There was a bit of an overlap this year in the events as well as cordinating the Xpresso ones as well. I had do a bit of blog magic to get everything posted however, I also met a Harlequin Heartwarming novelist on Twitter during Vivian Conroy’s #SweetChristmasChat and showcased her Christmas release as well.

For a recapture of #FantasyForChristmas20 or #SweetRomancesForChristmas20 be sure to clickover to see the posts wherein I gave snippets of reasons why I selected the stories I had to be featured during both #blogmas blog tours. All the individual posts I featured during #blogmas (in December!) are listed below. The reason I open my blog to spotlighting holiday and/or Christmas Romances every year is because of how much I love them myself as a reader. I’d love to expand my #blogmas goals next year to be more inclusive of more diverse posts (ie. bookish memes, discussion posts or other posts) rather than simply rely on the spotlights themselves. This year, I barely could keep up with #blogmas and was quite thankful I kept it all a bit more simple!

However, as I decided to ‘extend’ my holiday reads into the opening weeks of January, you might find a few extra #blogmas reviews and posts from me this New Year, 2021! It is a bit of a gift back to myself for not having a traditional Christmas & New Year’s weeks as my Mum worked over 112+ hours taking on emergency shifts as a home health worker which upturnt our holidays this year in more than one way! I was too exhausted to read or blog; though for those who follow me on Twitter you had the pleasure of catching my microblogging of the holidays.

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Total Number of Book Blogosphere event Posts: 12!

  1. Middle Grade March : Jorie’s TBR List
  2. Witchathon : Jorie’s Witchy Reads TBR List
  3. Wyrd and Wonder: Co-hosting Year 3
  4. Wyrd and Wonder takes over #SatBookChat
  5. Wyrd and Wonder Prompt Challenge (1-10) Recap Post
  6. Emma S. Jackson created #FriFantasyReads
  7. Book Blogger Awards 2020 : Jorie’s a Double Nominee
  8. #CFSRS20 INSPY readathon
  9. SciFiMonth Jorie’s Abridged SciFiMonth 2020
  10. Fantasy for Christmas Year 3
  11. Sweet Romance for Christmas Year 3
  12. #blogmas (see also #blogmas Archives)

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Total Number of Stories of Jorie referencing Influencer Opportunities of 2020: 6

Somewhere along the route of 2020 I was not notified the Crime Fiction Box was discontinued and absolved. I noticed my communications with the owner of the subscription box was growing a bit distant but with everything I was shouldering IRL with my parents medical emergencies and my own health afflictions – as it was just after I posted my reveals for the April box where I started to lose traction with this particular subscription service wherein I realised lateron in the year, I hadn’t received any further updates. Shortly before the holiday season I visited their website to see it was being dismantled and a note of gratitude for purchasing their product whilst they were producing them was on it instead. I hope in a small way my posts on my blog in Spring 2020 and the wicked fun vlog #unboxing videos I assembled via Canva helped play a part in getting the word out about the boxes whilst they were able to be purchased.

I learnt a new technique as a book blogger and socially bookish tweeter – how to curate vlog #unboxing videos and not post them through YT but rather Twitter! I am thankful for sorting that out as I will be using this technique again in the future.

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In regards to the Once Upon A Book Club subscription box service – each month I would put in a request to receive a box for review consideration on my blog and to be socially engaged with my followers on Twitter about my reactions about the box, the book and the contents therein. However, nearly every month from March-December (as I skipped a few months here or there) I was not picked as one of the influencers on their list to receive a book box. I even switched up my requests from the adult to the YA boxes and I also put in several requests for a random past box as well. Nothing arrived. It was shortly before the holiday season I started to receive group updates from them wherein they admitted they needed to overhaul how the influencer network for them operates and how influencers are selected each month. I am unsure if I will remain an influencer with them and I eagerly await the news which is forthcoming at the start of 2021.

My own complaint with them is that if you have too many influencers who cannot receive a rotation of boxes even every quarter of the year – as that at the most limited of cycles of receiving a box would allow us the chance to promote them, I was uncertain why the list grew as large as it had as none of us received anything past the first box. At least to my understanding of it. Its hard to be a social influencer when you received one book box in a calendar month.

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The one influencer opportunity I have striven to hold onto is being a part of the ALC programme with LibroFM! I love how the whole website is based round helping Independent Bookstores sell all formats of books to the readers who want to limit and/or erase their buying practices from big box bookstores and support their Indies instead! The whole concept of LibroFM sat well with me from the very beginning and to be selected to receive their audiobooks was a humbled experience. However, from the start of receiving them I had a lot of technical issues playing the audiobooks themselves until I finally sorted out how to get the app to work on my tablet in late December, 2020. Of which I have mentioned on this post already! (under Best Non-Fiction Debut for 2020)

I am encouraged by the app functioning now to have a better chance and opportunity to participate quite actively in the LibroFM ALC programme! I am happily excited about hearing the selections I picked from 2020 and starting to pick my first audiobooks to listen to in 2021 this January. I have also used their bookstorelinks in my tweets throughout 2020 as it helps route books to readers by encouraging them to source Independent bookstores to make their purchases. I love the concept behind it and again I will be continuing to share those links as well as I socially tweet my bookish life throughout 2021.

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In regards to NetGalley, as I’ve been talking about my journey with the platform a bit on this End of the Year Survey already – I am going to continue to use NetGalley in 2021, however, my main focus within the first quarter of the year is reading the past selections I made errantly in ebook in print as I am able to get them through my local and regional libraries whilst listening to the audiobooks I missed the chance to hear whilst I had them in my NetGalley Shelf via Scribd. I am currently hovering aat 22% ratio of reviews to books received and I am hoping to increase that into a higher percentage whilst taking into consideration a few audiobooks I received I did submit reasons why I will not be reviewing those titles as a few simply weren’t my cuppa tea. Outside of thsoe limited few, I hope I might reach 50% to 70% ratio within the first few months of 2021. As ideally I am guessing at how those percentages are calculated!

I’m not as concerned with % as I am with my reading life. For me NetGalley’s audiobooks introduced me into a new method of selection, listening and discovery of audiobook narrators, publishers and authors. Without NetGalley I wouldn’t have found the Megge of Bury Down Chronicles nor would I have found My Life in Plants. I never would have picked up an abridged Classical novel until I heard most of Argo Classics The Secret Garden and I found for the first time it was nice to have a pressure-free way of reviewing books. Meaning, there weren’t any hard deadlines except for the archive dates which I tried to adhere too but failed in my initial attempts to hold them. Just to consider I did submit reviews whilst balancing 2020 in the background felt like an accomplishment to me!

Similar to my goals for NetGalley, I am going to be erasing the backlogue of books I haven’t read via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer programme as I haven’t had a proper chance to read those books either. I haven’t even participated in this part of LibraryThing for at least a year or two now and its time I set to rights the stories which fell behind in my readings.

You’ll find updates about LibroFM’s ALC audiobooks, NetGalley audiobooks and LibraryThing ER books beginning in January 2021 and continuing until my backlogue with each of them is erased.

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I LOVE hosting guest author features – from guest posts to interviews because it is wicked lovely to dive into a writer’s headspace and truly talk about their stories. I host a lot of guest features every year on Jorie Loves A Story but I believe this is the first time in a long while I’ve shared a recap of all the guests who have graced my blog in one year! I was happily amazed at how many guest authors I had showcased and how diverse the stories were which were being cross-featured with their writers! If you’ve missed any of them, kindly clickover to those posts as I’ve included them all in this section for you to read now. It goes without question I would enjoy interviewing authors because I love hosting @SatBookChat every month January-November annually.

Number of Guest Author Features: = 9 *includes 4x respun memes!

Respun Memes:

Author Interviews: Questions & Conversations: = 46!

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The one area of Jorie Loves A Story I faltered on bringing regularly to my readers were the #SatBookChat Spotlights – wherein I would recap the chats I was hosting via @SatBookChat with a bit of information about the stories or books being discussed during the chat (before or after the chat concluded with updated links to the archived chat via Twitter Moments). I had intended to do this every Saturday I hosted #SatBookChat and yet, somewhere along the route of 2020 – whilst I was able to maintain hosting the chat, I wasn’t able to continue the archives – either on my blog or in Twitter Moments directly.

It is part of my continuing mission to bring those lost archives to Jorie Loves A Story whilst at the same time I faltered with being able to finish reading the stories I received ahead of #SatBookChat’s guests chatting with us during their chat. I intend to make amends in January 2021 for the missing reviews, however I know it will take me a few months longer to ensure all the stories get their time to shine on Jorie Loves A Story. I am simply grateful I was able to host as many chats as I had in 2020.

Here are the ones which made it into my blog’s archives:

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3. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (by comments or views)?

Top Ten Posts of 2020 (by comments):

I had to install a new plugin in order to generate this list as unfortunately for me WP doesn’t autogenerate this tabulation for us when we’re seeking our yearly stats for these surveys! What this shows you though is the proof of what I felt all through the year – I had a wicked lovely 2020 interacting with more commenters and this allowed me to ‘talk’ more underneath the posts themselves. As I had a low yield of reading it didn’t surprise me most of the chattiest posts were non-review related and were part of the bookish community in the book blogosphere. My heart felt very full after reading this Top Ten List!

One of the best surprises for me were seeing an #unboxing post featured in this Top Ten List as well as one of my respun memes via Top Ten Tuesday! Especially as this one in particular (about the Verin Empire) was a full collab project with the author and became one of my top favourite collabs for the year!! Not to mention the fact I was a double-nominee this year for the Book Blogger Awards and that particular honour held a special place in my heart throughout 2020.

Audiobook Blog Tour especially for #Janeites & #Austenites | A mini Review and a Conversation about “Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl” (Vol.5: the Quill Collective, series) narrated by Elizabeth Grace 18 comments

TopTenTuesday XI | The Top Ten Most Anticipated New Releases for 2020! (thus far!) 16 Comments

A #blogmas #TopTenTuesday No.9 | Taking a nudge from Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum – Jorie’s Favourite #newtomeauthors of 2019! 15 Comments

#TheSundayPost VIII | From the misery of a cold to a revival of random bookish joy! [with a bit of an #unboxing reveal for #FindingEsme!]
14 Comments

Celebrating the 4th Year of the #BookBlogger Awards | As a double-nominee and as a nominator! 14 Comments

#TheSundayPost VII | Just your average book blogger celebrating her seven years being socially engaged online! 12 Comments

#TopTenTuesday X | Top Ten #NonFiction Books I’ve Yet to Read – or rather, jump down Jorie’s rabbit hole of curiosity in topics of Science, Memoir and Philosophy! 10 Comments

#MiddleGradeMarch Book Spotlight | Featuring Extracts with Notes by Jorie on behalf of the Dream Horse Adventures series by Susan Count
8 Comments

Top Ten Secrets of Surviving in the Verin Empire this #TopTenTuesday | Guest Post featuring William Ray who wrote the uniquely fantastically clever “Shadow Debt” (Tales of the Verin Empire, Book Three) 7 Comments

An #EnterTheFantastic Book Spotlight with Notes + Extract | featuring “Tree Magic” (Tree Magic series, Book One) by Harriet Springbett
7 Comments

A very heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone whose been kind and generous commenting on Jorie Loves A Story this past 2020. I cannot express enough how much those notes mean to me and how thankful I am to have your notes, comments and reactions known as I share my bookish and readerly life. Here is looking foward into 2021 as another wonderful lovely year of commentary!

Part of why these comments (and all the comments left on my blog) this year meant as much as they had is because most weeks and months of the year, I was barely surfacing on my blog. I lacked a lot of focus, energy and heart to sort out my thoughts this year and the thoughts I shared it was a lovely random act of kindness to receive a comment after a post went live on my blog. I had tried to return the grace and kindness given to me but with my migraines raging from May-September, I fear I was not able to leave as many as I had hoped I could. I will try again to remedy this in the New Year.

#1 (by views):

I am not shocked this became the top favourite for both views and comments; it is a post I truly loved writing and one I was sharing multiple times as I hosted the Quill Collective’s editor Christina Boyd and the narrator Elizabeth Grace during @SatBookChat wherein a lot of the authors who are featured on this collection of stories also participated. Due to the cross-promotional efforts of my own tweeting and shares for this post combined with theirs and the shares in relation to the chat itself, I had a feeling this might take top billing this year! I also hoped my joy for the collection shined as brightly as the shares because I truly cannot wait to reveal my extended review for this audiobook as the Quill Collective has mastered the art of after canon publications.

I only know the Quill Collective via their audiobooks, which is why whenever you see me reviewing their anthologies the audiobook versions are being reviewed and spoken about – for those who read print and/or ebooks, their anthologies (for the most part) are cross-released.

*tied*

My #blogmas interview with Nancy Barone highlighting her new release “No Room at the Little Cornish Inn”.

I was happily overjoyed seeing one of my interview posts made the top views of the year!! I love hosting interviews – which is why I always have a high number of interviews featured on my blog every year and why I concurrently host @SatBookChat! I like to get into the heart of what inspires writers to write stories and being a writer myself, I understand what fuells the desire to write stories even before I learn more about their personal journey towards becoming published. This was one of those lovely convos and I am thankful others found it resonated with them, too!

And, followed very closely by one of my #WyrdAndWonder reviews:

Nothing warmed my heart more than seeing one of my #WyrdAndWonder reviews was getting top views this year! I love co-hosting the event and this year, it was sweetened with joy as I had the chance to read and review not just Indie published authors but also Self Published authors of Fantasy! Whilst the guest features were happily focusing on Odyssey Books which is an Indie publisher through this year’s event I want to read more of in 2021!

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4. Top Month for the Year for Views on Jorie Loves A Story:

  • May, 2020 during #WyrdAndWonder Year 3!!

→ Browse my Archive of Posts for the Event

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5. Posting Patterns of Behaviour:

Total Number of Book Reviews for 2020: 64 *I nearly felt faint when I realised this!
Lowest number of books read and reviewed in seven years of book blogging.

Number of Guest Author Features: = 9 *includes 4x respun memes!

Author Interviews: Questions & Conversations: = 46!

Books &/or Authors I Featured yet Haven’t yet Read the Stories:
= 31 (books) | 43 (authors) = 74

Total Number of Posts for 2020: 225

Total words blogged in 2020: 771,948

Cumulative Total Posts on Jorie Loves A Story (2013-2020): 1,534

Total Interactions on Jorie Loves A Story:

Comments: 373 | Likes: 648
( up from 252 comments, 370 likes from 2019 )

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6. Top 5 Pages Most Viewed in 2020:

This never fails to make me smirk! Generally speaking – my Review Policy page is usually top billed page for the year alongside my Blog Archives. I was only surprised that visitors and/or readers alike are starting to find my blog’s calendar – ie. Bookish Events pages! This is where I house the blog tours I have booked and the guest author features which are forthcoming to Jorie Loves A Story. This year there is a special treat inside the 2021 Bookish Events.

7. Top 7 Referrals in 2020:

  • Top Referral each year: Twitter by my own feeds & the shares of others
  • WordPress Reader this didn’t surprise me as I’m using WP Reader more myself every year!
  • Facebook by organic referrals as I do not use this platform
  • Search Engines a surprise?
  • Book Sirens where I have a listing for Jorie Loves A Story
  • The Artsy Reader Girl’s Blog the home for Top Ten Tuesday!
  • Prism Book Tours where I host a lot of tours every year in tandem with HFVBTs

NOTE: This is why I continue to advocate for book bloggers and/or writers alike to find a social channel of preference and truly hone in on using it. For me, Twitter is where you go if you’re a happy chatterbox and love to be socially engaged within the community of your choice. Pick one of the communities on Twitter (ie. bookish, writing, publishing, knitting, cookery, tv/film, music, etc) and sort out how to become further engaged within that community. You’ll notice others who are likeminded to your own interests will start to follow you and engage with your content, especially if your a blogger. This advice cross-applies for all social platforms not limited to Twitter, too.

Two honourable mentions which surprised me – my landing page (jorielovesbookishblogs.com) which I had linked to my Twitter Profile all year as well as the fact it is linked to the profile on my Twitter chat @SatBookChat as it routes to the chat’s schedule of guest authors. This sort of surprised me it was in the 9th position of being a top referral for the year as usually I wasn’t sure how much traffic was being passively generated by the landing page as I use that as a method of ‘introducing’ myself on social media. It talks about who I am, how to find me and it routes individual blog posts to reach Jorie Loves A Story as well. This proves its working well.

The second one which surprised me in 10th position of referral for 2020 is Imyril’s lovely blog!! I have a feeling it might be due to both #WyrdAndWonder and #SciFiMonth, as during November’s @SciFiMonth she (along with Lisa her co-host) curates logs for all of us to read and use as guides throughout the month’s events happening on fellow book blogger’s blogs! This year, I haven’t had the chance to dive into them yet and hope to do so during January, 2021. It was humbling to think some traffic came through those events and landed on my blog as I love those events dearly.

New for 2021: – I am going to be using my linktree landing page for six months (January-June) to see if there is more traffic coming onto Jorie Loves A Story by using it or if I am better off using my own landing page rather than another platform entirely. I am also going to keep active the two referral links I have on my linktree for those six months to see if anyone takes advantage of giving either Scribd and/or LibroFM a trial. Some followers and friends of mine have asked me about the links for both services before but only in passing; I wasn’t sure if they were still considering both sites and services or not, which is why having them linked on linktree allows them to try them at their leisure as well as anyone else who might like to see why I appreciate both sites.

8. Top 10 Countries of Visitors in 2020: = 70 in Total

This was an increase of ten more countries than I had in [2016]

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • France
  • China
  • Portugal
  • Australia
  • India
  • Netherlands
  • Philippines

Being the fact as book bloggers we engage with the world of the bookish on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis – I am always happily amazed by who is reading my blog and from whence they come from as truly book blogging is a global community. This is reflective every year from the stats of my regular readers, visitors and everyone who alights on my blog through the years I am sharing my bookish and readerly life. Likewise, I am sure in return they are curious about the stats themselves if they see an increase in American readers, as some of those stats are from my visits to their blogs in return.

What humbles me the most though is how we all communicate in English. I was worried when I first started blogging that I might find book bloggers who blog in a language outside of my own which I would fully understand as its their native language. However what surprised me is how as a community I’ve found we predominately blog in English which has allowed me to visit with more International book bloggers and converse with more International readers; a blessing which never is absent from my heart and mind each year.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Looking Ahead at 2021:

Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Michael Green.
Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Michael Green.

(and now back to the 2020 End of the Year survey!)

1. Books left unread or were partially read in 2020 *and!* will be reading in 2021? (in regards to books received in 2020 for review consideration)

The stories I am listing here are the stories I kept trying to read and/or found myself able to read them in short spurts but never in full. Others I wasn’t able to begin at all and had to push forward into 2021. Throughout the year, my reading life suffered in different seasons of the year for different reasons. My parents had a lot of medical emergencies from Winter 2020 to Spring; whereas my migraines raged from May-September 2020. There were other things going on as well – as who didn’t escape 2020 with a heavy load of stress and/or adversities? However, every month I tried to re-attempt to read the stories I had fallen behind in reading – until I realised, I just had to put them away and let the New Year provide a clean slate to read them instead.

In regards to Megge of Bury Down, I was *loving!* this audiobook series until I tried to continue listening to it inbetween my migraines in late Summer, early Autumn. I had to take a break and unfortunately I couldn’t get myself back into the rhythm of the story. I decided the timing was off for me and it is the first audiobook I’ll be re-listening to this January.

From blog tours to publishers and/or directly from authors:

  • To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters
  • A Rush of White Wings by Pamela Ford
  • Moondrop Miracle by Jennifer Lamont Leo
  • Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett
  • Megge of Bury Down and The Lady of the Cliffs by Rebecca Kightlinger
  • A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman
  • Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp
  • A King’s Bargain by J.D.L. Rosell
  • Dragonfiles at Night by Anne Marie Bennett
  • Alaskan Dreams by Beth Carpenter
  • Two of the Dream Horse Adventure series by Susan Count
  • Kingdom Above the Cloud by Maggie Platt
  • The Light at Wyndcliff by Sarah E. Ladd
  • The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan *need to get a print copy!
  • Star Trek’s Walter Koenig: Beaming Up and Getting Off
  • *this doesn’t yet include the audiobooks from LibroFM & NetGalley

In regards to #SatBookChat Guest Authors:

I was grateful to receive these books to read and review, however, I only partially was able to read them before the chats I hosted on their behalf with the authors. I was thankful I could keep @SatBookChat moving forward but I regret I wasn’t able to finish reading the stories closer to when the chats were originally hosted. This was the first year where I had an impressive backlogue of stories I couldn’t read nor review in conjunction with #SatBookChat. I think it speaks volumes about the kind of year 2020 became and how hard it was to have any semblance of balance in our lives.

  • A Fatal Finale (Ella Shane Mysteries, Book One) by Kathleen Marple Kalb
  • When He Found Me (Road to Refuge series, Book One) by Victoria Bylin
  • A Gift to Cherish (Road to Refuge series, Book two) by Victoria Bylin
  • Rescuing the Rancher (Heroes of Shelter Creek, Book Four) by Claire McEwen
  • Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl by The Quill Collective
  • The Calm I Seek by Christina Lourens
  • The Devil’s Bride by Emma Jackson
  • An Unconventional Heiress by Jenni Fletcher
  • The Baroness of New York by Anja Silverstone
  • My Mother’s Kitchen & Seeing Ceremony by Meera Klein
  • Books 2-5 of the Blackwell Sisters series by Carol Ross, Melinda Curtis, Amy Vastine, Anna J. Stewart and Cari Lynn Webb

2. A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?

  • The End of Dreams (The Gifted and the Cursed, Book Three) by Marcus Lee
  • Mean Spirit (Tipsy Fairy Tales, Book Three) by E. Chris Garrison

Of the two of sequels I am most anticipating in 2021 – one is releasing in 2021 (Lee) and the other released in 2020 (Garrison). I had hoped to read Mean Spirit during the year it released but the timing proved to be wrong for me to soak back into Skye’s story and to conclude my journey with her but I did speak about it quite frequently and tried to encourage others I felt might enjoy the series to seek it out as well. In regards to Lee’s final story in the saga I began this year – the first two installments were such a challenge to read but were enjoyable as well – just a bit more of a difficult read than other Fantasy stories given what is happening in the context of the series – I am a bit more apprehensive about finishing the trilogy than I with the Tipsy Fairy Tales!

However, I know reading Mean Spirit is going to be an emotional read in its own right. I just hope as I move into these sequels, I will not feel so emotionally spent as to have a crushed bookish soul.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Blogging Life In 2021?

To redirect my reading adventures into personal reading challenges:

The Classics Club banner created by Jorie in Canva.70 Authors Challenge Badge created by Jorie via Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Photographer Brigitte Tohm. (Creative Commons Zero)

Ever since [2016] I have been reducing the number of blog tours I host on Jorie Loves A Story granting me able to work directly with publishers and authors more frequently. It was also a plan towards getting into more locally borrowed books (via libraries), listening to more audiobooks (via OverDrive for Libraries, Scribd and/or Audible) + reading my shelved books in my personal library to where I have a more balanced readerly life.

This particular year was a very adverse year for my parents and for myself – medically and otherwise, to where if I hadn’t had a higher yield of blog tours to host, I am uncertain if I would have posted as frequently or as often as I had. Those tours helped me during moments where life felt especially difficult to muddle through and it gave me something to focus on outside of myself and/or the circumstances I was living through which were quite hard hitting. Thereby I am not looking at 2020 to be the ideal blueprint of how many tours I’d ideally like to host per year as this was a year where I took-on a high level of tours in order to renew my own interest in book blogging during those hours and months wherein I was less inclined and motivated to actually read a book and/or offer my opinions about what I was reading.

Moving forward into 2021 & beyond,
I want to devout more time to my personal challenges housed on my blog:

The Classics Club + 70 Authors + #EqualityInLit

In regards to The Classics Club & my 70 Authors of INSPY Challenge – you could say I have managed to either dance round the selections I desire to be reading the most – ie. I find new after canons to read which re-tell a story I have on my TBR for the Classics Club and/or I find new INSPY authors to be reading throughout the year. On occasion though – it has worked out where I have found one of the INSPY novelists on my TBR List who are available to read & review via a blog tour – which warms my heart to no end!

With the new realisation Spotify is offering Classical & Contemporary audiobooks for streaming to their members and with my subscriptions to both Scribd & Audible Plus  renewed – plus, the lovely audiobooks my parents gifted to me via Audible from Autumn 2019 to January 2020 – you could say, I’ll be in a better position to listen harder in my intentions towards actually knocking off some of my Classical #nextreads this New Year of 2021!

I am also finding some are available via OverDrive via my local and regional libraries which is a *huge!* blessing and of course, I want to be able to read the print copies I already own in my personal library, too! I might even borrow a few in print again from the libraries but I am noticing I am leaning towards listening to more Classics on audiobook than reading them in print! A bit of a switch in my reading preferences the past few years.

4. A 2021 Release You’re Positively Itching to Read and blog about:

Ameri and the Night Brothers by BB Alston

I had the chance to spotlight this lovely novel on #TheWriteReads blog tour at the very close of December, 2020. After all the lovely experiences I had reading Middle Grade Fantasy in 2020 – I have very high hopes for this new release! The fact this is already being  produced into a motion picture has the pressure on me to find a copy via my local libraries and read this before it gets released visually as well.

I shared the book trailer on my spotlighted showcase as the only frustrating thing I had was not finding an audiobook sampler or chapter sampler for the novel online. I understood why of course as it is a most anticipated read for January, but evenso, I missed having even a small glimpse inside the book which I could have reflected on my post.

Either way you slice it – I’ll be submitting a purchase request for this lovely at my regional library as concurrently for most of the year my local library discontinued purchase requests. You’ll find out which book my regional library purchase for me soon because it will become one of my first #NewYearReads!! (hint: its also a Middle Grade Fantasy novel!)

I have a feeling Middle Grade Fantasy is the NEW undiscovered genre of love for me!!

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

End Notes:

It is hard to believe after spending four straight days composing End of the Year tallying of my bookish and readerly life as much as my life as a book blogger it is finally ready to be read! I started this project on New Year’s Eve and it concluded just after 1am on the 4th of January! However if you count the hours I spent on it – its four not five days! However which way you look at it – I felt this post allowed me to resolve 2020 in regards to reading, blogging and the ways in which I fell behind as a reader and as a book blogger.

I know I’m not the only book blogger who struggles with having a backlogue and the one thing none of us want to admit at the end of the year is that we had to carry-over new titles to our backlogue however, this year in particular I am not sure how I would have forestalled that from happening as I had too much to juggle personally as much as we all the chaos of the pandemic to work through as well. It was one of those epic years where we were all muddling through and doing the best we could.

I do like having a record of what the last year yielded in regards to the footprint I left behind on my blog and in many regards on Twitter, too, as a lot of what I blog about becomes conversed about on Twitter and vice versa! It was quite impressive looking back and realising I did more than I thought and in the places where I fell short, I’ve decided to chuck it up to one of those unusual years where you can only do what you did and the rest you just have to let go and let be until the time arrives where you can make amends. After all, I decided to take -on a lighter load of commitments this New Year 2021 for that very reason. I want to finish reading the stories I have on my shelf and as we all re-shift into life post-pandemic we have to find our new rhythm with out life will start to resume as well.

I appreciate everyone who is taking this journey with me and I thank you dearly for your interactions with me – through your commentary here on the blog, your convos via Twitter and your private messages which give me a nod towards understanding what you enjoy reading!

I hope this final accounting of 2020 on Jorie Loves A Story was as enjoyable for you as it was for me to write it. It is a wicked wonderful testament of how one book blogger found the way to keep her book blog surfacing during one of the more adverse years of her book blogging journey – in that regard, we all deserve to celebrate each other and to cheer each other on – especially as I found out New Year’s week just how many book bloggers I was following have closed.

Let us all have the strength to carry-on and to find our bookish joys throughout 2021!

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

{SOURCES: The End of the Year Survey by Jaime @ The Perpetual Page Turner provided for book bloggers to fill out as a summation of their year; used with permission. Book covers, Author photographs, and Tour Badges provided by authors, publicity agents, publishers or tour host companies to be featured on a tour stop blog, as a way to get the word out about the title and author. All of which is used with permission. As hosts we are encouraged to help get the word out about the authors and their novels even on non-tour stop posts; likewise for books received in exchange for an honest review for non-tour events. #Norsevember badge provided by Alex @Blogspells and is used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. log graphics created by Jorie via Canva: End of the Year Survey banner (using Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven), The Classics Club banner, the INSPY Fiction banner and the Twitter announcement cards as well as the Comment Box banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2021.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 4 January, 2021 by jorielov in Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, End of the Year Survey, JLAS Update Post, Jorie Loves A Story




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6 responses to “#BestBooksOf2020 Retrospective | The 2020 End of the Year Reading Survey : The stories behind #JLASblog’s 7th Year!

  1. Happy New Year, Jorie!

    What a wonderfully detailed post, it was a very interesting read and it brought two books on my radar: Merchants of Milan and Kings and Daemons on my radar. I don’t read a lot of self-published works and I would like to read more of them in 2021 (it’s an unofficial goal of mine). Both stories sound completely different but I’m intrigued by both of them and I have added them to my wishlist!

  2. Christina Boyd

    Over the moon to have “Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl” in your Favorites of 2020 as Best Classical Literature “After Canon” and especially for voice actress Elizabeth Grace as “Favorite Narrator”! Honored! #iLoveBestOfListSeason #OmgItsOHG

  3. “2020 will mark my 7th year time travelling via stories”- I like that! Even though it’s 2021 now it caught my eye in your sidebar. Hope you had a nice NY! :)

    Jane Austen crossed with dragons looks pretty special. I love that cover of Esme’s Wish- I love stories set in archipelagos- and Cycles of Norse Mythology definitely looks intriguing as well.

    Hope 2021 is a wonderful year for you Jorie!!!

    • Hallo, Hallo Greg!

      Happy New Year, 2021!! :) What a wonderful lovely year I hope it is for both of us!! Ooh! You’ve found one of the hiccups of switching over to a New Year – I saw that widget hadn’t been updated yet last night *but!* I was working so hard to finish this post I let it slide. Now I’m thankful I had as you might not have seen it! I turn over the years each January (or thereabouts, lol) to mark how long I’ve been book blogging and increasing my chances of time travelling through stories as whwenever I pick up a book, I feel like I’m given the navigation charts and I have the chance to embark on the journey now as a traveller of worlds. It was first inspired by my love of Historical Fiction – as every new timescape I visit, is quite literally in a different chapter of History but then, I realised – even in Speculative Fiction I’m time travelling because those worlds are set differently than ours! So, in a way, its a time bending theory about how we fuse our imaginations into a clock of time rooted in the stories and how each story transports us elsewhere to the brink we are removed from our own timeline for those hours we’re living inside the story. Quite a bit ‘behind’ the notation I realise but I wanted you to have the fuller story!

      Ooh! I was so intrigued with the Jane Austen Dragons series until I reached the third story. Which I mentioned on here — I wasn’t even sure what happened for the series to fall away from me but in the third installment I felt myself being pushed out of it rather than feeling deeply rooted as I had in the first two installments. Perhaps you will not have that issue and one thing is for sure – you will LOVE seeing how the dragons are organically inserted into this world as if they had always been present! I was quite chuffed seeing how Ms Grace handled that – especially as wells, the dragons weren’t always there!! Let me know if you listen to the audiobook to hear Fife’s narration or if you secure a different copy entirely.

      As do I – stories set round the Archipelagos – but is a rare treat of joy to find them!! I am returning to this world this year with the sequel, so you’ll see me blogging more about Esme and her world! I am trying to cordinate releasing that during #WyrdAndWonder as I am trying for the first time in a long time to read stories a bit ahead of the major events I join and love participating to offset the plague of migraines which come yearly.

      If you visit my review for Norse Mythology – I’d LOVE your feedback. It is a review which was epic and challenging all at once! I have a new goal this morning though! If I can focus on Searfoss January-May than I can dive into The Odyssey by September which I think might have been secret come to think on it? So, shh! As its related to an event I love joining. lol I’m just excited to officially start my readerly life this year now that this post is published.

      Thanks for your New Year wishes, Greg! I return them to you and thank you for being the first reader and commenter on this post!!

      • I love how you worded that- and you’re right, visiting other worlds is like time traveling, or visiting another universe. One of the best things about it, really. :) And I love visiting new worlds, exploring imagination, so that all appeals to me!

        Oh I’m sorry to hear the third book disappointed. That’s a bummer unfortunately. I’m glad the first two were good though-it is a neat concept. :)

        Likewise you too! I may join W&W this May as I have not participated previously!

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