Editorial Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Top 10 Books of 2020!

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Another year is in the books, and boy oh boy, I think we can all agree that we are surely glad that 2020 is nearly behind us! I mean seriously… what a shitty year this has been, amiright? I don’t need to rehash the gory details, I’m sure we’re all trying to forget about most of it, but one thing that has certainly gotten me through some of the hard times was—of course—reading some absolutely amazing books!

Below I have gone back through the course of these months since January and have looked back on some of the books/series I’ve started and have compiled a list of the top ten of what I considered to be the much better stories. This list is in no particular order, and feel free to share with me what you considered your favorite books of 2020! I’m always looking for new recommendations to add on my “To-Read” list on Goodreads!

Just a few reminders: This will be my last post of 2020, and you can also check out my full book reviews by clicking on any of the hyperlinked titles!

Enjoy!

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1. From Blood and Ash (From Blood and Ash #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

This book series has been an unexpected hidden treasure of 2020, I’m so completely obsessed with it! Poppy and Hawke are an absolutely amazing couple to read, and 2020 gets even stranger when I say I’m such a big fan of a Vampire/Werewolf fantasy series! Strange times indeed, but If you haven’t read these books yet, I can’t say it enough: GET ON IT!

2. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

It should be NO surprise that if Sarah J Maas has a book published that it’d end up on this list… that woman just checks off so many of my needs in order to make a book utterly addicting, and if not, I know to check out other authors instead of bashing her to change her stories for me! Oka rant over… This is her first “adult” fantasy novel—it’s also the first in a new series—and despite a weird beginning clumped with WAY too much worldbuilding information, it’s just as entertaining as her other books if not more, and is filled with every “fuck” that Aelin wasn’t allowed to say.

3. Serpent & Dove (Serpent and Dove #1): by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove was a surprisingly fun debut novel about a young witch and witch hunter who (of course) fall in love despite the world—that’s a little too similar to France—threatening to tear them apart. It’s a slower read than what I usually look for in the fantasy genre, but I still say this is one to check out for those who love a good forbidden romance. There’s many tropes like “marriage out of convenience,” “there’s only one bed,” “enemies-to-lovers,” and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, and Lou and Reed give me some major Nina and Matthias vibes from Six of Crows!

4. The Fever Series: by Karen Marie Moning

Image courtesy of thesaucywenchesbookclub.blogspot.com

It honestly feels so weird to think I only started this series at the very beginning of the 2020 year, it almost feels like it’s been a favorite of mine for many, many ages already. I am so entranced every time I open the latest installment in this addicting book series, and I can’t believe the final book comes out already in Early 2021! Full of mystery, scorching romance, and brilliantly executed plot twists, the whole Fever series is of course on my list. With having the whole series included, I don’t have the hyperlinks to each of my book reviews or the Fancast, sorry for the inconvenience!

5. A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (From Blood and Ash #2): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The sequel to From Blood and Ash that you came across earlier up on this list, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire is so much bigger and even so much better than its predecessor. So many secrets are revealed yet so many more that are merely hinted at, some absolutely smoldering romance, plus a major war on the horizon! That’s only a small tidbit of what this epic series entails. I’ll say it again: READ THESE BOOKS!!!! I’d even go as far as to say this was the best book of 2020 that I’ve read, and that Casteel Da’neer is my favorite Book Boyfriend!

6. Silk & Steel (Silk & Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but WOW did it sure impress me when I clicked on it to read on my Kindle! Its darkly intense, sexual, aggressive, but an extremely fun and (kinda) sexy start to a fantasy trilogy starring a developing LGBTQ+ (M/M) love story! I definitely will be checking out the other books that continue this story!

7. The Hook Up (Game On #1): by Kristen Callihan

This was definitely the best contemporary titles I’ve read this year, I just loved both the main characters so much! It’s a new-adult college romance, and both Drew and Anna grow so much through the course of this story, and I couldn’t get enough of the hot romance blooming between the two of them.

8. Top Secret: by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Whenever these two authors get together and write an LGBT+ new-adult romance, it equals to a very happy Nick Goodsell! This was another college romance between two fraternity brothers who also compete against each other to become the next president, each of them having their own secret/personal reasons for doing so, but their love story begins all because one’s girlfriend wants to try and have a threeway! They anonymously find themselves on a dating app (not knowing they’re literally next door neighbors in the frat house), and the fun goes off from there…

9. Check, Please! Vol. #2: by Ngozi Ukazu

The second part—and conclusion—of one of the only graphic novels I’ve read, this book was a gigantic anticipated release for me ever since I’d first discovered the first book the year prior. It’s an amazing coming-of-age college story filled with laughs, first love, hockey bros, friendship, courage, and also plenty of baking from our cinnamon roll of a main character!

10. A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4): by Sabaa Tahir

I had to end this list on a high note! The epic conclusion to this series was an exciting if not bittersweet tale, but it was certainly a great way to end the year in books that also didn’t disappoint either. I can’t believe this series is now over, but I also cannot wait to see what Sabaa Tahir comes up with next!

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BONUS CONTENT!

Honorable Mentions:

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1): by Emily A. Duncan

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1): by Adalyn Grace

Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1): by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Legendary (Caraval #2): by Stephanie Garber

Boyfriend Material: by Alexis Hall

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Captive (Beautiful Monsters #1): by Jex Lane

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Silk and Steel (Silk and Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*

Publish Date: January 18th, 2019

Number of Pages: 380 Pages

Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing

Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Warning & Reader Advisory:

Silk & Steel is not a “romance”.

This series is a DARK FANTASY intended for mature readers. While Silk & Steel is a love story, it is not for everyone. It is not categorized on Amazon, and not sold as m/m romance. It DOES feature a strong m/m LOVE STORY that develops over three books.
Silk & Steel features a gay dragon shifter, a bisexual elf, and adult themes. There is triggering content that some readers may find distressing, including implied incest, abuse, violence, dubious consent, and on-page sex. None of these instances are gratuitous. There is heterosexual sex and gay sex. The intense and star-crossed relationship between the two male leads develops over three books.

…When a blurb has this included within describing what the story is about, it really raises your eyebrows at what you may or may not be getting into! Now, the question for you is this: are you someone who immediately turns away from something like this, or does it pique your interest even further? Based off the fact that this is another one of my reviews, I bet you can guess what my answer was.

For anyone who’s looking for a dark fantasy to read, I would definitely say to take this warning extremely seriously, because while I was only more curious about this book, I can recognize that the content within this story can be extremely triggering for more sensitive readers, and this story is NOT for everyone! Yes, there is a M/M love story storyline that is what initially drew me in, but it’s a small aspect that intertwines with a lot of emotional torment, rape, assault, torture, and even implied incest that’s a lot of heavy material to take in all within one book! Seriously, this book goes further with it than even HBO’s Game of Thrones or even Spartacus from STARZ.

Besides all that carnality and absolutely vicious material, what really surprised me was an actually epic war/battling kingdoms style plot that developed. Don’t ask me to name any of the kingdoms back to you, but basically it’s a Fantasy world that Elves, Humans, and Dragon-Shifters. The Elves and Humans have been taken over and oppressed by the Draconic empire, but there are small groups of rebels from both races that are gathering supplies in order to make a stand against the dragons.

Besides sex & violence, the themes of trauma, acceptance & belonging, and even forbidden love make for an actually gripping and action packed tale between two unlikely enemies-turned-lovers: an Elf assassin named Eroan, and a lonely Dragon Prince named Lysander.

Eroan is courageous, stubborn, noble, natural born leader for his tribe. He’s a warrior through-and-through, but his troupe of assassins get captured by the dragons and he becomes the only survivor, and thus becomes a prisoner, which is where he meets Lysander, the younger Dragon Prince.

Lysander is a character your heart will break for because of all the pain he’s had to deal with in his lifetime. His mother and brother have tried to kill him several times because they consider him “broken” for his sexuality, and think he’s weak because he’s not a heartless murderer like they are. Luckily, they’ve been unsuccessful and Lysander has become the greatest warrior under his mother’s rule. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them from still believing he’s a useless waste of space. He’s been an outcast and the runt of the litter for all he’s known, but lately he’s been absolutely sick of it, and there’s a fire threatening to explode before you know it, no pun intended.

I would agree with the author when she says it’s not a romance title. There’s attraction and sexual acts that happen, but there’s so much pain, suffering, and violence occurring all around that romance feels like too soft of a word to describe it. The love story that’s developing between those two main characters grows in an intriguing way in the sense that they feel a kindred connection to each other that grows to a reluctant mutual respect, and of course, pure lust that may or may not being blooming into deeper feelings of love. There’s still some unsettling instances of rape and death surrounding it all, so it’s not rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters, far from it.

The world-building was so-so with not much description in the cities/kingdoms and major landmarks, but luckily there wasn’t much mentioned in that regard to kind of save it. There’s some history with the three types of people that’s revealed in a way that’s not info-dumped. I was majorly confused by the point when one character runs into a certain group, it happens around the 60-75% of the book; it felt so randomly placed into the story and was a strange wave within the pacing, but hopefully it gets explained better in the next book. There’s a surprising amount of sub-categories within even just the Dragon empire, and it features different species that make appearances in the story. There’s major dissent that is evident within both the Dragons and even the Elves, which is surprising since you usually figure Elves are all entirely on the same page.

There are plenty of questions that popped up while reading, but I have to remember this is only the first book in a series, so hopefully that means so much more gets revealed as I keep reading on!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The Dragon Queen’s reign is one of darkness and death. Humans have vanished under the rubble of their world and if the queen has her way, elves will be next.

Eroan, one of the last elven assassins, lives for one purpose: kill the queen.

He would have succeeded if not for her last line of defense: Prince Lysander. Now, captured and forced into the queen’s harem, Eroan sees another opportunity. Why kill just the queen when he can kill them all? It would be simple, if not for the troubled and alluring prince. A warrior, a killer, and something else…, something Eroan finds himself inexplicably drawn to.

Trapped in a life he despises, Lysander knows his time is running out.

If the queen doesn’t kill him for his failures, her enemies will. There’s nothing left to live for, until an elf assassin almost kills him. A stubborn, prideful, fool of an elf who doesn’t know when to quit. An elf who sparks a violent, forbidden desire in Lysander.

If Lysander can’t save himself, maybe he can save the elf and maybe, just maybe… one stubborn elf will be enough to bring down the queen before she kills them all.

Duty demands they fight for their people. Love has other plans...

What I Liked:

  1. The Lust/Love between Lysander and Eroan! It’s definitely not a romance, per say, but the attraction that builds between these two characters is certainly a noteworthy aspect of this story. It’s pretty erotic in some areas, heartbreaking in others, but one scene in particular stood out a lot to me. Basically, to the other characters, Eroan is about to be assaulted and raped by Lysander, who is not happy about it. He actually has feelings for the captured Elf, and being forced upon the Queen’s captive is the last thing he wants. He leans in and whispers an apology only Eroan can hear, but surprise…..Eroan whispers back “Don’t be.” It may be incredibly creepy or perverted of me, but I found that kind of hot! I mean, at least it was consensual!
  2. Dragon-Shifters! I’d never read a book with these types of characters. I absolutely love any stories with dragons/wyverns/dragon-riders/etc. so to have humans who can change into the flying, fire-breathing beasts was something new for me that I really enjoyed!
  3. MVP Character: Lysander! By far my favorite character so far, my heart goes out for him and all that he experiences just in this first book. Anyone else would’ve given up with all that he’s been through, but still he rises above it all and becomes a better person because of it. He’s never felt like he’s belonged, and has been called broken and useless by his own family, who by the way, has tried to kill him on several occasions as a quick reminder! Seriously hoping the author throws him a couples bones this next book because Lysander deserves some happiness in my opinion!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Human World…What a random introduction into this story, and it wasn’t really explained as to how it is the way that it is. I know that justification doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without more context, but I don’t want to spoil it for readers. All I will say is it happens at about the 60-75% mark in the story.
  2. Homophobia…Poor Lysander deals with it from his mother and even older brother amongst the Dragons. Luckily, they’re the only people that really show any of it, everyone literally could care less about that sort of thing, but anyone who’s in the queer community who’s had a hard home life like that growing up knows how hard and traumatizing that can be!

Conclusion:

Overall, I was actually really surprised at how much I liked this title! Besides all the sex, violence, and torture, the plot actually got pretty intense in the sense of it feeling very similar to an epic battle happening in a show like Game of Thrones! There are some dark occurrences with rape and assault and torture, but if you’re someone who watched GoT in its entirety, it’s not necessarily anything you haven’t seen before, this story is just higher up on the gay male/male romance factor. With that said, it’s not like anyone can really say they enjoyed those moments, but it’s understandable that some readers would rather avoid that triggering content. It’s not for everyone, so definitely take the author’s warning within the blurb!

I’d recommend this title to anyone who likes M/M romance, and if you really liked The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat; I think they have a very similar vibe in the first book introducing a very ominous vibe with a lot of violence and sex involved to shock readers but then turns into an epic tale to keep your attention!

This book was one that had me up extremely late—like 3 or 4 in the morning—and has a dramatic cliffhanger of an ending, so much that I groaned into my pillow and immediately purchased a copy of the next book in this series to get on that ASAP! the forbidden/star crossed lovers aspect of the story with the two male main characters is tearing me apart because the author constantly throws things in their way to keep each other just out of reach, and ugh………….it’s torture for me too!

I do have some other titles I need to read first because I have a reader friend/coworker named Erika who I make deals with to have us read books that we pick for each other. If she wants me to read a certain book, I make sure she knows I have a title for her too so we can get what we both want out of it and to be able to talk about yet ANOTHER book we’ve both read. If you don’t have a reading buddy like that, I highly recommend it because one of the worst things a reader can suffer from is being absolutely obsessed with a book/series but having no one to talk about it with in person!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell