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TS’s Top 11 Books Read in 2020 So Far (1st Jan to 30th June)

TS’s Top 11 Books Read in 2020 So Far (1st Jan to 30th June)


2020 has so far been a truly strange, stressful and complicated year, but reading wise it has been pretty incredible for me.  I’ve read/listen to 73 books during this first six months of the year and quite a sizeable chunk of these garnered 4-stars and above.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve added so many books onto my favourites shelf in the same period of time.  If you’re interested, you can see my year in books for 2020 right here.

Similar to my previous list, I do not limit this to only books released this year.  There are simply too many great books that have been published prior and that I’ve yet to read, so there will always be older books included.  Below are the parameters that I’ve set for the list.

  • Rereads don’t count
  • One book per author
  • Not limited to books which are released this year.

None of these are ranked except for the top three, of which two are tied for first place.  The rest, I’ve listed them in the chronological order of when I’ve read them this year.  All of these have been reviewed by me on Novel Notions and Goodreads.

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Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #3 of 3), First Law World (Book, #3 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 20th March 2008 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


I’ve been meaning to read The First Law trilogy for years, after hearing loads of accolades from far and wide across the fantasy bibliosphere. Now that I’ve done so, I could safely say that Abercrombie deserved all those praises, and I’ll contribute by heaping on more of the same.

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Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #2 of 3), First Law World (Book, #2 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 15th March 2007 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


This is when I start to bemoan about picking up this trilogy so late. To think that I actually met Abercrombie at WorldCon last year before completing The First Law. It was such a travesty of an opportunity, and I’m repentant for it.

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Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie


The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #1 of 3), First Law World (Book, #1 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 4th May 2006 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


Before anyone gasped in surprise that I’ve not read this excellent grimdark entry by Joe Abercrombie, allow me to provide a little backstory.

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Celeste’s Top 20 Books of the Year (2019)

Celeste’s Top 20 Books of the Year (2019)

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 20 Lists.


If you’d like to see more stats about my reading year, click here.

The literary world was kind to me this year.  In 2019, I read over 115 books, and a ton of those have been 4 or 5 star reads. It was incredibly difficult to narrow my list down to my top 20 books, but I finally managed it. There will be a handful of honorable mentions at the end of this post, for those I just couldn’t bare to not include. I’m taking a page from Petrik and following three rules for my list:

1. Only one book per author.
2. Rereads don’t count.
3. The books were new to me, but didn’t have to be published this year.

For the first time, I’m ranking my reads for the entire year. That being said, every single book on this list was a 4.5 or 5 star read and I highly recommend them all.  You can view my full review of each book (including the honorable mentions) by clicking the link in each title.  And now, without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2019.

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Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #3 of 3), First Law World (Book, #2 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Pages: 670 pages (UK paperback edition)

Published: 20th March 2008 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


Abercrombie has been titled as Lord Grimdark for years now; I truly believe that Last Argument of Kings is majorly responsible for this.

“Round and round in circles we go, clutching at successes we never grasp, endlessly tripping over the same old failures. Truly, life is the misery we endure between disappointments.”

Last Argument of Kings is the third—and final book—in The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Every plot lines from the first two books lead to the revelations and brutal conclusion in this installment. The story picks up immediately from where Before They Are Hanged left off, and it has come full circle. Depending on your perspective, Last Argument of Kings is either bittersweet, depressingly bleak or in between; I personally think it’s the latter. Abercrombie writes as if he’s a maestro of death and hopelessness. If you’re hanging on the edge of a cliff, Abercrombie will give you a dangling rope to save you but when you use that rope to save yourself from falling, he annihilates your hopes by using that rope to strangle you when you’re at the top. Yet, I must say that it is precisely for this unforgiving realism that I end up considering Last Argument of Kings as my favorite book in the series.

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Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #2 of 3), First Law World (Book, #2 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Pages: 573 pages (UK paperback edition)

Published: 15th March 2007 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


Before They Are Hanged succeeds over The Blade Itself wonderfully.

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”—Heinrich Heine

I’ve mentioned in my review of The Blade Itself that although I highly enjoyed it, Abercrombie’s debut felt like more like a setup book; a necessary installment for the remaining two books in the trilogy to shine. Before They Are Hanged is where Abercrombie starts progressing the storyline and the third book is where he wraps things up explosively. On this reread, I’ve come to realize that The First Law trilogy can be defined as one gigantic volume divided into three; the conclusion of the first two books in the trilogy continues immediately in their respective sequel as if it’s a simple chapter change and there were no definite conclusive storylines until the end of Last Argument of Kings. This storytelling style makes binge-reading the trilogy such a great experience, and I love this book more than The Blade Itself.

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Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie


The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #1 of 3), First Law World (Book, #1 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Pages: 544 pages (UK paperback edition)

Published: 4th May 2006 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


The Blade Itself was my first entry into a grimdark fantasy novel that I highly enjoyed; on this reread, I loved it even more.

“Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than live with the fear of it.”

Back in October 2016, the only reason I stumbled upon this bloody marvelous trilogy was that, as many other readers did, I was looking for a reading experience that could offer me the kind of unpredictability and morally ambiguous characters that the Game of Thrones TV show did. I haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire back then, fans of Game of Thrones weren’t so divisive in their opinion yet too, but suffice to say I was surprised that I got what I was looking for in this series, and more. I’ve read many grimdark novels since then, and it’s baffling that I haven’t encountered many grimdark characters with characterizations level as high as Abercrombie. Seeing that Abercrombie’s newest novel in the world of First Law is coming out in a month, I figured it’s about time for me to actually refresh my memory and check whether it was my nostalgia goggles playing trick on me; it wasn’t, I actually loved my reread experience more than my first read.

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Celeste’s Top 10 Books of the Year so Far (January 1st, 2019-June 30th, 2019)

Celeste’s Top 10 Books of the Year so Far (January 1st, 2019-June 30th, 2019)

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 10 Lists. His work is amazing, and we feel incredibly fortunate to have been favored with it. Thank you so much, Felix!

So far, 2019 has been an incredible reading year for me. Between January 1st and June 30th I read right around 60 books, and have found a number of new favorites. It was incredibly difficult to narrow my list down to ten books, but I finally managed it. There will be a handful of honorable mentions at the end of this post, for those I just couldn’t bare to not include. I’m taking a page from Petrik and following three rules for my list:

1. Only one book per author.
2. Rereads don’t count.
3. The books were new to me, but didn’t have to be published this year.

For the first time, I’m ranking my reads. That being said, every single book on this list was a 5 star read and I highly recommend them all.  You can view my full review of each book (including the honorable mentions) by clicking the link  in each title.  And now, without further ado, here are my favorite books of the past six months.

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Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read some dark stuff in my life, but I believe that Last Argument of Kings is the bleakest, most brutal book I’ve read, ever. Joe Abercrombie undoubtedly earned his title as the King of Grimdark. If it wasn’t for the humor Abercrombie had been deftly layering into the story since The Blade Itself, I don’t know that I could’ve finished this final installment. I joked with my fellow Novel Notions bloggers that I felt like I needed to bathe in kittens and rainbows when I read the last pages, and that honestly wasn’t far from the truth. I started half a dozen or more books in the aftermath of this book, only to put them down again because they weren’t bright enough. I finally settled on rereading a Nora Roberts trilogy that I’ve read over and over since my teenage years. Nora’s charming descriptions of Ireland could not be further removed from the Union and the North as Abercrombie detailed them.

“I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.”

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