20 Incredible Reads in 2020 To Love

2020 brought lots of changes and some found it perfect for reading, while others found it hard to focus and get any reading in. I managed to push through and I’ve read/listened to a total of 109 books for the year. Here are my top 20 favorites, in no particular order.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah- 

Ahh, another Kristen Hannah book to love. I read this one on Kindle. If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing, you would love this one. Set in 1974 Alaska, Leni (13) has moved with her parents to remote Alaska so her dad can escape the dark cloud that follows him from the Vietnam war. Her mother is hopeful that without the stresses of the mainland and city, he will be restored to the man he was before. Unfortunately, the Alaska winters and darkness are too much for him. This is a story of survival, community, coming of age, mother/daughter bonds, and family violence, all carefully woven together. 5 stars

“In the silence, Leni wondered if one person could ever really save another, or if it was the kind of thing you had to do for yourself.”

The Clause in Christmas by Rachael Bloome

This is adorable! So much that I’m now hooked on reading the whole series. Cassie inherits a cottage from her estranged grandmother. There is a catch. She has to complete a Christmas calendar of activities to receive the inheritance. The bad news is Cassie hates Christmas and has never celebrated. The good news is that there is a handsome attorney assigned to oversee her compliance and assist with the activities. Not only does Cassies’s heart change, but she is instrumental in changing the hearts of others.

“Who knew something as simple as a topiary draped in lights and colorful baubles could evoke such an emotional response?”

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

I have read Dugoni’s crime thrillers and love them, but this is a different genre. A coming of age story so to speak, in which the main character, Sam Hill suffers from ocular albinism. His eyes have no color and appear red. His mother insists he attend a private Catholic school and fights against discrimination to get him in. The only African American kid in his class becomes his best friend. Sam tells his story from childhood to adulthood and how he finds meaning, purpose and God’s will in his life. This book addresses discrimination, race, bullying, and religion through fiction. 5 stars

“Our skin, our hair, and our eyes are simply the shell that surrounds our soul, and our soul is who we are. What counts is on the inside.”

A Merciful Promise (Mercy Kilpatrick #6) Kendra Elliot

This is part of a series and I loved how the book and series ends. You could read any of the books as a stand alone, but if you want to be truly invested in the characters and the ending, read them in order and read this one last. In this book, Mercy is sent off on an undercover assignment. It is a little different take from the “somebody got killed, who did it? approach. On the other hand, Truman is investigating bodies and it’s pretty easy to figure out that the two investigations will be related this time. 4 stars

The Last Agent (Charles Jenkins #2) by Robert Dugoni I loved the first book (The Eighth Sister) so as soon as this one was released I signed up for a Kindle Unlimited subscription so I could read this one. Jenkins returns to Moscow to rescue the agent who put her life on the line for him in book one. He had believed she was dead but new information suggests she could still be alive. These books are like fast paced action movies, but playing in your mind instead of on screen. 4 stars

The Alice Network- Kate Quinn. I should have included this one in March, because I mostly read it in March, finishing it on April 2, 2020. I read the Kindle version and listened on Scribd. The story alternates between Eve, a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and Charlie, an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947. Charlie’s search led her to Eve and as they pair up to find her cousin, Eve’s story is told. I enjoyed Eve’s story much better than Charlie’s but still give this one four stars. There is a romance woven in.

Me Before You Jojo Moyes I picked this up at the thrift store just before the quarantine started so I also read this one as a most recently acquired. I alternated between reading and listening to a free audio version on Audiobooks.com. “Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.” This one can be slow at times, but it’s overall a gripping love story. 4 stars

Cross Her Heart-(Bree Taggert 1) by Melinda Leigh- Read and Listened via Kindle Unlimited “For more than twenty-five years, Philadelphia homicide detective Bree Taggert has tucked away the nightmarish childhood memories of her parents’ murder-suicide…Until her younger sister, Erin, is killed in a crime that echoes that tragic night: innocent witnesses and a stormy marriage that ended in gunfire. There’s just one chilling difference. Erin’s husband, Justin, has vanished.” So Bree goes to her niece and nephew and inserts herself into the investigation. If you follow my book review, you know I love Melinda Leigh, and this one didn’t disappoint. The perfect combination of thrillers and romance. 4 stars

No Ordinary Dog; My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid by Will Chesney

I loved this! This is the story of a SEAL Team Six member/ military dog handler and his partner Cairo. Cairo is the Belgian Malinois who hit the ground in 2011 to take out bin Laden. The story of Operation Neptune Spear is only a small part of the story. I listened to the audio version which is narrated by Will. He does a great job and it’s good to hear his story told in his own voice. I own a Belgian Malinois so I have no trouble picturing the personality, intelligence, strength and determination of Cairo. He’s quite a character and served his country in greater ways than some humans dare. Any dog lover should read this. 4 stars

The Trapped Girl (Tracy Crosswhite #4) Read and listened via Kindle Unlimited This was the best of the series yet for me! A boy who is illegally crabbing finds a woman’s body submerged in a crab pot. It seems that she is someone (Andrea Strickland) who was trying to hide her identity. But is it Strickland? This book has some really neat twists and turns. If it’s not Stickland, where is she? Who is the woman in the pot? and who killed her? 5 stars

Sweet Thing (#1) by Renee Carlino Read via Scribd/ listened via Audible Escape. I could easily read the same authors over and over but I’ve been trying to challenge myself to read different things. I’ve seen Carlino recommended before so I decided to give this a go. Wow! Upon her father’s death, Mia, 25, leaves Ann Arbor and goes to New York to take over her father’s cafe while she decides what to do with her life. On the plain, she meets Will, a charming musician she is instantly attracted to. She tells herself he is not her type- he doesn’t have a “real job”. Once in New York, he answers an ad she places and becomes her roommate. It’s clear to her he cannot be just her roommate (even though they date other people) and she is fighting a losing battle with herself. The tension (all fun) in this book had me finishing this one in almost one day just to see if they get together as a couple and then back together after they do and break up. Fun, serious and sad at times. Warning: has some sexually explicit content. 4 stars

Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino- I dove right into another Carlino book after the first one. Read and listened via Scribd and Audible Escape. Emiline’s roommate brings home a novel about two childhood friends who fall in love. Emiline reluctantly reads the book and quickly realizes it is her story- her abusive childhood and her friend Jase’s troubled upbringing with a drug addicted mother. As teens they fall in love but are separated by circumstances. Jase writes the book in hopes of finding her and to heal her. Not only a love story, but one of forgiveness and self-discovery. This one is raw, real and emotional. Favorite line- “She has her own demons and if she rejects you, it’ll have nothing to do with who you are.” Emiline’s dad 4 stars

Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino Yet another Carlino book that sucked me in. This book overuses foul language, sex and starts out shallow. I almost stopped reading it but kept going. Charlotte and her roommate are in their 20s with no life plans, bouncing from guy to guy and job to job. Then Charlotte has a one night stand with Adam and can’t forget him. She also doesn’t understand why he doesn’t make contact with her, yet he paints a mural on a building with a scene from their conversation during the one night stand. Charlotte has started seeing Seth but finds out the shocking truth about Adam and has the chance to reunite with him. The story moves from shallow to deep story of love, loss, grief and healing. Favorite lines -“Rules are for people with the luxury of time.” “We won’t be judged by the brevity of our lives. ” Adam 4 stars

November 9 by Colleen Hoover- wow, just wow! I got a little frustrated with the two main characters for dragging out and postponing this relationship when they were clearly crazy about each other, but oh the plot twist. “Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.” Read and listened on Scribd. 5 stars

Still Alice by Lisa Genova This one has been on my TBR list for a long time. So glad I finally read it. I read and listened on Scribd. GET THE TISSUES! “Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…” 5 stars

It Ends With Us by Coleen Hoover- This got a 5 star rating from me. I read and listened via Scribd. Lily has a chance meeting with Ryle on a rooftop and then another strange meeting. The attraction is strong but Ryle has made it clear he’s not a relationship type of guy. The story drifts back and to between Lily and Ryle and Lily and Atlas, who was Lily’s best friend and first love from high school. A chance meeting with Atlas brings things with Ryle into question. Warning: you will need tissues and if you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you might want to skip this one. Hoover does an excellent job diving into the dynamics of domestic violence and family abuse. This one gets very deep and raw.

Lock Every Door- by Riley Sager. This is my first by Riley Sager and I’ll be looking into more. I listened to this one completely on Audible and it makes a great audio book. It would be a great page turner to in print. Jules takes an apartment sitting job in a high profile apartment building that is home to some elite people. There are strange rules about what you can and can’t do as a sitter. Then a fellow sitter goes missing and she discovers others have gone missing before as well. She begins to dig into the dark mystery of this apartment building and finds herself in danger. 4 stars

Before We Were Yours: A Novel Lisa Wingate 5 stars. Read the print version/ hardback. I could not walk away from this one. Talk about injustice! “Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.” Rill Foss and her siblings are some of the children kidnapped and sold. Avery Stafford is a successful prosecutor and possible political candidate. A chance meeting has her digging into her family’s past and her grandmother’s secrets. Rill and Avery are connected but I won’t spoil it for you. The story is told back and forth from past to present between Rill and Avery.

Firefly Lane- by Kristin Hannah I loved the Nightingale by Hannah, even though the ending ticked me off because it was not the fate I would have chosen for the heorine, and well, Hannah did it to me again with this one! I loved it but I really didn’t like the fate of my favorite character. This is the story of Kate and Tully who become friends as tweens and follows their lives and careers. Kate has a stable family that she thinks is uncool as a teen and sees Tully as the cool girl, even though Tully’s mom is a drug addict and all Tully wants is the love Kate has from a family. This is a touching story of friendship that survives jealousy, hurt and betrayal. I listened to the audio version on Scribd. 5 stars

Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of your life and set healthy, biblical boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, parents, co-workers, and even yourself. 5 stars

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