2020 – My Favorite Reads

This year was a doozey. But there was a lot of down time to read. That’s always a plus for me. I read 100 books from 11 genres, with 2 of those being broken into 15 subcategories (fantasy – 2, romance – 13). Five of that total number were my own books. The lonely category was a YA book (The Wave by Todd Strasser). Romance was the most read genre (of course). 47 books. The top three subcategories were Regency (11), Contemporary (9) and Chick Lit (8).

In nonfiction, I learned more about writing, painting, democracy, and how the FBI was founded. I learned about Michelle Obama (most popular book), Russell M. Nelson, Reese Witherspoon, and Frederick Douglass (the escaped slave abolitionist). I learned self-help principles from Brooke Snow and Brene Brown and have loved putting new principles into action.

Here is my Goodreads infographic so you can see and click on any book that interests you. Below are my favorites. The top 10 are in order but after that I liked them all and it was hard to order them. 🙂

My Favorites

  1. Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (historical romance)
  2. Living in Your True Identity by Brooke Snow (inspirational self-help)
  3. Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (Vin and Ellend Books 1-3) (epic fantasy)
  4. Insights from a Prophet’s Life: biography of Russell M. Nelson by Sherri Dew (biographical)
  5. In Name Only by Jennifer Peel (contemporary romance)
  6. The Dear Wife by Jennifer Peel (contemporary romance/women’s fiction)
  7. Becoming by Michelle Obama (memoir)
  8. Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (Wax and Wayne books 4-6) (epic fantasy)
  9. The Noel Letters by Richard Paul Evans (holiday inspirational romance)
  10. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy)
  11. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (historical fiction)
  12. Romancing the Rake by Nichole Van (Scottish Regency romance)
  13. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (epic fantasy)
  14. Of Sword and Shadow by A.L. Sowards (medieval romance)
  15. Love Redesigned by Jenny Proctor (contemporary romance)
  16. Carried: how one mother’s trust in God helped her through the unthinkable by Michelle Schmidt (inspirational/non-fiction)
  17. The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer (suspense thriller)
  18. The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin (medical thriller)
  19. Yellow Crocus & Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim (historical fiction—slavery)
  20. Note of Change Anthology (especially loved Ring of Gold by Nichole Van) (regency/historical)
  21. Roommaid by Sariah Wilson (contemporary romance)
  22. Saints Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand (historical non-fiction)
  23. Ill Winds by Larry Diamond (political non-fiction)
  24. America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoi (historical fiction)
  25. The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey (WWII historical)
  26. Facial Recognition by Jennifer Peel (contemporary romance)
  27. Reforming Lord Neil by Sally Britton (regency romance)
  28. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Himself (autobiography
  29. A Wrinkle in Forever by Charissa Stastny (contemporary romance)
  30. Girl at Heart by Kelly Oram (YA romance)

There you go! My favorite books I read in 2020. There were plenty more I didn’t feature here. You can see the rest on my Goodreads Yearly Review.

Have you read any of these I listed?

Did you have a favorite book this year that just really touched you?

My new year’s wish for you as 2021 approaches is that you have tons of good books to read. Reading helps us become more empathetic. Books strengthen us by letting us figure out different choices in our head and heart that we might never have to make in real life as we journey along with different characters. That decision-making process in books enables us to become wiser in our own lives.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy new year. . . and Happy Reading!

(Not so) Alone for Christmas

Here’s another fun Christmas story. (Not so) Alone for Christmas is a novella. Short and sweet. It’s written by the lovely Jenny Proctor (who also has edited a couple of my books). She’s a great author and an amazing editor. I would be lost without her. 🙂

So, without further ado. Here is the blurb for this book:

Problem number one: Maddy’s family is NOT at home. A surprise Christmas visit to Charleston only works if the family you’re surprising hasn’t decided to spend the holidays in Hawaii.

Problem number two: Maddy is stranded. There is snow on the ground in Charleston, a city that doesn’t even own a snow plow. Flights are grounded, and the power is out. Maddy isn’t going anywhere.

Problem number three: Bo Bradshaw, Maddy’s old high school crush, is stranded with her, and he is hotter than ever.

My Review

Five stars. I’m not a super big fan of novellas, because I like more depth in a story, but occasionally I find a fun one. This is one of those. Maddy’s plans for Christmas fall apart, so she heads home to surprise her family…only to be surprised by them. They are in Hawaii for Christmas but her old high school crush is housesitting for them. Bo. And just seeing him again resurrects all the past feelings she thought she had got over. This is a quick read, a quick romance fanned to life by an old crush on Maddie’s side (that’s still burning strong once she sees him again). The story was cute, the characters adorable, and the plot predictable but fun. If you want a book to make you smile this Christmas, give this one a try. I think you’ll enjoy it, as I did.

Happy Reading.

The Noel Letters

This Christmas book by Richard Paul Evans was very touching and heart-stirring. The Noel Letters was a beautiful Christmas miracle-type story, but way more depth and wisdom than a Hallmark movie. I underlined quotes like crazy. It was beautifully written and had flawed characters I grew to love. I was mesmerized by the story and loved the cute bookstore setting. The blooming second-chance romance was well done as well. Everything about this read was inspiring. It definitely exceeded all my expectations.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

As you sail your way through the sea of humanity, you will discover that most people don’t want truth. They want confirmation. Truth has always been frightening to those clinging to shaky ladders of belief. The more indefensible the belief, the tighter their grip. Let them be. Truth does not require confirmation nor consensus to endure. Truth is patient. It can afford to be. In the end it will have its way.”

Here’s to looking to truth, rather than confirmation going forward. Enjoy the holiday season and happy reading.

Rules Are Made to Be Ignored

I have another fun romance from Mylissa Demeyere. She’s my writing buddy who lives in Belgium, and her new book is quite delightful. Here’s a summary and review.

Shelley has had enough of flaky, traitorous men in her life and has sworn off them forever. But when her nephew Ben and his dad move to her same town, she suddenly craves to be part of Ben’s life. He’s practically the only family she has left around anymore, and she’s determined to do right by him. Her older sister, Zoe, left him and her boyfriend, Adrien, when Ben was a toddler, to live her life as she saw best (selfishly). Adrien has raised him alone for the past decade. As Shelley becomes a part-time caregiver to Ben to help Adrien out, she starts feeling things for her sister’s ex that she has no business feeling. But how to resist when he starts feeling the same way about her?

This was a fun, easy read that has a slightly forbidden romance, friends-to-lovers tropes written into it. The characters were adorable and the angst and family drama was very heart-grabbing. This is definitely worth a read. Here’s the Amazon link for you to check it out.

Happy Reading.

10 Ways to Survive Christmas with your Ex

I wasn’t expecting much from this novella, but I liked this author’s other works, so decided to give this a chance…and I’m so glad I did. 10 Ways to Survive Christmas with your Ex by Shari Tapscot was fantastic. In a short amount of time, the author skillfully made me adore the characters and get super engaged in their tangled love story.

This is a second chances love story between Georgia and Isaac (who works at the same restoration shop as Carter from Book 1). They were high school sweethearts, but she broke things off between them before she headed off to college in another state, knowing long-distance wouldn’t work for them again.

But now, they’re both spending Christmas with each other, since their parents are spending it together and insisted they both be there. It’s a  fun book with lots of laughs and lots of swoony moments. A perfect pick-me up book for if you’re feeling down. Or a perfect pick-me up story for if you’re feeling great. 😊

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Before We Were Yours

This book by Lisa Wingate was a historical/contemporary story, switching back and forth between present (with Avery Stafford, a lawyer who’s come home to help her senator dad through cancer treatments), and past (with Rill Foss, a swamp gypsy girl of twelve who is captured with her five siblings by the police and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home while her dad is at the hospital with her mom who is in labor).

Rill and her siblings are swindled from their parents, who are tricked into signing papers, supposedly to have the state pay for their hospital visit, but instead it gives their kids up to the State’s custody. They live through a hell from Mrs. Tann, the owner of the foundling home, that runs on very corrupt tactics. Tricks, deceits, abuse of all kinds, and murder of orphans.

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Warbreaker

Wow! I absolutely loved this book. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson is amazing. I’m not super into the fantasy genre, except for ones written by Sanderson and Amy Harmon. I tend to love everything I read by those two authors.

My daughter has been telling me forever that I would love this one, and I did! Realistic characters with so much depth and growth, fantastic settings—this one is set in a Color World, the magic being breath, which enhances colors and senses—and shocking plot twists that get me every time.

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In Name Only

Here’s another deep, heartwrenching romance by Jennifer Peel. Warning: This one was very emotional. Midstory, I couldn’t contain my tears. She made me feel as if I was living Dani’s and Brock’s story…and it was a sad one. My heart was tugged all over the place and put through quite the wringer.

This covers some very sensitive subjects of PTSD and miscarriage. Don’t go into this thinking it’s a light, fluffy romance. This one has so many layers to wade through  with deeply emotional and complicated relationships, among not just the MCs but the side characters. I love character depth, and this one fulfilled that craving.

This story stunned me, leaving me breathless with awe. It’s one I will definitely reread. This is the kind of story that leaves me a better person after I finish reading it, by teaching me more empathy and mercy, without ever preaching a sermon. This is the kind of story I am always searching for, and am so happy when I find, because I know it will live in my heart forever, helping me make better decisions every day.

If you haven’t read any of Jennifer Peel’s book, you’re missing out. Start today to remedy that hole in your life. 🙂

Here’s the Amazon link: In Name Only by Jennifer Peel

Happy Reading.

Loving a Lady

This latest romance by Nichole Van was divine! It’s the third book in the Brotherhood of the Tartan series.

Loving a Lady features Ewan, a giant of a man who grew up fighting to earn money to work his way out of poverty. He meets Lady Violet and is forever changed. Years later, when they meet again, he’s an accomplished artist on the cusp of national renown, who is working with her artist uncle. She’s inherited her Scottish estate from her mother and is bound by duty to cover all those expenses, debts and responsibilities inherent in the estate. But her heart longs for Ewan. He longs for her, but knows he will never be her equal, even if the king himself commissioned him to paint for him.

The two are in an impossible situation, a forbidden romance, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to reconcile their demons and duties, without hurting many others in the process and being cast out of high society.

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Roommaid

This was a super cute contemporary romance by Sariah Wilson. The gist of the story is this: Madison Huntington is desperate. She’s been disinherited by her rich and influential family because she has chosen to become a teacher, not the lawyer they demanded she be. Alone, without enough pennies to her name, she is seeking for an apartment close to the school where she will start teaching in the fall. Her aunt finds her an option to live with a man who travels a ton and needs a roommate to live with him for free, in exchange for some light housekeeping and dog sitting.

She jumps on the deal, especially when she sees her new roommate, Tyler, who is the most gorgeous man she’s ever met. But he has just one rule: no liking each other romantically. He’s been bitten by a roommate crushing on him in the past, and he refuses to go through that ordeal again. So with a white lie that she is in a serious relationship, Madison gets the position.

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