Best Books of 2020

At least the books in 2020 were great! ūüėČ

This year I added the category of romcom because I definitely appreciated the lighter reads, especially in a year of…doom.

Click through any of the covers for more details or to purchase. (I am an Amazon affiliate and may make a small commission.)

Please share your favorites of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Fiction

Mystery/Thriller

Historical Fiction

Romance/Romantic Comedy

Nonfiction

Best Books of 2019

It‚Äôs a longer list than normal this year. So many outstanding reads broken out into 4 categories, plus 2 surprises I highly recommend preordering for 2020. These are books I read in 2019 ‚ÄĒ they may have been published earlier. For more information on each book, click directly on the image.

Literature & Fiction

Mystery & Thriller

Historical Fiction

Nonfiction

Add to your 2020 Must Reads

I’d love to hear what you considered favorites this year. Leave me a comment below and have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!

Girl Unknown Review & Giveaway

We’ve all read a book or seen a movie about someone appearing in someone’s life intent on destroying it.  What I loved about the premise of this book is that this person is a long-lost child, one our protagonist, David, never knew about before she shows up.

David is a college professor trying to move up the ranks all while dealing with his aging mother, wife Caroline’s return to work, and two kids.  Things are finally falling back in place with him until Zoe shows up.  Being the father that he is, he welcomes Zoe into their lives and home, hoping she fits right in.  But what are her motivations?  Who is hiding what?

The beginning of this book had a great pace, and the fact that the story alternated characters telling it between David and Caroline made it move quickly.  The ending sizzled.  I just felt the middle got a little bogged down.  And even when it finished, I was left with several unanswered questions.

I was surprised to discover that even when I thought I knew how things ended, the authors threw me another twist.  This is a dark tale, perfect for those who want to know more about the characters of a thriller.  With each chapter, we unravel more and more about what makes them tick and how easy it is to make them crumble.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Together they wrote Girl Unkown.

Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A recipient of the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, he teaches creative writing at University College, Dublin.

Karen Gillece is the author of several critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland).

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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A Stranger in the House Review & Giveaway

For all the parts of The Couple Next Door that I loved, there were some similarities:

1. The action begins right as the book takes off.  No slow buildup getting to know characters or backgrounds.  You open this book and the story begins.  With a bang.  Literally.

2. Short chapters. ¬†It’s so nice when life gets busy and I have minimal time to read for pleasure that I can get more reading in because chapters don’t drag. ¬†They are quick and succinct.

3. Always a surprise. ¬†Even when you reach the conclusion and discover the truth, there’s still another surprise lurking.

So fans of her debut will enjoy this book as well. ¬†It’s the story of Karen Krupp, a bookkeeper, who races out of her home one night without her purse and her phone and while dinner is still cooking. ¬†When her husband, Tom, arrives home, he has no idea what happened to her or where she went.

I give credit to the author for this unique storyline, which seems to be getting harder and harder to provide in the mystery/thriller genre.  I have not read a book like this before.  She continuously drops surprises throughout but does so with subtlety.

About the author:

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before turning to writing fiction. She has written two award-winning literary novels, and her suspense debut, The Couple Next Door, was a New York Times and an international bestseller. A Stranger in the House is her second thriller.

I have a treat for you all!  The kind folks at Penguin have sent me an advanced copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Follow Me Down Review & Giveaway

When I saw one of my favorite thriller writers, Chevy Stevens, call this new psychological thriller “clever and remarkable,” I knew I’d be in for a fun ride. ¬†And that cover! ¬†This book was one I didn’t want to miss. ¬†It lived up to the hype and made me a new fan of Sherri Smith.

Mia Haas gets a phone call from the police department in her hometown that her twin brother, Lucas, is missing and she needs to get there immediately. ¬†When she arrives she finds out that in addition to his disappearance, he’s a suspect for murder. ¬†Knowing in her gut that he is not capable of murder, she sets out to prove him innocent, find him, and uncover the truth.

Having grown up in this town where everybody knows everybody’s business, it makes it hard for her to investigate. ¬†On top of that, the police seem to be holding a grudge against Lucas.

One thing I loved about this book was how each character was flawed in some way or multiple ways. ¬†Including Mia. ¬†Not one person was presented¬†as perfect. ¬†It was so true to reality that it kept me eagerly turning the pages. ¬†As Mia gets closer to finding the truth, more and more secrets of small town life and the people living it come pouring out, which exceeded this thriller lover’s expectations.

This story was told in a linear fashion, too, and I know many readers don’t like going back and forth in time, so for those who don’t, be sure to pick this one up. ¬†For a debut suspense novel, this has all the makings of a blockbuster. ¬†I was genuinely surprised by the ending and think you will be too. ¬†I’d love to see some of these characters return in a new book and eagerly look forward to what Sherri comes up with next.

Thanks to Tor/Forge for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to the publisher, I have 2 copies to give away to lucky readers.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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2017 Fictional Valentines

Whether you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day or not, I know you all enjoy reading books. ¬†And who hasn’t imagined a fictional character in a book treating you the way you deserve, whispering sweet nothings in your ear?

I have to admit that I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, so no Mr. Darcy here. ¬†Here are 6 newish releases I picked for this year’s fictional Valentines. ¬†Men only and no YA. ¬†Thought that might be a little awkward. ¬†So without further ado…

Josh from The Hating Game

Currently $7.99 on Kindle

A workplace love-hate relationship that turns quickly to love. ¬†You’ll enjoy the funny banter between the characters and whip through this read.

Alexander from The Bronze Horseman

Currently $1.99 on Kindle

This soldier will go to any length to protect his true love during war.  A sizzling romance follows in Book 1 of this epic trilogy.

Pat from Center Ring

Currently $4.99 on Kindle

A Hollywood actor who spends his days with the most beautiful women on the planet falls for a PR executive and treats her like royalty.

Dominic from Falling

Currently $12.99 on Kindle

You’ll discover that family comes in all shapes in sizes when this single father landlord falls for his new tenant.

 

Patrick from I Let You Go

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

While only in this book for a short time, he’s the one that treats Jenna as she deserves, without asking questions of her past and judging her.

Andy from Who Do You Love

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

From first meeting Rachel as a child, Andy realizes throughout his life that love at first sight can happen at any time.

 

So who did I miss? ¬†Who would be your fictional Valentine? ¬†Please let me know! ¬†Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Land of Hidden Fires

From the back cover:

Occupied Norway, 1943. After seeing an allied plane go down over the mountains, headstrong fifteen year-old Kari Dahlstr√łm sets out to locate the wreck. She soon finds the cocky American pilot Lance Mahurin and offers to take him to Sweden, pretending she’s a member of the resistance. While her widower father Erling and the disillusioned Nazi Oberleutnant Conrad Moltke hunt them down, Kari begins to fall for Lance, dreaming of a life with him in America. Over the course of the harrowing journey, though, Kari learns hard truths about those around her as well as discovering unforeseen depths within herself.

What reviewers are saying:

“Land of Hidden Fires is a compelling testament to the dangers, and necessity, of resistance. Kjeldsen writes about the quiet horrors of life in wartime with clear-eyed humanity and grace.”

‚ÄĒ Colin Winnette, author of Haints Stay

“Despite the high drama and action-driven hunt, the story remains at its core a quiet one, focused on the well-developed, internal struggles of the characters and with the careful, evocative use of language… Kjeldsen’s writing benefits from a deep underlying knowledge, not only of World War II ranks and weaponry – though history buffs should appreciate the details – but also of farming techniques, the hazards of a winter trek through Scandinavian woods, and animal behavior… A quiet and introspective novel of wartime adventure.”
‚ÄĒ Kirkus Reviews

‚ÄúA fine wartime tale of survival and resistance, told with clean, compelling prose. The tough and resourceful Kari will linger in your memory, and the evocative setting will leave you shivering beneath the sheets.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒ Dan Fesperman, author of The Letter Writer

Thanks to the author, I have one paperback copy to give away!  Please enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Best Books of 2016

I know 2016 was a great year for books when all but one of these selections published for the first time this year.  This list contains multiple genres, everything from memoir to YA and even a new one for me, sci-fi.  So grab a cup of coffee and get your holiday gift lists ready!

The Sound of GravelThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth¬†Wariner: A fascinating memoir about growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico and it’s one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction. ¬†Beautifully written considering the author’s trials and tribulations and a perfect book for fans of The Glass Castle.

All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson: This beautiful and All the Winters Afterhaunting novel is not just words written on paper, but a multilayered story of a family and their grief over time.  At its heart is also a love story, not only between two people, but one between a person and his home.  The setting is chilling and the story is full of hope and promise.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I truly was holding my breath in spots as I turned the pages of this book. ¬†It had a hold on me that didn’t let up until I finished the entire thing. ¬†For a debut author, that’s quite an accomplishment. ¬†This is the one thriller I’ve recommended to everyone this year. ¬†I guarantee you won’t think of a “perfect marriage” the same way after finishing this book.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: When I think of outstanding YA, my brain automatically goes to John Green for The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park. ¬†Make room on your The Serpent Kingbookshelves for Jeff Zentner. ¬†He had me laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next. ¬†I was so emotionally invested in these characters. ¬†They were extremely well drawn out that I couldn’t help but form a tight connection. ¬†I was sad to see them go as I turned the final page.

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult: As important as this novel is, so is the author’s note at the end. ¬†Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace and credibility. ¬†You know a ton of research went into creating them. ¬†It’s a story of race relations and it couldn’t have come at such an important time in our history. ¬†I applaud her for not shying away from writing this story, which needed to be written, when she knows people will react with hatred. ¬†I know when I pick up one of her books I will never be disappointed.

Aftermath by Clara Kensie: Lots of books have been written about a tragedy, where something Aftermathhappens to a family as they all have to deal with it.  Aftermath takes place when a tragedy is resolved, and the repercussions of a kidnapped child and how the family handles it today.  I loved the short chapters which made it easy to keep reading.  The story itself was compelling and there were plenty of surprises along the way.

The One ManThe One Man by Andrew Gross: Mix historical fiction with a thriller and you have this hard-to-put-down novel.  Gross used to co-write with James Patterson but he clearly deserves the individual accolades for this one.  It is an extremely well-paced story about trying to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and then having to break out.  So far, this is the defining book of his career.

Center Ring by Nicole Waggoner: Nicole jokes that she was so homesick when she moved away from her hometown that she invented 5 best friends to keep her company and that’s how this Center Ringstory was born. ¬†I related to multiple characters in this book, especially when they were trying to balance it all, like the circus theme suggests. ¬†It ends with a cliffhanger but happy to report Book 2 in the trilogy, The Act, releases in February!

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A beautiful reflection of living life and living it to the fullest told by this neurosurgeon as he faces his imminent death from cancer.   Yes, the story is heartbreaking, but his words will move you.  This is a tiny book but it sure packs a powerful punch.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin: I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this debut was recommended and blurbed by both Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favoriteThe Forgetting Time authors. ¬†This has one of the most unique storylines I’ve ever read and had me spellbound. ¬†It even has a mystery embedded in the story. ¬†I cannot recommend it enough.

Emmy & OliverEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: A sweet and fun contemporary YA. ¬† Oliver is kidnapped¬†by his father and reappears years later in his hometown when all his elementary school friends are now teenagers. ¬†Emmy’s personality is full of wit and snark and just jumps off the page. ¬†A truly heartfelt read that answers the question, “Does absence make the heart grow fonder?”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Sci-fi is not a genre I normally read but when I heard all the raveDark Matter reviews for this one, I knew I had to pick it up. ¬†It is a complete mind warp that has your brain working in new ways. ¬†As I was reading, I was envisioning it playing out as a movie right in front of me. ¬†So even if this isn’t normally your cup of tea, if you like thrillers and fast-paced books, please give it a try.

 

Did you read any of these books and feel the same way? ¬†What were your favorites of 2016? ¬†I’d love to hear and welcome any comments. ¬†Have a Happy New Year!

 

 

Book Spotlight: You Will Know Me

Synopsis from Amazon:

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits–until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers–about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself–forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.

From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl” (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition.

image About the Author:

MEGAN ABBOTT is the Edgar award-winning author of seven novels, including DARE ME, THE END OF EVERYTHING and her latest, THE FEVER, which won both the International Thriller Writers and Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and was chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Her stories have appeared in anthologies including Detroit Noir, Queens Noir and the Best American Mystery Stories of 2014.

She is also the author of The Street Was Mine, a study of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Her next novel, You Will Know Me, comes out in July 2016. She has been nominated for awards including the Steel Dagger, the LA Times Book Prize and the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she is working on developing DARE ME and THE FEVER for television. Megan is a staff writer on HBO’s forthcoming David Simon show, The Deuce.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English Literature and went on to receive her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She lives in Queens, New York City.

Thank you to BookSparks for allowing us to share this book wih our readers.

All Is Not Forgotten Review

Wendy Walker sure knows how to hook a reader. ¬†I don’t remember any chapter from this book that did not leave me hanging, ready to find out¬†what happens next.

All Is Not Forgotten is a new psychological thriller dealing with the subject of rape.  Please be aware of this when deciding whether to read this novel because I know it may bother some.  The main character, Jenny, is a student who is brutally attacked at a high school party.  Her parents decide to try a new drug that erase her memories of what happened.  Trouble starts in that she is experiencing stress, fear, and panic but has no idea of how to connect those feelings to a memory.

Enter Alan, Jenny’s therapist, who tries to work with the family in helping her recover and find her attacker. ¬†What I truly enjoyed about this novel is Alan narrates the entire thing, even before we initially meet him as a character. ¬†I found that to be unique because this traumatic tale is told from an outsider’s look in, so we get a bigger picture.

If you liked Defending Jacob, this novel should definitely go on your summer reading list because they share a few similarities.  Throw in some family dysfunction and plot lines encouraging you to quickly turn pages and you have the makings of a perfect summer read.

Thank you to BookSparks for a copy as part of their #SRC2016 #bestsummerever campaign in exchange for an honest review.