Friday, January 8, 2021

Book Club: Best Books of 2020

 

Happy first Book Club post of 2021 friends! For our book loving readers - get ready because this is a jam packed post. We're wrapping up all things 2020 and sharing our favorites of the year! 

For those of you who aren't into reading, grab a glass of wine, click Bridgerton on your Netflix and enjoy! It's book to screen, so it totally counts. And you'll thank us later. We promise! ;) 


WHAT WE READ...

CARRIE BETH

I wasn't able to get through quite as many books as I had hoped this past month because I felt like I was running a marathon just trying to get ready for Christmas, but I was able to finish three!  


First up for me was The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.  I really wasn't sure what to expect from this story, but I almost always love the Reese Witherspoon picks, so figured I would give it a try.  It was a little slow for me to get into and took a while to develop the characters, but I did enjoy it.  It's about an English woman, Alice, that finds herself married to a handsome man in small-town Kentucky during the depression era.  The story follows her as she begins to make friends in the town, grow more unhappy with her marriage, and finally build up the courage to leave the overpowering rule of her father-in-law's home. The friendship between the small group of women who run a mobile library service give them all the strength and courage to stand up for themselves against the conventional rule of men who think it is their place to tell the women what they can and can't do.  I loved the way it ended and was happy to learn Alice was happy in the end. 

To put me in the Christmas spirit I read In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren.  It was a very cute story that had a sort of Groundhog Day feel to it.  The main character, Maelyn, finds herself living the same holiday vacation over and over. During this she starts making decisions and takes actions to help herself get what she wants and ultimately is able to break the repeated pattern and end up with all she ever hoped for.  It was a quick, easy, and cute holiday read! 


My book loving friend, J, texted me about this book and told me I should listen to it. Her suggestions never fail me! The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid had actually been on my Audible Wish-List for a while so I finally decided to give it a go.  It's a story about the rise of fame in Hollywood, and the heartbreaking things that some will do to get (and stay) there. It's told through several different points of view as Evelyn, an iconic movie star, hand picks her interviewer to write a book about her life story.  Without giving too much away, I wasn't expecting the forbidden love plot that became the main focus of the story.  I really enjoyed this novel, but felt that towards the end I was ready for it to wrap up. Then WHAM, I was hit with the unexpected twist and learned the reason that Evelyn chose her interviewer.  I didn't see it coming AT ALL and it really makes you think about what you would do in that position. 

JEN

Saddle up because I finished the 2020 with a reading frenzy! As I sat down to type this post I realized I read/listened to seven books over the course of the busiest month of the year. After a lackluster November on my part for Book Club, December proved to be much more exciting. 

Covid rearing it's nasty germy self again cancelled most of our plans and activities for the month. So even though we were still busy, it wasn't the normal level of busy we are used to experiencing during the holidays. 

And I can't say I'm mad about it. 

Especially when it allotted for more free time to read...with an extra glass of wine or two. 




Feeling the holiday the spirit, first up for the month was In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I've come to really enjoy books by this best friend author duo, and In a Holidaze was a fun surprise to kick off a month of reading. The concept of the story was farfetched, but super fun. As Carrie Beth mentioned, it was a quick, enjoyable read that had me sucked in from the first chapter. Lots of romance (PG for those wondering), lots of humor, and lots of little life lessons.  Even though the book has a holiday feel to it, I think it is a background part of the story. You most definitely could pick this up and read it anytime of the year. 



Second on the list for the month was The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. I had this on Audible and had been trying to finish it for months now. I'm so glad I did because it was such a fun one! The story follows Nina who works in a bookstore and is more than content with her well routined life - especially her solitude. Until one day a lawyer walks into work and informs her she has received an inheritance from her long lost mystery father. The kicker? The family she never knew existed lives in the same town she does. There's family drama, there's a love interest, and there is a TON of humor. I loved this book and it has me earmarking more by Abbi Waxman for future reads. 



This next book might be one of my favorites for the entire year. This Time Next Year was another Audible listen for me, but speaking to a few friends who read it, they enjoyed it just as much. Okay there is a lot packed into this book, but the gist of it is two people (Minnie & Quinn) meet at a New Year's Eve party. Turns out they had actually met before - on the day of their birth thirty years before. They were the first babies born of the new year and there was a big deal about their births. But their lives took two completely different directions. Minnie comes from a financially challenging background and believes she has the worst luck in the world. Quinn on the other hand has lead a seemingly charmed wealthy life. But things aren't always as they seem - for either of them. The story flips back and forth between past birthdays and instances where both Quinn and Minnie's paths crossed, but they had no idea. This was a slow burning love story that came together perfectly for me at the end. I enjoyed it and if you like "chic lit" with a little more depth - put this one on your radar. 



Audible number three for the month was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I saw this won the Goodreads vote for Book of the Year, and was intrigued. It follows the story of Nora Seed and her visit to The Midnight Library - the space between life and death. Nora gets a kind of "butterfly effect" look at her life's regrets and what would have happened if she made different decisions. 

I have two major thoughts about this book...
 1: I should have saved this book for a later date. 
2: Trigger warning: It deals with suicide. 

The Midnight Library is a really good book. But at times it deals with pretty depressing content, and nothing screams holiday joy like reading a book about life's regrets and searching for a better life, am I right? 

I wish I had read it at a different time, but the concept and the way Haig wraps up the story is refreshing. It's very well written, and at times I felt like it was a little too philosophical. But again - that's on me and my mindset at the time. Now that we are beyond the holidays, I give it my full endorsement. 


After reading such a deep novel, I decided to really lighten things up for the back half of my reading pile. I loved the Simple Wild series I read earlier in the year. So, when I saw there was a new book released in December, I couldn't wait to dig in. Forever Wild is the third book in the series and wraps up the love story of Calla and Jonah and all of their Alaskan adventures. It picks up where the last books leaves off. Calla and Jonah are working on their charter business, building their home together, and planning a wedding. This book was a little lighter to me than the previous two, but still packs a lot in with wedding antics, a missing person, and the same lovable characters. Their story gives some great closure on their story, but I see where doors are open for the author to do a few more sequels or spin offs with other characters. (Fingers crossed!)


Reese Witherspoon never does me wrong. Not when it comes to her movies (Can I get a bend and snap?), and definitely not when it comes to her book recommendations. So when I spotted The Chicken Sisters in the grocery store - and saw her seal of approval - I threw it in the cart with out a second thought. This story was so fun! It's Marie Kondo meets Food Network meets The Real Housewives of Kansas all rolled into one. Two sisters end up competing on a reality television show for $100,000. Winner gets the cash and the claim of best chicken restaurant in their small town. The family rivalry dates back generations and for each sister this would be the ultimate win. It was a super cute story, with some fun characters, and light hearted family drama. I smiled throughout the story and it was a great read to sit down with during the holidays. Good choice Reese! 



To finish off the month I dug into one of my favorite series I stumbled upon earlier in the year. I love the parts of the Virgin River Series that I've read so far. Not to mention the show on Netflix was one of my favorites last year too. A friend asked if I had seen the latest season and I got so excited. I didn't have time to watch it, but still wanted my Virgin River fix. I downloaded the fourth book in the series on my Kindle and it just happened to be a Christmas story. 

In a A Virgin River Christmas, we meet Marcie who is a marine widow. It's been a year and she's determined to find her deceased husband's best friend to give him something special. She finds herself in a remote part of the outskirts of Virgin River and of course the town's favorite characters are welcoming. In true Virgin River fashion there is a town emergency (or three), and a romantic relationship that blossoms in the remote tundra of winter wilderness. They are frivolous fun romances novels that are easy to get into. The Christmas story wasn't my favorite one I've read so far, but it's fun to get a peek at some of the other characters in the town. 


WHAT'S UP NEXT...

CARRIE BETH

It's no secret that I love young adult fiction and back in the day the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer is where it all started.  A story about vampires and love?  I know...not my normal cup of tea, but oh how I remember being literally OBSESSED with the books.  I had babies at the time I read them, was still up nursing during the night and should have been trying to get every second of sleep I could, but I would stay up into the wee hours of the night reading.  I remember it was one of the first book series that left me thinking about the characters LONG after I was finished reading them.  


I am so excited to finally read Midnight Sun, the story of Twilight told from Edward's point of view!  

JEN

My first book for 2021 is When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle. I loved In Five Years (so much so it's a contender for my Best of 2020 - spoiler alert for below!). When You Were Mine popped up as a suggestion on my Kindle. Once I read what the plot was based on a modern day Romeo and Juliet, I became intrigued and hit download.  



Now to announce our favorite reads of 2020!!! There were a lot of great contenders for our favorite books this year and it was hard to narrow it down, but here are both of our thoughts for the books that ranked at the top of the list for us...




BEST OF 2020

CARRIE BETH

I read/listened to a lot of books this year and when I think back over some of my very favorites a few stuck out in my mind.  I'm going to name my top three and an honorable mention because I couldn't pick just 3.  They are all VERY different, but ones that I hope you all will enjoy, too! 

Honorable Mention: 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate probably would have made it into the top three except that it was very disturbing to me at times and honestly when I am consumed by a book I want to feel happy.  You can see my full review HERE, but it's based on a true story about an adoption agency that is just heartbreaking.  The woman running the agency would steal or trick poor families into signing over their rights to their own children and sell the children to well-off families.  It told stories of the orphanages, pulled at your heartstrings, and made my heart ache for the children and families that actually went through this.  If you like deep and thought provoking novels, this one is for you. 

THIRD FAVORITE: 

My third favorite book of the year was Paper Princess (and actually all of the books in the Royals series) by Erin Watt.  Going back to me liking mindless, young adult, trashy romance novels, this one fits the bill.  It was the first book series that I have not been able to get enough of and listening to it every second possible in a very long time so I'm not saying that it is anything over the top that is going to knock your sox off, but it's what I love so it was my #3!  You can see my full review HERE

SECOND FAVORITE: 

My second favorite book of the year was On The Bright Side by Melanie Shankle.  If you need a pick-me-up, especially in light of all that is happening in our world today, this is the book for you.  I have read all of Shankle's books and have LOVED them all.  Sparkly Green Earrings (about motherhood), The Antelope in the Living Room (about marriage) and Nobody's Cuter Than You (about friendship) are some of her other books I would highly recommend. They are each made up of short stories about her life, lessons she has learned along the way, and each one of them makes you smile, laugh, and cry.  On the Bright Side was a combination of all topics and the way Shankle tells the stories it makes you think she could be one of your best friends. It was such a great reminder to always look in the bright side of things and I loved the lessons she wove into each story.   


FAVORITE BOOK OF 2020:


I wasn't shocked to look back and pick Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid as my VERY favorite book of 2020.  I listened to it last January and right after I finished it I remember thinking it was going to be hard to top as my #1 of the year.  It was about about the rise and fame of a 70's rock band on their way to worldwide fame.  It had everything you would imagine in a sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll lifestyle until the band mysteriously broke up. This story just felt SO real to me and at the way it was written, interview style and very conversational, attributed to that. If you are an audible fan I HIGHLY suggest listening to this one. There are a lot of characters and it is narrated by a lot of different people so that just made it for me! 


JEN

I looked back and realized I read 54 books last year! As I was reflecting on everything a few stand out across the year and my top one still makes me think about it long after I read it. There were some that I thought would make the cut, and even though they didn't they still deserve some mention. 

The Lost Girls of Paris 
This historical fiction novel is based on a true story and I was riveted. It was interesting and captivating from start to finish. It was also fun to Google and learn the facts behind what the story is based on. Great read! (read my full review)

The Inheritance Games
This is YA novel, but it sucked me in right from the start. It's a rags to riches story with a huge twist. I love the challenge of it, the hints of a love triangle, and the unique angle of the story. It has a sequel planned and I already can't wait to read it. (read my full review)


THIRD FAVORITE:


In Five Years  by Rebecca Serle
I could not put this one down. In Five Years is similar to my top pick, but the concept of it is so fun. There's a huge twist in the story that makes it unique. It's a story of friendship more than romance and I can't recommend it enough. (see my full review here)


SECOND FAVORITE:


Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Págan

I found Camille Págan books on me Kindle as a suggestion and never looked back. Each and every one that I read was really really good. The stand out for me though was Life and Other Near Death Experiences. I highly recommend grabbing a blanket, a good glass of wine, and digging into this one. (see my full review here)


FAVORITE BOOK OF 2020:



You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley
You Were There Too was the book I couldn't stop thinking about all year. I benchmarked everything else against it. It sucked me in from the start, and at first I thought it was just a love story (and there is that), but there is a HUGE twist in the last few chapters that make you just say "wow!". The way the characters are all tied together and how the story moves along was different than anything else I had read the last few years. That might be why it stuck out more than others, but its a really well written plot, and I already am looking forward to reading more by Oakley. (read my full review)

What was your favorite book of 2020? Share with us!!


BOOK CLUB 2020





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2 comments:

  1. I just loved the Giver of Stars and have had the Virgin River series on my radar since I just learned that the show is based off of them and I love the show. The latest twilight book is in my library basket right now; I just picked it up last week and can't wait to dive in.

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    Replies
    1. I LOVED Midnight Sun! I hope you enjoy it, too!!!!

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