Monday, December 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2020


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I'm so excited to share my Favorite Books of 2020 with y'all today. I read so many fantastic books this year, so it was extremely hard to narrow it down. I started out with sixteen, figured that was too many and removed three, but then added one more, lol. 
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This was such a stunningly beautiful and heart wrenching story. So thought-provoking. So powerful. I'm still thinking about it today and imagine I'll still be thinking about it for a long time to come. In my review, I said it was a book of the year contender and that's a fact. It's my absolute favorite of the year and is one of the best books I've ever read. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's such an amazing story.

About the Book
The world is blind...then one boy is born with sight.

Nestled in a mountain haven, the remaining people of the world live in a village that is ordinary but strict. A severe peace must be kept severely, as they say. It's all that keeps them from descending into the chaos that claimed the world a hundred years ago.

Led by the Prophet Valdas and his Regents, the villagers work, play, marry, and have families. They gather in ceremony once a year to celebrate their Day of Remembrance. Life is planned, precise, and predictable until the special abilities of eleven-year-old Andrius threaten to undermine it all.
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This book resonated so hard with me. I've never connected with a character the way I have Lance. This might sound weird, but as I was reading it, I'd never felt so seen. A lot of his struggles were my struggles and his personality traits were mine. It was so nice to read about a character like that, like me. Author Jennifer Rodewald has a special talent for crafting authentic and true-to-life characters. 

About the Book
Their whirlwind romance takes the hard road toward happily-ever-after as disaster tests their love for each other and their faith in God’s goodness.

Sophie Shultz smiles at her future, even when she doesn’t feel like it, but when a country drive leaves this city-girl stranded in the mud, the cowboy who stops to help gives her plenty to smile about. For real. Lance Carson is tall, handsome, and kind, if a little on the quiet side—not to mention the owner of Big Prairie’s celebrated vineyard.

Lance has always had a decided preference for solitude, but when he rescues Sophie he develops a whole new appreciation for companionship. It doesn’t take long for him to lose his heart as she fills the aching void life’s disappointments have left behind. But a family issue has put him in a hard spot, pushing him to a decision that will ruin his relationship with many of Big Prairie’s citizens—and devastate Sophie, who adores her newly adopted hometown. Before he can figure out how to tell her, someone tattles on his plans.

As their relationship is put to the test, conflict presses in from every side. Can this rapidly grown romance sink its roots deep enough to weather the storms, or will Lance and Sophie both lose their way?
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I can't believe I waited so long to read this one! It's such a fantastic and hilarious read. It's not only my favorite book from Bethany Turner, but my favorite rom-com of all time. My review for it will be up this Thursday. 

About the Book
Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel's other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he's sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public's good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

Fan-favorite Bethany Turner serves up a heaping helping of humor and romance with this thoroughly modern story centered on cooking, enemies, and second chances. 
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Nobody does WWII fiction like Sarah Sundin. The attention to detail is always so spot on. I always feel like I'm transported back in time when I read one of her books. This one was no different. It was such a wonderful conclusion to this series about the Paxton brothers.

About the Book
In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers' betrayal, Clay has only one thing to live for--fulfilling the recurring dream of his death.

Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and belong to the community, even as she uses her spare time to search for her real family--the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago.

After Clay saves Leah's life from a brutal attack, he saves her virtue with a marriage of convenience. When he ships out to train in England for D-day, their letters bind them together over the distance. But can a love strong enough to overcome death grow between them before Clay's recurring dream comes true?
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This was such a beautiful and unique fantasy. I'd never read anything like it before. The world-building was spectacular and the characters so fleshed out and real. 

About the Book

The dancers of the Order direct their floating world of Meriel with their movement... but are they steering it toward destruction?

Calara spent her life learning dance patterns and seeking to become the perfect servant to her people. When she discovers the work of the Order is built on lies, she flees with a rough-edged herder, Brantley of Windswell. Pursued by soldiers, her journey through the suffering villages of the rim leads her to encounter a truth that sends ripples through her world—and through her soul.

As she seeks clues to her forgotten family, Calara discovers newfound courage in the face of danger, while her quest awakens a growing but forbidden affection for Brantley. Yet even his support can't fully be trusted, since he'd rather destroy the Order than bring reform.

She is a lone woman facing opposition from rim villages and treachery from the all-powerful Order. Can she restore the dance to its true purpose and bring freedom and hope to her people?
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When I read an Elizabeth Camden book, I always feel like I learn so many interesting historical tidbits I didn't know before. And that was definitely the case with this one too. Not to mention, the characters were great too. Plus the romance. And the whole plot. Seriously, this whole book was stellar from top to bottom.

About the Book
Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of Washington high society in her role as secretary to the first lady of the United States. But beneath the façade of her beauty, glamorous wardrobe, and dazzling personality, she's hiding a terrible secret. If she cannot untangle a web of foreign espionage, her brother will face execution for treason.

Nathaniel Trask is the newly appointed head of the president's Secret Service team. He is immediately suspicious of Caroline despite his overwhelming attraction to her quick wit and undeniable charm. Desperate to keep the president protected, Nathaniel must battle to keep his focus fully on his job as the threat to the president rises.

Amid the glamorous pageantry of Gilded Age Washington, DC, Caroline and Nathaniel will face adventure, danger, and heartbreak in a race against time that will span the continent and the depth of human emotion.
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I've gotta mention the second book, Flight of the Raven, here too. This has been one of the best fantasy series I've read in recent memory. It was such a powerful story. To see a character start off completely enmeshed in darkness and then, by the end, embracing the Light. Wow! So inspiring!

About the Book
Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire's attacks.

The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband's power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power.

Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?
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Okay, so I wanted to list all (five) of Jennifer Rodewald's books I read this year, but thought that might be a bit much, lol. But seriously, every single one of them was spectacular, five star reads. This one was full of so many laughs, but had a lot of depth too. And it had one of the single most mortifying, but absolutely hilarious, meetings between the main characters I've ever read. Oh my goodness! So funny! I'm laughing right now just thinking about it, but also cringing a little bit too. 

About the Book
They made a pact of friendship. Love was not supposed to be part of the deal.

Lauren is desperate to escape the massive shadow of her father’s and sister’s political careers.

Matt is running from the biggest disappointment of his life.

After a messy meeting in a snowbound airport, they launch a new friendship, founded on a mutual love for the Lord and an agreement of respect. They find themselves working together at the Lake Shore Resort, thankful to have each other as they each carve out a fresh start. But as the winter season wears on, and through a few interesting predicaments, one begins to feel more, and the other...well. Maybe neither knows what they really want. Already wounded from the things they’ve left behind, Matt and Lauren wrestle with what comes next. Afraid to move forward. Not wanting to go back.

Each must face a dilemma that only the hand of the Potter can smooth into a hopeful, promising future. Can they surrender past hurts, as well as their future hopes and plans and trust the good intentions of the God they both love?
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Based on the true story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany, this was an emotional, inspiring, and moving read. The bravery this group showcased was awe-inspiring. This is a must read that I recommend to everyone. My words can never do this story justice. It's so good. 

About the Book
Inspired by the incredible true story of a group of ordinary men and women who dared to stand against evil

The ideal of a new Germany swept up Sophie Scholl in a maelstrom of patriotic fervor--that is, until she realized the truth behind Hitler's machinations for the fatherland. Now she and other students in Munich, the cradle of the Nazi government, have banded together to form a group to fight for the truth: the White Rose. Risking everything to print and distribute leaflets calling for Germans to rise up against the evil permeating their country, the White Rose treads a knife's edge of discovery by the Gestapo.

Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she's been brought up to believe in the Führer's divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.

Soon Annalise joins their double life--students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they're all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.
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I didn't think there was any possible way that Julie Hall's new series would be as good as her first one, Life After. Man, was I happy to be wrong! Stealing Embers is very different, but just as good. I fell in love with the characters and the setting, and became so completely engrossed in the storyline. It's a definite must read for fans of urban fantasy.

About the Book
A realm of monsters. A world of lies. She belongs to both.

My name is Emberly, and everything I’ve ever been told is a lie.

Monsters don’t exist. Wrong.
The nightmarish spectrum world is just my imagination. Wrong.
In a few months, I’ll finally be free. Wrong.

It takes being dragged to a secret training academy in the mountains to unravel the truth. My captors--an elite race of angel-born warriors called Nephilim.

The deadliest of them all is an arrogant shape shifter, Steel. He’s gorgeous, lethal, hot-headed . . . and convinced I’ll be the death of them all.

Maybe he’s right. As soon as I show up, the monsters that have haunted me my entire life breach the academy walls. My only hope of saving my new friends is learning how to control my powers, but when a stunning betrayal hurts someone I care about, I have an impossible choice.

Stay and fight for a place to belong . . . or decide once and for all that I’m better off alone.

Enter the spectrum world, a realm in-between worlds where shadow beasts draw blood, reality is a maze of twisted lights and sounds, and life goals are whittled down to just one: survive.
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This was a great conclusion to a fantastic series. I didn't read much sci-fi before this series, but can't seem to get enough of the genre now. I love it when an author can spark a new love like that.

About the Book
Year 2522. Oh. My. Stars.

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It's situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base - including my parents - with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I'm not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That's what my parents seem to believe...

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I'm the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We're holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it's looking dire. But one thing I've learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I'll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today...
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I found a new insta-buy author after finishing this book. It was such a fascinating read. It's a dual timeline that followed a woman in modern times striving to be the first female Navy SEAL and then a woman from the past involved in the Boston Tea Party. I loved every second of it.

About the Book
Boston, 1773
Emma Malcolm’s father is staunchly loyal to the crown, but Emma’s heart belongs to Noah Winslow, a lowly printer’s assistant and Patriot. But her father has promised her hand to Samuel Clarke, a rapacious and sadistic man. As his fiancée, she would have to give up Noah and the friends who have become like family to her—as well as the beliefs she has come to embrace.

After Emma is drawn into the treasonous Boston Tea Party, Samuel blackmails her with evidence that condemns each participant, including Noah. Emma realizes she must do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, even if it means giving up the life she desires and becoming Samuel’s wife.

Present Day
Lieutenant Hayley Ashworth is determined to be the first woman inducted into the elite Navy SEALs. But before her dream can be realized, she must return to Boston in order to put the abuse and neglect of her childhood behind her. When an unexpected encounter with the man she once loved leads to the discovery of a tea chest and the document hidden within, she wonders if perhaps true strength and freedom are buried deeper than she first realized.

Two women, separated by centuries, must find the strength to fight for love and freedom. . . and discover a heritage of courage and faith.
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This urban fantasy series just gets better with every new book. It's so much fun! Full of tons of humor, lots of action, and some of my favorite characters in recent memory. If your a fan of this genre, pick up a copy of this series. I can't recommend it highly enough.

About the Book
G’day. I’m still here. Still Pet.

Well, I’m only two thirds of a Pet these days, but you might as well call me Pet anyway. Everyone does: everyone but the vampire, that is.

Life is more unbalanced these days—cases are cutting closer to home than usual. I thought I was the only one, but there are others like me: kids whose parents were murdered just like mine. Stuff that never fit into place before is beginning fall into place.

And my psychos are getting really weird. I mean, they’ve always been weird, but now they’re getting weirder.

Why would a fae lord decide to collaborate with humans?

Why has the fae steward started sneaking out at night?

And why is the vampire reading romance novels?
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I don't read much non-fiction but I couldn't pass this one up. I struggle with MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) and I found this book to be a great resource. It would be a great book for people who don't know much, or anything, about MCS too. It's a must read for everyone. Chemicals are everywhere and we need to start paying attention to the harm they're doing to us.

About the Book
How many chemicals have you put in, on, or around your body today? How many have been used in your home, church, school, or workplace? Do you know how they’re affecting you? Do you know their potential impact on others?

Commonly used products may be harming you in surprising ways and keeping a large and growing number of people out of church. Seemingly small decisions about the use of consumer goods can profoundly influence physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Efforts to create a positive environment within a home or organization are incomplete without focusing on air quality, which affects everything that happens inside a building and to the people who enter it.

Chemicals and Christians will help you understand the risks of everyday toxins, learn how to protect yourself, and determine how to make public and private spaces more accessible and healthy for all. The message in two words is this: Take care. Take care not to let everyday chemicals harm you and take care of those who’ve already developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or another illness associated with toxic exposure. Packed with information, biblical counsel, and personal testimony, the book offers both practical and spiritual help.
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What were some of your favorite books this year?

34 comments:

  1. I am so behind on reading Sarah Sundin's novels and so I need to remedy this asap. Also, I feel like I've seen Jennifer Rodewald's books around a lot but not read any. Another author I'll have to add to my list. :)

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    1. Jennifer Rodewald's books are awesome. I think you'd really enjoy them. :)

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  2. Several of these sound really good. Tea Chest seems to have an interesting premise. I haven't read any of these yet though.

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    1. I thought The Tea Chest was gonna be good, but it was even better than I'd imagined. :)

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  3. Nice list. Between Cases sounds great!

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    1. It's awesome! The whole series is fantastic. :)

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  4. Seems like you found a large number of compelling and dramatic reads this year. I'm always looking for more of those so I appreciate your list.

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    1. Thank you, Lory! It was a great year for reading. :)

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  5. Hi Ashley! Wow, you have such a diverse selection here. I think it's great to read as diverse as possible. I sometimes get a bit stuck.

    For whom the sun sings, The White Rose Resists and The Tea Chest all seem like fabulous reads that I would love to read.

    I hope 2021 will bring some even greater books for you Ashley!

    Happy New Year!

    Elza Reads Favorite Top Top Ten for 2020

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    1. I can't seem to read many books in the same genre in a row. I tend to get bored and have to change it up every once in a while, lol. I hope your 2021 is even better too! :)

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  6. Yes, I've been hearing some great things about Gingell's latest UF series, though I've not tried it out myself. I'm also always on the lookout for fantasy series, so the Morgan L. Busse ones look really interesting; picking those up from here. Thank you :-)

    Happy TTT and Happy 2021 in advance!
    ~My Top 10 Tuesday Post @Lexlingua

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    1. I'm always on the hunt for new fantasy series, as well, so I love visiting everybody's posts. I'm always adding way too many new books to my wishlist, lol. :)

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  7. These are all new to me... glad you enjoyed your 2020 reading! These were my favourite reads of 2020 if you wanted to check them out! Have a Happy New Year!

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  8. For Whom the Sun Sings does sound good!

    My post.

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    1. It's awesome! I want to reread it again soon. :)

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  9. Glad to hear that Sarah Sundin's new book (and series) is good! I must read them one of these days -- I love her WWII books.

    My TTT :-)

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    1. It was a great series, my favorite since her Wings of Nightingale series. I think you'll love it. :)

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  10. Nice list! The sci-fi and fantasy ones definitely caught my eye. The rom-com ones also sound sweet and funny...and I'm a sucker for a well developed character arc! Have a Happy New Year, filled with even more good reads. I'm so happy that I was able to find your blog this year!

    My post: https://steppingstonesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2020/12/top-ten-tuesdays-favorite-books-of-2020.html

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    1. It's been so great meeting you and discovering your blog too! I hope you have a very Happy New Year and lots of great reads to come! :)

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  11. It looks like you read some great books this year, if these were your favorites!

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    1. It was a great year for reading. Maybe not such a great year for other things, but at least there were great books. :D

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  12. I was the same way with my own list! It was far too difficult narrowing it down to only ten books ... It looks like you had a great year of reading, though! Hadley Beckett's Next Dish is definitely going on my TBR pile. Love the sound of it.

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    1. There were so many good books this year! Hadley Beckett's Next Dish was hilarious. If you need a laugh, that book is perfect for it. :)

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  13. My list ended up being longer than ten books, too. And I have Morgan L. Busse's Ravenwood trilogy on my favorites list as well. Such good books! Thanks for recommending them, Ashley. I hope you have a very Happy New Year. :D

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    1. You're so welcome, Lark! I'm glad you liked them! Hope you have a very Happy New Year too! :D

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    1. Thank you! There were some great books this year! :)

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  15. Hidden Current and A Gilded Lady both look really great!

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    1. They're both fantastic reads! I highly, highly recommend them. :)

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  16. I just added For Whom The Sun Sings to my TBR list. It sounds really interesting!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Awesome! I hope you love it as much as I did. It's such a beautiful and thought-provoking read. :)

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