The Best Books of 2020 - Part 1

I love books. I read a lot! I also like to talk about what I read. Lucky me . . . I have a blog where I can do that. Here are my favorite reads so far in 2020. 

Write in Time by Meg Matenaer

I can’t believe this is Meg Matenaer’s debut novel! Write in Time is simply a delightful read with an interesting cast of characters that interact in authentic and often humorous ways. You’ll love them, quirks and all. As a writer myself, the struggles of these writers to get their stories right, along with their ever present self-doubt and time constraints of real life responsibilities, had me rooting for their success from the beginning. An awesome twists awaits you near the end. A very satisfying read, indeed!!

Write in Time by Meg Matenaer - a review


A young mom, a hotshot lawyer, a beleaguered landscaper, and a feisty widow sign up for a writers’ workshop hosted by a professor who doesn’t want to be there. Their families, careers, and even the city they love depend on whether they champion each other’s stories or write one another off. Join Professor Harrington and his students as they eat and critique their way through Madison, Wisconsin’s downtown food scene and struggle to get their stories—and lives—just right before the Christmas deadline.

Purchase "Write in Time" Now!


Mourning Dove by r.r. campbell

r.r. campbell does it again with Mourning Dove, book two in his smartly written sci-fi EMPATHY series. Campbell’s attention to detail is amazing as he brings us a story of technology (run amok) in the near-future world of the North American Union. But what makes this book so special is how he seamlessly folds in his characters’ humanity: desires, fears, revenge, guilt and more. Any author who can make it fun to read about the villains in a story is an excellent writer!

Mourning Dove by r. r. campbell - 5 star review


In the aftermath of the calamitous Human/Etech research study, Chandra and Kyra struggle to reclaim the life they shared in a pre-EMPATHY world, while Ty, armed with knowledge of EMPATHY's programming language, seeks revenge on the Halmans for the harm that's befallen his friends. As a North American Union investigation into the happenings on the compound looms, a grief-stricken Peter works to resurrect the memory of his mother from a harvested nanochip, and Heather scrambles to keep her family--and their company--together. Alistair, having abandoned the family business, plots to save his hide and that of his wife while she strives to stay one step ahead of a husband she has no reason to trust. Far to the north amid civil unrest, a recently retired Rénald Dupont investigates the disappearance of his friend and former colleague, Meredith, despite grave threats from an Imminent Dawn - Book One in the EMPATHY Series - Buy now!increasingly skittish North American Union government. As old and new foes emerge, spouse is further pit against spouse, brother against sister, and governments against their people. In the end, all must choose between attempts to reclaim the past or surrender to the inevitable, an intractable world of their own creation.

Purchase Mourning Dove! 

Catch up with the series and purchase book one, Imminent Dawn.


Spider Lake by Jeff Nania

Book two in the Northern Lakes Mystery series, Spider Lake, ramps up the tension and momentum the author firmly established in Figure Eight, book one in the series. Jeff Nania (again) weaves a plot that is both believable and complex, reflecting real-world scenarios where bad guys ply their criminal trade wherever they can. I love the juxtaposition of what appears to be the serene and calm Northwoods of Wisconsin with a violent criminal enterprise where murder is just the side effect of doing business. Nania has a winner with this series because he’s given us a multifaceted main character in John Cabrelli. He is likeable and relatable with imperfections that are understandable given what we know of his past. Writing both the continuing plot line of Cabrelli’s life within the action of each book’s story is a challenge for series writers, and Nania has mastered this balance. Cannot wait for the next book!

Review of Spider Lake - A Northern Lakes Mystery Series by Jeff Nania


A missing federal agent, suitcases full of cash, a secluded cabin in the woods. Spider Lake is no longer the peaceful retreat John Cabrelli needs to recover from his gunshot wounds and start a new life. Knowing Cabrelli is a former law enforcement officer, the new chief of police recruits him to help untangle a string of strange events in the little town of Musky Falls. Cabrelli and a colorful team of local residents land in the center of a fast-paced action thriller with a surprise ending that’s sure to make your head spin.

Figure Eight - Book one in the Northern Lakes Mystery Series

Purchase Spider Lake!

Want to start with book one? Buy Figure Eight!

Autumn - a free story from Jeff Nania - sign up for his newsletter todayAutumn (freebie)

If you sign up for Jeff’s author newsletter, you get a free story. “Autumn” is a poignant tale that is a lovely gift from the author. Click HERE to sign up!



Heavenly Lights: Noah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton

I simply adore all of Barbara Britton’s books, but this one may be my favorite so far. (I keep saying that each time I read a new one.) We were introduced to the daughters of Zelophehad in Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey. You can read that review and interview with Britton HERE. In Heavenly Lights: Noah's Journey, we rejoin the sisters as they continue their quest for land in Canaan, and we get to know Noah. I admire her strength, intelligence, and bravery. In a world where women aren’t often given much (if any) authority, she carves out her place as a shepherd, continuing the quest for the land promised to her and her sisters. If you love strong female characters, you will love Noah. Her love for fellow shepherd Jeremiah takes unexpected twists that will leave you guessing as to the outcome. It’s a delight to read stories that continue the life events of these lesser known Biblical women in such a vivid, skillfully written way.

Heavenly Lights - Noah's Journey by Barbara M. Britton - five star review


Noah bat Zelophehad has tended her father's herds and flocks since she was a girl. With God's gift of land, she plans to make her sisters wealthy with livestock. But when a conniving clansman takes a liking to the bold shepherdess, his scheme may snatch her from the fields she loves. Only one Lioness: Mahlah's Journey - Daughters of Zelophehad book oneperson understands Noah's gifts with the animals—Jeremiah, the mute shepherd who has been her field companion for years. After the walls of Jericho collapse, God stays silent in the battle of Ai, leaving Jeremiah wounded and Noah's marital status in jeopardy. But, Noah remains faithful to God and her animals and trusts that she will be able to forge a future with her sisters, even when enemies abound. Will the daughters of Zelophehad be able to settle their land together, or will Noah get left behind, trapped in the tent of a troublemaker?

Purchase Heavenly Lights! 

Catch up with book one in this series. Purchase Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey. 


What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering by Rebecca Deng

A fellow author (Barbara Britton) recommended this book, and I’m so glad she did. I read this amazing story right before a trip to Africa, and while we did not go to the Sudan, it was an excellent introduction to the tumultuous history of this area. Most of us have heard of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, but here you get a unique look at what it meant to be one of the Lost Girls. What They Meant for Evil is a very well-written and impossible-to-put-down book that has a haunting beauty you won’t soon forget. (SPOILERS FOLLOW > > >) We follow Rebecca Deng from her first days as she flees the village in advance of the approaching fight for territory in Sudan’s civil war. She sees violence and endures incredible loss at such a young age, but her faith carries her across the years and eventually to the United States in 2000 as one of 89 Lost Girls resettled here with sponsor families. Eventually, she takes on a leadership role for her people in the vote for an independent South Sudan. Today she is an international speaker and advocate for women who have been traumatized and victimized by war.

What They Meant for Evil - a haunting, poignant tale of the Lost Girls of the Sudan


Many stories have been told about the famous Lost Boys but now, for the first time, a Lost Girl shares her hauntingly beautiful and inspiring story. One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan's second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca's story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood. Her story is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a child hurled into wartime, and how through divine intervention, she came to America and found a new life full of joy, hope, and redemption.

Purchase What They Mean for Evil


Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

I’ve been a fan of Colleen Hoover for a long time, and was lucky to receive an advance reader copy from her at Book Bonanza last August! I’m finally reviewing it here. (Shame on me!)

Regretting You is unique because it tells the story from both a daughter’s and a mother’s perspective, so it can’t fit decidedly into an adult or a young adult genre. I’m so glad that Hoover defied the conventions of writing strictly within the bounds of a single genre. She’s an excellent storyteller—always! But the way she shifts perspective between mother and daughter is incredibly authentic and engaging. You won’t be disappointed if you pick up ANY of Hoover’s books, but this one is very highly recommended! (Clear your responsibilities, because you’ll want to read it in one sitting!)

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover -- Your next must read!


Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike. Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body. With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara. While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

Purchase Regretting You! 


Golden in Death by J.D. Robb

I always look forward to the next J.D. Robb book (Nora Roberts’ pseudonym). Golden in Death is the 50th book in this futuristic, homicide detective murder-mystery series. Yes 50!! I always like each of these books, but I truly LOVE Golden in Death with more twists, turns, and unexpected revelations set within the ongoing love story of murder cop Eve and her billionaire husband Rourke. (sigh) What’s not to love?

Golden in Death - book 50 in the JD Robb "In Death" Series. Best one yet!


In the latest thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas investigates a murder with a mysterious motive—and a terrifying weapon. Pediatrician Kent Abner received the package on a beautiful April morning. Inside was a cheap trinket, a golden egg that could be opened into two halves. When he pried it apart, highly toxic airborne fumes entered his body—and killed him. After Eve Dallas calls the hazmat team—and undergoes testing to reassure both her and her husband that she hasn’t been exposed—it’s time to look into Dr. Abner’s past and relationships. Not every victim Eve encounters is an angel, but it seems that Abner came pretty close—though he did ruffle some feathers over the years by taking stands for the weak and defenseless. While the lab tries to identify the deadly toxin, Eve hunts for the sender. But when someone else dies in the same grisly manner, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with either a madman—or someone who has a hidden and elusive connection to both victims.

Purchase Golden in Death!

I'd love to hear what your favorite reads have been so far this year. Comment below or send me an email! - Happy Reading, Valerie



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