Best Books of 2020 - Part 3

My four favorite books from the past two months include an incredibly fun picture book, an impactful young adult novel, a long-awaited young adult novel, and a kick-back beachy read. 



Readers of all ages will enjoy this incredibly fun and adorable story about a young kangaroo who must learn how to quickly find and jump back into his mom’s pouch. This is a great romp through all things Australian from the different animals who try to help the young Joey to specific vocabulary from ‘down under,’ including the definition of bobby-dazzler. The facts at the back of the book will be a hit with all kids but particularly those who like to dive into the details.

A must-read picture book!!


Will Joey, a little gray kangaroo, ever find his mum's pouch in a mob?  Find out in this fun story of creativity and friendship--sprinkled with Australian words. This wonderful story by Janet Halfmann is accompanied by adorable illustrations by Abira Das that will make this your child's new favorite book.






I had been looking forward to reading Liza Wiemer’s The Assignment as soon as I heard a description. Based on a true story, Wiemer’s novel follows two teens who refuse to do an antisemitic assignment given in history class—one in which they’re expected to argue FOR the Nazi Final Solution and the murder of millions of Jewish people. Wiemer deftly handles this tough topic, creating two main characters, Cade and Logan, who are both fun and funny, witty and endearing, and just regular teens with regular teen problems on top of the huge challenge at the center of the novel. You’ll sink into the story as if you’re eavesdropping on their conversations. Wiemer’s dialogue writing is just that good! Standing up for the right thing should be easy, but somehow it never is—and the finely crafted plot brings us unexpected challenges and a surprising, poignant twist. This is an important modern-day story about intolerance and racism that every teen and adult should read and DISCUSS. I am going to be thinking about this book for a long time and take the liberty to quote the question on the cover. “Would YOU speak up for what is right?”

You can read my interview with the author here:

A young adult novel great for discussion!



Inspired by a real-life incident, this riveting novel explores discrimination and antisemitism and reveals their dangerous impact.

SENIOR YEAR. When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of students to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jewish people, Logan March and Cade Crawford are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand. As the school administration addressed the teens' refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents, and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for tolerance, justice, and love to prevail?



Say what you will about the Twilight series and vampires that sparkle in the sun . . . but this book was a refreshing look at the events in the series’ first book from the point of view of Edward. Now, I’ve been team Edward the entire time – so if you’re not a Twihard or a Twi-Mom you might want to just skip on a head to the next book review. This long-awaited story was a delight as it revealed what was happening in the background with Edward and his family—from his initial flight reacting to the first mouth-watering scent of Bella to the argument within the family (Edward’s) about the folly of pursuing a relationship with a human and on to the final amazing chapters as they all dash to Bella’s rescue and stage the elaborate cover story to keep their existence hidden. If you loved (or even just liked) the Twilight series, I think you’ll find this book to be very enjoyable. If you were team Jacob, it might even turn you into an Edward fan.

You'll be team Edward after reading Midnight Sun


ABOUT THE BOOK: When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.


This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?


In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.



If you’ve never read any books by Mary Kay Andrews, you’re missing out. She pens exceptionally plotted suspenseful romance novels that are perfect escapism for any season. This one drew me in because it is set in Sunset Beach and the greater St. Petersburg Beach area in Florida. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area in the past 27 years as it is the home of my husband’s family. I love reading books where I can recognize the locations—even if the names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is a great story about redemption for a father/daughter relationship that’s set within a mystery that the main character doggedly pursues, even after the danger of doing so becomes clear. On top of this the romantic subplot adds just the right amount of spice. If you don’t have anything to read this weekend, pick this one up and kick back in your porch swing or hammock.

Beach read with tons of suspense


ABOUT THE BOOK: Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job. It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.


With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.


And that’s it for the past two months of recommended reads. I’ve been busy reading, critiquing, and editing manuscripts, so my leisurely reading time has been a little difficult to carve out.

What have you been reading? - Valerie


Valerie, thanks so much for including my new picture book "A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! in this amazing lineup. Happy Reading to All!

Hi Janet,
Thanks for writing such a fun book. I know if I had young kids in my house right now all I would be hearing would be these new fun Australian words. -- Valerie

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