Best Books of 2020 - Part 4
My six favorite books from the past two months include a grab-your-tissues middle-grade novel, a heritage-rich young adult novel, a heart-warming, coming-of-age mystery, a sweet romance, and duo of time travel romance novels that take us to the old west (and back again).
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by DAN GEMEINHART
This book cover is adorable and intriguing and it’s what initially drew me to this story. Why in the world is this girl on top of a bus? You’ll love her from the start and eventually you’ll learn the heartbreaking reason why she’s now called Coyote Sunrise and why her dad is called Rodeo and not Dad. The sheer personality of this character is something to gush about—unique, forceful, endearing, and funny. Combine all that with a fast-paced plot, the BEST cast of supporting characters, references to some of my favorite books (and probably yours too), along with a serious undertone of grief and loss and redemption and you have a book you won’t be able to put down. I know I couldn't. Lovely, just lovely. Dan Gemeinhart is a genius. Buy this book for every young reader in your life and read it with them!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
"Sometimes a story comes along that just plain makes you want to hug the world. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is Dan Gemeinhart’s finest book yet — and that’s saying something. Your heart needs this joyful miracle of a book." —Katherine Applegate, acclaimed author of The One and Only Ivan and Wishtree
♦ A 2020 ILA Teachers’ Choice
♦ A 2019 Parents' Choice Award Gold Medal Winner
♦ Winner of the 2019 CYBILS Award for Middle Grade Fiction
♦ An Amazon Top 20 Children's Book of 2019
♦ A Junior Library Guild Selection
Five years. That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.
It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.
Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.
Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...
Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”
CADY AND THE BEAR NECKLACE by ANN DALLMAN
This is a special story that gives the reader a wonderful window into the rich traditions of Cady’s heritage along with an intriguing mystery to solve. Cady’s complicated family life is relatable and well told. The author has a keen ability to make us feel what it’s like to be twelve and attempt to fit in at a new school in a new town, which in large part comes from the skillful dialogue and the author's experience as a teacher! The story is perfectly paced with well-placed clues that urge the tenacious Cady to hunt for the truth. The sweet age-appropriate romance is a nice touch! This is a must have addition for your home or classroom library! You’ll want to know what comes next from Cady, so I hope we’ll get another story with this sweet girl.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
♦ 2020 Winner of the Historical Society of Michigan's book award for Children & Youth
♦ 2020 Winner of the Midwest Book Award for Young Adult Fiction
♦ Next Generation Indie Award Finalist - Young Adult category
♦ 2020 Readers' Favorite Young Adult / Coming of Age category
Cady, a 13-year-old girl of Native American heritage, has experienced big changes in the past year her father's marriage to a much younger woman, a new baby brother, and a move from Minnesota to Michigan where she is attending a reservation school for the first time in her life. One day at school Cady finds an eagle feather on the hallway floor and reports it to the principal. He thanks her for this act of honor and tells her that a mystery might soon appear in her life.
Not long after, Cady discovers an antique Indian beaded necklace hidden under the floor of her bedroom closet. She knows she's found it for a reason but what is the reason? Is this the mystery the principal predicted might appear? She consults with the elders who tell her it is her *job* to find out why. In the process of solving this mystery, Cady's home life calms down and she draws closer to the teachings and traditions of her culture. Helping her are new friends Irish, John Ray Chicaug, and a crazy talking blue jay.
ELEVEN MILES TO OSHKOSH by JIM GUHL
Being just slightly younger than the main character in this book, I appreciated all the reminders of the 70s and what was going on in the world at that time but, adding the setting of Oshkosh in my home state and there’s no way I was putting this book down. The mystery surrounding the shooting death of the main character’s father is central to the story, but the author manages to bring in so many nuanced subplots that this truly is storytelling at its finest. The twists and turns are awesome as the mystery unravels and the truth behind the dad’s death is revealed. The cast of characters is stellar—my favorite is Minnow’s grandfather who’s not afraid to get in more than a little trouble to help is grandson out. Serious laugh-out-loud moments with those antics.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
As the Vietnam War grinds on and the Nixon presidency collapses, Del "Minnow" Finwick's small world in Wisconsin has blown apart. His father, a deputy sheriff, has been murdered by the unknown "Highway 41 Killer." His mom has unraveled. And a goon named Larry Buskin has been pummeling Minnow behind Neenah High.
Minnow finds support in the company of his roguish grandfather, his loyal pal Mark, and beautiful Opal Parsons, who has her own worries as the first African American student in their school. When the sheriff seems in no hurry to solve the murder, Minnow must seek justice by partnering with unlikely allies and discovering his own courage.
ROOMMAID by SARIAH WILSON
This is a fun, fast read with what you think is a typical set up of a guy needing a roommate who will also do a little cleaning—but he’s adamant that he wants no romantic entanglements as he’s still traumatized by the stalkerish actions of a recent ex. The story is not as predictable as you might expect as the new roommaid is actually an heiress attempting to make it on her own and has no idea how to clean anything. There’s plenty of hilarity and great writing—as one would expect from Sariah Wilson.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Madison Huntington is determined to live her dreams. That means getting out from under her family’s wealth and influence by saying no to the family business, her allowance, and her home. But on a teacher’s salary, the real world comes as a rude awakening—especially when she wakes up every morning on a colleague’s couch.
To get a place of her own (without cockroaches, mold, or crime scene tape), Madison accepts a position as a roommaid. In exchange for free room and board, all she needs to do is keep her busy roommate’s penthouse clean and his dog company. So what if she’s never washed a dish in her life. She can figure this out, right?
Madison is pretty confident she can fake it well enough that Tyler Roth will never know the difference. The finance whiz is rich and privileged and navigates the same social circles as her parents—but to him she’s just a teacher in need of an apartment. He’s everything Madison has run from, but his kindhearted nature, stomach-fluttering smile, and unexpected insecurities only make her want to get closer. And Tyler is warming to the move.
Rewarding job. Perfect guy. Great future. With everything so right, what could go wrong? Madison is about to find out.
COWBOY JUST IN TIME and FUTURE OF MY HEART from THE HEARTS ACROSS TIME SERIES by LoRee Peery
I’m always a fan of time travel stories and this duo is just a delight with Amanda going to the past in Cowboy Just in Time and Phoebe going to the future in Future of My Heart. An added twist is that when Amanda falls back in time and meets Gavin, she accidentally thwarts Phoebe’s expectations for a marriage to Gavin. These are sweet faith-based stories from Pelican Book Group’s White Rose imprint with an intriguing initial premise that leads to satisfying conclusions for the reader.
ABOUT COWBOY JUST IN TIME
When event planner Amanda Totten falls through a barn trapdoor and finds herself in the arms of an 1890's cowboy, she scrambles to find a way back to the future. She has a life and obligations—her fledgling business and her mother's financial needs. But the less stressful lifestyle, and her deepening love for Gavin Medley, is calling to her heart and she is torn between past and future.
Has God given her a chance at love?
Gavin Medley has been working for years to regain his family homestead. As ranch foreman, he has nothing but a dream of a place and family of his own. But his love for Amanda is making him think that having his own ranch isn't as important as having someone to love for the rest of his life.
When Amanda returns to the future, Gavin is shattered. He tries to go forward in time but fails. Believing it's God's will, Gavin resigns himself to living without the love of his life.
But love transcends time, and Amanda and Gavin need each other. Can Amanda return to her cowboy?
ABOUT FUTURE OF MY HEART
Nolan Riley can't believe his eyes when woman in historical dress lands on top of his lighting van while they're filming a Western. She claims she's from 1891. He knows he shouldn't believe her. He's stayed away from women after a disastrous relationship, but something about the lost look in Phoebe's eyes makes him feel protective, despite his distrust of women and Phoebe's unbelievable claim.
Against his better judgment, he takes Phoebe home and gets her a job on the movie set. As they explore their relationship, they discover that old wrongs need to be righted before they can move on. Phoebe's fledgling faith demands she go back to 1891 Nebraska to ask forgiveness from her family and obligations she left behind. Nolan has to deal with his inability to trust a woman.
Separated by time, both are uncertain of their lives, but they throw themselves upon God's mercy. But love transcends time. Is their love strong enough to secure a future together?
What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear your favorites and add them to my list! - Valerie