My Favorite Books of 2020

2020 was a tough year, but it was a great reading year for me. More time at home and a less hectic schedule meant that I read past my goal and finished the year with a total of 68 books. I read so many great books this year. I probably gave more five star reviews in 2020 than ever before. It was honestly hard to narrow my list down for this post.

I think there are a couple of reasons for the multiple high reviews. One is my focus on prioritizing favorite authors. Any time a favorite author comes out with a new book, it’s an automatic read for me. Authors I don’t absolutely love didn’t make the cut this year. Another reason is the amount of rereads I had in 2020. I reread three favorite series this year, including The Chronicles of Narnia.

Following are my favorite books of the year:

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Beautiful, heart wrenching, and haunting. I can’t stop telling people about this split time novel that stays with you long after you finish.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Charles Martin always makes me cry, and this is no exception. Five stars and five tissues for this one.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck converted me to contemporary romance a couple of years ago. This book about a mysterious story society that brings a random group of people together is a little different from some of her other books, but it’s so good.

Synapse by Steven James

I’m usually not a sci-fi fan, but this novel by Steven James made me rethink that. Fast paced and well written, this brings out some great questions about where science is headed.

Kings Falling and Soul Raging by Ronie Kendig

Ronie Kendig is the master of military fiction. This series is part military, part Indiana Jones, and all heart pounding excitement – my only disappointment is that it’s over.

The Joy of Falling by Lindsay Harrel

Lindsay Harrel blends heartache and hope in such a raw and beautiful way. When two young sisters-in-law who decide to run an ultramarathon in honor of their late husbands, their lives are changed forever. This book made me want to start running again, and it made me want to visit New Zealand.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner

Bethany Turner amazes me. She writes stories that are laugh out loud funny, covering some really tough topics without writing a “heavy” book. It takes skill and talent to do that!

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Fawkes made my list last year. Romanov is another unique, creative story that blends history with fantasy. I loved this book as much as her last one!

Whose Waves These Are and Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes

I kept hearing Amanda Dykes named mentioned, so I finally tried her first book, and then her second. Now I’m impatiently awaiting her third. Her books are must reads for split time fiction fans!

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

An absolutely stunning debut novel, this book moved Amanda Cox immediately to my must-read authors list. A story of adoption, redemption, and the true meaning of family, this split time story captured me from the beginning.

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

A circus, a serial killer, and a historic train depot with an eerie history…this story is the perfect, just-creepy-enough mystery. Two cases in two time periods blend perfectly into a story you can’t put down until the last page.

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

This debut novel is one of the most unique books I’ve read in quite a while. The entire story is told in letters and brings out a part of World War II history we don’t hear about enough. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you’ll definitely want to read this.

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

I’ve read all of Joanna Davidson Politano’s books, and I’ve loved them all – but this is my new favorite. This historical romance’s feisty main character finds a hidden love note and determines she will find it’s intended reader while chasing her dream of becoming a doctor. She quickly loses control of the situation as the note takes on a life of it’s own.

What were your favorite books of 2020? Have you read any on this this list?

Book Flight: Christmas

Christmas came early this year, at least at our house. We’re feeling the weight of all the chaos and ugliness in the world right now, so it felt like we needed a little extra light this year. Adding to that was our lack of decorating last year, since we were just a couple of weeks from moving into our new home. Our first Christmas in our new home is definitely something that deserves some extra celebration.

Our Christmas tree went up the first week of November, along with all our decorations. Christmas music is playing regularly. We’re wrapping gifts and planning meals and lingering a little longer in the hope of Christmas.

My reading is changing gears, too. Last year was the first time in a really long time that I read Christmas books. I’m diving into my Christmas reading list for this year as soon as I wrap up a handful of review books.

First I’ll share a couple of favorite Christmas books from last season, then I’ll share what I’m planning to read this Christmas season. (I do have affiliate links in today’s post – they don’t cost you anything extra, but if you choose to buy through them, it helps me out. )

The Wedding Dress Christmas by Rachel Hauck

I love The Wedding Collection series, and this sweet Christmas story is the perfect addition to it. You can get a Kindle copy for just 99 cents (as of 11/16).

Like a Winter Snow by Lindsay Harrel

If you haven’t read The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel, you need to read it now. Lindsay released this Christmas story based off the book last year, and she released another one this year (more on that below). I love the town of Port Willis and every story from this series is so good. It’s also a great bargain at $2.99.

What I’m reading this year…

It Happened at Christmas by Christen Krumm

One of the categories for this year’s Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge is “a book by a local author.” This YA twist on one of my all time favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping, was written by a local author. I’ve had my copy for months, just waiting for Christmas to come around. I can’t wait to read it! You can pick it up on Kindle for $3.99.

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

I finished the Royal Wedding series this year and saved this for Christmas. Our local library has a copy. You can also find it on Kindle for $4.99. And for the record, Rachel Hauck writes the the best wedding books.

Christmas at the Circus by Joanne Bischoff

I just read The Lady and the Lionheart earlier this year and loved it. I was so excited to find out there’s a Christmas story, too! It’s only 99 cents on Kindle.

Like a Christmas Dream by Lindsay Harrel

Christmas books in this series are automatic preorders for me. The newest book is only $2.99 on Kindle. I can’t wait to start this one!

What are your favorite Christmas books? What are you reading this year?

Book Flight: Suspense With Unique Detectives

Some of the earliest books I fell in love with were mystery and suspense. I read every Trixie Beldon, Three Investigators, and Nancy Drew book my little hometown library had to offer when I was in elementary school. Suspense is still my favorite genre.

While I absolutely love a good, traditional suspense, some stand out for their unique perspective. Here are four great series that feature unique detectives as the main character.

Steven James: Patrick Bowers series

Patrick Bowers has to be one of my all time favorite fictional characters. Patrick is an FBI agent and environmental criminologist – he studies crime as it relates to place. In other words, they try to figure out why a killer chooses a certain place to kill or to hide the victims, which can help lead to finding suspects. There’s also an ongoing storyline throughout the series related to one of Patrick’s earlier cases. Start with The Pawn and read these in order. While James has written several prequels, I think it adds to the story to figure things out along the way, so read Opening Moves and his other prequel books after you finish Checkmate.

This multi-award-winning series is not for the faint of heart – while this series is Christian fiction, James doesn’t shy away from realistic and sometimes gruesome details. I personally love this series, but if you like slightly less intense books, skip this one and check the Gwen Marcy series.

Carrie Stuart Parks: Gwen Marcy series

Carrie Stuart Parks balances the perfect amount of humor with suspense in her Gwen Marcy series. Gwen is a single mom, divorcée, cancer survivor, and forensic artist. Parks herself is a forensic artist, so she draws on her experience (no pun intended) to make these books realistic. Be sure to start with A Cry from the Dust and read these in order. While intense at times, I don’t think any of the details in these these would bother the average reader.

Sibella Giorello: Raleigh Harmon series

FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is a forensic geologist whose life was shattered when her dad was murdered. Now she’s juggling her career with helping her mentally ill mother. Raleigh draws on her geology expertise to find details others might overlook as she solves crimes.

Another unique thing I love about this series is the Southernness. I was born and raised in south Arkansas, so Southern culture (like our manners and our food) are deeply ingrained in me. Giorello perfectly describes the one-of-a-kind culture of the South. The characters are so real you almost feel like you know them personally.

There are technically three parts to this series: the original five book series, the newer series (which picks up after Raleigh makes some major life changes), and the YA series that covers some of Raleigh’s teen years. My recommendation: start with the original series (The Stones Cry Out is book one), then read either the new books or the YA series.

Tim Downs: Bugman series

This really unique Christian fiction series is another series that is not for the faint of heart. Dr. Nick Polchak – the Bugman – is a forensic entomologist. He studies bugs at crime scenes, so as you can imagine, this series can get a little gross. However, it is Christian fiction and very clean reading, if you can handle the subject matter.

What books have you read with a unique detective? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I’m always ready to try a new-to-me author!

5 Ways to Save on Books

Avid readers can never get enough books, but most of us have to work within a budget. Buying every new book by every favorite author can get expensive. Here are five easy ways I’ve found to get books without breaking the bank.

1. Use your library

While using the local library is a given for most readers, you may be missing out on everything your library offers. There is so much more than just the books at your local branch.

In addition to physical books, most libraries use apps such as Hoopla, Overdrive, and Libby. Find out which ones your local library uses and download them all. I’ve found that different books are available on different apps in our local library system. If I can’t find it on Hoopla, I may find it on Libby, or vice versa.

Ask about library sales. While this is on hold in most places due to COVID, library sales are a great way to pick up good deals while helping your local library raise money. We often stock up for our own personal collections and for our church library at these sales.

Ask about getting books from other libraries. While we live in a small town, our local library is great. Not only do they have a great selection here, but they’re part of a larger system of libraries. If they don’t have it at our branch, there’s a good chance they have at another one. It usually only take a few days to get it here.

Find out what larger libraries in your area offer. We live about thirty minutes from a larger town, just across the border in another state. They have a huge library that offers a card for $35 a year to non-residents. It’s well worth it for our family of readers to pay that and have full access to that library.

2. Tyndale Reader Rewards

Tyndale Reader Rewards is a great program that lets you earn points by taking surveys and doing other simple tasks. You can cash in those points for free physical books. It’s easy to use – my oldest son and I have both redeemed points and gotten some great books from this program.

3. Become a NetGalley reviewer

NetGalley offers advance ebook copies of soon to be released books in exchange for an honest review. Their app makes it easy to download and read books on your iPad or other device. I’ve discovered some amazing authors through reviewing books!

4. Follow book bargain sites

BookBub is my new favorite book deal website. I signed up for alerts on Christian fiction and have found books by favorite authors at great prices.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s daily deals is another great one. While her list is more nonfiction and general market fiction, I do occasionally pick up one or two from her list.

5. Preorder from your favorite authors

I love preordering books. Publishers frequently offer an incentive for preordering. Recently one favorite author’s newest book was offered with bonuses, free shipping, and a discount for preordering. Ebooks are often offered for preorder at a much lower price than they will be at release. Plus, preorders help authors. They show the publisher that there is a demand for an author’s books.

What are your favorite ways to save on books?

A Circus Book Flight

The Greatest Showman made me love the circus. I wasn’t a big fan as a kid, mostly thanks to a lifelong fear of clowns. Thanks to the story of P.T. Barnum and some really great songs, though, I became fascinated by the story and the history of the greatest show on earth. When I started searching for books on the subject, I came across some really great ones.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Kristy Cambron’s split time books. I loved The Ringmaster’s Wife. About the book: Rosamond’s life is planned for her, until her father sells her beloved horse to the American entertainer John Ringling. Rosamond leaves everything she knows to follow her beloved horse, her last tie to her brother, and make her own way as a bareback rider for the circus. She meets Mable Ringling, John’s wife, and their lives intertwine. As their stories unfold, you’re transported to the roaring 20’s and the world of the circus as two women’s journeys are changed forever.

A book I heard so many great recommendations for is The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof. I finally picked it up from our local library and am right in the middle of it now. I’m wondering what took me so long. It’s so good! About the book: When lion tamer Charlie Lionheart shows up at the hospital with a very sick little girl, the doctor doesn’t pay much attention, but Ella Beckley is drawn to the girl and takes over her care. As she continues overseeing the girl’s recovery, Ella is drawn deeper into the world of the circus and into Charlie’s life and heart. Ella and Charlie’s broken pasts and broken hearts find healing and hope in a faith far bigger than their painful stories.

Jamie Jo Wright’s newest release, The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus, is another great circus book. With a story that’s just creepy enough to really enjoy and mysteries connected in two time periods, Wright proved once again why she’s one of my favorite authors. About the book: 1928 – When Pippa Riley receives mysterious messages from someone in her past, she’s drawn back into the world of the circus to search for her birth parents. She begins caring for an injured baby elephant, the future hope of her adoptive father’s circus, and finds herself getting closer to a trainer with a broken past. But is the writer the link to her past Pippa hopes for, or is he a dangerous killer? Present – When Chandler Faulk convinces her uncle’s company to buy an old circus train depot for a renovation project, she doesn’t count on it’s mysterious past and unsolved murders. The danger soon proves very much alive as Chandler and her son are caught in the middle of an investigation. As past and present collide, Chandler desperately searches for answers before it’s too late.

What circus book flight would compete without watching The Greatest Showman? Not that you need an excuse to watch it. It’s one of my favorite movies. If you have Disney+ you can stream it for free.

What are your favorite circus books? What’s missing from my list that I should read next?

Note: This post does contain affiliate links. I make a small profit if you choose to purchase a book through one of my links here. I have read and can recommend any books I share links to in this post.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑