Kate’s Top Ten Reads of 2020
The below list is some of my favorite reads of 2020. As I mostly read and review historical fiction, I think you’ll be surprised to see other genres included in this list. I hope that you discover someone new 🙂
by Donna Russo Morin
Published June 16, 2020 by Magnum Opus – a Next Chapter Imprint
An emotional and empowering journey, GILDED DREAMS is a historical, action-packed love letter to the women who fought so hard for all women who stand on the shoulders of their triumph.
My Thoughts: This book exemplifies how one can be a supportive and loving person while also being a steward for change against a discriminatory status quo. As the United States celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, stories such as these need to be written and shared with the world so that no one dismisses the efforts and sacrifices those trailblazers made. Morin does us a service by providing such a wonderful tribute to those women.
The Queen’s Fortune
by Allison Pataki
Published February 11, 2020 by Ballantine Books
A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.
My Thoughts: It never ceases to amaze me how authors find notable historical figures to write about that have seemingly been forgotten over time. Pataki writes a brilliant story that provides the reader with further insight into Napoleon and how his relationship with Desiree not only shaped their lives but all of Europe’s. A wonderfully intriguing tale that isn’t to be missed by historical fiction fans.
The First Actress
by C.W. Gortner
Published May 26, 2020 by Ballantine Books
From her beginnings as the daughter of a high-class courtesan to her extraordinary transformation into the most celebrated actress of her era, Sarah Bernhardt is brought to life by an internationally bestselling author praised for his historical novels featuring famous women.
My Thoughts: I knew nothing about Sarah Bernhardt prior to reading this book. Her wants, needs, and desires are relatable to most women throughout history. She was a formidable force and Gortner embodies her essence with ease.
Lily Barlow: Mystery in the Mangroves
by Carla Vergot
Published March 24, 2020 by Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press
Lily Barlow came back to her sleepy hometown of Marshall, Virginia, for one reason and one reason only―to rescue her family’s bakery from financial ruin after her dad’s heart attack.
She successfully managed that without even donning an apron, but before heading back down to the University of Virginia, Lily unraveled a case of mistaken identity. She uncovered some evidence that her elderly landlady, Miss Delphine, is up to something, and got blindsided by her best friend, Jack Turner, who suddenly declared he and Lily should start dating. How’s that for a week of being home?
My Thoughts: Vergot has developed such witty, charming, lovable, “real” characters that it truly is hard to believe they are fictional. I am usually a historical fiction junkie but I am becoming more and more enamored with the quirkiness of cozy mysteries. Vergot entered into this genre like a charging bull and if she continues producing such extraordinary works she will quickly be at the head of the pack.
The Night Swim
by Megan Goldin
Published August 4, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press
After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.
My Thoughts: The sophomore title of Megan Goldin is a marvel. It has a distinctly different feel from her first book but still delivers a powerful suspense filled with multiple layers. An extremely fast paced read that compels the reader to plow right through it. Slow down and savor Goldin’s style and enjoy! Refreshing new suspense novelist that is hopefully here to stay!!
by Christina Dalcher
Published April 21, 2020 by Berkley
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.
My Thoughts: I am not a huge fan of science fiction but Christina Dalcher is the exception. She makes reality science fiction and science fiction reality. Dalcher exposes so many correlations between the two that you will be dumbfounded. There is no turning back once you open the book as the reader is thrown right into the story. Compelling characters and mind blowing plot twists make this an exceptionally enjoyable read.
The House on the Hill
by Irina Shapiro
Published May 5, 2020 by Merlin Press, LLC.
Still grieving the death of her husband, Lauren leaves the hubbub of Boston for the peaceful shores of Cape Cod, where she hopes to come to terms with her loss and devote herself to her writing. Historic Holland House, isolated on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, seems like the perfect refuge, until Lauren discovers that she’s not alone, and her ghostly roommate might be none other than Sophie Holland, the mysterious first mistress of the house.
My Thoughts: THIS is that fun ghost story that you have needed in your life. Shapiro’s writing style is fluid to where it is light and easy to read, but also emotionally charged so that the reader cannot help but feel each characters’ specific plight. The dual timeline in this story is a GEM. It is evident that Shapiro researched to ensure the book had the level of authenticity needed.
by Grace Draven
Published June 9, 2020 by Ace
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems.
My Thoughts: WONDERFUL! A fantastic distraction from reality. Draven delivers an epic fantasy world with a bit of sexy in this 2nd installment. This book is every bit as good as the first, perhaps even better, Love, survival, vengeance, and determination and just some of the resounding themes.
Across the Winding River
by Aimie Runyan
Published August 1, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing
Beth Cohen wants to make the most of the months she has left with her elderly father, Max. His only request of his daughter is to go through the long-forgotten box of memorabilia from his days as a medic on the western front. Then, among his wartime souvenirs, Beth finds a photograph of her father with an adoring and beautiful stranger—a photograph worth a thousand questions.
My Thoughts: This book has ALL the feels. Each character resonates with the reader for a variety of reasons. Separated families reconnecting after X number of years might seem like a redundant story line but Runyan really does provide a fresh take. As with her previous titles, Runyan’s style is easy and enjoyable. While she covers hard topics this book is one not to be missed.
Beyond the Ghetto Gates
by Michelle Cameron
Published April 7, 2020 by She Writes Press
When French troops occupy the Italian port city of Ancona, freeing the city’s Jews from their repressive ghetto, it unleashes a whirlwind of progressivism and brutal backlash as two very different cultures collide. Mirelle, a young Jewish maiden, must choose between her duty―an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant―and her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Meanwhile, Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband when he enmeshes their family in the theft of a miracle portrait of the Madonna.
My Thoughts: Michelle Cameron gives readers a brilliantly researched and compelling story about Napoleon’s Italian campaign. I was engrossed by the characters and how their varying circumstances provided multiple perspectives by which the reader could fully comprehend the impact of the campaign. Cameron’s writing is richly elegant. War, forbidden love, religious prejudice, and courage- what isn’t to like?