2020 brought a lot of changes on a macro and micro level. COVID-19 impacted every facet of how we live and during this time my mom was also diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
In times of uncertainty, one constant for me has always been reading. I love reading because it is such a great escape from every day life. And who didn’t need an escape last year?
In 2020, I read (or listened to) 36 books! Multiple times a week traveled 2.5 hours each way to help care for my mom and this afforded extra time to listen to audiobooks.
Below you will find the reviews for the books I read in 2020. I hope you find one that you would like to escape with for a while!
#1. Party Girl, Rachel Hollis
Overall Thoughts: Did you know that before Rachel Hollis was a self-help guru, she wrote fiction? Party Girl is the first book in a three-part book series (and you all know I love a good book series!). The series is based on Rachel Hollis’s previous life as a Hollywood party planner and the lives of three best friends. The characters are delightfully complex and relatable. This was such an easy read and I highly recommend!
#2. Sweet Girl, Rachel Hollis
Overall Thoughts: Surprise! This is the second book of Rachel Hollis’s three-part book series. I liked the first book so much that I immediately dived into the second book. Each book is written from the perspective of a different character. While I liked the main character of this book, I liked her more as the sidekick she was in the first book. However, it was still a good, easy, and enjoyable read.
#3. Smart Girl, Rachel Hollis
Overall Thoughts: This was the last book in Rachel Hollis’s fiction book series. I liked it the least. This book revolved around the last of the best friends, Miko. She is a strong, ambitious character who loses her way while trying to find love. I felt very frustrated while reading the book, but maybe that was the intent. It did have a good ending AND an epilogue, which I always appreciate. I still recommending reading the book to finish the series.
#4. Criss Cross, James Patterson
Overall Thoughts: If you’ve followed my book reviews for a while, you know that I love two different James Patterson series – The Woman’s Murder Club series and the Alex Cross series. The latest Alex Cross book does not disappoint. There is so much action and it ties up many different story lines. AND…the book ends with a huge cliffhanger! I can’t wait until the next installment is released.
#5. The Greatest You, Trent Shelton
Overall Thoughts: Read or listen to this book right now. It is so inspirational and wonderful. I first discovered Trent Shelton when he was a guest on Rachel Hollis’s RISE podcast and then I saw him speak in person at the RISExFtMyers conference in January. Trent’s story is incredible and he offers sage advice in a no-nonsense way. This book is such an easy and motivational read. And if you like it….check out Trent’s weekly podcast, Straight Up with Trent Shelton.
#6. City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert
Overall Thoughts: This was a really good, well written book. The characters were well developed and quite interesting. I laughed a lot, cried a lot, and was also in suspense. I thought this book was a little on the long side which is why I didn’t give it an A rating.
#7. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
Overall Thoughts: I waited FOREVER to get this book from my library’s waitlist. This is the long-anticipated sequel to The Handmaids tale. I really enjoyed the different story lines and the different characters – some new, some old. However, I thought the ending was confusing, very weak, and not conclusive.
#8. The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
Overall Thoughts: I love a good thriller, so I was very excited to read this book. It kept my interest and I thought about the plot a lot. It was an interesting story line. However, I suspected the ending about halfway through the book (and I was right) so I was a little disappointed by that! If you like this genre, it is still a good read that’s worth your time.
#9. Heartburn, Nora Ephron
Overall Thoughts: What do you do when your husband is having an affair, you have a small toddler, and another baby on the way? That is the premise of this book. It was recommend on many lists – including the Skimm reads where I initially heard about it. I listened to the audio book that Meryl Strep narrated. She did an excellent job. I was extremely frustrated with the main character, which I think was intentional. She is a food celebrity and random recipes are thrown into the book and a lot of the book revolves around food, which can be distracting and unfocused. At one point I thought about abandoning the book, but I felt I was already too committed. I think it is an okay read, but I was not super excited about it.
#10. Get Out of Your Own Way, Dave Hollis
Overall Thoughts: Dave Hollis’s first book is EXCELLENT! It has a similar structure as his wife Rachel Hollis’s self-help books. However, his tone is extremely different and very relatable. He has a completely different perspective and point of view that is valuable, vulnerable, and easy. I took a lot of notes while reading this book, and I highly recommend for anyone who often finds themselves being their biggest roadblock in the pursuit of a greater life.
#11. Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid
Overall Thoughts: My manager recommend this book and it was also one of Reese’s book club picks. I describe it as a beach read – something you want to read that is enjoyable and not too strenuous. It does discuss some serious topics but it is still a nice escape from reality.
#12. Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen Hatmaker
Overall Thoughts: I first met Jen during Rachel Hollis’s RISE conference in January. I really enjoyed her speaking style and message so I signed up for her email newsletter. When she sent a message asking for people to be part of her book launch, I was so excited and intrigued. I have never been part of a book launch before, but wanted to get involved. I was thrilled to be selected and received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the book. It was so fun to be part of the book launch and the book was great. It was easy to read and had a lot of great takeaways and suggestions to be the woman you were meant to be.
#13. Open Book, Jessica Simpson
Overall Thoughts: THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD! I waited for MONTHS to get this book off the waitlist and I was giddy to start reading. This truly is an open book – from her childhood, marriage to Nick Lachey, other relationships, poor coping mechanisms, and struggles with the music industry in general,she lays it all out there in an extremely honest and matter-of-fact way. My husband is probably so glad that I finished this book, but I literally talked about Jessica Simpson’s life every night at dinner. I just found it so fascinating and I truly admire her and what she has accomplished in her life, both personally and professionally. Side note: I listened to the audio book. This book is narrated by Jessica Simpson, and I must admit – it was difficult to get used to her narration. I felt like she mumbled and lacked inflection. But once I got used to her narrating style, I did appreciate her ability to stress certain points and convey emotion.
#14. Educated, Tara Westover
Overall Thoughts: WOW – this book is so interesting and heart wrenching! Again, my manager recommended this book and I love a good memoir. If you liked The Glass Castle, you will like this. The author shares about her experience growing up in a Mormon family in Idaho. Her dad is bipolar. She doesn’t go to school and isn’t even properly home schooled. She doesn’t even have a birth certificate until later in life and nobody is even sure of her exact birth date. I won’t give away the plot, but she does eventually go to school and documents everything in this poignant memoir. It is really long so make sure you are in the mood for a longer book before you commit to it. I had to check out this book (virtually) from the library twice in order to complete.
#15. Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes
Overall Thoughts: Evvie Drakes Starts Over is a highly entertaining, occasionally heartbreaking, and always engrossing story. The book is set in a small town in Maine and tells the story of Evvie Drake and Dean Tenney, two very different individuals who are hurting and need help recovering from their own personal traumas. This book reminds us that not everything is as it seems, and that grief and loss are different from all.
#16. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
Overall Thoughts: My book club selected this book for our spring read. I had never heard of Trevor Noah, but those in the book club who already read the book raved about it. And I LOVED it! Trevor tells the story of his life in such a real and captivating way that just hooks you from the very beginning. It was so educational to learn about Trevor’s experience growing up in South Africa and how much his family had to endure. I highly recommend this book, especially for a book club.
#17. The Hating Game, Sally Thorne
Overall Thoughts: In the beginning, I HATED this book, almost abandoned it, and probably should have. The main characters work together at a publisher, are vying for the same promotion, and make each other’s lives miserable. My first thought was that these people are supposed to be ADULTS but yet they are so immature. Spoiler alert: they actually like each other and the taunting is their way of showing affection like they are in elementary school. The last half of the book was way better than the beginning, but I would still recommend not wasting your time with this one.
#18. The Rosie Result, Graeme Simsion
Overall Thoughts: I LOVE this book series! If you have not read The Rosie Project or The Rosie Effect, stop what you’re reading and switch to these books NOW! In this book, Don Tillman is navigating the responsibilities of parenting his tween son after his family relocated back to their native Australia. Don is the same quirky, lovable character and his antics will not disappoint.
#19. It’s Not All Downhill From Here, Terry McMillan
Overall Thoughts: After an unexpected loss, Loretha Curry takes a somewhat reluctant, but necessary, stock of her life, family, and friends. As usual, Terry McMillan gives us a story about real women who deal with life as it comes. Life sometimes gives us bad apples and McMillan’s characters show us how important it is to deal with them with the help of your friends and family. I appreciate the strong black female characters that McMillan depicts. I love Terry McMillan’s books and this one did not disappoint. While I am not the target audience for this book, I really enjoyed it, and I think someone who was an empty nester would find this book even more relatable.
#20: Big Summer, Jennifer Weiner
Overall Thoughts: This was a great summer read full of love and mystery. I enjoyed the realness of the characters. This book is a thought-provoking, poignant exploration of friendship, self-esteem, body image, social media, and whether people truly are capable of change. The book is definitely a roller coaster and is jam packed with turns and twists.
#21: Make Something Good Today, Erin & Ben Napier
Overall Thoughts: This book is such a happy read. If you enjoy the HGTV show “Hometown” you will love learning more about Ben and Erin Napier, their upbringings, love story, and how they came to stardom. They truly adore each other and I loved learning more about their relationship. This book is a great reminder that with hard work and an open mind, life can be happening FOR you and not TO you, and that your life can take you farther than your wildest dreams.
#22: All Adults Here, Emma Straub
Overall Thoughts: In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique mix of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not. The book reminded me of This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (NOT the movie, the book), so if you liked that book, you will like this one. I loved all the characters and the dynamic between them. This book covers a wide variety of topics, which I enjoyed. But if you like a more refined and singular focused book then you may not enjoy this.
#23: Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Overall Thoughts: This book is SO POWERFUL! I was not familiar with Glennon Doyle before reading this book but now I want to know more and plan to read Love Warrior soon. Glennon discusses how she has become fully aware of the way that society has taught women to be tame and how to become untamed (hence the name of the book). The book seeks to liberate women from the societal expectations that bind them, and to honor beauty and rage equally. I listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author, and I recommend because Glennon’s passion comes through. I will say, there were times where I got the vibe that she feels like she has this all figured out and is superior, which is why I didn’t give this book a higher rating. Maybe it is just me though.
#24: The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
Overall Thoughts: I LOVE Kristin Hannah and was so excited to read this book. In Hannah’s latest novel, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature. This book is so thought provoking and explores the complex family dynamic. You will go through a wide range of emotions reading this book, so be prepared! This book is good but not as good as my all-time favorite book by the author, The Nightingale, which is why I gave it an A-.
#25: Straight Up, Trent Shelton
Overall Thoughts: You should get familiar with Trent Shelton if you are not already. Trent is a former football player who had to reinvent his life after getting cut from the NFL. In his latest book, Shelton shares his own story of finding himself and a better path forward, providing straight-up truths and uplifting advice to help you through the issues you face at school, at home, or within yourself. This book was good, but not as good as his other book, The Greatest You. You can follow Trent on Instagram and listen to his podcast, Rehab time for a regular dose of motivation.
#26: Sex and Vanity, Kevin Kwan
Overall Thoughts: This book is NOT at the level of Crazy Rich Asians. I found this book very superficial and actually thought about abandoning it at one point. I felt it was unnecessarily long and just flaunted a lot of big designer brands throughout without really providing a lot of substance. Just meh!
#27: Party of Two, Jasmine Guillory
Overall Thoughts: This is my favorite Guillory book so far. It explores the relationship between Oliva, an attorney, and Max, a senator. Things are a little complicated for this couple due to Max being so in the public eye, but they start to fall in love anyway. If you’re looking for a sweet and enjoyable romance that will leave you with a smile on your face, check out this book!
#28: The Other Mrs., Mary Kubica
Overall Thoughts: This book is CRAZY and full of twists and turns! Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from Chicago to Maine when their neighbor is found dead in her home. Sadie is disturbed by this and other things as well, including her creepy niece who lives with them. If you like thrillers, I think you will like this!
#29: Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
Overall Thoughts: Rowan Caine stumbles upon an opportunity to be a live-in nanny to four children in a remote house in Scotland. Something goes awry and she is telling this story via letters to a solicitor while she is in prison. The buildup of the thriller is very slow, and there are a lot of twists and turns. The ending did throw me off so if you like a surprise ending you will appreciate this.
#30: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and Jenny Lawsons over-the-top and hilarious depiction of her life. This book will make you feel better about your own life and many times you will think to yourself, “How could this have ever happened to Jenny?!” My mom and I listened to this book on the way to and from medical appointments and we laughed a lot.
#31: One for the Money, Janet Evanovich
Overall Thoughts: A couple people recommend this book series to me, since many know that I love a good book series. Stephanie Plum is an interesting character who is beginning her career as a bounty hunter. The book is based in the early 90s so a lot of it was outdated. The book was good, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I would have read it when it was initially released.
#32: The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
Overall Thoughts: My book club decided to read this book towards the end of the year. I read this book many years ago and decided to read again so I could be well versed for our discussion. I am not the type of person who rereads anything, but I am so glad I read this book again. I found myself laughing out loud, forgetting about so many parts of this book that made me fall in love with Don Tillman. I know I have mentioned this before, but this is one of my favorite books. Everyone in my book club loved it, and you should read it too!
#33: Two for the Dough, Janet Evanovich
Overall Thoughts: I decided to read the second book in the Stephanie Plum series to see if I wanted to proceed with the entire series. This book was just okay. It was easy to get through but it didn’t leave me wanting more. I don’t think I will read any more of this book series, but I am glad that I tried it out.
#34: Deadly Cross, James Patterson
Overall Thoughts: I love the Alex Cross series and this book did not disappoint. Kay Willingham led a life as glamorous as it was public. When she is found dead in a school parking lot, Alex has to solve the case. It was a consistent Alex Cross book and I can always appreciate that!
#35: The Return, Nicholas Sparks
Overall Thoughts: I enjoyed The Return. It is is a typical Nicholas Sparks romance with two people that shouldn’t be together falling in love. Trevor is a great character who has to recreate his life after a huge trauma. I was curious to find out what Natalie was hiding and why she was so hot and cold. The mystery of Trevor’s grandfather and Callie was also very interesting. There were so many different aspects of this book that keeps the reader interested. This is a great “beach read” if you are looking for something less serious.
#36: Everything Beautiful in its Time, Jenna Bush Hager
Overall Thoughts: Jenna Bush Hager shares moving, funny stories about her beloved grandparents (George and Barbara Bush, as well as her non-famous maternal grandparents) and the wisdom they passed on that has shaped her life. In this moving book, Jenna remembers the past, cherishes the present, and prepares for the future while providing a wealth of anecdotes and lessons. Everything Beautiful in Its Time is a warm and wonderful story about family and an exploration of the things that truly matter most. I highly recommend!