I have a whole volley of recaps & wrap-ups and welcome-2021 and 2021-goals posts coming up, so buckle your seatbelts ;P this is just the first one I got done! 😉
~ My Top 10 Favourite Standalones of 2020 ~
(These are new reads that are not part of a series.Click the titles to be redirected to Goodreads. Full content reviews on Goodreads.)
1. Stop the Rain. (9/10 hearts)
Yes, I knew this book would be amazing. And it was just as amazing as I expected. I fangirl over Kassie Angle’s books a lot, but this one I cannot fangirl over. It is too real for fangirling. Somewhere out there, someone like me has their own Harley—a Harley that you can’t shut the book covers on and put down when your heart hurts too much. This book was superbly well written. The style is perfect for this type of story. It was heartbreaking and filled with hope. It was beautiful and terrifying and painful and hilarious. It is just overall beautiful and life-changing. It’s one of those books you need to reread periodically so that it stays in your mind & keeps changing you. And it’s a book that I think everyone should read—no matter your nationality or beliefs. Because this book will teach you something about real heroes and brokenness and beauty and hope and life. And can I mention that the ending left me in tears?
2.A Tale of Two Cities. (9/10 hearts)
This book was so much more than I expected. It’s so unlike the other Dickens novels. It’s really a story of redemption & hope & true love. It’s humorous and beautiful and touching. The language is so amazing. The characters live. The misery & horror of things is shown in a way that doesn’t oppress you or totally overwhelm you. The plot was fabulous. And there’s Sidney Carton. Just, Sidney Carton. That man lives. He is so real. When my mother showed me her reasons for firmly believing he was saved (as in, called upon Christ)—which I see ample evidence for—I cried with joy. His story is such an amazing story of redemption & self-sacrificing love. I’m still recovering from this book & I think I will seriously never be the same after reading it. Now I want to go to the Place de la Concorde. And when I‘m there, I’ll think of Sidney Carton.
3. Charlie to the Rescue. (8/10 hearts)
This was such a good book!! It’s probably my favourite Ballantyne book. I loved Charlie—he was such a pleasant, Godly man. I loved the strong theme of hope & redemption. I loved how the Gospel was clearly presented, several times. I loved how Ballantyne constantly pointed out the evils of smoking & drinking (and Charlie kept his shirt on while boxing!!). Although the language was accurate to the times (disparaging terms for the Native Americans, & the N-word for a black servant) it was obvious that Ballantyne himself is not racist & has nothing against those people—and he also points out it is not all the Native Americans’ faults, as the whites used to say. I really appreciated all that. The characters were amazing; the constant humour sarcastic and delightful; and the plot twisty and exciting.
4. By Secret Railway. (8/10 hearts)
Mary H. (Aerelien) has the BEST reading recommendations, okay? I asked for a couple more after I devoured her top 20 or so. This was one of the 15 or so others she gave me. I read it one night. It was absolutely impossible to put down. At first I was worried Grandfather would be some grumpy, nasty old man but he ended up one of my favourite fictional grandpas ever! All the children were so real and funny and easy to tell apart. I loved Jim (such a sweetheart!) and I loved the theme/message. The story was super exciting and left me absolutely on the edge of my seat more than once… And then Lincoln. ❤ I always had a soft spot for Lincoln and his appearance here was so sweet and so true to character! ❤ Oh, and the ENDING!!!! <333
5. Message to Hadrian. (8/10 hearts)
I have always been fascinated by the Roman Empire—I suppose because they’re so like a primitive version of our civilization. This book was not a disappointment. The writing style was amazing, and I love the dry, sarcastic wit & humour. Paul was a great main character, and Severus… he was hilarious and somehow loveable in spite of his cynicism. They had an amazing relationship. And Hadrian was an amazing character too. Paul’s and Tonia’s friendship was super sweet and humorous, and although I don’t quite agree with all they did, still it’s very clean and noble. The excitement & suspense lasted right up to the very end, but there were some beautiful calm moments. It was amazingly well written, very realistic, and humorous, suspenseful, & sweet all at once. I enjoyed every moment of it & I will certainly be reading more of Trease’s works!
Oh yes, I loved this book!! I have a thing for dog stories, especially wolf dogs. This one was kind of White Fang + Call of the Wild meets Lassie Come-Home + The Incredible Journey, with strong Gentle Ben vibes. I loved Andy, and I loved his parents & their relationship. Dr. Walker was also awesome. XD I loved Kävik, of course, and also John and Martha. <33 It was an exciting, well-written, satisfying, beautiful story by Walt Morey and I am totally going to read more of his works. Oh, and the ending is sooo lovely. ❤
7. Sophia’s War. (8/10 hearts)
Wow. What a book. I am seriously impressed. I have never read such a book in my life, and I have read much and widely (which is not the same thing!). It has an absolutely unique atmosphere and writing style, which feels historically authentic and natural, and is gripping and intriguing. The plot twisted so often I soon had no idea where we were heading, but I was desperately hooked. I know André is technically the villain of this book, but to me he didn’t come across as so. Morally, I believe André was only doing his duty, and he was unjustly accused—he was not a spy. Nor is it his fault that Nathan Hale (a man I much admire and respect) was hung. As a man, I suppose André wasn’t really a good one, but he had many good qualities and personally I am very much inclined to admire him for his courtesy and kindness (except for the one scene where Sophia first meets him and there he acted quite wrongly). I was not exactly a fan of Sophia’s. For one thing, I could not understand or approve her obsessive revenge. As a soldier, André was really unable to free William. Sophia’s constant lying, trickery, and deception also bothered me a lot, even if she admitted it was wrong. On the other hand, her courage and dedication won her some respect from me. This book certainly did not whitewash facts nor hide the truth, and yet somehow it presented them in a way that wasn’t too overwhelming. I find the insinuation that the British was exceptionally cruel to American prisoners rather unfair, since I’m fairly certain under the circumstances there wasn’t much they could do, and they would have done the same anywhere else. Not to mention they were often more humane than other armies. Still, I am not excusing the behaviour that caused the death and suffering of so many people. This book was also full of history but presented it so well that it was never boring or irritating. I am definitely interested in more by this author, and I highly recommend this to those who like thought-provoking reads, unique books, and Revolutionary War stories.
8. Snow-Globe World. (8/10 hearts)
My heart. What a gorgeous, gorgeous, GORGEOUS story. This is the perfect Christmas story! I absolutely loved it. The description was amazing. The characters were so endearing. The writing style was simply *beautiful*–so old-timey and gorgeous and sweet! And the MESSAGE!!! My heart!!! I so needed it right now. It is simply beautiful and perfect and so, so true. I know I keep saying “beautiful” and “gorgeous” and “sweet,” but those are the only adjectives that will describe this story. I’m reeling. This is one story I will be rereading EVERY Christmas. And this Christmas? I encourage you to grab a copy and read this. <33
9. Lassie Come-Home. (8/10 hearts)
I’ve been wanting to read this for years, and now I finally did. I did not expect to get this emotionally involved, though I was sure it was a great story! Lassie’s story made me think of “The Incredible Journey,” but so much harder, more suspenseful, and more heart-tugging. I loved the Duke, and his relationship with his granddaughter. I loved Elnora and Michael. I loved Dan and Dally. I loved Lassie. I loved Ritchell. And oh, I loved the Carracloughs. <33 I loved Joe’s parents. They were so loving, so brave and strong, and so perfect for each other. I always loved Yorkshire and this made me fall even deeper in love with it and its people. <33 It’s hard to express what this story did to my heart, but it at times it broke my heart, and then it would just touch me so sweetly. The ending scene just… I can’t describe it beyond saying it melted me. Just so sweet and perfect and heartwarming. <33 And that, I think, describes this story.
10. Rebecca’s War. (8/10 hearts)
I was desperately afraid to start this story because Finalyson’s other Revolutionary War book really emotionally impacted me. But I loved this book almost instantly. It is suspenseful and exciting, but also full of sweet relationships/friendships and real life. It was very historically accurate in thoughts, language, and setting. I loved Donald (he was perfect with Amelia!) and I loved Will & Teddy, and Fitch was such a sweet, dependable man. But the Honorable Frederick—my heart! What a sweet, kind, wise, humorous man he was. He was so good to Becky, and so helpful to her. I really appreciated how the British were realistically portrayed in this story—bad guys and good guys, brought up differently from America. I loved the excellent humour! The ending of this book was so sweet… I was left basically melting. ❤
~ My Top 10 Favourite Standalones Reread in 2020 ~
1. Where the Red Fern Grows. (9/10 hearts)
This book is a heart-breaker and yet… so beautiful and calming. From the very first chapter I teared up periodically, and at the last chapter I was crying harder than I’ve cried over a book in a long, long time (since I was 15, to be exact). This story was just so real and sweet. I loved the characters. The adventure. The calm. The deep, strong faith in God. This book was just one of the most beautiful, faith-filled books I’ve ever read. It’s so hard to write a proper review for it. Just know it’s one of my top favourite books (a rare honour). It is so well-written and the humour is excellent. I barely know what to say… Just go read it, because it’s one of the best books ever.
2. Jane of Lantern Hill. (9/10 hearts)
Oh, my heart. I had forgotten how much I loved this book. I read it as a tween and I loved it, but I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now, as an adult. I love this book so incredibly much. I love Jane. And Mummy is just so sweet and pathetic! And dad. Oh, I LOVE dad!! He is just simply amazing and I love him! I loved Lantern Hill so much, and there was just soooo much beauty in this book! I loved all the humour and all the vivid characters. I loved the message. I read this book when I was having a really hectic life, and it was so helpful to me to hear that message—that there is always beauty. Always good things coming around the bend. Always hope. Always wonder. Always joy and love. And the ending. Oh, how I love that ending! It is just simply perfect. <33
3. Black Beauty. (9/10 hearts)
This is one of my top favourite books. I’ve read this book so, so many times but each time I just love it more. There is so much wisdom, and humour, and sweetness in these pages. There is so much about treating animals well, and also a lot of information about life in the 1800s. There are some amazing characters & so many good lessons. I think this book has one of my favourite arguments against drinking/alcohol. There’s so much doctrine in this book, too, just little nuggets every once in a while. It’s a refreshing, relaxing, slow-paced book, perfect for all ages. I highly recommend it. <33
4. The Singing Tree. (9/10 hearts)
Oh, how good this book was. I’m having difficulty writing this review. It was just so beautiful and quaint and old-fashioned and happy and sunshiny… I think “beautiful” just sums it up. It was very funny at times, but mostly it tugged at my heart so much. I loved seeing how the war affected them… You don’t often see books from the German POV instead of the Allied one. It was just an amazing, amazing book. I loved everyone… all the character were so real and strong and noble. The stress it lays upon how horrible war is and how the enemy is really people just like us… The big Russians and the tiny German children… my heart. <33 It is brilliantly well-written, and is just so full of truth and beauty and wisdom. I could ramble on but I’ll just say, it is amazing and beautiful and I ended up teary-eyed at the end. <33 Hands-down one of my top 10 favourite books. (This book IS a part of a series but I didn’t love book 1 as much as I adored book 2 so I’m not going to mention it as my 10 favourite series).
5. Heidi. (8/10 hearts)
Oh, my heart. I love this book so very much. I’ve known it ever since I was a child and I’ve loved it more each time, I think. So much beauty, so much sweetness, so much humour… and a wonderful message. This is an uplifting, encouraging, refreshing book & I fully, completely recommend it. <33
6. Little Lord Fauntleroy. (8/10 hearts)
Oh, how I love this book. <33 It is just so sweet and wholesome and humorous and beautiful. Little Lord Fauntleroy is an absolute sweetheart, and he is NOT too good to be true–I’d love to have a child like him, and I think I could, if I were as careful and loving as Mrs. Errol. (She is another sweetheart. She’s just amazing.) I love the Earl–you can’t help loving the poor old man. And Mr. Havisham is really nice too, and Dick! And Mr. Hobbs and the servants are so funny. The message of the story is very subtle but soooo good. It’s an amazing story for ALL ages and I recommend it so highly! <33
7. Gentle Ben. (8/10 hearts)Oh my heart. I adore this book! And I don’t say that lightly. I really do adore it. The characters are simply amazing. Ellen & Karl are both really great and compliment each other so well, and I love their understated romance. <33 I defy you not to love Clearwater and Kelly, too. Mark himself is a dear, and then, of course, Ben is simply awesome! The friendship between the two is just beautiful. The writing style is excellent; the plot is very well done; the setting is superb. It is a very vibrant, very beautiful, very fascinating book and… really… just simply amazing.
8. The Hiding Place.(8/10 hearts)
As a preteen I read this book frequently and was more fascinated than disturbed. As an adult, I chose to reread this book and loved it. It has plenty of excitement. It has also plenty of sly humour. But most of all it tells a glorious lesson: how God could use even the concentration camps of the Nazis to glorify His name. This book is so filled with good lessons; but the greatest is the one of simply loving people, no matter who they are or what they did. It’s a message of forgiveness. I don’t agree with quite everything; and there is some disturbing elements to this story, especially when they get to Ravensbruck. But it is so worth reading, and it leaves you full of joy and hope. I highly recommend this not only as a WWII read but as an inspirational read. Unless edited, I don’t consider it suitable for ages under 18-16, depending on the child & on your personal preference.
9. A Little Princess. (8/10 hearts)
This has always been one of my top favourite books. It is sweet, and heart-warming, and beautiful, and old-fashioned, and simple, and heart-tugging, and satisfying, and well-written, full of wonderful and living characters, with a splendid plot and lovely theme.
But the real charm of this book is this. “It may have happened, it may not have happened: but it COULD have happened.” (Mark Twain). This is essentially a fairy-tale, and satisfies our fairy-tale-loving hearts. But it is also realistic, and satisfies our desire for stories we can identify with and see ourselves in. Sara Crewe, Maria Minchin, Thomas Carrisford, Ralph Crewe, Ram Dass, Becky, Ermengarde, the Carmichaels… they may never have existed. But they COULD have existed. They are REAL. And their story may never have happened, but it MIGHT have.
This is, essentially, a story of the battle between good and evil. Which will win? Which pays off, in the long run? And therein lies its appeal. We all see the battle between good & evil and we long to be reminded that evil cannot win, that good SHALL win eventually, and that evil brings the consequences of its own actions, while good brings rewards.
And so, perhaps, we all need to slip away to an old-time, heart-tugging, faraway London, to a land of attics and sparrows and fogs and mud and beggars and seminaries and kitchens, where poverty & loneliness are intense and comfort is gone, where true friends must be proven and false people be exposed, where evil and good battle once more for predominance–a place that is far away and yet very near, well removed from our own world and yet very close–a world that we still identify with and understand and… know.
10. The Children of the New Forest. (8/10 hearts)This has always been one of my favourite books from the very first time I read it. I love it because it’s unusual but realistic. I love the setting. I love the characters—all very vivid & interesting, even if they hardly appear on scene at all. This story mingles the fast-paced excitement and the slower, calmer everyday very well. The only content is a little girl is disguised as a boy, & a few exclamations which I personally wouldn’t say. I don’t agree with every single statement, but ninety-nine percent of this book was full of wisdom and truth. I loved this story as a child, and I found even more in it as a young woman. I highly recommend this story to all historical fiction lovers!
~ My Favourite Series of 2020~
(This one is only new reads, in no order)
1. The Dolphin Ring Cycle Series.
I only read the first four books, because the friend who read the series told me book 4 was really bad. Book 6 & 7 I plan to read next year; book 8 is not on Archive so I can’t read it. But anyways I really loved the other four. They’re beautiful and riveting and so symbolic. They’re also violent, but I didn’t mind it… but I don’t recommend these for everyone. 😉
My reviews: 1. The Eagle of the Ninth.2. The Silver Branch. 3. Frontier Wolf.4. The Lantern Bearers.
2. The Moffats.
Again, I only read books 1-3, but that was only because book 4 IS NOT ON ARCHIVE AND THAT IS TERRIBLE!!! This series was SO amazing and I loved it!!
My reviews: 1. The Moffats.2. The Middle Moffat.3. Rufus M.
3. The Melendy Family Series.
4. The Quiet Valor Series.
This series is still in the works, but the first book and the prequel are out. And they. are. golden. They’re amazing. They are so crazy good.
0.5. A Shield & a Refuge.1. A Threat & a Promise.
5. The Trixie Belden Series.
Okay, soooo not all the books are listed here. Some I couldn’t read because they weren’t on Archive. The other 2 aren’t listed because they only made it to 3 and 2 stars. However. I LOVED this series. I used to be a Nancy Drew fan. I still like Nancy but now I am a hardcore Trixie fan!!! I absolutely love this series and the characters!
37. The Pet Show Mystery.
6. The Rose Years Series.
Again, I didn’t read the whole series because I heard the later ones were bad. But I really enjoyed the first 5! I didn’t see them really as continuations of the Little House books. Rose wasn’t a real person to me. The Rose of the books remained the Rose of the Ozarks… read my review of book 5 for more info. 😉
Reviews:1. Little House on Rocky Ridge.2. Little Farm in the Ozarks.3. In the Land of the Big Red Apple.4. On the Other Side of the Hill.5. Little Town in the Ozarks.
7. The Anna Solden Duology.
8. The Titanic Chronicles.
I have always been obsessed by the Titanic and read everything I could get my hands on. These were absolute gems. Among the top 4 best nonfiction I have ever read, and simply stunning.
My reviews:1. A Night to Remember.2. The Night Lives On.
10. The AKA Simon Lee Series. I binge-read these in about a week and a half and since then I’ve reread a couple of the books. In the same year. Yeah. Low-key obsessed.
1.5. “Christmas Hostage.”
4.5. “Most Wanted.”
5.5. “Not Enough.”
And now some random shoutouts… (all new reads)
Favourite Christian Book: A Strand of Hope by Amanda Tero.
Favourite Contemporary: Five-Star Spy by Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick.
Favourite Romance: Love’s Enduring Promise by Janette Oke.
Favourite Nonfiction: Paris-Underground by Etta Shiber.
Favourite Historical Fiction: Dusty Diamonds Cut & Polished by R.M. Ballantyne.
Favourite Fantasy: The Lady of Lanaria by Michaela Bush.
Favourite Mystery: TheBasil of Baker Street Series by Eve Titus.
Favourite Classic: White Fang by Jack London.
Favourite Middle-Grade/Juvenile Fiction Book: Welcome, Santza by Constance Savery.
Favourite Action/Adventure Book: Jingo Django by Sid Fleischman.
Favourite Comedy: By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman.
~ Bookish Recap Tag ~
// How many books did you read this year? (Exact if you know, or approximate if not.)
I read & reviewed approximately 569 books, of which app. 47 were short stories (aka under 24 pages). I forgot to count the books of the Bible that fell in the shorts category, though. 235 were new reads, & 235 were old reads. I read the whole English bible (KJV), which was 66 books; and of the French bible (Ostervald) I read 24. I also read some of those books more than once. (Looking at Enemy Brothers & Simon Lee…)
// Did you set a reading challenge for yourself and, if so, did you meet it?
Quote from 2019’s bookish recap: “I don’t think I’ll set a number goal for 2020. I’ll be doing college and I don’t want to stress myself. I have a list of books I want to read and review this year, but I won’t let myself stress over it. I’ll just see what I can get done. But I do hope to read 100.“
Ha. Ha. Haaaa.
I’ll be honest and say I was actually aiming for 365.
// What was your most read genre this year? Least read?
Most read was Historical Fiction (255 books). Least read was probably Fantasy (3-6 books).
// What’s five of your least favourite books from this year?
1. Circular Study.
2. Love in the Rain.
3. Lawfully Secure.
4. Falling in Love with a Police Officer
5. Lawfully Charmed.
// What new favourite author did you discover? (Not necessarily that the author is ‘new,’ but that they became new to you this year.)
Lauren Compton is both a new author and a new author to me!! I loved her book, Jayne’s Endeavour, and can’t wait for the rest of the series!
Besides her, I read tons of new authors this year lol.
// How many books did you purchase for yourself this year? (Exact if you know, approximate if not.)
Let’s see now… 13 ebooks (1 was a schoolbook and 1 was a grammar book to study) and … we’ll say… 18 print books. Not sure if that is correct. Most were from Value Village & a couple of those were probably free because they have a buy-5-books-get-one-free special. Oh, and several schoolbooks.
// What’s the longest book you read this year?
According to Goodreads, The Complete Sherlock Holmes. 1,763 pages. A reread.
// What’s the shortest book you read this year?
R.A. Rooney’s Bow & Arrow–one page. XD
// What’s your reading goal for next year?
I don’t think I’ll set a number goal for 2021. I’ll be doing college and I don’t want to stress myself. I have a list of books I want to read and review this year, but I won’t let myself stress over it. I’ll just see what I can get done. But I do hope to read 100.
Okay XD but unofficially I’m still aiming for 365.
~ / / ~
Tell me about your bookish 2020, friends!!!