some of my fall 2020 reads.

I’m looking back at what I’ve been reading this fall, and noticing that I’ve mostly been drawn to YA and historical fiction. Here’s my reviews for those plus a nonfiction read, and one I’m tucking away for the future.

The Ballad of Songbirds + Snakes

I was worried this one would just be a money grab, skimping on story and relying on the Hunger Games hype. And I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy a story where President Snow (in his teenage years) was the main character.

I’m so happy to be wrong. This one drew me in and held my interest the whole time. There were plenty of nods to Hunger Games things without making it too obnoxious or annoying. I appreciated how Suzanne Collins wove together the history and evolution of the games to what we know when Katniss is participating.

I loved seeing how smart and success driven Snow is even in these early years, and how survival has shaped him. I found his character progression to be very believable, as someone who is working so hard to reclaim a sense of former glory for his family name & himself. And even knowing how it would (in general terms) end, I still felt surprised by a number of elements. If you enjoyed the Hunger Games series, I think this one is worth a read.

A for me.

The Remnant Series

This fantasy series by Mary E. Pearson surprised me by how much I enjoyed it all the way through. It felt like a quiet gift to discover it during the pandemic.

What started off sounding like a runaway princess-love-triangle sort of plot quickly turned into flawed characters I was rooting for, good world building and humanizing enemies. I loved the layers of complexity that built as I read, so that I was not overwhelmed learning about a new world or the problems, but that it simply added to the story, creating more meaning as we went further in. I love the main character’s gumption and grit. And I really liked the ending and how everything got wrapped up.

If you like YA fantasy, this series was a fun one!

Across The Winding River

I read “Across the Winding River” on my flight in October and was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it so much. It held my attention for its entirety, even as it alternated between three different points of view (one in modern times, two during World War II.) I loved learning about some of the real historical figures these characters were based on in the author’s note.

Plus, it alluded to or mentioned what would have otherwise been more graphic parts (violence, sex) in a way that didn’t diminish the impact of those events but didn’t show too much. I appreciated how this story grappled with the moral dilemmas of this particular wartime and the way it honored the courage and kindness in the darkness of those days. I loved so much about this one.

A for me.

Ps. Thanks to @goodreads for my copy! It was such a lovely surprise to win an ebook copy of this one.


I really enjoyed Fable. It felt pretty unique, as a YA pirate book featuring such a strong protagonist. Fable reminded me a pirate version of Katniss (the Hunger Games) with her resourcefulness, difficulty trusting others and resilience. I’ll warn you that it ends leaving you eager for the sequel though!

A- for me.

The Book of Lost Names

I loved learning about World War II from the perspective of forgers, who saved lives making false papers for Jewish children. I loved the complicated emotions shown in this story and the layers of grief to be a survivor. Remy won my heart in this story as Eva grew to trust him. This book had me hooked for the whole time. I thought for sure I’d be giving it an A.

But the ending! I won’t give it away but the ending didn’t work for me. I thought the whole book was setting us up for a different kind of ending. I felt let down and a bit cheated by how things wrapped up for characters I was so invested in. So if I ignore the final pages and write the ending I wanted, it would get an A. But otherwise, I think it deserves a B.

Befriending Your Monsters

It’s been such a helpful shift in recent years to see things like fear or anger as things not to avoid but as voices that deserve a place at the table. While they certainly shouldn’t be running the show, they are messengers and I’m served when I listen to them with Jesus.

I appreciated that Luke Norsworthy unpacked this idea in the context of befriending monsters. As we discover monsters, we’re invited to see them, bring them into the light to experience the Lord’s love.

Luke is a good storyteller and fairly conversation in tone, so this wasn’t a book that gave tons of action steps as much as told stories about the subject matter. I enjoyed his humor and the way he crafted his story-heavy chapters.

I will say that if you want a more practical application, I think Boundaries for Your Soul touches on this same idea with more real help. But for someone who is beginning to grow in awareness of what it means to create space at the table for grief, fear, anxiety, etc, this book could be a helpful place to start. Luke is a kind, funny, humble teacher and offers a helpful introduction to befriending your monsters.

B for me.

#gifted Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. My opinions are my own.

The Jane Austen Society

I really enjoyed this story, set after World War II. It was a delight to see so many different kinds of people share a love of Jane Austen’s books, which also offered some parallels to their own lives. While not terribly based in true history, these dear characters who love books drew me right in.

While this one certainly had its own feel, it had hints of other books I love: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society & the Mitford Series. If you love books about books, small village life or are a fan of Jane Austen, I have a feeling this book will be right up your alley.

A- for me.

If I Were You

I love when a book invites me to wrestle with complexity: the class system, suffering and the consequences for our sins and mistakes. This one certainly did that. I know a book has impacted me when I’m thinking about it when I’m not reading it.

With the feel of Downton Abbey, I appreciated seeing the struggles and growth of Eve and Audrey, both aching to belong and find their place in war-torn England, even as they came from different worlds. And I’m always grateful to be transported to another time, to gain perspective on my own time in history.

A- for me.

Searching for Certainty
This book is one to savor. I’m struck by Shelly’s skill at storytelling, her vulnerability, her truth-telling and her gentleness in these pages. Her story is a lens for which to see our own stories, and the God on whom we rest in uncertainty. I’ve struggled not to underline something on every page.

There’s a certain sacredness to reading a book after the author has died. I’m sad at the loss of such a kind truth teller, even as I celebrate the way her book gets to minister beyond her time on earth.
It was a privilege to read and review this one.

A for me.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book! My opinions are my own.

Awakening Wonder
Sally Clarkson offers hard earned wisdom and gentle encouragement, from one mama to another in this recent release. I love the invitation to give space for imagination and to set the example by creating space for our own wonder and imagination. This book felt kind while offering a challenge to do the hard work of letting our children get bored and creating space for their creativity. I felt encouraged and challenged as I read.

A for me.

PS. I read this in the midst of pandemic days, when it felt hard to hold my own shame at bay for succumbing to screens more than normal. I did not feel shamed by Sally, as she admits that some days need movies or shows, even if reading about screens at that particular time still felt pretty sensitive for me. I appreciated the way she encourages intentionality here and not relying on screens too heavily.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book! My opinions are my own.

All That We Carried

I really enjoyed the way this story was mostly outdoors. It took me back to my backpacking trips in college to read about these sisters hiking together. I appreciated the way the conflict between the sisters wasn’t resolved quickly. This conflict was years in the making and the weight of that was felt. Even as I appreciated that, I’ll admit that the conflict wasn’t my favorite to read about for so much of the book.

I’ve really appreciated how Erin Bartels seems to inch away from tidy resolutions or everything wrapped up neatly in her stories. Her books seem to be willing to engage in the messy middle, not needing things to have a sermon preached in words or resolved perfectly at the end. However, this book didn’t resolve as much as I was hoping for or even offer as much direction as I think it needed. The ending felt a bit rushed for me. It felt like we lingered too long in the woods, only to rush through the ending. I would have liked to see more past the camping trip, instead of jumping to an epilogue months in the future, without seeing much of how we got there. I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t my favorite.

B- for me.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book! My opinions are my own.

NIV Beautiful Word Bible

In recent years, I’ve enjoyed my own journaling Bible so much. It has been such a joy to write in the margins and add my own art to the pages. I knew my art loving daughter would probably be no different.
This Bible is just gorgeous and I love that it comes with colored pencils and stickers. As I’ve flipped through these pages, I can easily imagine how thrilling it would have felt to receive this beautiful Bible as a younger girl. As my daughter is still learning to read, I’m holding on to this for her for another year or two (the recommended age is 8-12) but already I’m filled with anticipation for her to get to use this Bible and have her own time with the Lord.

And check out these free Scripture coloring pages that are just like what are found in this Bible.

I received a copy of the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls Gift Set from Zondervan (HarperCollins Christian Publishing) for this review.  This post is sponsored by Zondervan. Many thanks to Telling Ministries LLC and HCCP for providing this product/product information for review.  Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. #beautifulwordgiftset  #FlyBy

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