I don’t want you to think this is a recommendation list – it isn’t. This is a list of books that I could think about for hours and still not be satisfied. We’ve all got them: books that made an impact on us, in one way or another. Whether it’s a great hero, crackling chemistry, or a devastatingly terrible ending, there are elements to certain books that make you emotional just thinking about them. There are a couple of books on this list that I’m still angry about months later, and there are others that I can’t wait to re-read with fresh eyes. Whatever the scenario, these books have all made a lasting impression on me.
I absolutely loved some of these. I hated others. And there are some where I loved them until something changed that. While I don’t offer up explicit spoilers in my commentary, I do talk about the things that caused each book to make this list. So fair warning.
I’ll leave you with this: the worst thing I can say about a book is that it’s boring. Why would I want to waste my time reading something that I’ll forget about the next day? I’d much rather read something that angers me, that incites emotion – even if it’s not in a positive way. And that’s exactly what each of these books accomplishes. I loved some of them, others ticked me off. But they’re all unforgettable.
The Setup by Meghan Quinn
I love Meghan Quinn. I hated this. I still get heated up thinking about the ending, and not in a good way. While I rated this as 3 stars, I’ve never wanted to 1-star a book more, that’s how strongly it made me feel. I still sometimes wonder if someone stole Quinn’s computer and wrote this ending, because it’s that bad. Like, BAD bad. Quinn’s got more than one book battling it out to make my Top 20 of 2020… but this is certainly not one of them.
I’ve fallen victim to a heinous act.
An act so vile, so downright dirty, that I’m not sure as a twenty-year-old man I’ll ever recover. Brace yourself, because what I’m about to tell you might have you gasping in secondhand horror.
Ready? Here it goes . . .
I’ve recently become the pawn of a meddling mom.
Yes . . . A MEDDLING MOM–who’s been trying to set me up all summer.
Now, I understand it’s not a crime for a mother to want her child to fall in love, but when she makes it her relentless MISSION, the heinous act should be classified as a misdemeanor at least.
Of course, my mom, the evil matriarch in the devil’s leggings, made her final stab at finding a girl for me days before I went back to college.
And I hate to admit it, but she saved a doozy for last.
A titan in black skinny jeans.
A boss of nonchalance.
And a girl who would not only turn my life upside down, but do it while juggling a soccer ball, looking effortlessly gorgeous around campus, and is one hundred percent against relationships. Of any sort.
Before You Ghost by Debra Anastasia and Helena Hunting
This one wins the award of weirdest love story of the year… by a lot. It’s SO weird. So, so weird. A little Halloween treat, this novella fascinated me in a lot of ways, while also being awkwardly not funny a lot of the time. I really don’t know how these two came up with the storyline, but it’s wholly original, I’ll give them that. And you know what? I might even read it again next Halloween. So, there’s that too.
It’s hard to miss your boyfriend when he’s standing right next to you being a sarcastic nimrod. I have a temper and he has an attitude. Our antics inside and outside the bedroom are off the charts. Half the time we’re giving each other a hard time just to get to the good times.
Things get more complicated when he’s all those things and dead as well.
Evan’s a newly formed ghost, and I’m Sammi, the girlfriend whose lady bits are accused of being so strong they shot him off a cliff.
Our new life is tinged with pirates, mermaids, undead carjackers who look like they should be on the set of a horror movie, and a nefarious ghost that has it out for me.
The worst part? We have to figure it all out before Evan goes ghost. For good this time.
Layla by Colleen Hoover
Speaking of weird… this is another one. I still don’t know if I liked it! I think I did. It’s so unique, and complicated and twisty. It’s a romance but it isn’t. It’s a strange blend of a lot of things, but it’s also undeniably compelling. I had to find out how things ended for these characters – and that’s the mark of a good book.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.
When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.
Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.
One Last Time by Roxie Noir
Have you ever gotten really emotionally invested in a series, and then a story comes out that just… isn’t right? That’s how I feel about this one. I have loved the Loveless Brothers series and eagerly anticipated Seth’s book. But the moment I read the blurb, I knew it was all wrong. I actually had a sense of dread about reading this book, which is so vastly different than how I felt about all the other books in the series. And the dread turned out to be warranted. It’s still very well written, but nothing went the way I wanted it to. I can’t stop thinking about how this series should’ve ended.
Seth Loveless has been my weakness since I was sixteen years old.
Two years ago, I moved back to my hometown. I started a business, bought a house, took up yoga, and went on hiatus from dating. Life is good.
If I never had to see Seth, it would be perfect.
After all, my history with my ex-boyfriend is anything but simple. It’s taken us years, but we’ve finally learned to live in the same town without killing each other.
Is there an elaborate set of rules governing our every casual interaction?
Do I still think dirty, off-limits thoughts every single time I see him buying apples at the grocery store?
Of course. I’m only human, and Seth and I are practically experts at the two F’s: fighting, and…
Still, we’re managing just fine.
He shows up at my sister’s wedding. The man looks like pure sex in a suit, handsome as the devil himself and twice as charming.
Worse, he claims he’s my date.
We break every one of our carefully-crafted rules, and we… should stop.
Too bad I’m having the time of my life.
I know I should end it. After all the heartbreak, hurt, and anger we can’t be more than enemies.
But Seth asks me for one more night.
Just one night.
Then, we’re back to being virtual strangers to each other.
I know I should turn him down.
I know this ends with my heart shattered into a million pieces.
I know lunacy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
But I’ve always been bad at resisting a weakness.
The Cabin by Jasinda Wilder
I’m pretty sure this is the only book where I full-on cried my eyes out this year. Sure, I teared up during several other stories, but this was definitely the only one that made me feel this way. It’s my favorite book of the year. The story is unique, and emotional, and so good. My mind keeps going back to just how quickly I devoured it.
One year ago, I buried my husband.
One year ago, I held his hand and said goodbye.
Now I spend most of my days lost somewhere between trying to remember every smallest detail of our lives, and trying to forget it all. I fill my hours with work until I’m too exhausted to remember him, to feel anything at all.
One year, 365 days—and then one knock at my door changes everything. A letter from him, a last request, a secret will:
My dearest Nadia,
Trust me, my love. One last time, trust me. Sometimes the epilogue to one story is the beginning of another.
Life of Debauchery Duet by M. Robinson
My feelings about this duet remain SUPER complicated, even months later. I rated the first book as 3 stars, but still eagerly anticipated the second book (which I ended up giving 5 stars). I still don’t know how I feel about either book – but I do know that the story had me 100% hooked. It’s angsty, complex, all kinds of problematic, but still very engrossing.
From Wall Street Journal & USA Bestselling Author M. Robinson, a rock star contemporary romance filled with angst and all the feels.
FROM THE FIRST VERSE
Once upon a time…
There was a girl with long golden hair who had the truest, bluest eyes that turned white when she cried.
She lived in a kingdom far, far away in a tower made of stone, but her mind was made of glass that she kept sharp as knives.
Where her memories hid behind her darkest doubts.
Her deepest thoughts.
Her diary became the only thing she could rely on.
No one saw through her looking glass.
No one cared.
No one tried.
Until the villain presented himself as the hero in her life.
He took and took and took some more.
With no regret.
With no shame.
With no apology.
The page never turned.
Their story didn’t end.
Tomorrow never came.
His life of debauchery was their journey to nowhere.
She’d give anything to go back in time.
To walk where she had walked.
To see what she had seen.
One day at a time.
Though in the end, “I love you” were just words.
That destroyed us inside.
‘TIL THE LAST LYRIC
Once upon a time…
There was a little girl who believed in fairy tales and happily ever afters.
For her prince to come.
Together they’d conquer the world.
Slaying dragons, demons, and villains.
Until her Prince Charming let his demons prevail.
She cried and begged and prayed.
She hated him.
She loved him.
She couldn’t save him.
“I love you.”
Were five words she despised more than anything.
Her fairy tale had become her worst nightmare.
She didn’t know how much more she could take.
She didn’t know love could turn into hate.
There were so many things she didn’t know.
Especially, how to tell him, “No.”
Dear Enemy by Kristen Callihan
Typically, I LOVE Callihan’s books, so I was really, really looking forward to this…. but the first half was so incredibly disappointing. It was a bully romance more than an enemies to lovers romance, with a sister element that didn’t work for me at all. But then I got to the back half – and it was EXCELLENT. So, I am definitely going to have to give this one a re-read at some point, because there’s a lot of good in here. Now that I know how strong it ends, I know I’ll have a completely different interpretation of the first half.
From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Callihan comes a smart, emotional contemporary romance about finding love with the most unlikely of people.
As kids, they hated each other. Macon Saint was beautiful, but despite his name, Delilah knew he was the devil. That he dated her slightly evil sister, Samantha, was no picnic either. When they broke up, it was a dream come true: Delilah never had to see him again.
Ten years later, her old enemy sends a text.
Delilah’s sister has stolen a valuable heirloom from Macon, now a rising Hollywood star, and he intends to collect his due. One problem: Sam has skipped town.
Sparks still sizzle between Macon and Delilah, only this heat feels alarmingly like unwanted attraction. But Delilah is desperate to keep her weak-hearted mother from learning of her sister’s theft. So she proposes a deal: she’ll pay off the debt by being Macon’s personal chef and assistant.
It’s a recipe for disaster, but Macon can’t stop himself from accepting. Even though Delilah clearly hates him, there’s something about her that feels like home. Besides, they’re no longer kids, and what once was a bitter rivalry has the potential to be something sweeter. Something like forever.
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
The first half? MAGIC. So freaking good. Undeniably one of my favorite love stories of the year. The back half? Made me want to smash my Kindle. It says a lot about a book when you still feel VERY strongly about it eight months later, and that’s the case here. I felt the similarly about The Friend Zone (and will probably feel the same about the followup), but that doesn’t put a dent in my anticipation of this author’s next release.
One trouble-making dog brings together two perfect strangers in this USA Today bestselling romantic comedy full of “fierce humor and fiercer heart.” (Casey McQuiston, NYT bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue)
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back. Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?
The Hunter by L.J. Shen
This “hero” is… disgusting. I wish I could erase the first scene from my mind, but if I close my eyes, I can still picture it. He wins the award of grossest hero of 2020, hands down. That being said, (and the current drama surrounding her notwithstanding) Shen is a talented author, and there’s some good stuff going on in here. Hunter still ruined the book for me, but it was certainly engrossing. When I sat down to read The Villain on release day, all I could think about was Hunter, so I had to set it aside – that kind of gross feeling lingers, lol. I actually received an ARC of The Devil Wears Black awhile back, so I’ll be diving into that at some point. Hopefully, I’ll be able to forget about Hunter by then.
From USA Today Bestselling author L.J. Shen comes a new, fun, steamy standalone about a notorious playboy and the nerdy girl who brings him to his knees.
Boston’s debauched elite is going up in flames, and it’s the Fitzpatrick family that set it on fire.
I didn’t mean to star in a sex tape, okay?
It was just one of those unexplainable things.
Like Stonehenge, Police Academy 2, and morning glory clouds.
It just happened.
Now, my ball-busting father is sentencing me to six months of celibacy, sobriety, and morbid boredom under the roof of Boston’s nerdiest girl alive, Sailor Brennan.
The virginal archer is supposed to babysit my ass while I learn to take my place in Royal Pipelines, my family’s oil company.
Little does she know, that’s not the only pipe I’ll be laying…
I didn’t want this gig, okay?
But the deal was too sweet to walk away from.
I needed the public endorsement; Hunter needed a nanny.
Besides, what’s six months in the grand scheme of things?
It’s not like I’m in danger of falling in love with the appallingly gorgeous, charismatic gazillionaire who happens to be one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors.
No. I will remain immune to Hunter Fitzpatrick’s charm.
Even at the cost of losing everything I have.
Even at the cost of burning down his kingdom.
Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover
This is one of my absolute favorite books of the year, and I just want to go back and read it with fresh eyes. At the time, I knew Hoover was a talented writer, but I’d never read anything by her that truly hooked me in. This did. I devoured it at an alarming rate, and the revelation makes me want to go back and read it all over again. My mind goes back to all the little breadcrumbs along the way, and it just makes me appreciate the book even more.
Life and a dismal last name are the only two things Beyah’s parents ever gave her. After carving her path all on her own, Beyah is well on her way to bigger and better things, thanks to no one but herself. With only two short months separating her from the future she’s built and the past she desperately wants to leave behind, an unexpected death leaves Beyah with no place to go during the interim.
Forced to reach out to her last resort, Beyah has to spend the remainder of her summer on a peninsula in Texas with a father she barely knows. Beyah’s plan is to keep her head down and let the summer slip by seamlessly, but her new neighbor Samson throws a wrench in that plan.
Samson and Beyah have nothing in common on the surface.
She comes from a life of poverty and neglect; he comes from a family of wealth and privilege. But one thing they do have in common is that they’re both drawn to sad things. Which means they’re drawn to each other.
Beyah and Samson agree to stay in the shallow end of a summer fling. What Beyah doesn’t realize is that a rip current is coming, and it’s about to drag her heart out to sea.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
A lot of people love this book, but… it was my fastest DNF of the year. And I bought the audiobook. I did not like it AT ALL. Granted, I also didn’t get very far. Now, I’m torn between wanting to dive back in and see what everybody loved, and being happy that I abandoned ship as quickly as I did.
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?
Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.
You’re The Reason by J. Nathan
The twist got me with this one, big time. I wasn’t sure that I was loving this book, and I was getting really irritated with the hero. But then the reveal happened, and it changed everything. So now I keep thinking about all of the scenes with fresh eyes, and I may need to go back for a re-read. It was great.
Welcome to Crestwood University…
Where smiles conceal secrets.
Gossip runs rampant.
And everyone hides the truth.
Sophia Galloway has no idea what she’s walking
into when she transfers to Crestwood University.
Returning to Texas was her only goal.
But nothing could prepare her for stepping foot
on a campus where no one is what they seem.
In a world where frat guys think they can do no wrong.
And sorority presidents think they run the show.
Sophia’s about to find out what happens when she
unknowingly crosses the wrong guy,
pisses off the wrong sorority sister,
and refuses to play by anyone else’s rules.
A life will be lost.
Lies will be told.
Hearts will be broken.
And secrets…well secrets are meant to be revealed.
Is there anyone she can trust?
Our Way by TL Swan
So good, yet so problematic. That’s this book in one sentence. It’s been months since I read it, but I still get upset by some of this hero’s actions. Yet, it’s also got the most fascinating storyline of the year, and the writing is excellent. I’m 100% torn about my feelings in regards to the actual romance, but it’s undeniably a great book.
Nathan Mercer, the only man in my life.
Loving him was never an option.
We met ten years ago, when we started at the same company on the same day.
Both new in town and with nobody else to rely on, we quickly became friends.
And while Nathan went on to rule San Francisco, I’m still doing the same job with the same people.
We finish each other’s sentences, we spend Christmas together and he sleeps at my house more than his.
He’s beautiful…. beyond belief.
In another life, he’s probably my soul mate.
However, lately things have changed. He’s started looking at me differently.
His eyes drop to my lips as I speak.
His hugs are tighter…. longer.
Our fights are more passionate, his jealousy insane.
I know it’s all in my head….it has to be.
They say to never love someone who treats you like you’re ordinary.
I don’t. To him I’m a queen.
But our story is complicated.
And as much as I love Nathan Mercer with all of my heart. . .
He’s the one man I can never have.
Wild For You by Kendall Ryan
I actually think the first half of this is some of Ryan’s best work – I loved it. But it slowly started unraveling along the way, and I lost that loving feeling. I keep thinking back to that crackling chemistry, the potential for an outstanding story, and how this could’ve been one of my favorite books of the year. I still liked it, but it wasn’t the same in the back half.
He’s growly. Grumpy. Stubborn.
And now, my new roommate.
Walking away from my disastrous last relationship was an easy decision, but moving in with a friend-of-a-friend hockey star who’s rarely home? Not quite as simple, because Grant makes me feel all kinds of things I’m not prepared for.
Protected. Desired. Unsteady.
• • •
She’s beautiful. Smart. Tempting.
And a little fragile.
I’ve never been anyone’s knight in shining armor, but when Ana needed a place to stay, it was easy to offer her a room with me.
Not so simple, though, is keeping my hands—or my mouth—to myself. And the night she crawls into my bed and shares her body with me? Heaven.
But she’s not looking for a relationship, and to my surprise, I find myself pissed off by that idea.
They say my heart is broken, that I’ll never settle down. I used to think that was true. Now, though? Hell, your guess is as good as mine.
First, she took my bed.
Then she took my heart.
Then she took my everything.
Your favorite hot jocks are back with an all new standalone novel. If you like sexy, confident men who know how to handle a stick (on and off the ice), and smart women who are strong enough to keep all those big egos in check, this series is for you!
Each book can be read as a complete standalone.
Out of Love by Jewel E. Ann
Good book, terrible ending. Another book whose ending stained an otherwise fascinating read, this one bugs me. A lot. I keep wondering why I would ever find an ending that problematic, rushed, and out of nowhere to be acceptable. Or how an author who is so talented would think it’s okay. It’s got other problems too, but that’s the major one.
Conspiracies. Corruption. Serial killers.
You name it—I’m fascinated by it. My mom always blamed my overly curious and highly suspicious mind on my dad.
My incredibly overbearing dad.
Mr. No One Is Good Enough For My Daughter has been terrifying my dates since I turned fifteen.
College is my chance to be free from his control and date any guy I want.
I’m absolutely certain he would hate Slade Wylder—almost as certain as I am that I do too.
Since when have I shied away from trouble?
Slade fascinates me. He lives in a house I’m certain is haunted. His dog is trained as well as any guard I’ve ever seen. Rumor on campus is that he deals drugs. It would explain a lot.
But it doesn’t explain why he saves me from my darkest moment.
It doesn’t explain why I can’t stop thinking about him.
And the explanation I finally discover is far more dangerous than any rumor.
Out of Love is a standalone novel in the highly-acclaimed Jack & Jill Series
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