Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

5-ish Top Books of 2020



Wild Land, by Rebecca Hodge. Crooked Lane Books, 2020.

You know how moms are? Always wanting to get the last word? Well. Today it’s my turn.

Kimber here to tell you about one of the best books mom and I have read all year. (Hint: Juni and Tye!)

Most Wild Land readers probably think the lady in this book is the heroine. Kat Jamison’s okay. Although I don’t think much of her name. (“Kat”? Really?)

But this lady just got some bad news from her doc (a vet for humans). Kat recently lost her mate, Jim. She’s very sad. Cuz Kat really, really loved Jim. (Like mom loves me. Kind of.)

I know, I know. “Adorable.” Just comes naturally.

Anyway, Kat’s feeling like she just ate store brand kibble. She suddenly lost her mate. She’s already battled one round of breast cancer. Kat’s not sure she wants to do it again. So…

Kat takes off for a retreat to this little rental cottage do-hicky in the middle of nowhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She wants a month to think things through.

This is where it gets a little depressing. I’m telling you this so you won’t be depressed, okay? Stay with me a min. Cuz it gets better. (I’m telling you this, too, so you don’t worry.)

Dogs to the Rescue

Here’s where the dogs come in! Yesirree, Lassie!

Kat is feeling all down in the dumps, ya know? She has these two “neighbors” in cottages down the road from her rental. One guy is Malcom. He’s ex-Special Forces. Like the neighbor’s pit bull. Malcom has recently adopted a Pakistani boy, Nirav. He’s 9.

The other neighbor, Scott, is kind of a dolt. (Mom’s word. So don’t blame me.) Scott’s a computer geek (Mom’s words). His daughter is Lily. She’s 12.

The kids both love dogs! See? I told you it gets better!


Because Kat winds up taking in Juni, a yellow Lab. (Almost as pretty as me. Almost. Not quite as smart. I mean, how can you top genius?) Also Tye, a poor little abandoned pup who’s in pretty bad shape. But Kat and the kiddos nurse Tye back to health.



While kids and canines are spending a night in Kat’s cabin, there’s this lightning strike thing. Everything’s on fire! Run for your lives!

This is what Juni tells Kat. At first Kat doesn’t’ listen. She just wants to go back to sleep. But Juni won’t let her! We need to get out of here! Now!! That’s what Juni says. Juni’s right. Cuz ya, know, Juni’s brilliant. She must be my cousin.

Anyway, Kat and crew are cut off from the rest of the camp and Malcom and Scott. Kat has no choice but to hightail it outta the mountains on foot. With two kids who aren’t even hers. And our two heroes: Juni and Tye. Plus a certain bowl.

A frantic helicopter rescue is launched (Mom’s words again. Will she ever stop butting in?).

The fire is closing in. You can almost smell the smoke and hear the flames crackling.


Kat has to decide, even when she doesn’t want to decide. Or doesn’t think she can. She has to choose whether or not to save four innocent lives or just throw in the towel.

Kat also has to decide what’s worth living for.

Mom says:

  • Read it cover-to-cover in one sitting!
  • Couldn’t put it down!
  • Incandescent!
  • Heart-pounding
  • Couldn’t put it down!
  • Helicopter!
  • Couldn’t put it down!
  • On the edge of my seat!
  • Is it getting hot in here?
  • Beaver pond!
  • Couldn’t put it down!
  • Family!
  • About so much more than a wildfire
  • One of my top 5 books of the year

Did Mom mention “Couldn’t put it down”?

Real Heroes

Still. Most people probably think Kat is the heroine of Wild Land. Nah. It’s the dogs. Juni and Tye. Duh.

Mom and I liked this book so much, we did something very rare. We gave it FIVE STARS. (For more on our rating system, click here.)

Other top books*?

In no particular order:

  1. Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For a World Gone Mad, by John Eldredge. Nelson Books, 2020. (Another 5 STAR book!)
  2.  55, Underemployed, & Faking Normal, by Elizabeth White. Self-published, 2019.
  3.  Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018. (Read our review here.)
  4.  The Wartime Sisters, by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Saint Martin’s Press, 2019. (Read our review here.)
  5.  This Tender Land, by William Krueger. Atria Books, 2019. (Read our review here.)


*The year we read them. Not necessarily their publication year.




What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?


2 thoughts on “5-ish Top Books of 2020

  1. So awesome to see WILDLAND listed as a favorite! (And of course you’re right — Juni and Tye are obviously the main characters. 🙂 ) Many thanks!

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