Well, you could be forgiven for thinking I have dropped off the face of the earth over Christmas. I may live in Australia, but December definitely snowballed on me this year. Please accept my belated wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year. 🎄🎉
Amidst all of the December busyness, I have been giving thought to my favourite reads over the year. Let me tell you, it is a daunting business, coming up with a blog post about your favourite reads for the year. For starters I read around 250 books this year 😳 Secondly, different books stick in my mind for different reasons. Then again, some books are just all-round fantastic reads. How do I sort all of this into some kind of logical post? Well, here’s what I’ve decided:
Today, I will be listing some favourites by genre.
Tomorrow (approximately…), I will be spotlighting some of my favourite moments and features of books I have loved this year. Things like: most humorous, most memorable first line, favourite hero, best kiss… Uh-huh! That one got your attention, didn’t it?!
So without further ado, here are my favourite reads for 2016 listed in alphabetical order of genre (because that’s the way I roll 😉) Clicking on the cover of each book will take you to my full review.
Shadow of the Storm – Connilyn Cossette
Connilyn Cossette is a wonderful new voice in Biblical fiction. I was impressed with her first release, Counted with the Stars, but Shadow of the Storm has firmly cemented her as a must-read author for me. Not only does she write with beautiful expression, but Shira’s story engaged my heart so thoroughly that I did not want to put it down once I had started; and if that wasn’t enough, it also opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of what life may have been like for those who left Egypt in the Exodus. And Ayal… *sigh* ❤️
Ordinary Snowflakes – Jennifer Rodewald
Okay, so this one’s kind of a niche genre, and I read so many good ones this year, but I had to mention this one. I had to reconstruct myself from the warm gooey puddle I melted into on the floor after I finished reading it. But as well as a heart-melting romance, this novel was a lovely reminder that sometimes we forget to look for God in the ordinary things. You simply could not ask for more in a Christmas novella.
The Feathered Bone – Julie Cantrell
This novel explores themes like light and darkness, freedom and captivity through the story of Sarah, a twelve year old girl who disappears while on a school excursion, and Amanda, the mother of Sarah’s best friend and one of the parents supervising the excursion. The characteristics of the feather become a powerful metaphor for breaking free from bondage, and I’ll admit to actually sobbing at some points in this story. It is not a light read, and touches on some unpleasant realities of our world, but I was richly rewarded for having taken the journey.
The Promise of Jesse Woods – Chris Fabry
This was such an absorbing story! And to think I actually deliberated over whether to request it for review! The writing is superb. It has vitality, a fantastic use of imagery, and a wonderful way of capturing the essence of a character or a situation with one or two well-chosen, and often pithy, observations – some of which prompted sudden outbursts of laughter from me! I was totally immersed in the story – both its setting and the slow build to a climax that kept me guessing right to the last second.
Okay, this is a really tough one, because I’ve read a lot of great contemporary romances this year. Today, I’m limiting myself to my all-round favourites – those books that captured me in every way: plot, characters, writing, and overall emotional engagement. Later in the week, I will be highlighting some other favourites by spotlighting some favourite moments and features.
And in the interests of time and space, I’m just going to post the covers, which will link to my review (except for Twist of Faith, which links to its Amazon page because I haven’t actually reviewed it yet! 😞 But I’ve included a link to another fantastic review for you.)
Read a review for A Twist of Faith by Beth at Faithfully Bookish
Embers & Accelerant (Abiassa’s Fire series) – Ronie Kendig
Fantasy is one of my less read genres, but *true confession* I would read a telephone book if it was written by Ronie Kendig. Seriously! If her books were any better, I would spontaneously combust while I read them – and I should add that’s no pun intended when it comes to this series! I only reviewed Accelerant this year but I highly recommend you start with Embers. You won’t be sorry!
The Confessions of X – Suzanne M. Wolfe
This is one of the most stunningly beautiful novels I have ever had the privilege to read, and yet I also found it one of the most tragic. I read Augustine’s Confessions a few years ago so I was aware that he had a ‘mistress’, as she was referred to in my translation, however beyond that I knew little of their relationship. The moment I saw the cover of this book I wanted to read it, and my expectations were surpassed in every sense.
Waves of Mercy – Lynn Austin
Some novels leave you feeling so full you don’t have room for your own words. That was the overwhelming feeling I had when I finished this novel – and yet I was desperately scrambling to find more because I wanted Anna’s story to keep going! Geesje’s story is full of wisdom gained through some of the most difficult experiences and decisions life can throw at you and, to be perfectly honest, is one of the most inspiring stories of faith I have ever read – fiction or not.
This is another category where it is impossible to limit my choices to one or two novels. As with the contemporary romances, these are the best of the best; the stories that captured me the most on every level. And again, I’ve just included covers for the sake of time and space. (I haven’t actually written a review for The Thorn Keeper and The Wood’s Edge, but I’ve included a link to a great review for each of them.)
And yes, I’ve included more than one from some series. Because deciding was too excruciating and I’m trying to get this post done before next Christmas!
Read a review for The Thorn Keeper by Rachel at Bookworm Mama.
Read a review for The Wood’s Edge by Carrie from Reading is my Superpower.
Oh me, oh my! I think this whole series has spoilt me forever when it comes to the romantic suspense genre, because I’m not sure I will ever find another series that will make me feel like these books have. Reading these books is like an intravenous dose of romance and action. Somehow, Susan May Warren knows exactly the right words to use to tap straight into my visceral senses, and my poor heart doesn’t know whether to pound, stop, melt, or some strange combination of all three. How will anything else ever compare with that?
The Haven Seekers series – Amanda G. Stevens
Note: ‘Far and Near’ was the only book in this series released in 2016, but I read the first three novels just prior to the fourth’s release, and I recommend reading them as a series.
It seems shallow and somehow misleading to say I ‘enjoyed’ this series, because it is not a light read. I was gripped . . . fully immersed . . . engrossed . . . consumed . . . I loved it. I cried, I smiled, I held by breath, and I kept swiping my Kindle at the end as though that would magically deliver more pages of a story that I wasn’t ready to finish. This series has some of the most authentic, memorable, and well-drawn characters I have come across, and such a simple, yet frighteningly plausible premise at its centre. Just read it!
Conspiracy of Silence – Ronie Kendig
THIS. BOOK. IS. EPIC! And the series is going to be even more epic! In all of my wiiiiide reading experience, I have not read another novel or series that combines the elements you will find here: Black ops military action, archaeology, medieval history, politics, bioterrorism, genuine Biblical history, a hint of the supernatural, and the inevitable tangle of human emotions that get caught up in the mix. And it’s all written in Ronie Kendig’s fantasic, high-impact, über-engaging style.
Progeny – Tosca Lee
Oh boy, how doodie! This book had me totally hooked – although I’ll warn you now, it’s a first-parter. But what a story! It really was the best of all worlds: A fast-paced thriller with historical roots, speculative overtones, and emotional subtext that is gradually peeled back, layer by layer, until BAM! the final page made my eyes widen as the full picture came squarely into view. Seriously, I can’t get the next book soon enough!
If I Run – Terri Blackstock
In some ways, this book is the opposite of what I would normally look for in a book. I like lots of dialogue and character interaction, but the protagonists in this book barely even catch sight of each other (although they obviously do interact with other characters). There is no romance (although I suspect that will come later in the series). It’s even written in first person present tense (not my favourite) AND switches point of view between the two main characters (which can be confusing when they’re both written in the first person). And yet in the end none of that mattered, because it all somehow worked and . . . well . . . I just couldn’t put it down! It’s a tense game of cat-and-mouse, with the relationships subtly shifting as the story progresses. Bring on the next book!
Phew! That’s my take on the cream of the crop for 2016. Which of these have you enjoyed? Are any of these on your TBR?