Well, it’s the end of the first week of 2018, and it’s also the final post for my Best of 2017 series, The Emoji Files. I hope I’ve been able to remind you of some of your own favourites from 2017, as well as perhaps add to your 2018 TBR! 😉
Today’s post is going to list those books that transported me to another time and/or place. These were immersive reads that made me forget the here and now and took me to places as diverse as Ancient Israel, World War I England, and a modern-day Californian vineyard. Not only that, but they were stories that totally captured my heart.
Newton & Polly ~ Jody Hedlund
Wow. If you don’t know the story of John Newton, the man who wrote Amazing Grace, then you should read this book. In fact, even if you do know the story of John Newton, you should read this book. From my review: If John Newton had been a fictional character—or, more to the point, if I hadn’t known how his story turned out—I would have been tempted to throw my iPad at the wall at the way he continually sabotaged himself. Even so, I was holding my breath until the end, never fully convinced that things would turn out the way I wanted them to until I read the words with my own eyes.
The Illusionist’s Apprentice ~ Kristy Cambron
Set in the world of 1920s vaudeville, Jenny “Wren” Lockhart, Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice, races against time and an unknown enemy to prove the innocence of a hated man after a public illusion goes terribly wrong. The glimpses of Wren performing were mesmerizing, and the story was full of suspense, revenge, heartache, love, and moments of breathtaking poignancy. From my review: This novel was absolutely magical! No doubt Wren Lockhart would take exception to my use of that word—she does illusions, not magic—but there really is no better word to describe the spell it wove over me as I sank into the world Kristy Cambron brought to life in its pages.
Mark of the King ~ Jocelyn Green
After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict. It was impossible not to get caught up in Julianne’s story from the moment she found herself wrongfully convicted, through to her forced marriage, and then the trials she endures once she reaches Louisiana – both physical and emotional. Beautifully written in such a way that the words themselves fade into the background and you become immersed in the details and emotion of the story.
The Memory of You ~ Catherine West
When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, a place she has avoided since the death of her twin sister. Her father wants her to shut it down, and as the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so. But her childhood friend, Tanner Collins, is the vintner, and he’s determined to convince her otherwise—and to discover what happened to the Natalie he used to know. From my review: Loss, guilt, forgiveness, and restoration are all explored in a powerfully poignant way in this novel. Immensely satisfying.
A Season to Dance ~ Patricia Beal
Ballerina Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Met in New York and her future with fiancé Peter Engberg all figured out—until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, shows up in Georgia to dance with her and win her back. This is a special treat for ballet-lovers, but at its heart, it’s a story about a young woman who is looking to her career and her relationships for fulfilment, and constantly falling short. From my review: At times I wanted to reach out to Ana and say, “Please, don’t do this to yourself,” but at the same time, I was so thoroughly immersed in her character that I could understand why she made those choices, and why she thought those choices would bring the happiness and peace she was looking for. . . This was such a beautiful story of finding sufficiency in God, and so unique. I honestly can’t think of another story I have read like this one.
Wings of the Wind ~ Connilyn Cossette
This is Biblical fiction at its most riveting. Alannah is an embittered Canaanite woman, found on the battle field by one of her Israelite conquerors and taken back to camp in order that she can heal. In order to protect her from violation, she is married to her rescuer, Tobiah, and thus begins her eye-opening discoveries about the God of the Israelites—until the past threatens to shatter her tentative peace. From my review: Not only do I LOVE seeing Biblical history come to life, but I love the way this series has enriched my knowledge and understanding of this part of the Old Testament. This is Biblical fiction at its most riveting.
The Road to Paradise ~ Karen Barnett
It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow. Chief Ranger Ford Braydon, on the other hand, isn’t happy about having to watch over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills. But they find common ground over Margie’s former fiancé, an influential man who wants to develop the land into a high-class tourist resort. From my review: The author’s love of creation is evident on every page, and the setting is so alive! The climb to the summit of Mount Rainier toward the end of the story was one of the most exhilarating bookish experiences I have ever had.
The Captivating Lady Charlotte ~ Carolyn Miller
As the beautiful daughter of a marquess, she should have her pick of the eligible nobility when she debuts. Should. But the seemingly dull duke her father has picked out for her, William Hartwell, is not high on her list. That honour goes to a much more dashing suitor who fits her romantic ideals. From my review: I love that this story gives the ‘arranged marriage’ trope a thoughtful treatment that I haven’t come across before; I love the way Lady Charlotte matures over the course of the story; and I love that it was full of wonderful period detail, such as Charlotte’s presentation at Court, a visit to Vauxhall Gardens, and the general experiences of both Town and country life.
Name Unknown ~ Roseanna M. White
Rosemary Gresham is a skilled thief, her only family a band of former urchins who banded together on the streets of London. Her assignment: determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. Peter Holstein, said gentleman, is quiet and reclusive, partly because he’s an introvert, partly due to his German name, and partly because he has a stutter that worsens when he is uncomfortable or emotional. These two very quickly became two of my favourite characters of 2017! Add in the dynamics of English village life and the tensions that simmer as Europe hovers on the cusp of war, and you have all the makings of a wonderfully engaging read.
Where We Belong ~ Lynn Austin
In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm. This book excited my wanderlust, my love of history, and my love of apologetics, and it reminded me that even when you feel like a misfit for the society you were born into—in fact, even when you’re TOLD you’re a misfit for the society you were born into—God has a purpose for your life, if you only have the faith and courage to pursue it.