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Best of The Decade — 10 Years of Great Books

2 Jan

I started blogging about books 10 years ago — November 2009. That was also when I started keeping track of the books I read and deliberately listing the books that had the greatest impact. (You can find pages for the best books of every year in the blog’s header.) When best of the decade lists began to pop up, I thought that I could do that too, but what a daunting task! I have been fortunate to read so many wonderful books. The list below is, of course, subjective, but these are the books I continue to think about and recommend wholeheartedly. The list includes many different genres, so there is something for everyone. If you have read any of them, I would love to know what you thought. If you haven’t, well, you now have a great TBR list! 😉

 

 

2010

For Time And Eternity by Allison Pitman

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them—a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.

 

2011

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

Will Kiehn is seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest when, having felt a call from God, he travels to the vast North China Plain in the early twentieth-century. There he is surprised by love and weds a strong and determined fellow missionary, Katherine. They soon find themselves witnesses to the crumbling of a more than two-thousand-year-old dynasty that plunges the country into decades of civil war. As the couple works to improve the lives of the people of Kuang P’ing Ch’eng― City of Tranquil Light, a place they come to love―and face incredible hardship, will their faith and relationship be enough to sustain them?

Told through Will and Katherine’s alternating viewpoints―and inspired by the lives of the author’s maternal grandparents ― City of Tranquil Light is a tender and elegiac portrait of a young marriage set against the backdrop of the shifting face of a beautiful but torn nation.

 

2012

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Four brides. One Dress.

A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new—shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history — and its new bride — begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

 

2013

Invisible by Ginny Yttrup

When an overweight woman who’s hidden from romance discovers a handsome doctor is in love with her, will she finally risk her heart?

Ellyn — chef, cafe owner, and lover of butter — is hiding something behind her extra weight. While she sees the good in others, she has only condemnation for herself. So when a handsome widower claims he’s attracted to Ellyn, she’s certain there’s something wrong with him.

Sabina — tall, slender, and exotic — left her husband, young adult daughters, and a thriving counseling practice to spend a year in Northern California where she says she’s come to heal. But it seems to Ellyn that Sabina’s doing more hiding than healing. Why?

Twila has come out of hiding and is working to gain back the pounds she lost when her only goal was to disappear. When her eating disorder is triggered again, she’s tempted to go back into hiding.

As these women’s lives intertwine, will they dare to come out of hiding?

 

2014

Burning Sky by Lori Benton

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence: her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.
 
When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.
 
As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage — the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

 

2015

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families — so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome. 

 

2016

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret’s name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn’t know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic “Dr. Smith” know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill need to piece together the clues and stay alive long enough to retrieve the girl — before it’s too late.

With its stunning writing and relentless pace, Annabel Lee will captivate readers from the first page.

 

2017

Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stuart

Nine-year-old Abby McAndrews has just experienced her greatest loss, and in its wake, her family is unraveling with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads.
 
Stars in the Grass, set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with—and ultimately celebrates — life after loss.

 

2018

Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan ― even their very lives ― in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

 

2019

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

1942. Pilot Dave Delham sees his Japanese bombing mission as an act of heroism. But his naive view turns grim when he’s caught and endures years of imprisonment at the hands of cruel captors. Despairing that he’ll survive, Dave vows if he escapes, he’ll answer God’s calling.

Osaka, Japan, 1948. Miyako Matsuura longs to restore her family’s shattered honor. After watching her little brother die in a horrific American air raid, she’s been reduced to prostitution to survive. When the pilot whose bomb stole her brother’s life returns as a missionary, her thirst for revenge consumes her.

Two damaged people race along a collision course that could bring their souls eternal change. Can Dave and Miyako transform their tragic histories and surrender to compassion and faith?

The Plum Blooms in Winter is the first book in the inspiring Brands From the Burning historical Christian fiction series. If you like pulse-pounding AND heart-warming tales of redemption drawn from life, brimming with deeply drawn characters and taut suspense, then you’ll love Linda Thompson’s powerful novel.

 

What were some of your favorite books from the past decade?

 

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Top Books Read in 2019

31 Dec

It is always hard to compile a best of list every year. I read a lot of really good books in 2019. A. Lot. But in going back through the archives, I found the following eleven that captured my imagination, touched my emotions, and made me think about my world and myself long after I closed the cover. The books are a mixed bag of genres — speculative, allegory, dual timeline, contemporary, and historical — so basically something for every taste. I hope one grabs your interest and you find a great read! (The links are to my reviews.)

For more Best Books of 2019 lists, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Best Books Read in 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

 

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

The Secrets of Paper And Ink by Lindsay Harrel

 

A Silver Willow by The Shore by Kelli Stuart

The Story Peddler by Lindsay Franklin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

 

 

 

If You Liked Silent Night, Holy Night . . .

18 Dec

My book club’s preferred genre is suspense. And we always read a Christmas book in December. So combining the two, we chose Silent Night, Holy Night by Colleen Coble, 2-novellas-in-1 featuring beloved characters from two of Coble’s series. If you would like to return to Coble’s Rock Harbor or Aloha Reef series, then this is a good choice for your holiday reading.

For more mystery and suspense set during the Christmas season, I recommend to you the following:

The Advent of Murder by Martha Ockley

Faith Morgan, former policewoman and vicar of Little Worthy, visits Oliver Markham’s farm in the run up to Christmas, only to discover the house surrounded by police cars. A body has been found in the local River Itchen, which turns out to be that of Lucas Kemp, a local boy and chorister. Markham is charged with his murder. Through her connections with Winchester Cathedral Faith is drawn into the investigation, discovering that Lucas had dropped out of college and that his mother had died a few months previously. There is a question of drugs, and a rivalry over Lucas’s distraught girlfriend – the choir is a hotbed of tensions. Lucas’s unsavoury uncle, and a local drug dealer, both come under suspicion, and Ben, Faith’s police inspector ex-boyfriend, has to rescue her when the drug dealer turns nasty. But the actual murderer is none of the above …

The Fruitcake Murders by Ace Collins

As Christmas 1946 draws near, thirty-something marine officer-turned-homicide detective Lane Walker has his hands full. Three men with seemingly no relationship to each other have been murdered, including the powerful District Attorney. The only connection between the crimes? The weapons: twenty-year-old unopened fruitcake tins manufactured by a company that is no longer in business.

While some foods may be to die for, fruitcake isn’t one of them! This heaping helping of murder will be no easy task for Walker, and he certainly doesn’t need the determined and feisty Tiffany Clayton, the political reporter for The Chicago Star, getting in the way.

Employing witty dialogue and historical accuracy, The Fruitcake Murders offers equal parts murder, mystery, and mayhem in a perplexing whodunit set in the days just after World War II.

Silent Night, Deadly Night by Richard Mabry

The colored lights on the snow gave it a holiday appearance, but the dead woman’s body in the yard added a grisly touch. How did Ina Bell Patrick die?
Who killed her? And why?

The dead woman had no direct heirs, so two nephews and a niece stood to inherit. Dr. Laura Morris was left to make all the arrangements, attorney Roger Morris could certainly use the money, and Zack Morris had disappeared two years earlier. Then there was neighbor and “best friend” Fay Autrey, who was certain the woman intended to leave her some money—a great deal of money.

The police were still looking for the killer who left the frozen body in the snow when it became apparent someone was trying to pick off the heirs, one by one. Who would win the race — the police or the killer?

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday — Reading Challenges

10 Dec

Back in the day when I didn’t schedule the books I read, I participated in a number of reading challenges. It was a good way to get out of my rut, check out new genres and authors, and clean out the TBR universe 😉 .  A Novel Challenge is a good site to find links to a number of fun challenges. Although I probably won’t participate in any of the ones I am listing 😦 , I thought it would be fun to highlight the ones that piqued my interest. I have only listed 5 of the 2020 challenges posted so far — there are many more. Also be sure to check back; new challenges are continually added.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is a Freebie. To find out what other bloggers are talking about, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top Reading Challenges

 

2020 Alphabet Soup  hosted by Escape with Dollycas

Crusin’ Thru The Cozies hosted by Socrates Book Reviews

Monthly Key Word hosted by GirlXOXO

Mount TBR  hosted by My Reader’s Block

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza hosted by My Reader’s Block

 

Do you participate in reading challenges?

Which one would you choose?

 

 

Book Spotlight — Love Is Not Arrogant Or Rude

6 Dec

If you like contemporary romance, especially one that focuses on Christian principles in dating, then consider Love is Not Arrogant Or Rude by Lila Diller, book 1 in the Love Is series. Good for both YA and adults, this novel focuses on humility and choice. (Please note: this is a book spotlight only. I did not read this book and the post does not serve as a recommendation or endorsement.)

Is True Love for Everyone?

That’s what Morgan wonders, an introverted secretary whose feelings for her boss Jason secretly bloom. When he shows interest in her, too, she hopes that true love has sprouted. Just as a relationship with Jason Scott blooms, her old flame Tony Brown bursts back into her life and tries to woo her away. After spending time with both men, Morgan thinks her heart has chosen Jason, when tragedy strikes Tony’s family. She must choose to help or abandon Tony, but if she helps, she may lose Jason.

Which man shows her true love? Who will she choose?

Love is Not Arrogant or Rude is the first installment of Lila Diller’s “Love is…” Series, based on the Bible’s definition of true agape love in 1 Corinthians 13, a contemporary Christian Romance introducing Morgan’s saga and set in a fictional, college town in North Carolina. 

Lila Diller was born in 1978 in Caldwell, Idaho, grew up in the tiny farming community of Notus, Idaho, and currently resides in North Carolina. She is at present outnumbered as the only female in a household of males: her husband of 16 years, two energetic boys ages 7 & 12, and a hyper dog named Copper. Growing up in church, Lila accepted the Lord at a young age, and graduated from a Bible college with a 4-year Humanities degree. She has published three short Christian Romance novels, all in the “Love is…” series, based on 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.

When not homeschooling her boys, you can find her studying the Bible, singing, scrapbooking, or binge-watching Netflix. She can also be found reading at any chance. You will only find her cooking or cleaning when she can’t put it off any longer. She loves to help readers not only escape from stress in an entertaining and believable story but also to create romance in their marriages based on hope in Jesus.

Please connect with Lila at her blog at liladiller.com.

 

Top 10 Tuesday — A Heartwarming Christmas

3 Dec

This week, Top 10 Tuesday is all about the Christmas reads. Every year I look forward to some just-for-fun reading featuring the tinsel, mistletoe, and joy of Christmas. Most of the books are novella length — perfect for the busy season — and involve plenty of romance. But sometimes I just want a heartwarming story that is more than kisses 😉 . The following books fit the bill. I hope you find one to love.

For more of bloggers’ favorite Christmas reads, please visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

 

Top Heartwarming Christmas Books

 

The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson

Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club — enjoying one another’s company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they’re sure that without her the group can’t continue.

When the group gathers “one last time” to open a bag Abby’s husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way — little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.

A Christmas Journey Home by Kathi Macias

During Isabella Alcantara’s seventh month of pregnancy, her parents and siblings are murdered in gang- and drug-related violence, simply because their home was targeted by mistake. Isabella knows she was spared only because she now lives in a different location, but she knows too that the same thing could easily happen to her and her husband, Francisco. When her grandfather offers to hire a “coyote” to bring them across the border to America, she agrees. But Francisco and Isabella are abandoned by the coyote and left to die. Francisco then valiantly sacrifices himself to get Isabella to safety. Homeless, nearly penniless, pregnant, and alone, Isabella determines to find a way to honor her promise to her beloved husband.

Living on one of the smaller spreads along the Arizona border, Miriam Nelson becomes furious with God and turns from her faith when her border patrol agent husband, David, is killed in a skirmish with drug smugglers. Though her mother and young son do their best to woo her back from the anger and bitterness that have overtaken her, they make little headway.

Two widows — one driven by fear and a promise, the other by bitterness and revenge — must make their journeys along different pathways, but with the same destination: a barn full of animals that stands waiting for them on Christmas Eve. Forced to face their personal demons, Isabella and Miriam soon discover a common yearning that will bind them together in a most miraculous way.

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.

Yet a letter delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery posed in that letter put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known.

The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson

Award-winning author Eva Marie Everson wraps up a Christmas story of hope, love, and forgiveness just in time for the holidays.

The Ornament Keeper, a contemporary Christmas novella, features Felicia and Jackson Morgan who are spending their first Christmas apart after twenty years of marriage. But a lifetime of gifted ornaments helps Felicia piece together the story of their marriage and the one mistake of unforgiveness she made before they said, “I do.”

Can these memory-filled ornaments reunite this family before Christmas? Only time will tell.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flag

Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget A Redbird Christmas.

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh

Rick Denton lives his life on his terms. He works hard, plays hard, and answers to no one. So when his mother calls on Thanksgiving weekend begging him to come home after his stepfather has a stroke, Rick is more than a little reluctant. He’s never liked Art and resents the man’s presence in his life, despite the fact that his own father abandoned the family when Rick was just twelve. When what was supposed to be just a couple days helping out at the family bookstore turns into weeks of cashing out old ladies and running off the homeless man who keep hanging about, Rick’s attitude sours even more.

Still, slowly but surely, the little bookstore and its quirky patrons -– as well as the lovely young woman who works at his side each day –- work their magic on him, revealing to Rick the truth about his family, his own life, and the true meaning of Christmas. With skillful storytelling, Dan Walsh creates a Christmas story will have readers remembering every good and perfect gift of Christmas.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.

Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias

Never expecting to be homeless, Josie Meyers and her children are shocked when circumstances force them to live on the streets. Rick, a down-and-out disabled vet, befriends them, reawakening memories of a faith Josie had in childhood. But can she reconcile her once-held beliefs with her current situation? Will she and her children even survive long enough to try to rekindle Josie’s faith?

 

If You Liked Crisis Shot . . .

30 Nov

My book club gave Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore a unanimous approval! We loved it so much, book 2 in the series, Lethal Target, is on our selection list for early 2020. If you like suspense novels with strong female law enforcement leads, then check out the books below. They all got my approval too! 😉

 

Buried Secrets by Irene Hannon

After seven years as a Chicago homicide detective, Lisa Grant has hit a wall. Ready for a kinder, gentler life, she takes a job as a small-town police chief. But the discovery of a human skeleton by a construction crew at the edge of town taxes the resources of her department. A call for assistance brings detective Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL, to her doorstep. As they work to solve the mystery behind the unmarked grave, danger begins to shadow them. Someone doesn’t want this dead person telling any tales–and will stop at nothing to make certain a life-shattering secret stays buried.

The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman

Brill Jessup would rather work than deal with the bitterness she feels about her husband Kurt’s infidelity. They’ve made a fresh start with Brill taking a job as the new police chief in a small East Tennessee town. Kurt is genuinely contrite and making every effort to show his commitment to Brill. Meanwhile Emily, their nine-year-old, is being the perfect little girl, as if she can make everything okay again. So why can’t Brill get over this anger? Work presents the perfect distraction as rumors and superstition are running rampant in the wake of the disappearances of seven people in seven days. As fear rises in the community, Brill works desperately to solve the mystery . . . until it threatens her family and she is forced to confront the real enemy.

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Person Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. When a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels that this case is getting personal, and that she is not the hunter at all – but actually the one being