Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Books of the Year

This year I read 119 books. They varied from classics to nonfiction and back to romances and everything in between. I have to say that I think it was one of the best years I've had so far with new books. There are a lot of very talented authors out there putting out great novels. I wanted to include more than I have on this list. In the end my list is more about what touched me personally - and how they did. So, without further ado, (and in no particular order) my list:

1. Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater

All you have to do is gaze at the cover. lol  Seriously this was a touching romance all about second chances and acceptance of people for who they are. The romance was the kind that stays with you and felt "real" in a way some don't. I really appreciated the message and the characters.

2. Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson

I really want to be adopted into this family. Part of me knows they don't really exist but in my heart of hearts they do. I laugh, cry and learn so much from them. When you want to become part of the book, it has to be part of your top ten.

3. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

I know, some of you might be wondering why this is on the list again. If you've read it, you'll understand. I see this as my "overall" list and had to include all the books that most touched me - and that meant some crossover. This book had such a compelling message, gorgeous cover, great writing and characters... I could read it over and over again. 

4. Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter

This really should be for her entire Nantucket series. I didn't discover them until this year and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, the series, Nantucket, the characters... I couldn't decide whether the first one or this one was my favorite so I chose the most recent. They are all worthy reads. 

5. Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

One of the things I said about this book was that I felt like it could be the next big action movie. It made me have to turn the pages not just because of that sense of destiny and urgency about the action - but also about these people. They were fascinating - strong and yet vulnerable. They wanted to stay apart but they were meant to be together... 

6. Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

What can I say? You can't get a better setting for a book than Biltmore and then you add in a fabulous story with a great message and you have a top ten for sure. I loved learning more about the history and innovations of Biltmore but the love story added with the tale of the orphanage made this one of my very favorites.

7. A Case for Love by Kaye Dacus

I think when you've been reading a whole series you're more attached to the books and the characters. I know I was very anxiously awaiting this book because I was so curious about how his romance would end up. He was always so polished and in control - and so good looking. I was more than a little in love with him myself. By the end of the book I was all the way in love. lol 

8. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

This is another one of those I waited on - for seemingly forever. This is also another family I would love to be adopted into. Julie writes the best heroes - and the best kisses. ;o)  Keep a fan handy and don't worry, you won't need a bookmark. Just remember to breathe once in a while and have some snacks handy before you start.

9. Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes/ Rooms by James L. Rubart

I know what you're thinking - she cheated. You're right. I told you I chose this list by what books touched me. I looked at how they made me feel. These two left a similar impression on my heart even though they're very different books. Crossing Oceans taught me about how precious each day is. It also talked about sacrificial love and making hard decisions. Rooms talks about the choices placed before us - what we value and what voices we listen to. Both books talked about forgiveness and both were so important to me I couldn't leave them off the list. 

10. The Raven Saint by M.L. Tyndall

This was another series ending book that was fabulous. I knew it was going to be something special when I started hearing about the hero and she described him as "Orlando Bloom in the Pirates movies." That was a picture for my imagination. ;o) Then I read the book and it was such a wonderful story with fabulous depth. I really wanted these two to have their happy ending. It was also exciting and filled with other interesting characters too. Another book I think could do well on the big screen. 

Well that's it for 2010. Time to start a new year. I can't wait! What were your favorites? Did you like any of the same ones I did?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Historical Fiction for the Year

Top 10 
Historical Fiction Reads for 2010
I had so many favorite books that I decided to break my list down into two this year. I'll share my overall favorites tomorrow but I read a lot of historical fiction, so this was the bulk of my favorites list. I read 46 Christian historical fiction novels and another 14 classics or "other" historical fiction novels. The top ten are all Christian but I listed a few honorable mentions as well (I just had to cheat). :o) Even with breaking it into two lists (and cheating a little) there still is not nearly enough room for all the wonderful books I read this year. So many touched my heart and were important to me. It's too hard to pick. I think we should be able to pick thirty or forty books. I didn't pick that number out of a hat either. I had 33 favorites listed at the end of the year.

In no particular order:

1.  Maid to Match by Deanne Gist
2.  She Walks in Beauty by Siri L. Mitchell
3. Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson
4. Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
5. The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall
6. Surrender the Heart by M.L. Tyndall
7. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
8. The Raven Saint M.L.Tyndall
9. The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
10. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

~Honorable Mentions~
I discovered a fabulous author this year. I read several of her books but my two favorites were:

Venetia and Frederica by Georgette Heyer

As I look at my list it seems like I may have been a bit biased towards a particular author. I didn't mean to be. In the long list there was a lot of variety - and it was hard to choose. There were special circumstances too. I didn't discover The Falcon and the Sparrow until this year and loved it so much I couldn't leave it off the list. I can't possibly be blamed for her putting out two such awesome books this year. ;o)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Man Called Outlaw

Title: A Man Called Outlaw
Author: K.M.Weiland

Goodreads Blurb:

All his life Shane Lassiter revered the man who stood in place of the father he'd never known. Nathaniel Wilcock took Shane into his own home, loved him as a son, and placed within his grasp the largest ranch in the Wyoming Territory. But Shane had heard the stories. He knew the whispers about the fugitive gunman who stood against Wilcock during the land wars that rocked the valley thirty years ago. In Wilcock's eyes, the gunman was a vigilante and an outlaw and as such he had died. To the people of Hangtree, he was a hero-a martyr who stood against corruption and injustice. When Wilcock's greed endangers the only woman Shane has ever loved-a woman who holds the secret that could resurrect everything for which the outlaw fought-Shane finds himself a place not so very different from that of the outlaw. He must make a decision, the shadow of which will be cast over the lives of all those he loves. A decision between truth and power-between honor and life-between right and wrong.

My Take:

I loved this book. I waited a long time to get it and was really happy to finally get a chance to read it. Aren't book budgets a pain?

Initially I was a little disoriented by how the the story went back & forth in time, but that quickly went away. I couldn't seem to read fast enough to figure out what was going to happen next. That's one of the best parts of this book. Unlike some novels, you're never really sure if the bad guy, Judge Wilcock, is going to win or not. I wanted to reach in and shake Shane a couple times. If that isn't a sure sign of good writing, I don't know what is. I talked back to the characters (and the author a few times as well ~ but don't tell her I said so). ;o)

The only real drawback was that I wished the book had gone on for another couple chapters. This is one I can see myself re-reading. It had a lot to say on many levels beyond just enjoying the story.

***For the die-hard romance fanatics, this book does have love stories, but the real emphasis is on the battle between good and evil. Not that I think you won't enjoy it, but since I do so many romances I wanted to be clear.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Title: Rooms
Author: James L. Rubart

Goodreads Blurb:

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning, brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend. When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn-t just spiritual, it-s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah-s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

My Take:

One word:  Uh--Maze--Ing!  Okay, I'm done.

Well, maybe not really. lol I read a lot of comments about how good this book was but nobody really said why, and since I was heavily into historical romances (and still am most of the time) I kind of gave it a pass. When I did get the opportunity to get it I remembered all the hype and picked it up - as a sort of "just in case I have time" kind of thing. I'm so glad I did.

This isn't light reading though. Rooms is the kind of book that makes you look deep inside yourself and ask questions. The author does a brilliant job portraying the realistic battles that a Christian faces. What do you believe? Whose voice do you listen to? What is truly important and gives you the most happiness and fulfillment? What are you willing to sacrifice? 

Micah is not only three dimensional and believable as a character, but he could be any one of us. This story is full of mystery, hope, faith, tragedy, friendship, and  - most of all - love. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, then I hope you'll pick up a copy soon. Make it a Christmas present to yourself. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guardian of the Flame

Title: Guardian of the Flame
Author: T.L. Higley

Goodreads Blurb:

Guardian of the Flame is book three in the Seven Wonders series of novels transporting readers back to the Ancient World. Characters struggle to find meaning in a pagan society and are confronted by the one true God and His message of redemption. The year is 48 BC. Sophia, a woman hurt by past loss, guards the famous lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, in order to hide herself away from a world she deems cruel and unloving. But there is no escape. Political turmoil swells as Roman general Julius Caesar and his legion storm the city, and Cleopatra, Greek queen of Egypt , fights to retain her country against both Caesar and bloodthirsty rivals within her own household. Sophia is caught in the middle between a loyalty to Cleopatra and her maddening interest in Bellus, the Roman soldier whom Caesar has instructed to overtake the lighthouse.

My Take:

This is one of those stories that keeps you turning pages, biting your lip and holding your breath to find out what will happen next with the characters. It is by no means a simple romance. I love ancient history and all the intrigue, action, and details that make that time period fascinating were so well represented that Alexandria itself became almost another character in the story. 

Sophia is a wonderful character. She's isolated, intelligent, self-sacrificing and has built more than a few walls to protect her heart. As you watch her interact with those around her, you can see the contrasts in what she feels and what she wants to project. She came across as a wonderfully three dimensional woman. 

The romance between Sophia and Bellus is fantastic. They are like fire and ice. They butt heads and are on opposing sides on many occasions and yet they also have a lot in common. Neither one of them is as simple or as easily defined as their roles would have them be. Their romance isn't limited to physical attraction nor is it hindered only by misunderstandings. They have real obstacles to overcome if they are going to have a future.

The story of Cleopatra and Caesar was bonus and not nearly as developed. It was a fun addition though. Although there are a few mentions of the "One God," I thought it was mentioned less often than the other forms of worship and certainly wouldn't be offensive to a non-Christian friend that you wanted to share this with.

If you love fiction set in ancient history, this just might be a book to add to your pile. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eye of the God

Title: Eye of the God
Author: Ariel Allison

Goodreads Blurb:

When jewel thieves attempt to steal the Hope Diamond, Dr Abigail Mitchell stands in their way. Abby's faith is put to the test as she confronts the father who abandoned her, the betrayal of the only man she has ever loved, and the possibility that she may lose her life because of the legendary gem.

My Take: 

I really liked the suspense about the robberies and who was behind them. Abby was a very like-able character. She was intelligent, strong, resourceful and yet vulnerable ~ especially in relationships. She was also in the shadow of her father and felt the need to constantly prove herself. 

I've always been more than a little fascinated by the Hope Diamond. It's gorgeous and it has a history. This book goes into that history and legend - perhaps in too much detail. Sometimes it feels as if we're reading a lecture on the diamond instead of a novel. 

The pacing of the robberies and the surprises make up for it though. It also has a light romance. This is billed as Christian fiction but the message is very subtle. If you are interested in the Hope Diamond or like well-written stories about robberies, this would be a great one to add to your list.

Friday, December 10, 2010

In The Shadow of Lions

Title: In the Shadow of Lions
Author: Ginger Garrett

Goodreads Blurb:

"I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne, and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here, and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it."
So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book . a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation.
The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to champion an English translation of the Bible—Scriptures the common people could read for themselves. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the same book, persecuting anyone who dares read it.
Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals ... and the sacred book that will inspire you anew.

My Take:

I read a lot of historical fiction and I think this is the first time I saw the perspective that Anne Boleyn might have been a strong believer and trying hard to please God. It was a really unique look at most of those central figures. I've read about some of them before but I found most of it really interesting - and sometimes heart breaking. I wish the book would have not wasted any time in the present because those scenes didn't connect with me nearly as much and sometimes just left me scratching my head.

I really enjoyed the historical sections though. It wasn't just the new take on Anne Boleyn either. There was something really touching about Rose. She felt so worthless and downtrodden in the beginning and to watch her transform first through the love of others and then to see her as she begins to discover the Bible for herself and then accept Christ... It was amazing to see how that changed her and the way she dealt with the circumstances around her.

I think this is a fascinating period of history and this book brings it out through focusing on how it played out in the lives of these people. You read about each of them and how they either manipulated people and events or truly thought they were doing the right thing according to God to protect their families, the community and the kingdom ~ and the consequences of those choices.

There are times it will make you smile, times it will give you goosebumps and times where you will not be able to read fast enough in order to find out what happens. I think it was a fascinating book and I will be adding the next one to my list. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    I have a few open reads at the moment so it's always hard to choose. Okay - here is one from page 155 of Guardian of the Flame by T. L. Higley:

    Sophia raised her eyebrows. "First Socrates, now Aristotle. I may soon have to revise my opinion of Romans."
    Bellus laughed. "I do not believe all the quotations at my disposal could accomplish that."

    I know - I cheated a little on the number of sentences - but since it was dialogue I figured I could get away with it. :o)

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Love on a Dime

    Title: Love on a Dime
    Author: Cara Lynn James

    Goodreads Blurb:

    Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and ladies of leisure. Of opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons--dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.
    But it's not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that's exactly what she does.
    No one in Lilly's social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company...and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.
    But Lilly must put aside her feelings and follow the path that will maintain her family's social stature and provide the financial security that everyone is depending on.
    Now Lilly faces a double dilemma. Can she continue to protect her secret identity? And will she have the courage to choose the man who will risk it all just to win her heart?

    My Take:

    This was such a wonderfully fun book for me to read. As I sat down to write the review and thought about trying to be objective and look at writing style and character development and all those lovely things I ought to measure ~ well I just kept going back to how good I felt as I was reading it and how much I personally related to the story. It's my favorite kind of book ~ historical romance. It's one of my favorite time periods, it has an awesome cover... Plus I write in secret as well. I know I tell all of you - but none of my neighbors or friends know. I guess I'm a little afraid of how they'd react as well. So I could really relate to ow Lilly was feeling in many ways.

    The story was interesting as well. There is that touch of mystery that kept you turning the pages. Just who is the man who is threatening to unveil her real identity and where is he getting his information? Will she be able to keep her secret? There also was more real tension about who she was going to choose in this book than in many romances.

    Lilly battles insecurity in one way - and Jackson another. His is a very typical male one too. He wants to be able to be the provider - and to be looked up to be those around him. Raised around wealthy people but never having anything himself, he feels like he needs that wealth in order to have worth. He runs away from Lilly thinking he doesn't deserve her and she thinks he doesn't want her. Now he's back and she's being courted by someone else...

    This is a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of historical romances.