I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.
The time has again arrived! As my blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2015 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. You’ll find them listed in a pretty eclectic order.
Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar
Christian Fiction/Biblical Fiction
Here’s the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books, Harvest of Rubies. Admittedly, it makes me a little nervous to read sequels of books I love that much, since it sets the bar of my sentiments so high. But this novel didn’t disappoint me, bringing back Sarah, a Jewish former scribe of the Persian court, her aristocrat husband Darius, and their complex relationship filled with passion and pain. Yet another novel by Afshar that spoke directly (prophetically) into this reader’s life. What an awesome experience.
Old Fashioned by Rene Gutteridge
Given that this novel is based on the screenplay of a Christian movie that was released the same week as the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, I figured the book would likely be a nice little story that spoke (possibly preached) about “chaste dating practices for Christian couples.” Turns out this novel wasn’t at all what I expected. It’s complex, nuanced, strikingly real, and as soon as I finished it, I threw the book on the floor, sat down, and literally wept. Sure, I wouldn’t expect every reader to have quite that same reaction, but I would advise every reader not to put on rules-about-chastity blinders when you read this story, or you’ll miss the story. This novel is the newest addition to my list of all-time favorite books.
And I Shall Be Healed by Julia Lee Dean
Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction
“…I understand it as a promise; a promise that this war will end and that somewhere in the world, in this pure moment before this strange, premature sunset, all is right with the world and all will be well.” This novel was such a unique find for me and tells a compelling story of a World War I army chaplain, a story that’s multilayered, well thought-out, and beautifully woven. I don’t read an abundance of literary fiction, but this novel kept me engrossed from beginning to end–and what an ending.
Lake Surrender by Carol Grace Stratton
Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction
Divorced, laid-off, single mother Ally is trying to get her life together in this novel that went from being a nice read to being an amazing read the further I got into it. The romance and suspense are well-paced, and Ally’s autistic, six-year-old son Benjie isn’t depicted as someone to pity but as someone to admire and root for. Benjie got me so pumped, I had to step away from the book and box with the air like Rocky Balboa. For real. Plus, the novel’s theme of forgiveness goes beyond pat or surface answers in a way that’s challenging and beautiful.
Detained by Don Brown
Intrigued by the commanding cleanness of the book cover, I picked up this military and political thriller in which a father and son from Lebanon are wrongly accused of terrorism against the United States. There’s such believable humanness to the characters, the story doesn’t always provide easy answers, and at a pivotal point, the haunting, painfully fitting prayer of a Lieutenant Commander echoed right into my core–“Lord, if it is possible, take this cup from me.” What a case this engaging novel makes for truth, justice, and faith.
Yes. The title is quite a mouthful. This is one of those nuanced but personable, intelligent memoirs that makes you think and evaluate life, especially your own. Literature and poetry enthusiasts and artists can find particular pleasure in reading about how Eberhart relates to literary greats, to the arts, and to his father, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Added to that, the themes of struggling with one’s identity and looking for answers to longstanding inner turmoil are universal.
Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction
Revolution isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty either, which this novel effectively portrays, bringing to life the passionate man behind the tumultuous Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. Besides living under the constant threat of the Church, one of Luther’s greatest fears is that he could fall in love, particularly with one tenacious former nun, Katharina von Bora. The story of this man and woman and the dangers they face in the Holy Roman Empire had me engrossed from the start, meeting all of the prior, high expectations I had of the book since before its release. Many more historical ChristFic and romance readers should enjoy every minute of this novel as much as I did.
The Tears of Olive Trees by AbdulKarim Al Makadma
There are multiple sides to any story, and my attention was first brought to this one by way of its poignant title and splendid cover. Even with its grievous subject matter, this autobiographical and multigenerational account of a Palestinian family’s exile in Gaza is inspirational, sharing a sobering message of hope. I’d recommend it to anyone concerned with justice, compassion, and peace for humanity.
The Sushi Series by Camy Tang
Christian Fiction/Chick Lit
These Sakai, Chau, and Lim women are, well, something else, if I may say so. The series opens with Sushi for One?, the story of Lex Sakai, an athletic career woman on the verge of earning her family’s dreaded OSFC title–Oldest Single Female Cousin–if she can’t find a boyfriend pronto. But who says she even wants one? Lex and her band of best-friends-cousins, Trish, Venus, and Jennifer, are all in for challenges on their jobs, in their love lives, and in the middle of their large family in this series of humor, pain, romance, and faith that’s packed with so much. Certainly a series to sink your teeth into–just try not to laugh (or cry) with your mouth full.
And that wraps up another (calendar) year of great reading for this book lover.
Entries for 2015’s Favorite Reads giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.