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Saturday, December 24, 2011

My "lucky" 13 favorite novels this year and why I loved them.

This is going to be tough, because I have to select from my favorite fiction list which had 38 of the over 130 books I've read so far this year. (I've started a bunch of books I never finished.) Most of these books are available as e-books also, so if you need to do some last minute shopping or just want to treat yourself to a great story over the holidays, check these out! Anyway, without further adieu, here is my list...

(One thing to note is I have a special affinity for Young Adult, Historical Romance, and Women's Fiction, so if a novel is in one of these genres, it's a lot more likely to make my favorites list than other books.)

Young Adult favorites:

Damaged by Melody Carlson (Shattered was a close runner up, also by Melody Carlson) - Damaged was a truly captivating story that made me think about my past and various things that happened in my life. I could not put it down because it read so much like real life and it made me think even after I finished the story. I loved the author's voice, the conflict, and the realism of the story. I also loved how it could help teens who find themselves in similar situations. Great stuff in this book.

Mistaken Identity by K. Dawn Byrd - I read this book straight through and didn't want to do anything else but read this book. It brought me back to my high school days, both the good and the bad. I loved how the novel showed that decent guys are more attracted to a girl's personality and heart than anything else. For them, the beauty of the package is only a small part of the whole picture.  So many girls think it's all about appearance. For the users, it is. But who wants to be used, right?

Rise by Stefne Miller. This was one powerful story for a number of reasons. For one, I'm a sucker for a good love story. But this book had my heartstrings all the way through. It got me choked up a number of times and had me guessing what would happen next. The characters--especially Attie--went through the fire, but Jesus was always with her even when she chose to ignore him. I loved the message about what healthy love is vs. unhealthy love. I also adored Riley. He was a great hero.

Historical Romance favorites:

A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman. I loved everything about this story, but especially the theme that while knowing Jesus personally saves us, it doesn't erase our pasts or our mistakes. We still have to deal with them. I love the theme regarding how damaging jealousy is and how ignoring the person you love when angry only hurts you more. So much good stuff in this book, plus, what's not to love about the O'Connors?

Deeply Devoted by Maggie Brendan. I love a mail order bride story that shows how couples really deal with getting acquainted in a new marriage? I loved how the book showed that it was hard work and didn't just work out where they had one kiss at the end and the story was over. Great job showing realistic issues and how a characters past will creep up on them. I loved how the characters' worked through their struggles. I loved how Scripture was used. I just plain loved this book.

Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith. This is one incredibly story. It opened my eyes more to what the Bible already says and did so in a way that made sense. I feel like I understand David and Bathsheba more now and I see why this had so many ramifications for both of them. So much good stuff in this novel and so much realistic tension. It was compelling and impossible to put down. My favorite biblical fiction novel, bar none.

Dance of the Dandelion by Dina Sleiman. This novel had all of my favorite elements. It was set in a Medieval setting for one. There were castles and knights, etc. I loved how the author showed the heroine searching for meaning and for true love and finding a variety of substitutes before realizing how off-track she'd gotten from so many poor choices. Very well done and realistic. I couldn't put this one down. It totally engaged my heart for the duration of the story.

Heiress by Susan May Warren. This story was brave and well-told and tragically beautiful. But that's not surprising as Susan is particularly gifted when it comes to writing historical romance. I loved how the domestic violence thread was realistically shown and how the heroine's feelings were laid bare on so many levels. This was an honest book, but it made me think about many things. It stuck with me long after I finished the book.

Women's Fiction/Other:

Play it Again by Tracy Krauss. This story brought me back to the 80s in all of it's uniqueness. I loved how the themes in this story revealed so much about the damaging effects of the past and how you can't totally get away from it. I loved the romantic thread in this story and how realistic the characters were in their thinking. It really got my heart going on a number of occasions. I also loved the way the author showed that all people need Jesus. Well done!

Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West. This novel grabbed my by the throat. I didn't think I could a love a novel set during the Vietnam War, but I was enthralled by the setting, the characters, and the themes in this books. I loved how the author knew how to pull you in emotionally and bond you to so many unique characters so you cared about what happened to them. I was distressed as much as the characters were, but the ending was more than satisfying.

The Visionary by Pamela S. Thibodeaux. This story was powerful. I loved how the author delved deeply into the twins' childhood pain and showed how true love can help you pull through these situations if you learn to trust, then you can begin to heal. I loved the characters in the story. They felt like friends to me. So much good content in this book and so very brave of the author to tell it like it is in all of it's horror rather than soft-step reality so as not to offend. That always gets big points from me.

The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker. I am always amazed at how Ted can take something undesirable like a serial killer, and make you understand that twisted thinking. The characters in this book were well-fleshed out and the theme of legalism versus grace was compelling. I loved the spiritual themes and imagery in this novel. It pulled me along and made me think. I could not stop reading it and thought about it even after I finished the story. Dekker is proof that I can like something scary or horror-like as long as there are redemptive themes and spiritual threads that lure me in.

Count Down to Love by Julie N. Ford. This story was just plain fun to read and yummy in many ways. The setting was a reality show that reminded me of The Average Joe and I could not stop reading this book. It had some serious threads in the story regarding betrayal, but the overall theme of either being selected or rejected on the show simply captivated me. Especially since the heroine planned to be rejected from the first day. She learned about true love in a very unique way. I simply adored this book.

So now you have my list. There are (so far) 38 books making my top fiction list, so stop back later (in early January 2012) for that information, which will be posted here. Hope you enjoyed my post. 2011 was a great year for books! So many books, so little time!


Great Lakes Romances said...

Thanks, Michelle, for listing your favorites of the year. Enjoyed reading about them! Merry Christmas! Donna Winters

Tracy Krauss said...

I've read a few of these (The Visionary, Yesterdays Tomorrow, and of course Play It Again) and others are on my list to read 'someday'. I'm a Dekker fan but haven't read this one yet, so it'll be on my list to read for sure! blessings!

Dina Sleiman said...

Cool list. Thanks, Michelle!!!

Julie Lessman said...

MICHELLE!!! I cannot tell you just HOW much of a blessing this is for me coming not only someone who reads more books than just about anybody on the planet AND one of the top reviewers out there, but an author of your caliber as well. Thank you SO much for a GREAT Christmas present, my friend!!


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Thank you so much Michelle, what an honor to be listed in your top fiction!

God bless you.

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. Nice list.

Susie May said...

Thank you Michelle! How blessed and excited I am to have made your list for this year! You made my day! XO!

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