I'm never going to enter, let alone win, any 'How many books did you read this year?' contest.
Between mothering, my church commitments, doing courses and now, editing, I have limited time to read. Which is why, I'm sorry to say for all our readers, I have not been reviewing.
That said, I have picked up a few books this year. I've been very selective though—90% of the books I gave my time to were ones that were pretty much guaranteed to be good. There was probably only one book I pushed through this year that I wasn't thrilled about (not mentioned here).
The result of being more selective with my reads is that I have had a lovely, relaxed reading year. And although I don't have time for reviews, I wanted to share with you the highlights in what I'm calling my 'reading reflections' :)
The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
I don't have a 'top ten' or anything like that, but I definitely have a Number 1, and it's The Mistress of Tall Acre. This book is devine. If you love quality historical fiction, this is for you.
Now, Laura's writing is always exquisite, and I love all her books. But to give you an idea, I consider her first three books to be 5 stars. Her next three, The Ballantyne Legacy series, I view as 4.75 stars. The Mistress of Tall Acre is a return to 5 stars. It had that indescribable enchanting quality, like the first three novels. Laura's writing has the ability to draw me into another world like no other. A beautiful symphony of intrigue, depth and beauty. This book was like slipping into a warm bath—the world faded away, and I just wanted to stay in the bliss that is the story of Sophie and Seamus. Of all Laura's books, I can totally see this making a great movie :)
Chasing Happy by Ann Lee Miller
Not that I'm handing out awards here, but Chasing Happy was certainly my most controversial read of the year. Ann's books are always on the edgy side and I've always enjoyed their 'realness', but this took the cake in terms of eye-brow-raising. The hero of the book, Ash, is a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. I think Ann handled the book with great taste, but this is a Christian book blog so I will be frank with you: there is explicit sexual content. Hardly enough for the general population to think twice about, but many Christians are likely to find it crosses their 'appropriate-ness' lines.
Regardless, I really enjoyed the story even though at first I was not sure it was something I wanted to read. Watching Ash and Samma's relationship develop and overcome obstacles was sweet and intoxicating, keeping me up late into the night until the book was finished. Theirs is a deeply satisfying, non-fairy-god-mother type of romantic ending.
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander
You'll run me out of blog-land when I tell you I hadn't read Tamera Alexander before. I'm aware this was long overdue! And thankfully, I was not disappointed. This was a lovely book. The kind of historical novel I enjoy. Rich with details, slow and steady pace to match the period. Charming heroine and handsome hero. I will definitely make time for Tamera again in my reading schedule.
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
Another author-first-read for me. When I decided it was time for a sampling of Siri Mitchell's work, Jess recommended I start with this one. The book has a slow start, that's for sure. But I found I didn't mind because I enjoyed learning the unbelievably complicated dress code and social rules of the period. Without being aware of it, by the time I hit half way, this book had its hooks in me. There was no putting it down after that. I loved the book, and found it utterly fascinating. If you're as interested in social history as I am, then you'll love it too.
From the Start by Melissa Tagg
Melissa's books have joined the ranks of those new releases that I look forward to each year. From the Start is—yay!—the beginning of another family series! (If you can't tell, I LOVE family series). I enjoyed this book and can't wait for the next one.
A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade
Becky is currently my favourite contemporary romance author. A Love Like Ours is the third book in the Porter Family series, and one I'd been aching to read. I couldn't wait to read about Jake—the quiet, mysterious and wounded Porter brother. This was another lovely read with a delightful heroine and a satisfying ending. The fourth and last book comes out next May featuring the youngest family member—the significantly younger sister, Dru. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about a trigger happy ex-marine for a heroine, but if anyone can win me over, I'm sure Becky Wade can ;)
The Christiansen Family series by Susan May Warren
The Christiansen Family series is about a close knit family of 6 children—and their stories became an addiction for me this year!
It all started with book 2—It Had to be You. I'd picked this up as a free ebook. OH MY GOODNESS! What a story. A hunky, irresistible hockey player and a gorgeous, strong heroine. I LOVED this book, and I was totally hooked on the Christiansen Family and wanted more, more, more!
So I ended up buying book 4—Always on My Mind during an ebook sale. Which put me in a dilemma. Read book 2 and then 4? Just skip 3? What about 1?
Solution? Drive 300km to my nearest Christian bookstore. (Okay well, I had to go 300km for other reasons, but still ...) They didn't have book 1 in stock, so I bought book 3.
So I went ahead and read book 3, When I Fall in Love. *sigh* ... what can I say? This is certainly a series for me.
Now instead of moving on to book 4, which I had, I decided this series was too good that I had to go back and do this properly. So I purchased book 1, Take a Chance on Me. I didn't love it quite as much as books 2 & 3, but still a really darn good book and a fabulous series.
Then because I couldn't help myself, I read 2 & 3 again.
I saved book 4 for a nice long train trip. Once I started, I did not stop reading for 3 hours straight. That book started with a bang and didn't let up! I finished the rest of the book the next day. Drama, anyone? Seriously? When I rehashed the details of the story to Jess, I admit, it sounded a little soap opera-ish. But I really didn't care, because I flat-out enjoyed it.
I've just finished reading book 5, The Wonder of You. Another wonderful installment in this series. I'm starting to get sad now, knowing there's only one book left (due out February 2016). I'm completely hooked on this family and their cute little town.
Susan May Warren certainly knows how to weave a series. I was determined to read book 6 after book 2, which means I was instantly committed to buying the next 4 books. That takes some serious plotting and writing talent.
On the non-fiction side of things:
Captivating by John and Stasi Elderidge
A beautiful book that I know sits on the shelves of many Christian women. If you haven't picked it up from your shelf, do so. Read it. Your eyes will be opened to the beautiful way in which God created you and the way in which He is romancing you right now. And I know that will appeal to you because you're currently reading a blog that reviews romance fiction :)
Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell and Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress
Two great and useful writing craft books. James Scott Bell has a particularly direct and entertaining way of explaining things.
There were a few other books I read this year, including a couple of novellas—which is quite unusual for me. But these were the standouts that I wanted to mention and share with you.
Have you got any standout reads for the year? Would love to hear about them!
Helen is a freelance editor, specialising in fiction. For more information on her editing services, please visit her website.
As a reader, Helen's favourite genre is romance—whether contemporary or historical, just as long as it has a strong romantic element! She also enjoys Young Adult and New Adult fiction. She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.