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This list clarifies my favorites that I read in 2018. Not all of these books were published in 2018. I’m getting caught up on some Christian fiction I missed when I couldn’t get to the library and didn’t have a smartphone.
Now that I’ve been able to download freebies onto my free Kindle Reader app on my smartphone, I’ve been reading like crazy! I still prefer paperback for my eyes and relaxation. But I digress.
Here are my favorites. I’m very thankful that Goodreads keeps track, or I'd never remember) ;)
Out of the 125 books I read in 2018, these are the ones I rated 5 stars. These are all honorable mentions.
honorable mentions, Worthy of re-reading:
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
One of my favorite series of books growing up, the Chronicles of Narnia always transport me into a fantasy world that still reminds me of spiritual things. I love how Aslan is a representation of Jesus, as the Lion of Judah, and yet He also is seen one time as a lamb. Easy-to-read, a must-read for any Christian.
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
One of my all-time favorites!
Here is a sampling of the Regency language in some of my favorite quotes:
“Nor I,” answered Marianne with energy, “our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”
“Brandon is just the kind of man,” said Willoughby one day, when they were talking of him together, “whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.”
Persuasion by Jane Austen (I joined an online Jane Austen book club, because she’s one of my very favorite authors, so I read almost all of her works this year.)
I have so many favorite quotes, I won't list them all:
“There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved.”
“Her spirits wanted the solitude and silence which only numbers could give.”
“...Nor could she help fearing, on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination.”
the Seasons of the Heart series by Janette Oke
I've always enjoyed Janette Oke's stories about simpler times. I always enjoy the little details of how the laundry was done or how much of their lives depended on horses.
Even though I would have liked to see this story from Lou's perspective, having it told by Josh, with all the colloquialisms and contractions, gave it a unique feeling from a bitter boy doubting God.
the Bluebird and the Sparrow by Janette Oke
One of my favorites about how different sisters can be. I always relate to Berta so much, because I was the oldest, I had a baby sister who seemed to steal the show, and I always felt like I was the ugliest girl. But because I read this when I was a teen, I was able to learn from Berta's flaws and bitterness and begin to see myself as a unique "sparrow." Even if I wasn't as pretty as a "bluebird," God still made me to be me.
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
It’s the single best selling book ever, second only to the Holy Bible. And for good reason. It’s a wonderful story of the journey a man takes to get to salvation and then his continuing journey as a Christian until he reaches the Celestial City, a picture of Heaven.
Although the King James English is difficult to read, I highly recommend that every Christian read this at least once. This version is updated modern English.
honorable mentions, new-to-me Historical Romances:
On the Wings of a Whisper by Lynette Bonner
So many interesting characters & culture references!
This book kept me on the edge of my seat! And it was so wrong to leave off at a cliffhanger! I enjoyed the slight romance thread, of course (being the hopeless romantic I am), but it wasn't really the main plotline. The hero and heroine actually want different things the entire time, making for some very intriguing tension. And the vivid ending scene? Gut-wrenching but excellently done. I can't think of a single thing I didn't like about it!
My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer
I loved it! I couldn't put it down several times. I still had about a 100 pages to the end, and I couldn't just stop; I had to finish it!
I loved the faith element. I loved the characters. I loved the history. I loved the interweaving of the three stories to finally merge at the end. The only thing I didn't absolutely love was the resolution. I realize there is a sequel, but I think the last thread could have been easily tied up in an epilogue.
On the whole, definitely going into my re-read pile!
A Question of Courage by Jesseca Wheaton
I enjoyed learning more about the Red Cross nurses and especially the sailors and pilots in the Pacific arena of WWII. Rafe is a godly, humorous pilot who shines the light of Jesus to Art and the other sailors. He struggles with finding God's will and with feeling lonely for his girl, Lily. I also enjoyed seeing Art's change, a very realistic change.
I recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction, with the main plot not a romance. I also recommend this to anyone who loves strong faith threads. I loved the spiritual truths of courage, God's ever-present help, and trusting God when it looks hopeless.
No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
The main characters, Emma and Malachi, are realistic and engaging right from the beginning. I wish I had known that the Prologue was written from Malachi's view but that the POV switches periodically from Malachi to Emma. It's always well-done and obvious, except for the first chapter.
The supporting characters were well-written, also. The assortment of personalities living in the women's colony was intriguing, from the independent, blustering Aunt Henry and Betty the chicken lady to the man-shy, timid Helen to the kind and wise Tori. For example, on page 264, Malachi shares his cookies with his horse.
I also fell in love with the author’s humor. I couldn't help it, I cackled out loud, making my husband look at me askance like I was going crazy. The social faux pas we readers sometimes make are so worth a good laugh, though, right?
Full review on my blog at www.liladiller.com/blog/nootherwilldo.
A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer (I've found another favorite author!)
What do you do when you're sick but can't sleep? Read an entire Karen Witemeyer story in one day, of course!
This was my first time reading this, and I loved it! The characters were realistic (except for two very minor things), the Old West setting accurately depicted, the romance drawn out realistically and tense with wondering, and humorous moments at the end of almost every chapter!
Other than those very minor things, I was very happy with the book. It kept my attention the entire way. Very well-written and entertaining, while expounding on the tension between enjoying beauty and avoiding vanity. Very well-done.
And now, for lila’s favorite christian fiction Awards, the top in each category, read in 2018:
Favorite Christian allegory:
Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
This classic is one of my all-time favorites, and I will never tire of re-reading it! I realized this time that my own journey to change my fearing nature took a long time, too, probably even longer than Much-Afraid's, for it took me years and years.
This Biblical allegory is in the style of Pilgrim's Progress, but with easier language. The Scripture quotes are still in King James English, but the rest is more conversational. All characters are named their main qualities. Much-Afraid is the protagonist, and she journeys away from her home in the Valley of Humiliation towards the High Places, the Kingdom of Love.
She is lame, though, and needs help from two companions that her master, the Shepherd, chooses for her: Sorrow and Suffering. At first, she is much afraid of them, too. This is a story of trust, whether she will continue to have faith that the Shepherd will turn her lame feet into hinds' feet and whether she will be changed from Much-Afraid to a new name. Through delay after delay and trial after trial, her faith is put to the test. This mirrors my own journey in so many ways. But I can now say that the Lord has given me victory over paralyzing fear.
Favorite Regency classic:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This book would probably be at the top of my list for my very favorite book of all time! I can't count how many times I've read & re-read it!! And though I enjoy watching every movie version of it, none can ever compare to this original, the actual book by Jane Austen. It's so full of character development, wonderful dialogue, and witty commentaries not only by Elizabeth Bennett but also by the author herself. This is the style I aspire to eventually imitate as a writer. I can't get enough of it! And who could help but fall in love with Mr. Darcy, too, right along with Lizzy? This kind of character development is what I strive for in my own writing.
I'm always intrigued by the Regency setting. Written as a contemporary novel, now it is the classic resource about life in the upper classes of English society during that time period. I hope my contemporary Christian novels will be indicative of life in the 2000's within conservative, fundamental, legalistic Christianity in the same way.
Favorite Bible study:
I recommend this to anyone hesitant, intimidated, or serious about studying the Bible. Very easy to read and logical progression with practical tips throughout. I loved how she had discussion questions at the end of each chapter to put into practice what she taught. I loved the few visuals.
Full review on blog at www.liladiller.com/blog/hiswordalone.
Favorite Christian women's nonfiction:
Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life by Crystal Stine
I loved it!! I recommend it for any Christian woman! Wonderfully honest treatment of the delicate balance between working hard (good work ethic) and resting well (not workaholicism or laziness).
“Hustle [the world's view] tells us we should push ourselves ahead to get more. Holy hustle tells us to work hard in the name of Jesus to make His name great, not ours” (p.25). Motives do matter.
Full review on my blog at www.liladiller.com/blog/holyhustle.
Best Christmas Read:
A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep
Excellent! From the first line, we get a sense of Mina's character and the second paragraph pulls us directly into her life, the setting, the dreariness of her current existence. Masterful storytelling, beautiful editing, and likable, relatable characters! My kind of book! I read 11 chapters in one setting, because I kept wanting to know the character's reactions.
Anyone who loves literature, especially Dickens, will enjoy his quotes throughout, not only at the beginning of each chapter, but also woven into the dialogue and thoughts of the characters themselves. I also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a delightful read, suspenseful but light on the mystery, a quick but satisfying read.
Full review on my blog at www.liladiller.com/blog/christmasromancereview1.
Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
The writing was very good. Nathan Whitaker did a great job of using Tony Dungy's voice but turning it into a crisp, action-filled, sometimes emotional journey (most of the time). There were a few times when the narrative degenerated into a mere recital of football stats, but for the most, part, I was impressed with the flow of the story.
I loved how important his faith is to him but how he didn't have to shout it to draw attention to it. He worked with chaplains, he helped create and promote organizations, and he always made sure to pray and praise with his players. That was such a great lesson, that we just live our our faith and others will draw courage to live theirs.
One of the most dramatic lessons was when he lost his son. I was rocked to the core! I had not known this about him, even though it happened before he won the Super Bowl. How he and his family got through it was a testimony that drove me to tears and led me to hug my boys more often today.
Favorite contemporary short story:
Meet My Boyfriend by Willowy Whisper
I read this all in one sitting!! I couldn't put it down! I loved the relationship between Claire and Levi, wondering if they will ever find out the truth! And the plot was riveting! Excellent!
Favorite Old West historical fiction:
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer
I absolutely loved the characters, which is the most important thing to me about stories.
I loved how Eden Spencer changed from being a “rock-thrower” worried about her reputation to a truly loving and compassionate woman.
I loved Levi's change from guilty ex-fighter to compassionate and controlled man of strong convictions.
I loved Chloe's change from distrusting girl to confident woman.
I even loved Duncan's optimism and gentlemanly treatment of Chloe.
The quality of writing is top-notch, as all of Karen Witemeyer's books are that I've read. The humor isn't as pronounced, but there are still a few instances in this one.
I really loved the details of Levi's speech problem and how she showed his hesitation about using “s” sounds and yet his intelligence in choosing other words without that sound.
There are so many spiritual truths to be gleaned from this story, which I absolutely adored! Forgiveness, compassion, standing up for what's right, thinking of others, and I'm sure there are more.
I would recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction and wants a strong thread of faith. The only people who may not appreciate this book are those who don't want to read of the real struggle to put the past behind you and resist temptation.
Favorite contemporary novella:
Sunrise Cabin by Stacey Donovan
This was such a great book! I just wanted to keep reading and reading! I loved that the plot of this clean contemporary romance was centered on the little log cabin rented by Paige. It was a quaint setting, striking a chord with this small-town girl.
I loved the characters! They were so realistic, with backstories that added depth but didn't take away from the current tension, instead adding to the tension. I loved that this was more than just a romance, even though that was the main plot. There were also subplots of grief, unforgiveness, insecurity, work ethic, with other relationships like in real-life where the couple doesn't exist in a bubble away from parents, siblings, coworkers, best friends, and neighbors.
Okay, that’s it for 2018. I’m already excited about my reading plans for 2019! What were some of your favorite reads in 2018?