December 31, 2013

best books of 2013: top 10

It's that time again: time to pick my favorite books of the year. (And this year, I'm actually posting before the new year—if only by two hours. That's quite the improvement over my 2011 and 2012 lists!) If my Pinterest board is to be believed, then I read 87 books in 2013 (and I'm not sure that I remembered to pin each book I read). Out of those 87, I enjoyed the vast majority, so narrowing my list of favorites down to 10 was quite difficult—so difficult that I'll be publishing a list of honorable mention books later this week. Below are the books that I settled on as my favorite 10 reads of 2013.

10. Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter (my review)

Barefoot Summer is a fantastic opening to Hunter's Chapel Springs series. Madison and Beckett's chemistry practically leaps off the page, and the conclusion is heartwarming and satisfying. I can't wait for book two's release this spring!
9. Anomaly by Krista McGee (my review)

Anomaly stunned me. I expected to enjoy it (it's YA/sci-fi, so how could I not?), but I didn't anticipate the way McGee would so completely suck me into her world. The book ends with a delightful twist, and I can't wait to read the second book in the trilogy!

8. Duchess by Susan May Warren (my review)

The final book in Warren's Daughters of Fortune trilogy, Duchess is also the best. For whatever reason, it really resonated with me—and I especially connected with main character Rosie. Here's a snippet of my review: "Really, Rosie could be any of us. No, we don't all have bombshell looks or the attitude to go with it, but we do all have regrets and hurts that motivate our actions, and without surrendering to Christ and trusting that He loves us, we could gain the whole world and still be searching for meaning and wholeness. The spiritual lessons found in this book (and the rest of the series) are profound, yet not at all 'preachy.'"

7. Shattered by Dani Pettrey (my review)

Shattered is the second book in Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series. It focuses on Piper and Landon, two of my favorite characters from the first book in the series. Packed with mystery and romance, Shattered was easily my favorite romantic suspense novel of the year.

6. Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart (my review)

Of all the books on this list, Moon Over Edisto is the least overtly "Christian" and the most literary. (It is put out by a Christian publisher, but the faith aspect takes a backseat. And I think that's totally fine.) It's the only novel that I read this year that I thought my sister, who tends toward literary snobbery, would enjoy—and so I promptly bought her a copy as soon as I finished reading mine. Moon Over Edisto is a beautifully-written novel about family, and it ended far too soon for my liking.

5. The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen (my review)

If you love Jane Austen, you'll love Julie Klassen. I've read several of her books so far, and each one is better than the last. The Tutor's Daughter is pure delight. Here's a bit of what I had to say in my review: "As I read, I couldn't help but feel that I was reading a Jane Austen novel. Or, more accurately, that I was watching a film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, as Klassen has a way with words that put a very clear picture into my head as I read. The plot evokes memories of Northanger AbbeyEmma,Pride & Prejudice, and even Jane Eyre while still remaining unique." Klassen's next book, The Dancing Master, is currently sitting on my to be read shelf—I can't wait to pick it up!

4. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (my review)

I loved everything about A Noble Groom...especially the hero, Carl. In my review, I said that "Carl gives Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy a run for his money. While Carl is by no means perfect, he is wonderful (and a lot less uppity than that Darcy fellow)." And that cover? It may be my favorite book cover of the year!
3. On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin (my review)

Fun fact: Sarah Sundin is the only author to have a book appear on my "best of" list each year that I've made one: With Every Letter was number four on my 2012 list, and Blue Skies Tomorrow was my pick for my favorite book of 2011.

On Distant Shores continues Sundin's streak of excellent World War II fiction. I love that while her books are full of romance, they contain so much more. On Distant Shores highlights the struggles pharmacists faced in the Army, and Sundin wrote about it so realistically that I wanted to call my senator to demand fair treatment for them! I'm eagerly awaiting Sundin's next novel.

2. Invisible by Ginny Yttrup (my review)

Ginny Yttrup was a new-to-me author, and she totally blew me away with this novel. Invisible focuses on three women, each of whom is hiding in some way. As they connect with each other, they work through emotional and physical trauma and learn about the God who loves them infinitely. Invisible is completely captivating, and when I finished reading it, I just had to sit there and let it sink in. I loved it.

1. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay (my review)

Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay's debut novel, is so unique and fun! I don't think I can say it better than I did in my review: "Honestly, I picked up Dear Mr. Knightley expecting a simple romance, but this book turned out to be so much more—throughout the course of the novel, Sam found her voice, her place in the world. And, yes, she found love—in many forms. One of the most touching aspects of the novel was not the romance (though it was sweet) but the love Sam found in family.

Dear Mr. Knightley is a novel that will grab you at the first page and not let go until you've finished the last. Run to your nearest bookstore (or, more realistically, click on over to the website of your favorite bookseller) and get your hands on a copy of this book. You won't regret it!"

I almost wish I hadn't read Dear Mr. Knightley yet—because that would mean I could experience it again for the first time! For a limited time, it's only $2.99 for Kindle (check the price before you buy)—you really need to read this book!

There you have it: my top 10 reads of 2013. Check back at the end of the week for my honorable mention books. Happy New Year!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

December 7, 2013

a december of living dangerously

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my cats getting in the Christmas tree. Soon after, I came home to this:

At that point, I was certain that I wouldn't decorate my tree. But then I remembered the angel.

My mom's cousin made this angel ornament for me when I was young, and ever since, I've believed it should go at the top of the tree. (My sister disagreed with me, and one year, we had probably our most epic fight ever about which angel should be the tree topper. I can't remember how we resolved it. But for as long as I've had my own tree, this angel has been on top.)

Once I had the angel out, I decided to put the ribbon on the tree ... and then something came over me, and I decided to decorate the whole tree!

I did put unbreakable ornaments at the bottom, and it's a good thing. Within 30 seconds of seeing the decorated tree for the first time, Hammond had pulled an ornament off.

Isis's favorite part of the tree is the nativity scene. This is the set we used when I was a child, so it has sentimental value even though most of the pieces aren't pretty. It's also pretty indestructible, which is a plus when you have cats around who enjoy chewing on things! Isis has taken a special liking to the shepherd (the one next to her nose). She's been known to pick it up and cart it around in her mouth.

I may be crazy ... but after nearly a week of having a decorated tree, we only have one ornament fatality (one of the glitter balls) and no injuries. Here's hoping we make it through the rest of the Christmas season unscathed!

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