Favorite Reads of 2016

I’m often asked how I can read so many books (over 130 in 2016). The answer is a combination of two things: I live alone and I don’t watch TV. Reading is my entertainment. As this year draws to a close, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from this year with you. And one lucky reader will win a paperback copy of a book of their choice. Just leave a comment at the end telling me what your favorite book of 2016 was.

To order any of these books, click on the title. I planned to do a top 10 list, but let’s face it, with the volume of books I read, it was too hard to narrow down to this number so you get a few extras in this list.

15. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

The conclusion of Crandall’s “Everstone Chronicles” does not disappoint. The black sheep of the family, Vance Everstone, has a reputation he’s working hard to put behind him. After years of hard living and poor choices, he’s striving to become the man God wants him to be. When he and Violet Hawthorne are found in a compromising situation, he chooses to do the right thing. This is a beautiful story of Vance’s redemption.

14. Thrill Squeaker by Christy Barritt

While a more recent book has been released in this series (and I have not had the opportunity to get to yet), the ending of this one alone makes it stand out. Add in a haunted amusement park and more adventures with Gabby St. Clair’s friends, Barritt delivers another delightful read in her Squeaky Clean Mystery series.

13. A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White

The third (and final) book in the Ladies of the Manor trilogy is a series conclusion done right. My favorite characters from the other books make an appearance and the mystery and drama revolving around the Tiger Eyes diamonds comes to a fitting conclusion. All of this while watching two engaging and unique characters fall in love while convinced they aren’t worthy of the other person.

12. Emergency Response/Silent Sabotage/Christmas Conspiracy (First Responders Series) by Susan Sleeman

Okay, so I couldn’t pick just one of the books in this series by Susan Sleeman. This team is knit together so well, each of the books added to the enjoyment of the series. A unique group of law enforcement agents that includes a sniper, a bomb tech, two negotiators, an EMT, and the group leader, the First Responders team not only works together but live together as a family.

11. Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

Set against the Chesapeake Bay area, the first in this new series of Pettrey’s is both an introduction to the area and to the characters—a group of friends who band together when the going gets tough. Combine an ex-SWAT team sniper and a forensic anthropologist to create a page-turning suspense that ended too soon for me. Can’t wait until the next one (Still Life) coming out at the end of January.

10. Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard

This story has so many unique features in it, things that are rare jewels in the book world, I couldn’t leave it out. Our slightly disabled heroine runs a Tiger Sanctuary, the hero is an agent with the US Fish and Wildlife services, and the constant barrage of threats against this couple kept me up late at night getting to that final page.

9. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

A story that will take you into the places under the big top most people never get to experience, Cambron’s book is a beautiful portrayal of finding their true homes. Mabel Ringling’s and Rosamund Easling’s stories are separated by twenty-five years but they are both drawn into the family of the circus (both the supportive, caring members and the jealous, vindictive ones).

8. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Tagg has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. AS another author with a new book in her series out that I have not gotten to yet, I’m definitely putting this one on the list! The Walker Family and the town of Maple Valley, Iowa will draw you into their circle and make you feel at home. When Logan Walker returns home for a long-overdue break, he doesn’t expect to butt heads with reporter Amelia Bentley. But as they chase a long-held town mystery, sparks fly between them. And you can always count on Tagg for a few smiles along with a sigh-worthy happily-ever-after.

7. Missing by Lisa Harris

First of all, the Nikki Boyd files stand out on their own. This scrappy missing persons detective is resilient and smart even if her personal life seems a little messy, her career is right on track. Harris ups her game by setting this book in my hometown (Nashville). I could imagine several places like the fictional ones described in the books. But really, I don’t think anyone has had as bad a week as Nikki Boyd has in this one. The ending of this book does leave you wanting more (good thing Pursued is due out in April 2017!)

6. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

Ask any reader of Christian Fiction for a recommendation of a good book (and more particularly, a good romantic suspense), and you’re likely to get the recommendation of Henderson’s O’Malley series. In 2016, Henderson released the first book in a brand new series (and a novella that accompanies it in the Sins of the Past Collection which also includes novellas from Dani Pettrey and Lynette Eason). Evie Blackwell has been tapped to head up a task force solving cold cases. On her first assignment, Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois and meets town Sheriff Gabriel Thane. There are a few stories weaving into this one and many of the characters from Henderson’s previous books make appearances. Another one with a few strings left undone to lead readers to a new release in…you guessed it…2017.

5. If I Run by Terry Blackstock

When I first started reading Christian Fiction, Terri Blackstock was one of the first authors I discovered with her Newport 911 series. Years later, she’s still a favorite of mine. In If I run, Casey Cox flees the scene of her best friend’s murder. With her DNA all over the place, law enforcement is bent on finding her and hires Dylan Roberts, a war-weary Vet with PTSD, to locate her. What’s unique about this book is these two characters are separated for most of the story but as Dylan learns more about Casey, his interest increases. She doesn’t seem like a murderer. “If I’m found” will be release in February 2017. And hello, these book covers are amazing. Love how they fit together to create a larger picture (just like I hope the next book does).

4. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Reay is another one of my favorite authors. Her ability to combine bits of literature (whether it be Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, or Shakespeare) is a gift. In A Portrait of Emily Price she carries it a step further into the world of art. From Atlanta Georgia to the Tuscany country side, Emily Price is a character readers will grow to love as she discovers herself and uncovers a long-held secret that could tear a family apart.

3. The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

I discovered Griep’s books last year and thoroughly enjoyed her view into middle class English society. So it was with trepidation I read this book. I mean, how can you top England? But she not only met my expectations but exceeded them in The Captive Heart. When English governess Eleanor Morgan is forced to flee her home and make her way to America, her only choice of survival is to marry a man she’s never met. Trapper and Tracker Samuel Heath lives under the shadow of the death of his wife, but his daughter needs a mother and he’s willing to go to extreme measures to make that happen. As the two embark on a journey of trusting one another, the wilderness, the rumors, and a precocious child bring them together in more ways than either expects.

2. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

This book was so much fun (as was the second book in the Herringford & Watts Mysteries). Set in Toronto, Canada in 1910, readers are taken on a Sherlock-ian adventure via two female flatmates turned amateur detectives. While most women are bent on finding husbands, Merinda and Jem are intent on finding answers to crime. Merinda’s pushy demeanor and go-get-em attitude keeps the story light and enjoyable even though the girls get in plenty of trouble along the way. Good thing they’ve got a constable and a report looking after them in their escapades.

1. Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

As mentioned before, I have an affinity for books set in England (probably because of my love for all things Jane Austen). Isaac takes Oxford England, throws in references to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series and gives readers a feel-good book that will stick with them. Amelia Mason is trying to make amends for her past choices and decisions which has led her to a non-profit organization in England. As a lover of Lewis’s famous children’s stories, she cannot resist every opportunity to crawl into wardrobes and check the back for the entrance to the magical land of Narnia. As she does just this her first night in England, someone opens the wardrobe and she falls out. Little does she know how entwined her life is about to become with former Olympic rowing hopeful Peter Carlisle. I loved these two characters! Both are hurting in their own ways and Amelia really needs Jesus.

There you have it, my favorite reads of this year. Have you read any of them? What book (or books) did you enjoy most this year? Leave a comment with the title(s) and on Jan 15, I will choose a winner who can book a book of their choice from my list.

Thanks for stopping by! Here’s to more great reads in 2017!

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard

Set in the wilds of Southern Oregon, Elizabeth Goddard’s latest release takes readers just outside of the Rogue River Wilderness. And what a unique setting it is! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in a wildlife sanctuary before. And Undercover Protector takes readers into one built to house endangered tigers.

If you have read the first book in the Wilderness, Inc. series, Targeted for Murder, you briefly met Grayson “Gray” Wilde. And if you haven’t read the first book, you’ll want to grab your copy before it’s gone. A long-awaited lead has Gray heading to an interview for a volunteer position at the nearby sanctuary, but before he makes it, he rescues the woman in charge. Gemma Rollins is determined to get her tiger sanctuary up and running in honor of her family’s legacy. With threats to her beloved tigers that escalate to threats on her life, Gemma is running out of time. Her new volunteer has proclaimed himself her protector but can she trust him?

Goddard’s story will hook you from the first page as the action and danger are immediate and ramp up from there. I loved that there were so many unique attributes to this story—the setting for one, but the heroine has a slight disability and Gray’s job is so unique I didn’t even know there was such a position in law enforcement.

I enjoy these books from Love Inspired because they’re fast reads but always well written and worth the time spent with the characters.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble

Tell me if you can relate. Every once in a while, there’s a book on my TBR pile (and yes, sometimes they’re ones I’m supposed to review) that takes you forever to get to it? But then you finally, finally get some time to read it and you’re like, “Why didn’t I read that sooner?”

That’s exactly what happened with Colleen Coble’s Twilight at Blueberry Barrens. Once I started reading this story, I didn’t want to put it down.

But first, let’s take a minute to admire this beautiful cover. I love the colors on this one.

This is part of the Sunset Cove series that takes place in Maine but it can be read alone (in fact, I haven’t read the other two books but after this one, I’m going back to them).

When her family’s blueberry crop does not yield enough fruit to sustain her, Kate Mason needs to find another source of income and fast. When a potential renter is thrown into her lap with the additional income of a possible nanny position, Kate’s eager to help the man with his two little girls.

Drake Newham is determined to find out the truth behind his brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths. If it means moving to the rugged coast of Maine for several weeks, he’ll do it. But digging into the truth will require leaving his nieces with someone.

As the attraction between Kate and Drake build, so does the suspense. Kate’s uncle has escaped from prison, someone keeps breaking into Kate’s house, and a local peeping Tom has the women in town looking over their shoulders. Can they, with the help of local law enforcement, solve the mysteries surrounding them before someone else pays the price?

There’s a lot happening in this book (which is why it was hard to put it down when I had other obligation—like work). And while I had an inkling of what was happening, the solution went deeper than I realized.

Coble creates loveable characters. As a reader, I rooted for Kate and Drake. Kate’s past is riddled with trials and unfair circumstances. Now that she’s found so much, I wanted her to have all of the good things she deserves in her life without having to earn them. Drake is skeptical at first but he grew on me quickly. And as a supporter of other Christian fiction authors, it was fun to read mentions of Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series and Carrie Stuart Parks’ Gwen Marcey series in this book.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

Once again, Melanie Dickerson has delivered and engaging and unique perspective on a classic fairy tale. This time around, Ariel from The Little Mermaid gets a remodel in Dickerson’s The Silent Songbird.

When Evangeline’s cousin, the King of England, informs her that she will marry his closest advisor (a man twice her age whom she believes is hiding an evil streak from everyone), she does the only thing she can. She runs.

Disguising herself as a mute peasant girl named Eva, she and her companion travel to the village of Glynval with a small group of servants. Their leader, Westley le Wise (anyone else notice the nod to The Princess Bride here?) is both handsome and kind, but Evangeline realizes the secret she carries will end any hope of attachment between them before it can ever begin.

Something sinister is occurring in Glynval which puts Westley’s life in danger. Will Eva reveal her secret to save a man she admires? And if she does, will her send her back when he learns of the lies?

There’s a lot happening in this book (as with most of the Hagenheim series) but it all culminates in a satisfying way. I laughed at some of the escapades as Eva learns to do the servant’s work, grew agitated at the way another person treated Eva, longed for her and Westley to see what is right in front of them, and my heart pounded along with Eva’s when Westley’s life is in danger.

Dickerson is a fan-favorite of these types of books and with the attention to detail and the riveting storylines, there’s no question why that is.

I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

For the Record by Regina Jennings

Fans of Regina Jennings may remember the inquisitive (aka nosy) young reporter from her previous book, At Love’s Bidding. In For the Record, Betsy Huckabee is all grown up and determined to make it on her own. Even if that means trading in hard-hitting news for ladies’ serials. At least she’ll still be in the paper.

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And when the new deputy comes to town to restore justice and put an end to the vigilante group that has taken the law into their own hands, she discovers her inspiration. Deputy Joel Puckett isn’t exactly the perfect hero, though, so some fictionalization is in order. As Betsy spends more time with the handsome deputy, she comes to appreciate the flaws in the man and begins to uncover what truly makes a hero. But what will her stories cost them now that she’s gotten to know him?

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Jennings once again delivers a fun romp through the hills of Missouri in For the Record. With lines like, “If only she’d get her hands free, she’d slap the handsome clean off his face,” readers will find some laughs amidst the more serious topics in the book. As Betsy looks to her future and Joel puts his past behind him, these two characters take readers through the highs and lows of learning to trust someone new.

****I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.