Which makes picking the best of the best really hard at year's end. There were lots of good choices.
My Top 25 Reads of 2012 were:
Enjoyed this title about a woman who discovers her marriage and life are not as happy as she thinks when a visit by a college friend leads to the break up of her marriage. Married readers will be hard pressed not to consider their own relationships and wonder whether things are going as well as they presume.
Lost & Found by Ginny Yttrup
Disturbing story. Unsettling. Rattling. Amazing story about woman who has subjected herself completely to an evil woman, her mother-in-law, such that her self-esteem is near gone. Upon the unexpected death of her husband, Jenna Bouvier, with the help of her spiritual director Matt, finds her voice and her wings.
Awakening Mercy by Angela Benson
Digital re-release; re-reading a long-favored title that remains an all-time favorite. Love how Benson makes the faith challenge apply to each character, unbeknownst to them. Easygoing, realistic romance where both characters have to overcome their pasts in order to have a future. Forgiveness theme applies across board. Love how secondary characters easily set up possibility of a second story without feeling as if that is the whole purpose while reading.
Solomon's story; As moving as her debut novel, Love Amid the Ashes. One of the best writers of Biblical fiction today.
Secrets drive this story about a female attorney, wife and mother who has all but severed ties with her family and hometown, only to be forced to deal with them as her teen daughter seeks to know who her biological father is. Love John's style. Very dialogue heavy, not big on setting and exterior description. But the story flows and unfolds at the right pace. Difficult to not understand Teal's plight, yet find myself wanting to force her to come to terms with her past, if not for her daughter, for herself, so that she can become whole, that she can find and envelop herself beyond the shell of herself that she has inhabited.
Fabulous debut. Not sure it's obvious to all readers that these are people of color, but that's not a bad thing. I love when authors give readers an opportunity to see themselves in the story. Sloan Templeton has inherited her mother's bookstore, although she really wants to be back in the Cyber Crime unit. Before it's all over, she's toting a gun--and using it as needed--to deal with the threats of mysterious email messages, an abusive ex-boyfriend, a vintage book that has warring interested parties and more.
Former girl group member, Camille Robertson wants to reclaim her place in the spotlight. Except she's put on a few pounds and doesn't have a group, since her co-members no longer speak to her (nor her brother, the group's former manager). Camille is living hand to mouth working a deadend job but determine to make this one thing go right for herself, the first thing since the death of her mother. She finds an agent who advises her to try gospel, which means connecting with a church, the bigger the better, to get a demo tape completed and set up a potential audience. What Camille doesn't bargain for is that connection she will make with the people at the church, beginnning with choir director Ronald Shepherd, nor with God. Fast read. Laugh out loud funny. Very believable. Camille learns it's not about what she wants for herself, but what God wants for her life.
The Wedding Beat by Devan Sipher
From a guy's POV. A news reporter covering the wedding beat of The Paper (thinly veiled reference to NY Times) looks for love by observing and taking lessons from the couples.
Can't begin to enumerate all the ways in which Coming Home poked at me spiritually through the story of Dayna Wilson who, seven years after her divorce, is called upon by her ex-husband and his wife in a way no sane person would ever expect. Although I can't relate to being divorced, I can relate to the questions raised about unconditional love, forgiveness, faith in the face of betrayal and other questions Adams raises through this moving, gripping story.
Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy
Best suspense I've read since reading Steven James. A policewoman with the gift of discernment hunts down an evil serial killer with her partner and the help of a mission preacher (and ex-cop). Palpable suspense, unique and believable characters. Kept me guessing until nearly the last page, even when I was sure I knew.
Amazing story about forgiveness. An apprentice is subjected to an evil master from whom he finally escapes, running to the saddler who showed him compassion--and to the saddler's daughter. Also deals with abolition.
Destiny's Divas by Victoria Christopher Murray
Murray's storytelling rises higher and higher in mastery. Destiny's Divas is story of three women--Sierra, Raine and Liza--encompassing three decades who compose a gospel group. Except lies to others and to themselves threaten to torpedo everything they've worked for and stand for.
Absolutely loved this book about a young woman from a poor urban community who is a fish out of water at a wealthy prep school, the same school her older sister attends but completely rules. Love the interracial relationship between basketball player Will and dancer Sonya. Sonya's teen angst is captured remarkably well by DuBois and the plot moves quickly, making this is an engaging and fun read.
The Song Remains The Same by Allison Scotch Winn
The story of Nell's amnesia and her journey to a new life is literary in style. Liked that everything is messy and doesn't wrap up into nice, tight bow. Nell's amnesia and struggle to remember who she was vs define who she is reflects a familiar fight that many face--without the benefit of loss of memory. Scotch is honest, poetic, and at times raw, peeling the layers that don't want to budge, leaving one to wonder just how many layers there might be.
Definitely not what I would call "Christian fiction" given the profanity and crassness of some of the language/subject matter. Yet, definitely a "come to Jesus" story and may be realistic than most Christian fiction. One thing I didn't like was the dialogue about "blacks selling crack on side of road", which serves only to perpetuate negative stereotypes. Granted, whole book takes on stereotypical conservative Christians, which seems true to form except for drinking (perhaps that aspect is more true to form than I know).
A Wish and A Prayer by Beverly Jenkins
Fourth book in Blessings series. Preston's looking for his biological family. Bernadine is musing over marriage while being threatened by unknowns upset over her squashing the oil land deal. Jack is patiently waiting for Rocky to give him a chance while Jack's son, Eli, is hoping for the same with Crystal, who seems to be interested in bad boy Diego July. Riley and Cletus will finally have their day in court. Jenkins is an amazing storyteller and I love that her books always teach me something. This one has me ready to re-read The Taming of the Shrew and looking up old motorcycles.
Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans
Sugar Land mystery about the murder of Graham Garcia, bringing into play Walker "Bear" Wells, the preacher nee amateur detective. Love the writing, original and respectful of Christianity but not catering to it. Love the voice. Truly a mystery until the end. Based on a true story. Very well done.
Loved this book. A group of women, somewhat unlikely friends bonded through adversity, renovate a home in the hopes of procuring a TV series. Only their renovation series is turned into a reality show and their less than spotless lives are put on display. Favorite character might have been Maddie, what with her less than perfect marriage and coiled anger that eventually erupts. Also liked the FBI agent with whom Avery gets involved and Max, the owner of the home. Wax incorporates a mystery for which the answer becomes painfully obvious to the readers early on, but of which the characters have no idea until the end--what happened to Max and Millie's son?
Sandwich With A Side of Romance by Krista Phillips
Amazing debut. Love the slightly snarky attitude of heroine, Maddie, but just enough, not over the top. Her whimsical and sometimes seemingly sacrilegious--but all too real--conversations with God. Her realistic desire to stay away from men at the same time that the thing she wants most in the world is to be viewed as lovable and to be loved. Reuben is a great hero, strong, admirable, confused, klutzy--all rolled up in one. Wonderful example of how Christians can and should be without being stereotypical or cliched in the portrayal of a living faith.
A storyteller tells a story about a storyteller. The richly satisfying tale likens writing fiction to solving homocides. It's all in the telling of the story. A few tongue-in-cheek attributes of this story's heroine, Ann Silver, come straight out of the author's own life, like the fact that she's written fifteen previous books and that one of her series was entitled the O'Malleys. Since Silver's fiction is about friends who are near and dear to her, one wonders about the inspiration for Henderson's O'Malleys. Moreover, one begins to wonder about Henderson. How much of Henderson is in Ann Silver? It's this larger than life story question that adds a deliciousness to an already pleasing tale and keeps the reader turning pages, hunting for real-life clues as much as for fictional ones.
Placebo by Steven James
Starts out eerily enough. Suspect this will be another Steven James thrill to read. Interesting use of 2nd person in opening chapter. Most chapters thereafter in 3rd person--some omniscient, some limited-- except those in main character which are in 1st person. Gripping, as expected. Not the knowledgeable law enforcement officer, but an expert escape artist and showman with a bunch of computer consultants for friends. Readers will not see where this one is headed before it gets there. I'm wondering whether Riya, the sociopath whose story is left hanging, will show up in future installments.
Wondered what it would be like to read the "prequel" of how Bowers became the FBI's geospatical crime expert, what with so much of the series already written. No less fascinating nor riveting. Filled in a lot of gaps and only made me want to read more (and to reread some of the ones I've read previously). Every time I thought I knew who the killer was, I discovered I was wrong. Twists and turns and red herrings kept me turning pages, determined to figure it out before the end. I was unsuccessful, the hallmark of a good thriller.
The Intercept by Dick Wolf
Debut novel from creator of TV's Law & Order. Drawn from the 9/11 terrorist attack, this novel explores the fears and prejudices and realities of living in a post-9/11 society. The terrorists are not always who you think, and what you think is often based on irrational fears, exactly as Osama Bin Laden hoped it would be. Who won? Nobody, and the world will never again be the same. Taut, propelling drama that keeps reader turning pages. wish the romance between Fisk and Krina turned out differently. Given how L&O endings are always a mixed bag, maybe a happy ending isn't Wolf's thing. Look forward to the next Jeremy Fisk novel.
A Love Surrendered by Julie Lessman
Midway thru Steven and Annie's story, I thought it was nice but not my favorite. Then the spiritual punches to the gut began and the story started twisting and turning, and by the end, this was my new favorite Lessman book. Julie's dialogue and narrative, with real-life dialgoue and events, makes her books unputdownable.
Cheating a bit here, as this is a 2013 release that I just read for review purposes. Poignant. Amazing storyteller. So much Holmes could have included but she smartly left out. Story of Penny and her abusive husband Trent, as told by Penny to her son, Manny. Story covers from when Penny met Trent through their abusive marriage to the birth of Manny and beyond.
Peace & Blessings,
Stay focused. Be deliberate. Believe.