Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads from 2019

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. First, a quick explanation about my reader-self. I used to read like crazy as a kid, teenager, and maybe the first few years out of high school. I don’t really know when it dropped off, but for most of my adult life, I’ve finished maybe 15 books total.

In the summer this year, I decided that I wanted, and in many ways needed to get back into reading. So I dove in, started building a TBR list that grew scarily fast, started posting reviews on my blog, and haven’t regretted it for one second. I re-discovered my love for reading almost immediately, and enjoy keeping track of what I’ve read, how I felt about it, and what I plan to read.

The following list starts with my favorite 4-star reads from this year, then some 4.5-stars, and finally the only books I gave 5 stars to this year. I’m not including re-reads and am lumping series into 1 entry (even if I haven’t finished the series yet).

10. The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu
I enjoyed this trilogy pretty early on. The Harry Potter meets Pokemon vibe was just too fun. Even with the heavy race and class politics and the inescapable brutal war that was looming, I enjoyed all 3 books in this trilogy. There’s a prequel that is billed as book #4, and I have plans to read it some time in the first half of 2020. (See my full review for the first book in the trilogy here.)

9. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I’m currently almost halfway through my first reading of this series (finished with #3). Though I can tell I don’t love it as much as the majority of the rest of the world, I have been enjoying it for the most part. It’s possible that what makes it even more fun, though, is following each book with my first viewing of the movie, alongside my husband. It’s interesting to me that only 1 of the 3 I’ve read so far got 4 stars from me–the others were 3.5. And yet, when considering books to add to this list, I did decide that Harry Potter as a whole (so far) was worth putting on the list. (See full reviews for the books I’ve read so far here: book #1, book #2, book #3)

8. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the first of 2 ARCs on this list. This book was exactly what I wanted it to be, and considering that it seems like a majority of the ARCs I read this year were busts, I was happy to be able to give this suspenseful romance a higher rating. (See my full review here.)

7. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
This was another ARC and really surprised me. I loved the idea of reading a book about the advent of Christ from the perspective of the magi that visited Him not long after his birth. This is one that really stuck with me for a while after I read it (probably partly because it was the Christmas season and I saw & heard related things everywhere). (See my full review here.)

6. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I keep recommending this book to people. It was fun and engaging, and I know I will re-read it plenty of times in the future. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important to understand, in order to enjoy the book. Also, it’s billed as horror, but it’s not really scary, which doesn’t bother me personally, but may others. (See my full review here.)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir
I’d seen the movie years ago, and more recently a friend strongly suggested that I read the book too. I was so glad that I did, because for as good as the movie was, the book allowed me to feel even more connected to Whatney. Like my friend, I would really suggest that those who’ve seen the movie read the book too. (See my full review here.)

4. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
Another one where I’ve seen the movie, and didn’t even know it was a book until I happened to see it at a bargain store this summer. With some all-too-real situations and flawed characters, this book is brimming with emotion and depth. I’ll admit that the ending was maybe a bit too easy for the real world, but that’s what fiction is for. (See my full review here.)

3. Lock In by John Scalzi
This was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I remember seeing this book sitting around years ago when my husband was reading it. I thought at the time that I should probably read it, because it was in the same genre as my writing, and even had parallels to my world-building. But being sci-fi, I kinda thought it would be dry and technical (yes, I judged it with a very limited understanding of the literary sci-fi genre). When I finally did read it, I loved it! (See my full review here.)

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I actually knew nothing about this book or series before reading it. I’ve heard about it practically all my life, but mostly just in name, not with any kind of understanding of what it’s about. I fell in love pretty early in the book though, and by the end, I knew I had to read as much of this series as I could get my hands on, which I’ll be continuing with soon. (See my full review here.)

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had a lot to say about this book and author recently and don’t want to start repeating myself. This was definitely my favorite book from this year. It was really nice to get a fresh reminder of why Frank Peretti is my all-time favorite author. I’m already looking forward to the next time I read this book. (See my full review here.)

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is quite fitting with tomorrow being Christmas (I’ll bet that was on purpose!), and I do have a list of books that I’ve been careful to tell my husband I’d like to own, in case he or any others in my family needed ideas for me. I only told him 5 though (technically I only told him 4, but I added one I’d like to own to at least bring the list up to 5).

1. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
The hilarious producer of my favorite podcast wrote a book about handling PMS as a Christian, and unfortunately, my library doesn’t carry it. So my only hope is to get my own copy soon!

2. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Related to the previous book, this one is not at my local library either. Of course, his second book is at the library, but that one I already own…and he’s coming out with a 3rd book soon, so I want to get caught up!

3. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I own most of Peretti’s books, including one I haven’t actually read yet. I didn’t even know about this one until earlier this year, so I definitely need to get my own copy to add to my collection! (See my review here.)

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
My family doesn’t have much room for books, not to mention not having a lot of money, so I generally only buy books at used or discount stores. Only when I really, really enjoy a book I got from the library do I consider buying it new, even if I can’t get it at a discount. This is one such book. (See my review here.)

5. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the one book I didn’t specifically mention to my husband, but I would be happy to own it. Since I discovered ARCs this year, this is my favorite of all those I’ve read so far. (See my review here.)

6 – ? Amost anything
I’ll be pretty happy to get just about any books, because I’ve been so heavily into reading lately. If I mentioned a book in passing, or someone found a deal or gives me a book that they want to recommend to me, I’ll be thrilled!

Have you read any of these? What books would you most like to get for Christmas?

September in Review

I read a few less books this month than last month, but still not bad. A combination of homeschooling and starting a new part-time job are probably to blame, but I’m still happy with the amount I read. More importantly, all of the books I finished in September have already been reviewed, so that’s something!

Here are the books I read in September:
Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble (2 / 5)
The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken (3.5 / 5)
Swipe by Evan Angler (3 / 5)
Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills (4 / 5)
Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (3.5 / 5)
Synapse by Steven James (3.5 / 5)
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris (4 / 5)
Holes by Louis Sachar (4.5 / 5)

This list includes 5 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from August was Holes (the re-read). My favorite previously unread book was Fatal Strike. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Fatal Strike

Fatal Strike
by DiAnn Mills

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense, romance

ARC8

A pair of FBI agents partner up to investigate a string of murders involving law enforcement officials. They have never worked together before, and but fall into a professional rhythm to work the case. What ensues is a police-procedural-type story involving a gang that kills with rattlesnake venom, a mother desperately trying to protect her son, missing persons, faith, trust, and a few interesting turns thrown in.

I read this book in 2 days, and really enjoyed it. The main characters, Leah & Jon, were smart, compassionate, and professional. They both had back stories that provided depth without being overly emo and cliched. And both had phobias that they were determined to overcome, and that they had the chance to face in the book.

I liked the way the case unfolded, with some developments that kept me guessing. I did figure out who the kingpin was, but wasn’t bothered by figuring it out in advance. In fact, I remember thinking that if didn’t go that way, I was going to question some of the author’s choices. There were a couple of smaller elements that were presented that seemed to be left hanging, but they didn’t bother me too much. I also had a very difficult time following the action in the climax, and didn’t understand why some of the things happened.

Some of the dialog seemed kind of stilted, especially between the main characters. Most of the time I couldn’t really tell who was talking, because they were so similar to each other. I’m not sure that’s a fault in the characterization, because it was clear from the beginning that they WERE similar, so maybe it was an issue with dialog tags and narration as much as anything. I also did not care for the kingpin’s dialog near the end of the book. It made him seem a lot less intelligent and dastardly than I think he was supposed to be.

The romance is a slow-burn, which is my favorite type. The characters are completely respectful of each other and of their situation (partners working a case), and the romance that develops between them is understated, almost to a point of coming from out of left field, but I prefer a little bit of a leap to the in-your-face type of romances.

And finally, the Christian aspect is well-presented. Most of the faith that is presented in the book comes from a priest who is involved in the investigation. He is wise and insightful, and even clearly shown to be a human with some flaws, but kind and devoted. Through this influence, as well as some others, both of the main characters individually begin to examine their belief in God and what it might mean for them. I even appreciated the way that the too-familiar question of why a loving God would allow bad things to happen to good people is addressed.

Overall, I enjoyed this fast-paced read and would recommend it to all fans of suspense or crime dramas, with a little faith thrown in.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me a copy of this book to review.


Find out more about Fatal Strike

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!