Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads from 2020

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl, which I haven’t done in a while now. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. After a full year of reading, this was a little more difficult than it was last year, when I’d only been reading for half the year. Last year I had to include some 4-star books too, but this year, I had plenty of 5-star reads to choose from!

After narrowing it down to 10, these are in no particular order. I did clump similar genres together, though. Also, I did not include any re-reads, and I’m lumping series into 1 entry, even if the entire series wasn’t 5 stars.

1. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
I love all of Brant Hansen’s books, and I did give 5 stars to his newest book this year too. However, this one took the edge over The Truth About Us just a bit. Brant has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. He speaks simply and honestly, makes some really good points, and is funny to boot. (See my full review here.)

2. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
Continuing in a similar vein to the previous book, considering that Brant and Sherri are radio co-hosts, Sherri’s book is a hilarious take on PMS, the difficulties women face, and how they don’t have to be alone in their misery. (See my full review here.)

3. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
This series of books has dominated my year. I read the entire series of 4 books between January and June, and then listened to the first three again as the author read them live online to beat the quarantine blues. He just started reading book #4, The Warden and the Wolf King, 3 nights ago. My 10-year-old daughter read the series upon my suggestion, watched the live readings with me, and has basically become obsessed. And my husband bought me the entire re-released series, with beautiful new covers and new illustrations inside, for my birthday back in May. It’s been a Wingfeather-heavy year. (See my full review for the first book in the series here.)

4. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
My daughter returned the favor of my recommendation on the previous series with this series. I’ve only read the first one so far, though she’s read all but the newest, and it was so much fun! It’s basically an escape room in a 3-story library with Willy Wonka as the game master. I mean, what can be better than that? (See my full review here.)

5. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I love a well-done time travel story, and this is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s written for a younger audience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway (I’ve always been a little childish). (See my full review here.)

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’d never read any Tolkien before this. I have seen all of the movies, though. I love the LoTR movies, though I had only watched the Hobbit movies once (I watched them again after reading the book). I decided to start with The Hobbit, because it’s written for a younger audience, and after enjoying it, I went on to listen to the audiobooks of the LoTR trilogy (on the third one now). It has been very interesting seeing the differences between the books and the movies, and I know I’ll need to read it all again multiple times to really get a decent understanding of the depth. (See my full review here.)

7. The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt
This is the second book in a series of Biblical fiction set during and after the time Jesus was an adult on earth, from the perspectives of people on the peripheral of his ministry. I liked book #2, Daughter of Cana, but I loved this one. The book is character-driven, inspirational, and so engaging. I’m waiting anxiously for the 3rd book in the series to come out! (See my full review here.)

8. The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer
I so loved the combination of characters and their arcs in this book, and how they brought out the themes of looking for blessings during difficulties and using love and kindness to drive away hatred. A plot that seems complicated was very well written by Sawyer, and I’m now looking into her other works. (See my full review here.)

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
My sister highly recommended this book written entirely in epistolary form, and I wasn’t sure how I’d like it. But I loved it, unsurprisingly mostly due to the characters. But I found that the format of the story being told through letters made it a particularly quick and easy read, because there’s not a lot of description. I know that might bother some people, but I really liked it. (See my full review here.)

10. Sunrise at Normandy trilogy by Sarah Sundin
I read all of this trilogy this year, starting with #3, The Land Beneath Us (shown above), because I got it as an ARC. The third one was my favorite of the trilogy, but only by a little bit. The entire trilogy tells the story of three brothers who were separated by a very unfortunate series of events that led to three years of estrangement. During that time, each of the brothers trained in different branches of the military and became part of the invasion of Normandy. I love the way these books tell each of the brothers’ individual stories during WWII, but also tells the complete story of the broken relationship between the brothers and their family. I can’t wait until I read these books again, in order this time, of course. (See my review of the book shown above, which is third, but I read first, here.)

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

May in Review

I read 9 books last month, which is pretty good considering that I all but stopped reading right about the middle of the month. For Mother’s Day and my birthday, as a joint gift, since my birthday is always near Mother’s Day, my son bought me the latest expansion and a month of game time for a particular online game that used to eat WAY too much of my time…and clearly that has not changed. I’ve managed to just stay away from it for quite a while, but had recently been a bit jealously watching my son and husband play together. Not a bad move on my son’s part, but I clearly need to learn to find a balance with my free time.

Here are the books I read in May:

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace by Johann Twiss (4.5 / 5)
Deep State Stealth by Vikki Kestell (3 / 5)
Time Benders: The Machine by J.B. Yanni (2 / 5)
Healing Her Heart by Laura Scott (3.5 / 5)
Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (5 / 5)
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
A Lady of Esteem by Kristi Ann Hunter (review pending) (4 / 5)
Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt (4 / 5)
The Green Dress by Liz Tolsma (4 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 1 re-read*. My favorite book from May was 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace. I finished 1 series, continued 0 series, and started 2 series…sort of. One is a series of novellas/novelettes that I’m not sure I’ll continue. The other was a short story that precedes a series of novels, but I’m not diving into the rest of the series yet. My ever-changing short 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.

*One of the re-reads involved listening to the author read a few chapters of his book every night live on Facebook/YouTube to beat the quarantine blues. I count it the same as listening to an audio book.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Unoffendable

Unoffendable
by Brant Hansen

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian living

Unoffendable

Radio show host Brant Hansen counters the common opinion that Christians are entitled to “righteous anger,” while also making a case about how learning to let go of our “right” to be offended can change our lives. He uses scripture as well as examples from both Christian and secular writers and thinkers to back up his claims.

This is the kind of book that you can get a lot out of, or you can dismiss as not for you, or even dismiss as flat-out wrong. One of the biggest arguments people seem to have for anger being all right (even a good thing) is that Jesus himself got angry. But I think one of the most important things to remember is that Jesus is God. He was perfect and sinless when he threw out the money changers. We need to remember that when we get angry about the sin of others…we’re just as bad, even when we find a way to feel like we aren’t.

It’s also important to note that Brant is not necessarily claiming that we should be able to find it easy to never get angry. We’re human; we get angry. The issue is feeling justified in holding onto that anger. In letting it drive us, and especially, in letting it drive us to sin.

More than just anger, Brant also addresses self-righteousness and hypocrisy. I think some of these areas convicted me more than the issue about anger. Not that I don’t get angry, but I definitely am guilty of letting myself believe I’m “not as bad as that other person.” I’m not going to pretend I’m all better now, but I’m noticing these things more in myself and I think that’s the first step to letting God get rid of them in me.

When I first started reading this, I really wondered how Brant could write an entire book about anger. But there were a lot more facets to it than I realized. He speaks simply and honestly, makes some really good points, and I can see from my personal life that there is a lot of truth in the claim that learning to be unoffendable can make your life better. I recommend this book for all Christians; even if you don’t feel like you need it, I’ll bet you can find some understanding here. I also believe, and see from reviews of others, that non-Christians can find some truth in this book as well. And no matter who you are, I suggest you check out The Brant & Sherri Oddcast.

Find out more about Unoffendable

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!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Single-Word Titles

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books With Single-Word Titles.” I thought this would be really easy, and then I looked through my list of books on Goodreads and realized…it’s not so easy. At least, not for me with the amount of books on my Read and Want to Read shelves, which I generally want to stick to for these weekly posts. And because it is a Top Ten list, after all, I didn’t want to include any books I didn’t really enjoy. Below is what I came up with, which includes 8 books I’ve read and 2 that I haven’t, but have a very good feeling I will like more than the average books I read. For once, my list is ordered 10 to 1, with #1 being my favorite of all the books on the list.

10. Redshirts by John Scalzi
Between enjoying the 2 books of Scalzi’s that I’ve read so far and being a Star Trek fan, not to mention my husband’s recommendation, I expect to really like this book too.

9. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
I read Brant’s second book before reading this, his first, and have plans to get to it soon. His second book (Blessed Are the Misfits) is great, so I have high hopes for this one.

Pithea cover, Kindle

8. Pithea by Kristi Drillien
Bridging the gap between the books on the list that I haven’t read and those that I have is my own book (which, of course, I have read).  (See more about this book here.)

7. The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
I sort of cheated with the “The,” but ran out of books and wanted to fill out the final spot. This is the third book in a trilogy that that I really liked, and my favorite of the 3.  (See my review for this book here.)

6. Sneak by Evan Angler
This is book 2 in the Swipe series, which contains 4 books with 1-word titles. I’ve only read 2 of them so far. (See my review of this book here.)

5. Holes by Louis Sachar
Great book, great movie. If you haven’t read or seen this, you really should! (See my review of this book here.)

4. Thr3e by Ted Dekker
Great book, not such a great movie. I definitely recommend the book, though. (See my review of this book here.)

3. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
This book has a subtitle, but I’m ignoring that for this list. Actually, the 2nd book on the list has a subtitle too…oh well. (See my review of this book here.)

2. Obsessed by Ted Dekker
I tried to not include any 2 books by the same author, but oh well. I have not read this book for many years, but I read it a few times in my early adult days. I remember loving it, but plan to re-read it soon to see if it holds up.

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
A new favorite of mine by my favorite author.  (See my review of this book here.)

What are your favorite books with single-word titles? If you also posted a TTT, share your link so I can check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Book Gets

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.” I posted 3 weeks ago about books I’d either gotten for Christmas or acquired shortly thereafter, and normally, I wouldn’t have much to add in this short of an amount of time. However, my husband and I went back to Half-Price books just yesterday, much sooner than normal, plus I do have a few more from right before Christmas I’d love to mention. So here are 8 of my most recent book gets:

1. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
Sadly, I had forgotten I got this until I started scanning my bookshelf for what should go on today’s list. I got it in the clearance section of HPB some time before Christmas (we go there a lot during the holidays). I “read” this in high school, but I’ll admit I didn’t read it very thoroughly. Though I did well in school, I was pretty lazy. I’d already seen the movie at the time that I read it for school, and basically read chunks of the book looking for scenes that were in the movie to write about. It’s definitely time to read it for real.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I got my sister some books for Christmas and found some great deals on what she wanted on eBay. One of the sellers had a promotion of buy 2, get 1 free, so after I looked for a 3rd book that she would want, I found this in their list of eligible books and decided I might as well get it for me. I’d been planning to read it anyway!

3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I have read maybe 1 Sherlock Holmes story ever, that I can think of, and I couldn’t even tell you for sure what it was (Hounds of the Baskerville, I think). Like many others, though, I’ve viewed various iterations of Holmes over the years. I spotted this high on a bookshelf in our own house, but I didn’t even remember having it. Turns out someone had given it to my husband several years ago. Technically we already owned it, but it is now sitting on my shelf, and I plan to start reading it soon.

Plus, reading it will make my novel journal a lot more relevant to me:

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I’ve mentioned this book multiple times recently, but that’s just because of how good it is! I try not to buy books at full price if I can help it, because how do you sustain a habit if you spend that kind of money? So I passed on getting it when it was still on the “new releases” shelf. It was only marked down a few bucks when we went back to HPB yesterday, but my husband insisted that was good enough. (Read my review of this book.)

5. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Brant Hansen is my favorite radio personality. If you’re in the mood for a fun, clean, often random podcast that makes you think, check out the Brant & Sherri Oddcast. He also writes some books that combine faith and humor and make some interesting points. This is his first book, and I really enjoyed his second one, Blessed are the Misfits. I’ve been hoping to read this for a while, but my library doesn’t carry it. Though I’ve checked every time we’ve gone to HPB recently, imagine my surprise to see it sitting on the shelf yesterday!

6. 2 books from the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard
I enjoyed this series a lot when I was younger, and when my daughter got old enough, I read the first book in the series to her. I have kept my eye out for these book over the years, even before she was old enough, and have maybe 10-12 on my shelves (there are 40!). I spotted 3 in the clearance section, but only bought 2 of them, because I was certain I had one of them already. Sadly enough, it turns out that I don’t have the one I thought I had (the cover looked so familiar!), but I do have one of the two that I bought…so I only added 1. Ah well…it’s time to keep a list on my phone of which ones I have, since I never know when I might run across more.

What books are you excited about getting recently? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My TBR I’m Avoiding & Why

I’ve read several of these Top Ten Tuesday posts, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, in the past, and decided to join in this week. Some of the topics don’t work that well for me; for example, my TBR list is only 2 months old, so it’s really hard to say I’ve been avoiding anything on it. But I was able to come up with 10 books on my list that I’m avoiding for some reason or another. These are books that I expect to get pushed down my TBR several times before I read them, or I’m just really not looking forward to reading them, or there’s some reason I can’t read them right now.

1. Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. After I won it and re-read the synopsis, it seemed a lot less interesting than when I’d entered the giveaway. I’ll still read it, and in the spirit of the giveaway, I’ll try to get it to soon. But I’m not looking forward to it, and I feel pretty bad about that.

2. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
When I first started to get back into reading seriously, before I built my TBR list up to even what it is now, I found this book at a bargain store and decided to buy it, with no knowledge of it whatsoever. After reading reviews, I’ve soured on it a bit. I know I’ll still read it, but my TBR list is so long (and that’s considering it’s shorter than that of everyone else I know), I just know it’s going to keep sliding down it.

3. The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell
This one is probably a little silly, but it still deserves a spot on the list. I have read this book before, at least twice, back in my younger reading days, and I remember enjoying it (enough to read it again at least once). My TBR currently includes some books I haven’t read for years and want to re-read now that I’m older, and this is one…but I made the mistake of checking its rating on Goodreads. It’s not great, so of course I keep passing it over. But since most of the ratings don’t come with reviews (and I do remember liking it), I think it’s a good idea to give it another chance myself…eventually.

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I lumped all 3 of these together for the explanation because it’s basically the same explanation. Well-known, mostly much-loved books intimidate me. Especially when they’ve been around for a long time and I haven’t read word one of them (yes, I know Ender’s Game is new compared to the other two though). I’ve broken into this a bit with Harry Potter, but I quickly discovered how difficult it was to write a review for something when I realize most people who read the review will already know the subject material much better than I do.

Also, I’m one of those people with the ridiculous complex in which the more someone tells me I should read/watch/do something, the less I want to do it. So the more popular a book or series is, the more I tend to shy away from it. So I’ll get there…eventually…just stop pressuring me!

7. An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass
8. The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
Both of these have been pushed down my TBR because they’re in the New Fiction section at my library, which means I can only check them out for 1 week. I need to wait until I’m sure I’m ready to read one right away before I check it out, so I can make sure I finish it in the time I have. And the timing hasn’t worked out so far.

9. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
10. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
Both of these are already low on my TBR because they are not available at my local library. I will have to wait until I have the funds to purchase them, so they’ll have to stay low. But I am looking forward to reading both of them when I can.

Have you read any of these? Should I move any up to the top of my TBR list?