I read a lot of books in 2014. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 116, although I think I forgot to record one or two! The majority of these were Christian fiction titles. While most were good, if not excellent, I’ve somehow managed to come up with a list of 10 that were the absolute best. These are all books I’ve reviewed, and they’re the ones that either left me with something to think about or impacted me emotionally.
This beautiful novel combines the horrors of Auschwitz with a modern day plot regarding a missing painting. It definitely should’ve come with a Kleenex warning. Why is Sera James determined to find a painting of a holocaust victim? How does a concert violinist end up in one of most notorious extermination camps? And how are these two stories connected?
Another World War II story, this time set in France. It’s a powerful story about Gisele’s desperate attempts to keep secret the heritage of her Jewish friends’ baby from soldiers billeted in the family home. The story is combined with that of Gisele’s grand-daughter who visits the chateau after breaking off her engagement to a political up-and-comer. She’s accompanied by a documentary film maker who has uncovered a story about Jewish soldiers in Hitler’s army.
This debut novel of life in Alabama is not a pretty tale. How could it be when there is rape, murder, alcoholism and abuse among its pages? But it is a hopeful tale. The running themes are of grace, mercy and opportunities for new beginnings. The characters, especially young teenager Anniston, shine. The description of life in Bay Springs is both beautiful and vivid. Young Anniston learns a lot about hope, faith and love during the 12 months in which this book is set. Through the writing of Amy Sorrells, the reader can as well.
New mother Misty disappeared 16 years ago. Her body was never found, but it’s presumed she killed herself at a notorious stretch of California’s Pacific coast. Now, her husband’s vehicle has plunged into the foundations of a building project and their two children must figure out how to survive life without either parent. Motherless is a powerful book that left me stunned and in tears. I knew before the end that I would have to re-read it. My presumptions kept changing as the narrative developed and yet I was unable to solve the mystery before it was revealed.
Looking for an historic epic set in England? Curious about Henry VIII, his wives, his relationship with Rome, and the birth of the Anglican Church? Then The Heretic is for you. This is a long book that weaves a tale of treason and intrigue, where not everyone is as they appear. Three children must keep their faith hidden. A monk hides from his past. Everyone must appear obedient to the king and his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, the man in charge of religious reform.
I returned to World War II again, this time for a dramatic and faithful retelling of the story of Esther. Kate Breslin’s debut novel edges towards an intense conclusion as Stella realizes she must reveal her heritage to her employer in order to save family and friends. The last section of the book is an action-packed drama that I could imagine being played out on the big screen. The roles of Esther and her king, Mordecai and Haman are easily recognizable in their 20th century counterparts, and you may even find yourself cheering for one particular SS officer.
This story set in North Carolina is a story about coming home to a place you’ve never been. It’s about learning the truth about who you are and getting to really know other people. Sometimes, we put them on pedestals. Sometimes, we knock them down before they have a chance to show us who they really are. I immediately connected to Ashlynne, despite our differences, and felt her struggle as tries making connections in a town far removed from her comfort zone. As Ashlynne’s grandmother told her, “If you want to have friends, be a friend.”
This is a novel I didn’t expect to impact me in the way it did. It’s about making choices regarding the people in our lives. Who do we trust? When it all comes crashing down, who will stand by you and help pick up the pieces? Ivy believes the love and attention she receives is dependent on her behavior. In her world of fashion and modeling, your looks are all that matters. Once those are gone, you have nothing. Ivy knows nothing of the unconditional love that’s shown to her after a traumatic event ends her career.
Sing For Me is a book I could have read in one sitting if not for the other things I needed to do. Set in post-Prohibition Chicago, it’s a novel about being different, and the difficulties that come from those differences. A smokey jazz club provides an opportunity for Rose to bring in some extra income by doing something she loves, even if her parents wouldn’t approve of the company she keeps. In this book, many of the characters learn to step out of their comfort zone and overcome great obstacles to be who they were made to be.
I don’t know that there are many novels set during the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s. This is the only one I’ve found and it wasn’t one I could read easily. The Last Witness is a novel that demands attention from the very first page. The events described within it will remain with you long after you’ve finished reading. What makes it even more powerful is that Glenn Meade based it off one survivor’s testimony. Fiction might be an escape, but it can also educate and bring forth emotion that newspaper reports cannot. I defy you to read it and not be moved.