Top Ten Reads of 2018

It is cliche to be sure, but it is hard to even narrow it down to the top ten, so I decided to go with top twenty and then changed my mind and went back to top ten. When you have read about 214 books, it is easier that way.  I figured I would put a synopsis of my review on each one and if you click on the title, it leads you to how to purchase or add to your wish list.

#1

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Running From Monday by Lea Sims

“I read “Running From Monday” by Lea Childers Sims last night, while I was without sleep from having to deal with business issues without the internet. It was amazing. I will tell you, if you have not added this book to your wish list, TBR pile, and move it up on the list, you will be sorry. You want a real story that moves you? This is one. It does discuss some hard trauma topics, but I loved how it was done, in such a well written story.

I am not someone that is drawn to churches, especially in a story. However, in this one, the church with how it was set up, made me wish that churches patterned their ministry more after this one. Even though I related more to the older characters in the book as far as music taste, I really loved how even that was told in the story.

The characters were flawed, which makes this a tougher read, but so real and you could relate to them. I found myself tearing up a couple of times.”

#2

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The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart 

“I never quite know what to expect when I pick up a book by James L. Rubart. This one really had me stopping, setting the book down and thinking before I could pick it up again.
There is never a book that touches everyone. For me, this genre is not my normal genre. I love women’s fiction and historical. This is nowhere near either of those genres. For me, this story is a tale of a man that allowed the evil to control him, the evil that is within many, and it nearly destroyed his life and his family. It is the story of the journey that he takes to conquer it, which when done in your own strength is impossible.
I was deeply touched at certain parts of the book. Some of the thoughts were so deep, it made me have to wrap my mind around it.

If you read this book with the mindset that you are just going to read a nice story, you may not get the meaning of this one. It is much more than that. But if you are reading this book to see what true love and repentance can look like, this one does share that.
Very unique story, that I highly recommend.”

#3 

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No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

“In the times we live in, this book struck a nerve that I think everyone should feel deeply.  From racism to attachment issues with adoption, this book hits some strong points. I have come to expect not just hard topics, but a well written novel by Ms. Ganshert. I was not disappointed. This will be one that I would recommend as a book club read, book group or anything like that, as you will want to talk about it with someone.

You won’t want to miss this book. You know how you can’t stop thinking about a book after you read it? This is one of those.”

#4

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Pandora’s Lunchbox 

“You ever want to read a book that confirms everything your mother taught you? This is the book.
While a little deep maybe for some people, this is one I was pre-reading for a high school required reading science class I will be teaching. This is a book that will confirm to you that likely most of the issues that people have with food, is not actually with food at all, it is with the preservatives that are even often in what we think of as “healthy food”.
It has been something that has fascinated my boys and they have gotten a tiny bit obsessed with, so I think they will really enjoy this book and learning what can make you feel better. From overloading our bodies with vitamins that is not from food to additives in meat, this book covers it all. I would recommend it!”

#5

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

“You ever read a book and think, “Wow, that is why this is a classic!”

That doesn’t happen terribly often for me, but it did with this book.
You like stories about strong, brave women? This is for sure one of those stories. From Sissy, who “didn’t believe in divorce” and all her heartbreak to Francie, the main character, I found myself savoring every word picture.
They were painted so vividly, you just wanted to soak it in.

I had remembered liking this book at the age of 17. More than twenty years later, it was even more enjoyable.”

#6

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The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

‘I read this book last Friday and I cannot stop thinking about it. In fact, I have likely referenced it several times this last week.
The storyline, while nothing unique, brings completely flawed characters that judge one another as being something they are not in the beginning.
I loved seeing the journey of the raw characters, woven throughout the story, while still leaving you with a few unanswered questions, just as life tends to do.
I am not an artist, have never really gotten the appeal of tagging, and yet, I was able to relate to both characters, in totally different ways, and yet, get the heart of their pain.

Please note, it does discuss foster care, drug use and a few other key elements, but nothing is graphic. It is a Christian fiction book, so while one of the main characters is proclaimed atheist most of the book, it also discusses the problems that are front and present in Christianity.
I would recommend this book to those that enjoy a read that will challenge them and make you think.”

#7

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Violence Among Us by Brenda Branson

“This important book is good for anyone in ministry, but really for anyone that is around people. If you attend church and have people around you, read this book.

It gives you key points on what to do and what not to do when supporting those that experience different forms of violence, whether it be physical, mental, financial or other types of abuse. With a well laid out way, it gives you the tools to be the hands that heal instead of the hands that harm as so many Christians and churches are.”

#8

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Jesus Feminist  by Sarah Bessey

“I know, I know. The title is going to be off-putting to many people, but try to see past that and read this incredible book of freedom in Christ for both men and women.
I don’t often read a book where I set it down and think, “I need to buy this book.” when I have gotten it from the library. I also don’t read a ton of books that bring me to tears multiple times. This one hit both of those. I wanted to buy it so I can quote from it. There were lines that were just so powerful in here. I loved when she said someone asked her what kind of feminist she was, and she said, “I am a Jesus Feminist.” While I may not agree with everything 100% in this book, as it always is in most books, this is one that was a breath of fresh air of freedom in Christ.

It is not anti-men or any of the stereotypes you think of, but lives up merely to the definition of what feminism is. I loved the biblical viewpoints throughout, but also the Church Ladies chapter was my favorite. Think outside the box and read this book, even if you think you will hate it.”

#9

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Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels 

I found this book to be a refreshing change from some tales similar to this. It addressed the topic head on without skirting the huge issues.
Adultery and infertility were two key topics in this book. I loved the mention of doulas, grants for those in need of their services and found that especially wonderful as a doula myself.
The writing style is excellent and touched on many key phrases that would be said to a Christian woman in a marriage that is falling apart. My only complaint would be that it left me many questions in the end, which again, is real life.

This women’s fiction novel is a breath of fresh air, speaking truth and reality, without giving pat answers that suddenly fix everything.

 

 

#10 

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Where Hope Begins by Catherine West 

“It has taken me awhile to write this review. It was not because I didn’t know what to think. It was because there were so many feelings when I finished this book. I am not someone that cries. If I tear up in a book, it means that it deeply touched me. This book was one that deeply touched my soul.

I know many people that avoid books that might make them feel or deal with pain. Please don’t avoid this book. The well written prose from this amazing author, will not only cause you to dig deep, but I would also hope you would find yourself changed by it. She is one of my favorites and I never miss a book written by her.

Grief. It is a tough topic. It is not one we ever want to talk about, and may not want to read about. Sometimes people might avoid a book that talks about it, because they are afraid they will relate to it. Again, please don’t do that with this book. This book is filled with hope, healing and just a passion for discovering life after loss that I believe it will be a read that most people will not only enjoy, but benefit from. I loved the greenhouse in the book and the quirky secondary characters just warmed my heart.

I can’t wait for her next book and this one is not even quite released yet.”

 

There are so many more favorites that I did not mention! I was trying to give a bit of a variety! If you want to check out all of them, check out my Goodreads “Martha’s Year of Books”

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Searching For You by Jody Hedlund

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

 

My Review:

I enjoyed this conclusion to the Orphan train series quite a bit. I loved how she told the hard parts, but had happy stories too. I found myself saddened for the wives, stuck in abusive marriages and realized how little things have changed at times.

I only wished there was more time spent with the sisters reconnecting. I kept imagining some of the issues these little orphans faced after everything. It probably didn’t help with seeing some of the issues with the foster system and the trauma kids face now.

The story was a happy one, but tainted with the reality of the hard facts. This author does an amazing job to make the story realistic and yet make you want to read more.

I obtained this book from the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

This book is available for purchase in your local bookstores or through Amazon.

Searching for You 

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Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description:

Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don’t miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.

My Review:

I totally enjoyed this final conclusion to the series by Ms. Klassen. It had, as the others, a feel of the Austen type era. The story had several characters, and if you were not careful, you were lost for a second and had to refresh where you were.
I found myself rooting for one family, and then another when a new character was introduced. It was one of those winter evening type books that you just want to savor.
If you enjoy a good story, fairly accurate seeming to the time period, you should pick up this whole series. It is quite enjoyable!

This book was recently released. I totally enjoyed it.

 

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The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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The Butterfly Bride by Vanessa Riley

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Frederica Burghley wants to be married by Yuletide. Or else her father will set her up with one of his friends. The bonbon-loving illegitimate daughter of the duke wants to choose her own husband. Advertising in the newspaper seems like the way to go. But a sinister response, with threats against her life, leads her to enlist the help of her very handsome, dear friend Jasper Fitzwilliam, Lord Hartwell.

A father and widower, Jasper is not only tasked with keeping Frederica safe but also with helping his vibrant friend choose a suitable husband. The more he tries to keep the ever-surprising woman alive and find her a good match, the more Jasper realizes he cares for her. The two friends risk their lives for each other, so they should be able to risk their feelings for a chance at a deep and true love together. But he’s not looking for marriage and she’s not looking for convenience.

My Review:

I loved it! I don’t know what all to say, but Vanessa Riley knows how to tell a story. I have to maybe say that I have a new favorite. I loved seeing some of the characters come in from previous books, and she even did a birth scene which I loved!
I totally wanted this book to never end.

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What Box do you belong in?

 

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“Are you Catholic?” The straightforward question from the stranger in the row behind me at church caught me off guard, but I smiled as I turned to answer him. “You have a lace thing on your head and Catholics wear them.”

I struggled to know how to answer him as I knew that he was simply trying to figure out why I obviously did not belong where I was. His question formatted in a different way than many others before one, was one that I have faced pretty much all my life. Yes, it is one I expect will happen. Generally the odd comments come from children who have not learned social skills yet or the people that simply state what they have on their mind. I used to want to answer sarcastically, or could come up with something very pious.

In their mind, there is something here that does not belong. I am in a Baptist church. I don’t fit in. As I generally sit alone in a pew, engaged in my thoughts, I thought about what I could have answered, than how I did.

The truth is, I have never fit into any box that people have tried to put me in. Thankfully, I hope I never do.

I grew up among Mennonites, and loved it, but as an imaginative tomboy of a girl, I didn’t quite meet the standards given to me. I read too much fiction, made up stories, loved playing alone, and my dresses were not always neat or tidy, and my hair even less so.

Among other groups, I tried to do what I could, polite, kind, but things didn’t always make sense in my mind as far as belief systems.

I had to ask myself, “Who am I?” and “Why am I doing things to meet others standards instead of living how I believe is right?”

I am a conundrum to many people, including the man in the pew behind me today. He may have walked away today thinking he found the answer, thinking I was a Mennonite girl that somehow was there on accident. But in reality, in his eagerness to place me in a box, he missed out. He didn’t learn anything about me or who I am as a person.

Many people do that with others we meet. We place them in a box, and put a label on it. We struggle to allow them outside of that box. We see mistakes they make, the way they dress, the words they say, and we assume they are something associated with that.

What if we forgot the boxes and labels we place on people, and get to know them without trying to place them in a box, I think we would discover a whole new way of living.

I totally get wanting to be with people of similar lifestyles, belief systems and culture. But for me, when I get outside of that, I learn so much more.

I don’t want to be stuck in the box that someone puts me in. I don’t want to place people around me in boxes.

Sometimes we place ourselves in a box as well, close the lid up and wait to be discovered. We are angry when others don’t open it to find out who we are, and instead read the label we wrote in fury on the side. Sometimes the angry letters scare people off from opening up the box and discovering the real you. Then there are other boxes that place themselves high on a shelf, refusing to allow themselves to be opened. Fear stops them, or belief that we are of no value to others or fear of being contaminated by others.

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Whatever box we are in, whether someone put us there or we did it to ourselves, let us open up the boxes of our hearts and allow other in.

Let’s not try to define someone by what their appearance gives us, but instead learn to know what is behind that exterior, words and the public persona.

No, I am not any of the labels that people love to place on me. In fact, most of the people that really know me are surprised when they dig into what is beneath the exterior.

The curious gentleman and his companion walked away today thinking they had me figured out. In truth, they tried to put me in a box, and one where I didn’t belong.

Thankfully, I am really good at jumping out of boxes, and making something else out of them.

I would encourage you, the next person you see that you think from their exterior, you got them all figured out, stop yourself. Ask yourself what you can learn from not putting them in a box, instead of assuming you know everything they are experiencing.

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My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham

 

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the Book:

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

My Review:

I love this author’s books. I just have to say that right off the bat.
From her lighter ones to her heavier ones, each one makes me want to keep reading and buying more and more of her books.
This book is kind of a Christy feel with hints of humor intermixed. There are a few heavier topics such as alcoholism brought up, but overall, I would say this is a lighter read for one of her books.

When you go to look for a book with truth and good story, I would say pick this one up. It will warm your heart!
I wished it were a tad bit longer as I wanted a little more of their story, but I guess it can’t go on forever!

I obtained this book from NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Delayed Justice by Cara Putman

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

She had long given up the desire to be loved. Now she only needed to be heard.

Jaime Nichols went to law school to find the voice she never had as a child, and her determination to protect girls and women in the path of harm drives her in ways both spoken and unspoken. As Jaime, now a criminal defense attorney, prepares to press charges against someone who wronged her long ago, she must face not only her demons but also the unimaginable forces that protect the powerful man who tore her childhood apart.

Chandler Bolton, a retired veteran, is tasked with helping a young victim who must testify in court—and along with his therapy dog, Aslan, he’s up for the task. When he first meets Jaime, all brains, beauty, and brashness, he can’t help but be intrigued. As Chandler works to break through the wall Jaime has built around herself, the two of them discover that they may have more to offer one another than they ever could have guessed—and that together, they may be able to help this endangered child.

This thrilling installment of the Hidden Justice series explores the healing power of resolution and the weight of words given voice. And as Jaime pursues delayed justice of her own, she unearths eternal truths that will change the course of her life.

 

My Review:

It is not often someone can take a topic that causes pain to so many people, and without any kind of graphic description, bring you through the healing process of seeking prosecution for the perpetrator and tell a good story.
I loved how they used a trained comfort dog in the book as well, and displayed accurate PTSD references and descriptions. The book was well written, with a good story without focusing so much on romance, yet having a gentle healing with being loved as well. I would highly recommend it!

I obtained this book from BookLook Bloggers and the publisher. The opinions contained herein are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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End of the Rope?

“I am at the end of my rope!”

“I just can’t do this anymore.”

“This isn’t working for me.”

Statements.

These are statements that while some of us might not say them aloud, we have surely thought them more than once.

It can be something little that sends us “over the edge”. It might be a comment that someone makes that sends us there. It could even be well intentioned.

What are some ways to combat this feeling?

I don’t think I have the answers. I have seen the results of the feeling when you are up with a child in the night and they just won’t sleep. Or that child that refuses to eat, no matter what you put in front of them. The other one that is angry, because his dad is gone, but he is taking it out on you, because you are the one in front of him.

Then there are the more drastic things.

Your child died.

Your husband left you.

You were injured severely.

It gives us that feeling of helpless anxiety when you can’t change the reality you are in at the moment.

When you can’t go on, see what you can do.

What is something small you can do to change the situation?

Can you feed your kids? Can you give someone a hug?

Sometimes the small things make the difference!

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Shelter of the Most High Connilyn Cossette

Reviewed Martha Artyomenko

 

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About the book:

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?

My Review:

A story set in ancient times, I found myself totally enthralled with it from the first few pages. I wanted to just keep reading, but I also didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much.
I found the setting so intriguing, as well as the people, possibly ancestors from Sicily that found themselves intermarrying with the Hebrews.
This author does such a great job of weaving a tale, you will want to buy every book she writes as it comes out. I know that is my plan!

I obtained this book for review from the publisher. The opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book from any booksellers or Amazon.

Shelter of the Most High

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