I hesitated to do a post like this, afraid I'd miss a great book or that my qualifications would be too hazy. But on the other hand, it's good to give honor where honor is due, and I've gotten a big kick out of the favorites lists I've made it onto this year. So here are some of my top novels I read, or reread, or read earlier but were actually released in 2011.
In my sidebar I say, "I want a book that will make me weep at the beauty of the words or stab me in the gut with its spiritual depth. Preferably both." That is basically my qualification for choosing these books. The ones near the top of the list definitely did both. But all of them really affected me in a lasting sort of way. Unlike some of my author friends, who are fast readers and avid reviewers, I probably only read about 50 books this year, so I no doubt have missed some great ones. Nonetheless, here is my 2011 list of standouts.
This one deserves a special place of honor for being such a wonderful surprise for me this year. Despite Tamera's multiple awards, I didn't connect with the one book of hers I tried in the past. With A Lasting Impression, I had the complete opposite experience. I loved everything about it: characters, setting, voice, subject, theme, and if I missed any element, then yep, that one too. This book completely engrossed me. I was mesmerized by this foray into the world of art and one of the great mansions of the South. And the spiritual message was so beautifully and delicately wrought, it made me weep. I adored the mix of spiritual and emotional depth with other light, fun, and flirty moments. Just perfect.
Speaking of perfect. Roseanna has been one of my favorite authors ever since I discovered her. And on top of that, I had the pleasure of critiquing this novel last year. Wonderful. Amazing. A trip into the fascinating world of the Persian courts along with Kasia, another Jewish wife in King Xerxes harem. The psychology of the harem fascinated me. In addition, wonderful Greek, Jewish, and Persian history. And to push it over the top, a spiritual thread of light and darkness reminiscent of Frank Peretti, yet based in historical fact. Beautiful. Loved every minute of it.
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
I've been a huge fan of Julie's ever since I discovered her as well. I've read all her books, but this one had it's own special delights. I loved the twists and turns and comedy of errors sort of feel, along with the allusions to a number of Jane Austen novels. This is certainly the funnest of Julie's books to date, with multiple romances and a peek into the world of literature and drama of the time. I will say, though, that this book piqued my editors eye. I would have loved to see more point of views, for reasons I won't mention since they might give away the ending.
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
And yet another of my favorite authors. Siri's books are always beautifully written with lovely language and a literary touch. This one specifically stood out to me because of the theme of body image and the lengths young women will go to in order to be beautiful. It proved both haunting and mesmerizing. The spiritual message was light, but at the same time powerful. The ending turned out precisely as I hoped. If you've been turned away by sad Siri novels in the past, give her another try with this one.
Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay
Christine is an amazing debut author and another critique partner of mine, although she wrote this novel before we met. I've learned so much from her, I can't begin to tell you. If you loved my Dance of the Dandelion, Christine certainly gets much credit for teaching me how to craft powerful scenes. This book takes place in Ghandi's India. The stand out element in this one is no doubt setting. It truly sweeps you away to that time and place. I love her Christian Indian characters. They present the love of Christ in a very real and vibrant sort of way.
Deliver Me from Evil by Kathi Macias
I went back and forth on this one. It is well-written, yet I also saw room for improvements. But overall, it effected me more than any other single book I've read this year and needed to make the list. It's an incredibly powerful tale about the world of human trafficking, and a book every Christian should read. Kathi manages to leave you with a feeling of hope despite the horrifying subject matter, and that alone is deserving of a very special sort of award.
Yahshua's Bridge by Sandi Rog
This book holds a unique place in my heart because it is the first book I personally endorsed as an author. It's a beautiful journey through the world of ancient Rome and the early Christians. Sandi is a lovely writer with a compelling voice. The settings are incredible. Her historical novels, though deep and sometimes dark, provide ample romance and adventure. The stand out quality of this book for me was compelling glimpse into the world of Christan martyrs and a deep understanding that sometimes God has purposes for our lives that we won't understand until the other side of the grave.
Book of Days by James Rubart
Jim writes incredibly unique books with amazing premises that I could never come up with. That alone fascinates me. And his books are powerful with spiritual messages that I find vital and timely. This book remains sharp in my memory because while reading I had a number of those goose bump God moments. I loved the concept of the Book of Days, but even more so how he concluded everything so stunningly in a way that truly impacted my life. It also had great romance and adventure. An all-around wonderful read for anyone.
So, will any of these make their way onto my top 20 of all time list? I think I need to make room for A Lasting Impression and will probably remove one of my multiple Lisa Samson books to do it, although she remains my favorite author. And I think She Walks in Beauty will replace Love's Pursuit as my favorite serious Siri Mitchell novel. Must work on that soon.