Christmas Surprise! – Top 10 Book Picks of 2017

Each year, I publish reviews for about 52 books or so here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  However, I’ve never attempted to rank them beyond the ratings I post on Amazon, GoodReads, and similar websites.  To celebrate Christmas and the end of the year, I put together my inaugural (hopefully annual) list of my top 10 favorite books from 2017.

While I have given more than 10 books 5-star reviews, these are my absolute top picks.  The remainder are listed below as “honorable mentions” for their 5-star rankings.  These books are listed in alphabetical order, as I really had no ability to rank them beyond a top 10 grouping.  Enjoy

Tamera Alexander. A Note Yet Unsung. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

As a musician, I could not get enough of this beautiful book by Ms. Alexander!  She manages to expertly wrap up one of her much-loved series, while leaving her readers wanting even more of her stories.

Tamera Alexander. To Wager Her Heart. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

2017 was a big year for Ms. Alexander!  She wrapped up two series, as well as releasing the prequel novella for her next one.  To Wager Her Heart is one of my favorite books by Ms. Alexander, as a direct result of her in-depth historical research and focus on several almost unknown stories and topics.  The Fisk University connection is particularly fascinating!

Lynn Austin. Where We Belong. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Where We Belong may be one of my favorite releases from Ms. Austin in the past ten or so years.  Her research into the lives of her characters is absolutely incredible, especially as she shows their faith and personality in the presence of momentous historical situations.

Kristi Ann Hunter. An Inconvenient Beauty. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Ms. Hunter wraps up her first published series this year with An Inconvenient Beauty.  Throughout the series, I wondered how she would pull off a worthy novel for the quiet and complex main character, but she pulled it off!

Kara Isaac. Then There Was You. Bellbird Press, 2017.

I’ve read Ms. Isaac’s other books, but Then There Was You is by far my favorite one!  She left me laughing and crying along with memorable characters in this twist on a fish-out-of-water story.

Joanna Davidson Politano. Lady Jayne Disappears. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Ms. Politano makes one of the most impressive debuts of the year with Lady Jayne Disappears.  Initially, I was hesitant to read this novel, as the summary seemed rather dark and depressing.  However, Ms. Politano expertly writes this story with faith and joy that permeates a unique storyline.

Melissa Tagg. All This Time. Middletown, DE: Larkspur Press, 2017.

What can I say about this novel, other than the fact that it wraps up Ms. Tagg’s Walker Family series.  Anyone who follows Ms. Tagg on her blog knows her personal love of her characters and stories, which permeates her stories.  With a flair for romantic comedy, Ms. Tagg’s works consistently end up on my must-read list every year.

Becky Wade. True to You: A Bradford Sisters Romance. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

2017 seemed to be a year of authors either wrapping up series or beginning new ones.  Ms. Wade’s previous series was incredibly strong and I wondered if she could pull it off again.  True to You proved that Ms. Wade is brilliant at writing enjoyable contemporary Christian fiction, even as she builds an entirely new cast of characters.

Roseanna M. White. A Name Unknown. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

A Name Unknown came out of the blue for me, as I was not a huge fan of Ms. White’s previous works.  With the beginning of a new series, Ms. White manages to create a fascinating set of characters and situations that pulled me in from the very first chapter.  After this book, I am eagerly anticipating the chance to review her next novel, which is due out in January of the new year.

Karen Witemeyer. Heart on the Line. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Last, but certainly not least, Ms. Witemeyer always makes it onto my list of favorite authors and books.  She consistently brings a quirky set of characters to life, while remaining true to the best of the historical Christian fiction genre.  I particularly appreciate the sense of humor that she always brings to her story, as I found myself gravitating toward lighter storylines over the past year or so.

Honorable Mentions:

I hope that all of you have a blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Review: True to You – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. True to You: A Bradford Sisters Romance. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Last week, I featured Becky Wade’s prequel novella, Then Came You, on the Books and Biscuits Blog.  Typically Ms. Wade only releases one full-length novel a year, which is always a highlight of the warmer months.  Her newest book, True to You, actually releases today and is definitely worth reading!

True to You focuses on Nora Bradford, the middle sister of a legendary and talented trio of sisters.  As the resident genealogist and director of the local historical village, Nora has created a life for herself surrounded by books, history, and the occasional fictional hero.  Nora avoids heartbreak after a serious relationship years ago went awry, until the day that a former Navy SEAL walks into her life.  John Lawson has made a name for himself as a security expert, but needs Nora’s help to find out the truth about his birth mother and an inherited health condition that may undermine his entire career.  Together, this unlikely duo discover that they may not be quite as different as they once thought, as they bond over shared tragedy, faith, and the pursuit of truth against all odds.

Fans of Ms. Wade will be absolutely thrilled with True to You and the beginning of the Bradford Sisters series.  Set in the Pacific Northwest, this book offers a technicolor view of a very different setting from those featured in Ms. Wade’s past stories.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading True to You!  For readers of Ms. Wade’s works, I would highly recommend starting with Then Came You, which serves as the novella prequel for the Bradford Sisters series.  The novella provides additional backstory that will help readers to understand the history of the Bradford family and the unique relationship between Nora and her sisters, while also introducing Ms. Wade’s style of using additional forms of correspondence (emails, texts, phone calls, etc.) to further her story.  In True to You, Ms. Wade uses these relatively unorthodox components to a lesser extent, as the correspondence builds upon a more standard storytelling structure, rather than functioning on its own.  As an overall story, True to You is equally as strong as Ms. Wade’s previous novels and series, which is particularly impressive for the first book in a new series.  Readers will definitely enjoy meeting the Bradford sisters in this book and will be left wanting far more of their stories in Ms. Wade’s future novels.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s previous novels and other stories will definitely want to read True to You, especially if they enjoyed Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella.  Likewise, readers who enjoy light-hearted contemporary Christian fiction by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Susan May Warren will also find this novel and Ms. Wade’s other works to be well worth checking out.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of True to You!

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Amazon – True to You

Review: Then Came You – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017. E-novella.

An increasing number of authors and publishers are producing e-novellas to introduce new series or expand upon characters and stories.  While many of these stories are eventually released in collections, they are periodically released as stand-alone novellas, including this week’s featured book.

Becky Wade releases the first novel in her new Bradford Sisters series this May.  To kick off this series, she has recently released a novella (in electronic and print formats) entitled Then Came You, which offers some of the backstory related to the Bradford sisters’ parents and their history.  Garner Bradford will inherit the Bradford Shipping empire, but he is convinced that day will arrive far into the future.  First, he faces his own personal challenges, as he finds himself suddenly thrust into the position of single father.  After rapidly gaining responsibilities as both a family man and eventually the head of the corporation, he must face his past to become the man he needs to be for all of the people depending on him.  Along the way, he meets Kathleen Burke, a woman interested in moving up in her career, in spite of the efforts of her family and their wishes for her to take on a role in the family business.  When Bradford Shipping faces dark days, Garner and Kathleen must work together to solve the business’ challenges, as well as those that keep them apart.

Ms. Wade utilizes a combination of correspondence types to tell Garner and Kathleen’s story.  Filled with heartbreak, hope, and redemption, Then Came You offers a fascinating introduction to the Bradford Sisters series.

Overall, I thought Then Came You was well worth the read.  While I initially had mixed feelings about the structure of the story, it does offer compelling and integral history of the Bradford family, particularly the parent figures of the series’ main characters.  At 158 pages in the printed edition, Then Came You remains firmly grounded in the novella length and format.  However, the writing style and pacing varies widely, based on the style of correspondence used in each section, which varies between journal entries, phone calls, letters, and other forms.  After reading True to You, the first novel in the series, I would highly recommend that readers of the series also read the novella.  While True to You and the rest of the series may be able to be understood without the novella’s backstory, Then Came You provides rather vital information for the series and its characters to be best appreciated by readers.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s other novels and novellas will likely enjoy reading Then Came You.  Readers of the Bradford Sisters series will particularly appreciate the backstory offered in this prequel to the series.

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Amazon – Then Came You

Review: Her One and Only – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. Her One and Only. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

It’s been quite a year for Christian contemporary fiction.  Earlier this year, Susan May Warren wrapped up the Christiansen Family series.  Now, acclaimed author, Becky Wade is releasing the final installment of the Porter Family series.

In the fourth and final novel of Ms. Wade’s celebrated Porter Family series, Her One and Only tells the long-awaited story of Dru Porter.  A former Marine and current executive protection agent (read: bodyguard), Dru has made her own mark on her profession, developing a name for herself away from her brothers and the world of the Whispering Creek Ranch.  Gray Fowler, the star tight end of the NFL’s Dallas Mustangs, is convinced that he is safe, in spite of mounting evidence of an active stalker.  When he is introduced to Dru as part of his security team, he can’t quite take her seriously.  However, as the threat increases, Gray soon finds himself fascinated by the pint-sized black belt at his side.  Can Dru keep Gray safe when she finds herself growing closer to the client she is obligated to protect, something that cost her years before?

Her One and Only offers a stunning and suspense-driven conclusion to the Porter Family series.  Dru and Gray’s story will leave readers cheering and anxious to see what Ms. Wade will come up with next!

I’ve been a huge fan of Ms. Wade’s books and the Porter Family series, in particular.  Throughout the novels, I always wondered how she would beat the excellence of her previous works and she has always come through.  However, I recognized that Dru Porter’s story would need to be absolutely unique and compelling to fit the character’s personality.  After reading an early release copy of Her One and Only, I can reassure readers that they will not be left disappointed.  Ms. Wade masterfully develops Dru’s story, while interweaving further details of the other Porter family members, especially Meg from Undeniably Yours.  This novel goes to prove why Ms. Wade has emerged as an award-winning author in the contemporary Christian fiction genre, as she once again pushes the boundaries of her own writing and character development to create a larger-than-life cast fit to order for a series set in the wide-world of Texas.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s previous novels, especially the Porter Family series, will absolutely want to read Her One and Only!  Additionally, readers who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Susan May Warren or those with a Western/Texas setting will also want to try reading this novel.  Ms. Wade utilizes a very approachable writing style that makes for a relatively fast and light read.  In comparison to her other novels, this storyline has more suspense-driven action, due to the nature of Dru’s work as an executive protection agent and former marine.  It also incorporates some sports references, although non-sports fans will likely still enjoy the characters, too. :)

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of Her One and Only!

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Amazon – Her One and Only

Review: Love in the Details – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. Love in the Details: A November Wedding Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. Ebook.

Here at The Books and Biscuits Blog, I love to support great Christian authors and their incredible works of fiction. When I found out that Becky Wade (one of my favorite authors) was releasing a novella through Zondervan, I jumped at the chance to review it. :)

In Becky Wade’s Love in the Details, Holly has remained in Martinsburg, Texas, for her entire life, with exception to her heartbreaking years in college. Through it all, she has never forgotten her high school sweetheart, Josh, who had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to break out of their small town through a scholarship to M.I.T. She broke up their relationship to guarantee his future success, but her heart remained broken nonetheless. Eight years later, Josh returns to Martinsburg for his best friend’s wedding and comes to discover that Holly is the church’s wedding coordinator. With the opportunity to team up for the time prior to the wedding, Josh and Holly must overcome their history to ensure the success of their friends’ wedding and rehearsal dinner. Older and wiser, they rediscover the importance of God’s timing in their lives and the second chance that they have to determine their own futures.

Ms. Wade consistently brings the larger-than-life world of Texas to her readers through heartwarming and wonderfully unique stories that capture the hearts of her characters. Love in the Details furthers the Year of Wedding series, while pushing the quality of the stories to a higher level than those found elsewhere.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading Love in the Details. The novella is no exception to Ms. Wade’s excellent storytelling. If anything, the shorter length of the novella format fails her. In 93 pages, Ms. Wade manages to create a compelling story, complex characters, and a town filled with details that deserve a far deeper storyline. However, I found myself wanting far more from the story, in keeping with Ms. Wade’s other books and her proclivity to develop multiple, interlinking novels that capture her characters and their unique sense of place.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s other works will definitely enjoy this novella. In addition, readers who consistently appreciate the Year of Weddings novella series by Zondervan will want to read the November edition. Love in the Details remains true to Ms. Wade’s style and pacing, as well as her ability to capture the humor apparent in everyday life and relationships.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Zondervan for an advanced copy of Love in the Details!

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Amazon – Love in the Details: A November Wedding Story (A Year of Weddings Novella)