Monday, January 4, 2016

Life Update + Top Books of 2015

Photo Credit
Writing this post feels like coming home after a long absence. I don't know where to begin––so much "life" has occurred in the last few months that it's hard to summarize in a few short sentences. Shall I start with the good news? 

• I have successfully completed my first semester at The King's College. One semester down . . . seven more to go. 
• I have made great progress in figuring out the NYC subway system. Yes, I'm a native New Yorker. Yes, I should be a pro by now, but I was homeschooled since seventh grade––that should explain everything.
• Because of the reading I've done for my college classes, I've branched out and read a lot of non-fiction in the last four months. A lot. Too much actually––which brings me to the bad news.

I have read very little fiction this past year. In the last four months alone, I have read not one fiction book. NOT ONE. There were a few times during this semester that I "tortured" myself by looking up new releases by my favorite authors with the understanding that I couldn't read any of them. #SoMuchToReadSoLittleTime. For this reason, CBRB's Top Ten Books for 2015 will be a little different. 

• Included in the Top Ten are a couple books I really enjoyed this year and . . .
• Eight books I was unable to read, but I'm confident they would've made the list

Without further ado here are CBRB's Top Ten Books of 2015 (in the order of their release dates except for the last two):
10. Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Feb. 3, 2015
9. The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

May 19, 2015
8. In Good Company by Jen Turano

June 30, 2015
7. Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

July 28, 2015
6. Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund 

Oct. 6, 2015
5. The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Nov. 24, 2015
4. Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden

Nov. 24, 2015
3. The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg

Dec. 29, 2015
2. Exodus by Cliff Graham

May 3, 2015
In Exodus, Graham breathes new life into the Bible character of Caleb. Because the Bible does not offer much information on the life of Caleb, this book does use a lot of creative license. But if you're looking for a captivating and eye-opening glimpse into the life of a courageous Bible warrior, definitely pick up a copy. This is Biblical fiction at its best.

1. Together With You by Victoria Bylin

April 7, 2015
I haven't read a book this wonderful in a long time. I learned about fetal alcohol syndrome, related beautifully with the heroine, and experienced spiritual encouragement. I love a book where I learn something new and connect with the character(s). Especially a book with a strong spiritual thread.

Carly Mason is a girl after my own heart. She's strong in her faith and in her convictions. She doesn't sugar-coat her decision to "save herself for marriage" and her compassionate, godly character stands out to Ryan and others around her. Because Dr. Ryan Tremaine is an atheist, he is distinct from most Christian fiction heroes. Oh, he's still a wonderful father and a "perfect" gentleman, but his spiritual journey sparkles because of his initial there-is-no-God philosophy. A large obstacle to Carly and Ryan's growing attraction is her faith in God––I enjoyed this unique approach and how, despite her feelings, Carly was unwilling to compromise.

Some of my favorite scenes were those written from Penny's point-of-view. Her voice seemed very realistic for a child suffering from fetal alcohol effects. I loved how Penny called her Heavenly Father "Dr.God." Seeing the relationship development among Ryan and his children––especially Penny––was heartwarming. 

Since Carly and Ryan are not in their early-twenties, their perspectives on life are mature and realistic which is a refreshing change. The depictions of Los Angeles and even Kentucky, Carly's home state, came to life. I could see the smog, feel the salt-laden ocean breeze, and imagine the rolling, green hills of Kentucky. 

While the plot of Together With You held my interest, the characters are what attract attention. They are real. Additionally, the ending was sigh-worthy and tied all the loose ends wonderfully. If you're looking for a novel driven by characters that leap to life––whose commitment to Christ is real––and that will stay with you for a long time afterward, pick up a copy of Together With You. I highly recommend it and give it five stars.

What were your favorite books this past year? Did you read any of the books included in CBRB's Top Ten?

My second semester of college begins in a week and, unfortunately, this may be my only post for a while, but I would love to connect and stay in touch with you (that should motivate me to use social media more frequently;)! What is your favorite social media platform? Twitter? Instagram? Let me know––it is always wonderful to find readers who have similar tastes. If I could run into one lover of Christian fiction among the streets of NYC . . . that would be the day. 

Readers, I pray God blesses you abundantly in this new year. Keep living for HIM and . . . keep reading good books. 

Until next time!

~ Aizess