Top Ten Reads of 2016

To begin the new year with a theme of gratitude and celebration (and because I really, really, really like to share my favorite books), I’ve compiled a list of the ten most beloved books I’ve read this year which I will present to you in countdown fashion.

*Disclaimer: While most of these books are recent releases, they were not all published in 2016. That was merely the year they were discovered and read by me. Sorry if I’m late to the bandwagon.

978176015357110) See How They Run: Ally Carter

“But guilt isn’t smart. It isn’t logical. It doesn’t only live in the places it belongs.”

I love me some Ally Carter and, while I was not quite sold on the first book in this series (due to some vital revelations that come far too late in the story for my personal preference), See How They Run more than made up for it. Now that I fully understood Grace’s character, I was far more sympathetic to her plight. Take a broken teenage girl and put her smack dab in the center of some international espionage? Yes, please.

 

9) Out of Sorts: Sarah Besseyout-of-sorts

“In most of my church tradition, no one ever mentioned the holy work of staying.”

My mother loaned me this book with the disclaimer that she did not agree with all of the theology. While the author shared a few thoughts I questioned, this book overall was such a beautiful, thought-provoking read about sorting through our questions, reshaping our beliefs, and becoming a better Jesus-follower through it all. Plus, the author gives a shoutout to the holy work of staying, and naturally that knocked me off my feet this year.

 

bff-bucket-list-9109319-high-res-687x10248) The BFF Bucket List: Dee Romito

This review may be a little biased because the author won me over with sponge candy and Scrivener tips long before I read her words in print. Or maybe it’s merely a fact that Dee’s writing is as amazing as she is. The BFF Bucket List is an adorable coming-of-age story about two friends who are growing up and growing apart and trying to salvage their life-long friendship. Not only is this book cute, clever, and funny, it also teaches a valuable lesson about friendship that even full-grown girls need to realize.

 

velvet-undercover7) Velvet Undercover: Teri Brown

This novel is a page-turner, no doubt about it. Just when I thought I had the situation figured out, the author would turn the tables on me and leave me questioning the things I thought I believed. This book is a cute, simple read that maintains an air of mystery. Definitely worth your time.

 

the-kiss-of-deception6) The Kiss of Deception: Mary E. Pearson

“The truths of the world wish to be known, but they won’t force themselves upon you the way lies will.”

Forget the fact that the title sounds like a bad romance novel, The Kiss of Deception is a brilliant work of art. The story follows Princess Lia as she flees an arranged marriage. A few weeks later, two strangers walk into the tavern where she now works. One is the jilted prince, the other is an assassin sent to kill her. And you, the reader, get to spend a couple hundred pages trying to figure out which one is which. Most amazing part of this book: the way it continues to grasp the reader’s interest even after the big reveal. Read it now. Thank me later.

 

3192645) I Don’t Wait Anymore: Grace Thornton

“We weren’t made to want mundane. We were made to want more. And there’s a reason for that… There is more to be had.”

When I published Beyond Waiting, people seemed all too eager to shove singleness articles my way. The only one that matched my stance on the subject was Grace Thornton’s I Don’t Wait Anymore. That article became a book this year and its message sings to this single girl’s soul. Take Grace’s advice, dear friends. Don’t wait.

 

A Gathering of Shadows Final4) A Gathering of Shadows: Victoria Schwab

“…getting close to death is the only way to feel alive. And once you do, it makes you realize that everything you were doing before wasn’t actually living. It was just making due.”

What? My favorite author only made #4? That’s for the cliffhanger ending, Victoria. Seriously, guys, I’m not even going to begin to tell you all the things I love about this book. Victoria Schwab is no fluffy writer. In addition to telling a compelling story, she ponders the deep things, the hard things, the monsters no one else wants to face. And I love her for it.

 

spinningstarlight3) Spinning Starlight: R.C. Lewis

“That’s the point of art… It reminds us that thinking is well and good, but feeling is what makes us alive.”

Any rendition of The Wild Swans is deserving of my attention. Any rendition that is flawlessly executed is worthy of a five-star review. Because honestly, how does one go about retelling the story of boys who live as swans by night and the sister who cannot speak lest she destroy them? This is how. R.C. Lewis has managed to accomplish something even Disney has not figured out: staying close enough to the original story to do Hans Christian Andersen proud.

 

51wvnwplbbl2) It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single: Sara Eckel

“What if the only reason you’re alone is you just haven’t met your partner yet?”

In this clever little handbook for the single woman, Sara Eckel combats all the well-known “reasons” people are single with a healthy dose of realism. If you ever need a pick-me-up that is not completely overboard with the “yay you, single-woman-hear-you-roar” statements, this is book for you. Every page is quotable, and the message Sara delivers is truth.

 

1) My Lady Jane: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

my-lady-jane-by-collected-authors“For everyone who knows there was enough room for Leonardo DiCaprio on that door. And for England. We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your history.”

As a child, I loved the cartoon Hysteria—a series that twisted history into humor and distorted many of the facts in favor of more fun alternatives. My Lady Jane is the novel version of Hysteria. I cannot remember the last time I devoured a book with such delight. I giggled. I squealed. I mentally high-fived the authors for references to classics such as Shakespeare, Monty Python, and The Princess Bride. Ladies, you had me at the dedication. I can only hope to see more books like this in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sound of Diamonds – Review of a Dream

sound of diamondsYou may remember a few months back, I posted the cover reveal of an upcoming novel. Well, because Rachelle is so anxious to share her dream with the rest of the world, I was given an ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Sound of Diamonds and asked if I would review it. And because I will ever be a lifelong fan of watching a dream come true, I accepted.

After I accepted, I grew very, very nervous. I had to write a review, and God knows I don’t know how to write anything other than honest reviews. What if I hated it?

This was a legitimate concern, especially since The Sound of Diamonds is a giant leap outside the typical genres I read. I don’t do Christian fiction anymore, I’m only drawn to Historical stories on occasion, and I never, ever touch Romance.

So here I am, breaking all my own rules because the internet has blessed me with this tenuous connection to Rachelle Rea and God has blessed me with a love for her that is beyond all logical reason.

The Premise (in Rebekah’s Paraphrase):

There’s this girl named Gwyneth and she’s in a bit of trouble, but she doesn’t realize how much trouble she’s in until this guy, Dirk, shows up to save her. However, she hates Dirk because, as far as she’s convinced, the jerk killed her parents. So of course she doesn’t go willingly, and Dirk sort of has to abduct her, which is another crime altogether, so he’s doing a really sloppy job of clearing his soiled name. But, hey, whatever. He has an entire cross-country trip to convince her of his innocence… which should give him just enough time to fall in love along the way.

My Thoughts:

Rachelle wrote a book! And it’s being published!

That was seriously on the forefront of my mind the entire time, so it was impossibly hard to focus on reading/reviewing.

But, seriously, for all you readers out there… I was mostly impressed with how Rachelle handled all the aspects of faith in her debut novel. I find most Christian fiction to be a little preachy and cliché—like someone who wanted to preach a sermon decided it would be cute to dress it up as a story.

The Sound of Diamonds is definitely not a sermon, even though there were countless Biblical truths scattered throughout the plot. While the setting of the Iconoclastic Fury presented a perfect opportunity to debate the differences between the Catholic and the Protestant faith, Rachelle managed to do so without straying from the storyline. The author’s relationship with God resounds clear as diamonds, and the characters’ purposes are further fulfilled through their expression of faith.

My greatest dislike in the reading of this book can probably be summed up by the simple fact that it is a Romance. This was not a cute little story with a dash of romance in it; it was ultimately about Dirk and Gwyn falling in love.

Well, duh, you’re probably thinking. That’s what a Romance is.

And you would be right. That is what a Romance is, and that is precisely why I don’t read that genre. I don’t believe in love at first sight, and romantic clichés leave me rolling my eyes or fighting a gag reflex. (This fact surprises most people, especially the ones who know I live and breathe fairytales. Call me a contradiction, but it’s just the way I work.)

So, the love story was hard for me, as I prefer a little less mooning over each other and a lot more butt-kicking action.

But I will say, The Sound of Diamonds did have a touch of that fairytale magic that I live for. Not the pumpkins or witches or hundred-year-curses that can be summed up in a handful of pages, but the kind of magic where blind eyes are given sight and the rogue becomes the redeemed and good triumphs in the end. (Oops. Spoiler alert.)

Not bad, Rachelle. Not bad at all. Sorry that Dirk and Gwyn couldn’t quite win me over with their love story. Maybe they’ll have another shot at it in Book 2.

Rachelle Rea

Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote the Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college. You can find her online at www.rachellerea.com

The Sound of Diamonds releases this very Monday—June 15th—so go check it out on Amazon.

The Day a Dream Comes True

I’m a published author. I have been for over a week now. And I’ve known I was going to be for a lot longer than that. But somehow I find myself having to look in the mirror and say it to myself over and over and over. Because it’s hard to believe in the day a dream comes true.

Since I was fifteen years old, I dreamed of writing something that someone other than my mother would read. Now I’m getting messages from young women I’ve never met, thanking me for writing the book that would help reshape their story. And I still can’t believe it’s happening. Can’t believe they’re thanking me – ME! – for something I did so reluctantly.

Because, you see, I didn’t want to write Beyond Waiting. If it had been entirely up to me, this book wouldn’t exist right now, those stories would not have been reshaped, and I would be someone else entirely. But thankfully, it wasn’t entirely up to me. Thankfully, I’m not quite as stubborn as I pretend to be. And thankfully, this unwilling vessel finally submitted to telling the story that God intended to tell with her life.

As a fifteen-year-old girl trying to envision my life as a writer, I didn’t imagine I’d one day be writing guest posts for Love and Grace Media and Start Marriage Right. And never in my wildest dreams was this the interview I would have with Misty Gatlin. Because I, too, have learned from Beyond Waiting. And perhaps what I’ve learned with most clarity is that there is often a difference between the story I want to tell and the story I need to tell. But I think I’m finally learning to tell the more important story – the story that needs to be told.

Because sometimes it’s the dreams we didn’t realize that were made for coming true.

The Beyond Waiting Journey {A Guest Post}

“Honestly, I can’t say that there was an exact moment [that started the Beyond Waiting journey]. I mean, there was the moment that I looked up the definition of the word ‘wait’ and realized that this is largely part of the reason why single women tend to struggle with their relationship status, but that’s just the time I decided to write the book.”

A few weeks ago, I connected with Becky Bernier to talk about the impact this Beyond Waiting journey has made on my life. Today, our reflective conversation goes live on her blog. So hop on over to Becky’s World and join the conversation about my heart for both the book and the movement that is taking place within my generation.

Oh Happy Day! Beyond Waiting’s Official Release

Two years ago, I told God “no.” Told Him I wasn’t meant to write non-fiction (as if I know my purpose better than He does). But today… Today is the day I’m officially proven wrong. Today is the day my reluctant “yes” becomes something tangible.

Today is the official launch of Beyond Waiting! Oh happy day!

Those of you who have followed my writing journey for awhile now understand that I’ve been dying to write this post… well, since the day I started this blog. But if you’re just stumbling into this, Beyond Waiting is the book that will challenge you to live life to the fullest – even when you’re tempted to slow down and merely “wait” for Prince Charming. (You can read the complete blurb here.)

But many of you have been asking for quite some time now… “Where can I get this book?” So, I’m happy to say that you can find it right now on Amazon or Barnes and Noble… whichever you prefer. Just click on the links provided and order your copy today!

Moving Beyond Waiting {A Guest Post}

I won’t be writing an article here on Beyond Waiting today because Love and Grace Media has been kind enough to let me share my story on their site this morning. (Thanks, Love and Grace!)

It all began with a single conversation. Just two girls talking about the unwanted absence of Mr. Right. It was one of those typical conversations where the one girl laments to the other girl that she’s tired of waiting. This forced the other girl to wonder, “What does it actually mean to wait?”

So I (who have, until this moment, been referring to myself in third person) went home and looked it up, thinking there was something we single women were missing, knowing there must be more to the waiting dilemma. Well, Google both did and did not answer my question. What it did not tell me was a great definition for the word “wait.” Quite the contrary, actually.  It seems that waiting, by definition, is just as discouraging as my friend expressed it to be.

Want to hear the rest of the story? Hop on over to Love and Grace Media and check it out!

Beyond Waiting – The Official Launch

Two years into the Beyond Waiting journey, we’re finally reaching the point of publication. That’s right. The official launch date for Beyond Waiting is May 3, 2012. Which means that in a mere three weeks, you’ll be able to order the book that inspired the blog. (I’m pretty sure that usually happens the other way around, but I’ve never been accused of doing things the normal way.)

Since my “once upon a time” journey has taken such an interesting turn and this blog hardly looks the way I once imagined it would, I thought you all could use a little refresher course in the actual subject of the book. So I’m giving you the front cover photo and the back cover blurb:

You are a complete person with thoughts and dreams and your own, unique personality, but it can be hard to hold onto yourself in a world that tells you to just keep waiting until the right guy comes along. Is this really the purpose of your single years?

In Beyond Waiting, you’ll discover the true meaning of the word wait and learn why life can be so discouraging if all you’re doing is pursuing that ever-elusive Prince Charming. A fresh spin on the fairytales you grew up with will have you yearning for more than happily ever after as you dare to step into the journey that lies within your once upon a time.

You were meant for so much more than merely waiting. So brace yourself for the most beautiful fairytale ever written – yours.

“Beyond Waiting is exactly the book that single Christian girls and women need to read. Rebekah Snyder powerfully weaves truth together in a way that is inspiring and motivating. The purpose of life is not to sit around and wait for Mr. Right. Instead, every woman should realize the thrilling adventure of following God into the unknown paths He has for her whether or not a man is involved. In this book Rebekah teaches us how to do just that. This book is a must read. It will change your life!” – (Shannon Primicerio, author of ten books including The Divine Dance)