Saturday, December 24, 2011

Suzie’s Short and Sweet Top Twelve List

Suzie’s Short and Sweet Top Ten Twelve List

Many of the books on my list have been reviewed here, either by me or one of the other Inkies. So instead of recapping reviews, I’m simply giving the skinny on my top favorites reads of the year.

There are only a few rules for inclusion on my list, but they’re important rules if a book is to live long and prosper on my keeper shelf.
  • If a book is contemporary, I have to fall so deeply in love with the characters that I’m totally pulled into their lives. I tend to get bored easily, so this is vital to hold my attention. I have to be invested in the characters in order to keep reading.
  • If a book is historical, it must be so vivid that it sweeps me into the timeframe. And it must also include that part about loving the characters.
  • If it’s not women’s fiction, it needs to either bring me to tears or split my sides with laughter.
  • If I’ve read it this year and it met the above criteria, it can be included even if it was published last year or the year before.

Now that we have that out of the way, here is my list in order of category (please note that all but two of these books are Christian fiction):

Contemporary Settings:
Mr. Monk on the Road by Lee Goldberg: I’ve read every Monk book, and this was in my top three favorites in the comedic mystery series. Monk tricks his agoraphobic brother into going on an RV trip.

The Heart of Memory by Alison Strobel: This Christian fiction novel was a most unusual, gripping and wrenching book about one woman’s experiences after a heart transplant.

Emily’s Hero by Sharon Gillenwater: True to real-life, Christian characters that fulfilled my criteria of pulling me into their lives and making me care about them.

Historical Settings:
Dance of the Dandelion by our own Inkie, Dina Sleiman: a Medieval romantic adventure that lives up to Dina’s promise of a lyrical story that dances with light.

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen: Like each of her other books, this one earned its spot as the book I anticipated most this year, and proved to be worth the wait.

Anything by T.L. Higley! This includes Petra, Pompeii, and The Colossus of Rhodes. What can I say? This is my new favorite author, I can’t choose just one, and Biblical fiction is quickly resurfacing on my must read list.

Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer: This debut novel packed a punch and is only the beginning of a long career for Anne. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Young Adult:
Before I list these, I just have to say, YA is not just for young adults. Anyone who appreciates a captivating story will love these books.

The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson: This is a two-for-one, because once you read one of these historical fairy-tale romances, you’ll absolutely have to read the other.

The River of Time Series by Lisa Bergren: This is a three-for-one, for similar reasons. This time-travel series takes readers to Ancient Italy and one heart-stopping adventure after another.

Both Historical and Contemporary:
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen: (Note: This is not Christian fiction) Set in present-day Boston, this book quickly takes readers into Boston’s past to solve a mystery. Less gritty and grizzly than most of this author’s books, there were times when this book had me almost fooled into thinking I was reading a Julie Klassen historical. The story and characters lingered in my mind long after I finished reading.

There you have it, my top ten favorite reads (be it individual books, series, or author) of the year. But wait! Is it okay if I sneak in two more?

One more contemporary…
Love Finds you in Carmel-by-the-Sea by Sandra Bricker: This was one memorable book, and fulfilled my laughing/crying criteria.

And one more historical…
Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews: This unusual story brought the Biblical character of Job to life for me, and only cemented my new desire to read more Biblical fiction.

There you have it, my top twelve favorite reads of the year.

But wait! Please, may I make it a baker’s dozen with one more historical?

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist: This book was way too fun to leave off the list, and it gave an insightful glimpse into the life of the Vanderbilts and their staff.

That was far more than I promised you, and I know there are at least three more I could list. In fact, I could probably go one for days. What can I say? This was a great year for reading, with new authors, new genres, and beloved favorites.

Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a blessed New Year with lots of good books to read!

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia's Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much too cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at


  1. Oh my goodness, Suzie! Imagine my surprise when I opened my google reader this morning and scrolled down to read your top ten--um, twelve--list! I am honored and humbled to be among such stellar authors. Bless you! And may you have a very merry Christmas. :)

  2. It is a wonderful book, Anne. Very well done, and I loved it so much. I truly can't wait to read the next book. Merry Christmas!

  3. Great list, Suzie. Happy to be on it. I must confess, though, that I've only read three of them so far.

    Girl on the Gatehouse would make my short list too. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell and In Honor Bound by our own DeeAnna Julie Dodson. Then three I read that came out in 2011 that I got sneak previews of: Jewel of Persia, Shadowed in Silk, and Love Finds You in Annapolis.

    I would also put a book by WhiteFire soon to be published. Walks Alone, a historical romance with a half-Indian hero. Awesome book coming out in early 2012. That was maybe my very favorite, but it's so hard to choose.

    I think my criteria would include the ones you mentioned, plus the writing craft and artistry must be awesome.

  4. Dina, I read LFY in Annapolis. I downloaded it the day Roseanna guest blogged here. It would be on my top fifteen list. ;-)

    And I agree about the craft. I won't even finish a book that's not well written.

    I must confess, I'm only just now beginning to recognize artistry in books. I learned it from you! And after reading your book, I found myself looking for that quality. I think it's very evident in Julie Klassen, Susan Meissner, and Lisa Bergren's books. Thank you for opening my eyes to artistry, Dina. :-)

  5. Very welcome. Yeah, I thought of a number of really powerful books, but that lacked that quality if were weak somewhere in the craft section.

    I also read a great womens fiction you would love, Suzie. Literary and full of hope and beauty despite a seemingly sad subject. It's a WhiteFire hopeful. Definitely laughed and cried throughout, but I don't want to name it until the committees had a chance to look at it.

  6. Hmm... I've read two of them, and have a third in my TBR pile.

    I'd have a really hard time making a list like this. Even with the Kindle reminding me the titles I've read, they become a happy hazy memory after the fact. Perhaps because I tend to find a cozy series and then read them straight through. (I've spent a lot of time this year with Victoria Thompson, Julie Hyzy, and Rhys Bowen.)

  7. Good list, Suzie! I've only read a few of them, but they were wonderful.

    Tomorrow, I get a kindle! Wahoo! Then I can read Barb's book.

    Merry Christmas!

  8. Dina, I hope I'll get the chance to read that book! Thanks for the tease. If you say I'll like it, I believe it.

  9. Oh, Barb, I love Julie Hyzy. She was one of my discoveries last year, and I'm waiting for the next book - should be another week or so and it'll be available.

    I've read lots of books this year, but these were the ones that lingered and still give me a good feeling when I think of them. :-)

  10. Susie, I can't wait for you to get your Kindle! I'm quite sure you'll love it. I love my Nook, and I really love that the publishers give us the opportunity to read samples before we buy. Enjoy!

  11. I love my kindle and you know? We can lend books between them.

    I love your list Suzie. I'm sorry to say I thought I commented earlier. I have a couple in mind to add to my list because I trust your opinion

    Dina made it on another list too!

  12. I have GOT to catch up. These all sound great . . . and I have at least half of them already!

    Merry Christmas, and my Santa bring me an extra three or four hours of reading time every day. :D

  13. Deb, I can't tell you how great it makes me feel to know you trust my opinion. Thank you!

    And hooray for Dina. I have a feeling she's going to make it on a lot of lists!

  14. DeAnna, get crackin'! Okay, just kidding. I know what it's like to not have reading time. I do hope you get your Christmas wish. ;-)

  15. Great list, Suzie. I see a few on there that I've been eyeing myself.

    I've only read Shadowed in Silk from your list. It was different from my usual romance, but thoroughly satisfying because of Christine's attention to descriptive history and the senses.

    My problem is that I need to read so much for research, I don't have enough time to read fiction.

    Gonna try and change that in the new year.

    From your other reviews, Suzie, I've found myself enjoying the books you read so I'm copying this list so it's handy on my iphone.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    Christmas blessings to all,

    Anita mae.

  16. Thank you, Anita Mae. I'm glad you like the books I read. You all are making me feel so good today. :-)

    Shadowed in Silk is actually on Dina's list. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

    I don't know if you should give up reading research books, Anita. I learn SO much from you!


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