Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 3

Welcome to the third and final discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! (Be sure to check out our first and second discussions too!) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 12-16. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 12-16

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic."
  • "This signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die. And all's one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted. And then, let us descend into the city and take the adventure that is sent us."
  • "I have heard of those little scratches in the crust that you Topdwellers call mines. But that's where you get dead gold, dead silver, dead gems. Down in Bism we have them alive and growing. There I'll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cupful of diamond juice. You won't care much about fingering the cold, dead treasures of your shallow mines after you have tasted the live ones in Bism." 
  • "On fine nights when the cold and the drum-taps, and the hooting of the owls, and the moonlight have got into their wild, woodland blood and made it even wilder, they will dance till daybreak. I wish you could see it for yourselves."
  • "You think I'm a ghost, or some nonsense. But don't you see? I would be that if I appeared in Narnia now: because I don't belong there any more. But one can't be a ghost in one's own country."
General Impressions

I'm quite satisfied with the ending of The Silver Chair! Once again, Puddleglum shines with stalwart faith as he bravely stomps out the fire that was messing with the heroes' minds while conversing with the Witch. It seems to me like some of C.S. Lewis's theology finds its way into Puddleglum's words... Overall, I do love his character, and the children's parting with him is quite adorable. But let me backtrack to discuss other things. ;)

The time between the Witch's defeat (huzzah!) and the heroes' arrival in Narnia is interesting. I'm intrigued by the land of Bism, and while it's not necessarily a place I'd want to visit, I do love Lewis's creativity in presenting the nature of gems! (See my third quote above.) How cool would it be if there were live gems? What would they taste like? How would they shine? So neat to imagine!

I also love the scene when Jill realizes they've reached Narnia and sees the Great Snow Dance! I love the way it's all described, and how it takes a while for disoriented Jill to notice the glow is actually from the moon and they're free. Such relief! And when Jill and Eustace are given hot drinks to enjoy, I then had to prepare myself a cup of hot cider to savor too. :)

As for the very end of the story, I'm a bit torn but mostly happy. The scenes with Caspian's death and then the meeting with Aslan are poignant. Ultimately so hopeful! But it feels like things are fixed so simply for Eustace and Jill upon their return to their world—almost too easy and perfect? I guess that's not a bad thing, though, when it reminds us that our circumstances matter to the God who sees and knows them, and He is more than able to work miracles in our lives for His glory and in accordance with His will. How the character of Aslan addresses the issue of a terrible school and bullies in Eustace and Jill's life is...interesting. That line about the Head of the school ending up in Parliament is pretty funny (and snarky)!

I should add that I love the last lines of the book and how they invite the reader to come visit Narnia and see the evidence of our heroes' journey. Makes it feel all the more tangible and epic!

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which part of the chapter featuring the Witch ("The Queen of Underland") impacted you the most?

2. Would you have been tempted to visit Bism if offered the opportunity? Why or why not?

3. How did you feel about the ending of the story—for Narnia, for Caspian, for Eustace and Jill?

4. What was your favorite line or scene in the whole book? If you've read the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, how does this one rank in your opinion?

To Conclude

Thank you so much for joining The Silver Chair read-along! I always love sharing and comparing thoughts with you all on some classics, and it's been fun to try something different (although I did so love our Jane Austen read-alongs too!). I hope you enjoyed reading this book, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the other titles in this series. (For me, I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might still be my favorite, but The Silver Chair could be a close second! I did enjoy it quite a bit. Granted, it's been a while since I read the other books...)

Next up, I'm planning to host a read-along for Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery in March. Stay tuned for more details!

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 190, 200-201, 218, 232, 253-254.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An Insightful Study on the Vital Truths of Colossians | Review of He Is Enough

About the Book
(from Moody Publishers)

Discover the Secret to a Full Life

We live in a world of scarcity. We say, “I don't have enough time… maybe when we have more money… if only I had a little more help…” But Scripture says if we have Jesus, we have enough.

In this 6-week study of Colossians, Asheritah Ciuciu leads readers to discover the life-altering importance of Jesus' sufficiency and sovereignty. And you don't need hours a day to enjoy this Bible Study. Each day's study contains two paths:
  • Snack on the Go: a bite-size morsel of truth to chew on throughout your busy day 
  • FEAST: a dig-deep guide to maximizing the “meat” you're getting out of your Bible study 
  • PLUS! a supplemental "Serving and Leading" section that includes service challenges for making theory a reality 
You can enjoy this study in whatever way works best for you. Discover the joy and freedom that abounds when we know deep in our hearts that Jesus truly is enough.

Available Now!

My Review

He Is Enough provides an insightful and encouraging study on the book of Colossians. The format offers two options for each day: a quick and simple route, and a more in-depth study. There is a lot to love about this book, and I hope that fact will shine through by the end of my review!

I'll admit, I struggled. As in, I received the Bible study in June 2018, did some of it that summer, and then didn't finish until the first month of 2019. I think there might be a few reasons for that, one being that, as a reviewer, it feels like there might be a bit more pressure in approaching the study and being thorough about it.

The truth is, I wasn't as thorough as I probably should have been. I started out trying to answer most of the questions, but I quickly (sadly) ditched that route. I figured if I wanted to actually make it through the Bible study in order to review it, I "needed" to be willing to skip questions (read them, but not answer them all).

Honestly, the book provides that sort of grace already in its format, by giving you a choice each day on how in-depth you'll go. I just chose a different route, of sorts, by reading through the longer sections and choosing which questions to answer. It's not that I recommend this path; I just want to be up-front in my review. If I had put more time into answering questions than the weekly coloring, that might have been an even better choice. (Although I did appreciate the lovely coloring pages!)

All that to say, if you go the long ("FEAST") route each day and answer every question (or even go through the leaders' guide in the back along with the study), it's going to take time and energy. It's going to take a big commitment. But in the end, you're likely to get a lot more out of the experience and have an even richer understanding of Colossians.

Now, did I still find it worthwhile to go through even some of the study? Absolutely!

I'm truly grateful for God's gracious timing, because there was a day in Week 3 of the study (which I didn't get to until this month) that touched me deeply. I ended up journaling about it and was so blessed by the way God's Word lovingly spoke to my struggles and wrong attitudes. And I'm grateful this Bible study pointed me to those verses and helped me in pondering them afresh.

And it's not just that day's lesson that was meaningful to me. There's plenty more to gain in studying Colossians and having a better understanding of particular passages and the main message. This study is great about helping you really observe the biblical text, and it also gives an awesome and useful tip for memorizing verses, so we can better hide God's Word in our hearts (see Psalm 119:11).

Whether this study takes you six weeks or six months, and even if you find yourself "snacking" more often than "FEAST-ing," there's a lot to learn from it. Colossians is most definitely worth diving into, and the truth of Jesus's sufficiency is vital to dwell on and remember. In He Is Enough, you'll find lots of great info, food for thought, important questions to address, and various extras to help you get into God's Word.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Reviews of Other Asheritah Cicuciu Books

Monday, January 28, 2019

January 2019 Reads + a Few Reviews

We are now just a few days away from February! I'm excited for the month of Valentine's Day...and to be even a bit closer to spring and the end of winter. :) But first, I thought I'd share about my reads from this month!

You can see in the snipped image above (or at this link) what I finished in January. (I believe I started both Price of Privilege and For What It's Worth before January, so that helped! Not to mention Blizzard at Three Bears Lake and Maggie's Song are both very short reads.)

I rated all except a couple of the book 4 stars. I gave P.S. I Like You and Maggie's Song 5 stars. So, they're all great stories! The nice thing is that I'm mostly at a point where I'm reading what I want to read. I still have some books I was given with the hope or expectation that I would review them, but not so many as I used to have. And I've been going through my shelves, picking out titles I don't really think I'd like or want to try. If I start a book I'm not obligated to read and don't want to finish it, then I typically remove it from my shelf (as well as on Goodreads).

Anyway, of these nine books, four were paperbacks from my shelf, three were ebooks on my Kindle, and two were library finds. I'll share a few quick reviews below! (If you'd like more of my thoughts on The Silver Chair—and you don't mind spoilers—be sure to check out The Silver Chair read-along posts.)

For What It's Worth by Karey White

My Rating

My Review

Karey White's stories are so readable, filled with must-see locations and sweet adventures! It was a lot of fun to immerse myself in the world of a wedding cake business, from its beginning to its booming success. The recipes in these chapters (not just pertaining to cakes!) are enticing, and some definitely seem worth trying. I loved the mention of Victoria, British Columbia, as well; my family and I have made a lot of delightful vacation memories there.

For What It's Worth has a clever premise and great descriptions of the bakery and various aspects of starting and running such a neat business. One thing I didn't care for as much was the direction of the theme... There are some interesting thoughts regarding "worth," but I didn't like the emphasis at one point on becoming "worthy" of love and blessings (in a sense, earning them), instead of growing and loving from the foundation of God's grace. (But I did appreciate the encouragement to show what's worth the most to you by your priorities.) 

All in all, a sweet, gently romantic reading experience.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

My Review

This is the second Kasie West book I've read, and it's definitely my favorite of the two! (The other being The Fill-In Boyfriend, which was still good!) This one has an engaging high-school plot that keeps each chapter interesting, great characters (including a fun family and a more-than-meets-the-eye hero), and a lot of sweetness. I loved the letters between the hero and heroine, of course, but I also loved the heroine's interactions with her little brothers and the way this story promotes forgiveness, character growth, and supportive love.

Maggie's Song by Karey White

My Review

This is one of those short-but-sweet ebook novellas! I enjoyed that the story covers a guided outdoor trip in Arizona—showcasing Karey White's great descriptions. (I love the locations and activities she chooses to feature in the stories I've read by her.) Maggie's Song doesn't include any super exciting plot points, but the characters are endearing and the backdrop inviting. There's a scene toward the end that's very clever and cute. :) I don't want to ruin the surprise meaning behind the title, but I will say that I absolutely loved and appreciated the reference. Just a little, adorable story about being brave when it comes to romance!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 2

Welcome to the second discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! (You can check out our first discussion HERE.) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 7-11. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

And we're off!

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 7-11

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "Puddleglum's question annoyed her because, deep down inside her, she was already annoyed with herself for not knowing the Lion's lesson quite so well as she felt she ought to have known it."
  • "It's no good, Pole. I know what you were thinking because I was thinking the same. You were thinking how nice it would have been if Aslan hadn't put the instructions on the stones of the ruined city till after we'd passed it. And then it would have been his fault, not ours. So likely, isn't it? No. We must just own up."
  • "The children huddled close together on each side of Puddleglum. They had thought him a wet blanket while they were still above ground, but down here he seemed the only comforting thing they had."
  • "There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this."
  • "Oh, if only we knew!" said Jill. "I think we do know," said Puddleglum. "Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?" said Scrubb. "I don't know about that," said Puddleglum. "You see, Aslan didn't tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign." 

General Impressions

Well, quite a lot happens to our three adventurers in these chapters! It definitely seemed obvious that all the talk of a giants' feast would include the three smaller creatures on the menu...but as they admit to themselves later on, their arrival at Harfang is filled with the children's hopes and expectations, not wisdom and caution and a focus on their mission.

I like the turn the story takes when Eustace and Jill finally wake up from their self-absorption (I can sadly relate to how it easy to get caught up in a quest for comfort!). It's great to see them work together, along with Puddleglum, in order to escape the giants' castle.

And um...the Deep Realm they unwittingly discover is creepy! (It also has me wishing I could remember more details from The Last Battle; surely some of the things we learn in this story about the sleeping creatures and Father Time come up again in the last book...?)

Then there's the Black Knight and our introduction to the silver chair and its significance. I'm so proud of Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum for choosing to stick to Aslan's sign rather than heed their own limited (and sometimes false) knowledge, uncertainties, and fears! And I love how Puddleglum is proving to be a great role model for the other two through his unwavering faith in who Aslan is, and through his unwillingness to be taken in by appearances or creature comforts.

It's a relief to have Prince Rilian set free from enchantments...but what a cliffhanger! I'm eager to see how the group escapes the Deep Realm.

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which character's journey/growth resonates with you the most so far? Do you relate more to Eustace, Jill, or Puddleglum—or perhaps Prince Rilian?

2. Did you find yourself liking the giants at any point in these chapters, or did they seem like villains to you from the beginning?

3. Which moment in these chapters made you feel the most emotion, be it frustration, relief, aversion, eagerness, or happiness?

4. What are your first impressions after meeting Prince Rilian and seeing the role of the silver chair in the story? If you've read the book before, do you remember what you felt when you read chapter 11 and discovered the truth about the Black Knight?

Join us next Thursday for our third and final discussion! 
(Chapters 12-16)

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 103, 123, 153, 160, 175.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 1

Welcome to the first discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! We already have so much to discuss from the first part of the book; an adventure is underway! Before we get started, though, if this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 1-6. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

Off we go...

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 1-6

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "Scrubb saw that she wasn't quite herself yet and very sensibly offered her a peppermint."
  • "I've an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don't think he'd like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him."
  • "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you." 
  • "Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances." 
  • "The window looked west into the strange land of Narnia, and Jill saw the red remains of the sunset still glowing behind distant mountains. It made her long for more adventures and feel sure that this was only the beginning." 
  • "Puddleglum's my name. But it doesn't matter if you forget it. I can always tell you again." 
General Impressions

Such an interesting start to Eustace and Jill's journey!

The more that's shared about the school they're attending, the more I dislike it. And yet, I love that Eustace has obviously grown and changed since his first time in Narnia in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it's even noticeable to the bullies at his school. I also appreciate the depiction of Eustace, showing that while he's different, he's still imperfect and has his struggles. He's been changed, but so far he still displays some temper and doesn't perfectly keep his focus on Aslan's mission. He's still growing.

I'm curious to see how Jill and Eustace end up getting along as the story progresses. I like how Eustace reaches out to her at the beginning (imperfect but sweet as his gestures may be), and I like that Jill is open to believing his accounts of Narnia. She's easily distracted, but definitely up for an adventure. :)

Jill's first interaction with Aslan has a lot of food for thought. I love some of the lines (see my favorites above) and how they serve as such great spiritual reminders of God's sovereignty and our "mountaintop versus valley" experiences—and how we should cling to the truths in God's Word when we find ourselves in both life's day-to-day and incredibly difficult valleys.

Before meeting his character in The Silver Chair, I think I imagined Puddleglum being like Gloppy from the Candy Land board game... With his description as a Marsh-wiggle in the "Cast of Characters" section (which is included in other books in the series, from what I recall), as well as the nature of his name and where he lives, it just seemed like he must be some sort of swamp monster or something, LOL. I'm pleasantly surprised by how adorably frog-like he is! His attitude and words can be a bit much, but he seems to be a wise and generous creature. I'm looking forward to seeing how his role plays out in the mission/story.

Also, loved the reference to a group of owls being called a "parliament" and how that was demonstrated! Too fun.

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. What do you think of Jill's first impressions of Aslan and Narnia? If you were in her shoes, how might you react to the Lion and the new world in which you arrived?

2. Which scene or character has made you laugh (or smile) the most so far? What makes it (or him/her) so amusing?

3. How did the recounting of Prince Rilian's disappearance make you feel? If this is your first time reading the book, do you have any theories about what happened to him and why? If you've read the book before, did you notice anything new or more impactful when rereading this scene?

4. What do you think has been Jill and Eustace's greatest challenge so far on their journey? What do you think they might struggle with in the future based on how they've already acted?

Join us next Thursday for our second discussion! 
(Chapters 7-11)

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 3, 7, 23, 25-26, 42, 69.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Announcing a Spring New-Adult Blog Tour (Plus an Exciting Contest from the Author!)

Coming this spring...a blog tour celebrating Eniola Prentice's second installment in the Still series, Mercy! The series features four main characters who are medical students navigating relationship drama and the challenges of college life.

Tour participants can...
  • Review an e-copy of Mercy (and book 1, Still, if you'd like!)
  • Share your own experience or lesson from college
  • Interview the author or feature a post from her 
  • Spread the word about the book release with a fun giveaway
You can sign up by filling out the form at the link below...

To learn more about the book and author, read on...

About the Book

Set at the fictional Stedman College of Medicine, Mercy is a continuation of an epic four-part new-adult series that illustrates the redemptive power of the cross.

Fadesola Cardoso 
The secret that could destroy Fadesola’s carefully constructed facade is out…but the consequences aren’t what she expected. Now she must navigate the treacherous waters of being in love with two men. Will she realize that her healing lies not with them but with the God she struggles to trust—before bitterness consumes her?

Ladi Adeoti 
Ladi is in love with Fadesola. But as their second year of medical school begins, his character will be tested like never before. With new challenges around every corner, can he ever hope to live up to the impossible expectations of those he loves?

Tayo Smith
Tayo is finally coming to terms with the mistakes of his past—but the revelation of Fadesola’s secret could make it impossible for him to be with Nikky, the one he truly loves. Just as his life starts to fall apart, hope arises in the most unexpected place.

Nikky Abe 
Nikky is coping with loss, questioning everything she has ever believed in—except, perhaps, for Tayo. But their imperfect relationship is about to face its biggest test yet…

About the Author

ENIOLA PRENTICE was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where she began to pen her stories at nine years old. Her budding writing career was put on the back burner when she pursued her dream of becoming a medical doctor. She completed her undergraduate studies in Chicago, Illinois, and received her medical degree in Washington, DC. However, in her third year of medical school, she became inspired to write again by the unique stories of her friends, which led to the release of her debut novel, Still. She hopes that her writing compels and challenges her readers, drawing them to the Christian God’s redeeming love.

Website // Amazon

Note to Potential Reviewers

Mercy is book 2 in a four-part series. You can choose to review books 1 and 2 together—or book 2 on its own. The Still series is inspirational fiction with mature, new-adult themes, featuring characters in college. There is no explicit sexual content, although the series includes reference to rape (in the past).

Bonus Contest from the Author!

Grab your free copy of book 1 in the series, Still, then send the download link to your friends or post it on social media (Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook). Please tag Eniola's social media pages if you do this:

Instagram: @eniolaprentice
Twitter: @eniolaprentice
Facebook: Eniola Prentice

Encourage downloads in other creative ways. The person with the most attributable downloads of the novel will win!

How will the downloads be attributed to you? Tell your friends to use your name as their last name on the BookFunnel download page (in the sign-up form).

For example, Jane Reeds sends the link to her friend Sally Dorm. When Sally clicks "Get My Book" and signs up for Eniola's e-newsletter, she writes Sally Dorm Jane Reeds in the "First Name" slot.

**The Prizes**
  • $100 e-gift card of your choice 
  • A character in Mercy (book 2) named after you!
Remember, you can find the BookFunnel link HERE or by clicking the image below. The contest ends January 31, 2019. Void where prohibited. Good luck!

Friday, January 4, 2019

You're Invited: The Silver Chair Read-Along

It's almost time for another read-along! I love the motivation these provide to complete some classics by reading and discussing them with you. :)

I ran a poll the last two days via Twitter to help me decide which book to pick...but the results were pretty even across the board! Out of eight votes, three went to Anne of Avonlea, three went to The Silver Chair, and two went to Emily of New Moon.

If I'm remembering correctly, The Silver Chair is the one book I have left to read in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. So, with the desire to finally finish the series (plus the fact that I'm currently reading Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac, which features two Narnia fans as the main characters!), I've broken the tie and chosen The Silver Chair for January. I so hope you'll join the journey!

(I'm thinking I might host a read-along for Emily of New Moon in March, for those who are eager to discuss an L.M. Montgomery story. Stay tuned!)

Now, here are the details for this read-along...

  • We'll read 1 chapter per day during the weekdays (for a total of 16 chapters). This will give us a few weekends to get ahead or catch up, if needed!
  • Discussions will take place here on Thursdays (the 17th, the 24th, and the 31st). 
  • The plan is to start reading on the 10th, but feel free to start sooner if you'd like! 
  • Use the hashtag #SilverChairReadAlong on Twitter to share your thoughts or favorite quotes/scenes as you read.

I had so much fun hosting read-alongs for Jane Austen's main works: Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Sense & Sensibility. Now we're off on a new adventure with a very different genre. I'm looking forward to comparing and sharing thoughts on The Silver Chair!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018

Happy New Year, friends! I'm writing this a few days before 2019 arrives, and I'm so excited to share some of my favorite reads from this past year before diving into the new one. :)

Compared to the last two years, I read and blogged quite a bit more in 2018, which has been fun! In 2019, I hope to go a little deeper in my blog posts. Not necessarily longer posts—just maybe a bit more personal and creative. Like more devotions or inspirational thoughts on what I've read (instead of standard reviews). We shall see! I also hope to continue reading more of the books I already have, which are many!

Anyway, in 2018 I read more than 75 books. (As compared to about 27 in 2017 and 44 in 2016.) Yay! I met two of my bookish resolutions: reading Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility, and reading more than 50 books. I didn't finish going through my stack of older review books, but I did make progress. And 2019 awaits!

Now, of the books I marked as "read" on Goodreads (at least one of which I started before 2018, but still finished this past year), here are my top 10 first-time reads in no particular order...

East by Edith Pattou

This was a gift from a friend that I finally read, and it's epic! Beautiful writing, a fascinating fairy tale, and a vast adventure. 

Burning Sky by Lori Benton

It took a while for me to get into this one, and it's sometimes a slower read, but it truly is wonderful, especially when it comes to the main characters and the wild frontier setting. And that ending!

{Read my review}

Can you believe I've taken so long to start this trilogy? Friends, it's so unique and intense! I'm sure I'll include Price of Privilege (book 3) among my favorites too, but I've just started it. I can't wait to see how the series ends!

{Read my reviews of book 1 and book 2}

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

I absolutely loved this historical novel! The research, the photographs and illustrations, the relationship between the hero and heroine, the charm of it lovely. (And I adore that cover too!)

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

A young-adult romance set (in part) in a cemetery in Italy. This one won me over with its relationships and setting!

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Another sometimes-slow historical novel, but with interesting characters, echoes of Christy by Catherine Marshall, and some thoughts to ponder. A lovely read!

{Read my review}

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

I listened to more audiobooks this year, and it's hard to pick a favorite! There were a lot of great ones. (You'll find another in my bonus 5-star list below.) This one is a bit odd and bizarre, but the audiobook experience is just so much fun! The narrator went wild with the characters and accents, and I greatly enjoyed it. Also, G and Jane are the cutest. ♥

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

I'm so glad I finished this before the end of the year; it's definitely worth adding to my top-ten list! It's a beautifully written story (alternating between contemporary and historical) that depicts such powerful hope in tragic and dark circumstances.

{Read my review}

The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder

Okay, the characters in this steampunk story are just so good! Totally the stars of the show. But the descriptions and the fun fantasy adventure are great too. ;)

{Read my review}

The Rose and the Briar by J.M. Stengl

It was hard to narrow down this list; some of the 5-star reads mentioned below are definitely deserving too! But I loved the uniqueness and fun of the stories like My Lady Jane, The Electrical Menagerie, and this one, so I had to pick them. The Rose and the Briar has such delightful descriptions of gardens and magical topiaries, plus a cute Sleeping Beauty romance.

{Read my review}

Other 5-Star Reads...
Thank you for checking out my favorite reads of the year! I'd love to hear which books stole your heart in 2018. :)