This is a group of just a few of my all-time favorite reads, ones that I fell in love with from the start and have read over and over again. There are plenty more where these came from, but I thought I’d start you off slow. Enjoy!
Sigh. Swoon. Gasp. Shout out things like, “Oh, not again!” Sob. Laugh. Repent. Exhale. Smile.
*****This is my reaction every time I read “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. My favorite author of all time (and my top five favorite book of all time), Rivers has this incredible God-given knack for sucking her readers in and making them lose, love, and discover God in every story. I have read “Redeeming Love” five or so times, and each time is just as impacting. A more “modern” spin on the true story of Hosea and his wife Gomer set in, as I recall, the nineteenth century. This novel is definitely not for the faint of heart as Rivers accurately paints the horrifying and restraining life of a prostitute sold into the business at an extremely tender age. Michael Hosea—insert swoon here—sees Angel walking on the street one day and knows she is the woman God has for him. After repeated attempts to win her over, Michael eventually gives up on her and her stubborn refusal of his offer of marriage, though something draws him back to the brothel one day in time to save Angel from being beaten to death. Bought out of slavery by Michael and married to him when she thought she wouldn’t make it, Angel resents the kind and oober handsome farmer and all the “charity” he sends her way, unbelieving that love can truly exist between a man and woman after all she has seen. But Hosea continues to love Angel even when she loathes him and does everything in her power to destroy him, and the former prostitute is terrified when her armor begins to slip away. But the man she is beginning to care for can never know all the filth that lies beneath her beautiful façade, and that fear begins to destroy the fragile relationship and life they built together. If you read the book with the perspective of Hosea—the most fantastic man you will ever read and swoon over—being just a man, then you might have some unrealistic expectations of how much you can push a guy and still have him come after you time and time again. But Francine uses Michael as a representation of a relentless God who pursues those who shove the love He offers back in His face, and who still manages to care for His beloved when she—or we—run in the opposite direction when our fears become too much to bear. This book will rip your heart out and mend it over and over again, and you’ll probably end up on your hands and knees by the end of it.
***** I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this book! I was ready for it to be Twilight 5, which was why I was so hesitant to read it and stuck up my nose at my sister Elizabeth when she brought it home. Now I am on my hands and knees pleading for forgiveness and eating a big ol’ helpin’ of humble pie. It usually doesn’t go down too well, but I ate it with relish in my unashamed excitement over having loved this book. With all the negative emotion and—yes—snobbishness I originally had toward “The Host,” I was pleasantly surprised that Stephanie pulled me into the interesting story and characters fairly quickly. If you don’t already know, the book is about aliens. Now, if you are aware of the fact that I own all the seasons of “Roswell” on DVD, you might think that I just gravitate toward science fiction. Well, okay, I do. BUT, in defense of my attraction to sci-fi, I am also very particular about it and was ready to scoff at Meyer’s latest work. Yes, I did chuckle at some of the alien names before they took on human ones, such as Fords Deep Waters or Plays with Squirrels, or whatever—at first I couldn’t tell if it was a Hopi Indian tribe or alien faction—and some of the planets were a little cheesy—octopi that holds hands under the sea and tell stories? Really? But the story picks up about 100 pages through and keeps readers constantly engaged, and I honestly could not put it down. Fun Fact: If you look at my Daughters of the King post I did back in June, you should know that the book we freaked out about finding in Barnes and Noble was “The Host” on sale. ^__^ Meyer also surprised me with a carefully crafted science fiction plot; the aliens are, of course, taking over the world to make it a more “peaceful” place by inserting the small alien souls into human hosts, taking over their bodies and basically “erasing” them to better the world. The protagonist in the story, an alien named Wanderer, is somehow unable to erase her host, Melanie, and the memories that she tries to thrust on the alien to get her to the desert in search of Melanie’s brother and her lost love. What they discover is a group of “the last” humans struggling to bring their lost ones back to them and get the stinkin’ aliens off their planet! But these humans see Wanderer only as an invader and an enemy deserving death, and this hardened group is unwilling to believe that a human could still exist once taken over. The whole alien-host connection was very intricate and carefully handled in the book, and I love the warring emotions. What happens after that is a whole lot of awesomeness! Love squares involving the host and “soul,” fascinating characters whom you never know if they’re going to turn or not, fantastic leading males, Seekers coming for the rogue soul and her host, and a lot of surprising plot twists that left me reeling and whooping and gasping. I actually cried at the end of the book and was so satisfied with how it was all tied up. It was refreshing to have a level-headed, selfless, not overly obsessive protagonist in the story, and I was especially surprised to see so much character development and growth in my favorite people. And I was even shocked to see how Meyer molded certain relationships between characters to show both physical and more intellectual and emotional bonds. All in all, I highly recommend!
*****I have read most of Kristen Heitzmann’s series and novels, and although she is a fantastic author, for some reason I have never read her books more than once. Except, of course, for the six or so times I’ve read “The Edge of Recall.” If I own a book, you know it’s good because I only read the ones I love love more than once (on my shelf I have copies of “Redeeming Love”, “The Edge of Recall”, and “The Host”, so you know I must love love them). Okay, so the novel is about a landscape architect, Tessa Young, who specializes in the design and creation of labyrinths, immersing herself in her job in search of God and an answer to the fears and nightmares that have been plaguing her since she was young. But—oh, sweet delight!—when she receives a call from Smith Chandler, her old flame from college who broke her heart, to work with him on the project of a lifetime, it’s too much for Tessa to resist. The overgrown labyrinth surrounding the abbey Smith is trying to reconstruct pulls at Tessa’s soul, and so does her long-ago love. But the nightmares and fears she has dealt with for so long are now making their way into reality, and the two reluctant lovers embark on a journey to uncover the secrets behind the memories before it is too late for either of them. Written in an engaging and fast-paced fashion with suspense and unexpected action, “The Edge of Recall” left me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I still get goose bumps when I read about the nightmare that stalks the labyrinths. Even when you think the danger is over, there’s still more to uncover, and I love that in a novel. Tessa was a little emotional for my taste—but who can blame her?—but she steps up in the end and really sticks up for herself. If you enjoy good Christian suspense with a psychological twist and a delicious smattering of romance, then you should definitely check out “The Edge of Recall.” Utter delight!