Tag Archives: reading

Picks from 2018

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 99 books in 2018. And that’s not counting Bible reading. Here are the books (and new-to-me music) that I’ve most enjoyed this year. Some were produced in 2018, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2018:

Book of the year: Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson (epic fantasy)

Christian living: The Dream of You, by Jo Saxton

Contemporary novel: Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay

Fantasy novel: The Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. Carr

Favourites revisited: The full “Cobra” series, all 9 books, by Timothy Zahn

Mystery/suspense novel: Guilty Blood, by Rick Acker

Science Fiction novel: Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson. Also notable: For Us Humans, by Steve Rzasa, Cold Welcome, by Elizabeth Moon, and Thrawn: Alliances, by Timothy Zahn

Series of the year: I’m liking the new Smithwell Fairies cozy mystery series from Karin Kaufman

Surprisingly fun: The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, by Wade Albert White

Thriller:  Stealthy Steps, by Vikki Kestell (techno-thriller)

New-to-me songs that blessed me most: “Living Hope,” by Phil Wickham, “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship, and “You Say” by Lauren Daigle… And “Even If,” by Mercy Me. Wow.

Picks from 2017

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 99 books in 2017. And that’s not counting Bible reading. Here are the books (and new-to-me music) that I’ve most enjoyed this year. Some were produced in 2017, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2017:

Christian living: Prayer Warrior and The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, both by Stormie Omartian

Contemporary novels: Soul’s Gate, by James L. Rubart, and Grace in Strange Disguise, by Christine Dillon

Favourites revisited: Where Eagles Dare, by Alistair MacLean

Historical novel: The Incense Road collection, by Tracy Higley

Mystery novels: Glass Houses, by Louise Penny, and Guilt by Association, by Heather Day Gilbert

Science Fiction novel: Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn

Series of the year: The Juniper Grove Cozy Mystery Series, by Karin Kaufman, and The Maple Syrup Mysteries, by Emily James, and an honourable mention to the Molly Sutton Mysteries, by Nell Goddin.

Fantasy novel: Elantris and Edgedancer, both by Brandon Sanderson

Thriller: Fault Lines, by Thomas Locke

Writing how-to: Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland

New-to-me musical artists of the year: All Sons and Daughters

Writers, Reading, and Comparisons

The books I most love to read are dangerous. Something, in the crafting or in the content, stirs a restlessness, an “I wish I could write like that.”

It’s important for writers to read words that leave us hungry to grow. We can study them for clues about how their author achieves whatever aspect of prose or poetry that we find so effective, to sharpen our own techniques.

That kind of comparison is healthy. It’s not the dangerous part. What trouble me are the whispers of doubt that make me want to hide the evidence that I’ve ever tried to write anything, and just kind of blend into the cushions of my couch.

As a beginning writer, I confronted the fear head-on: “Okay, what if I can’t write well? First, is there anything wrong with simply writing for fun? Second, if God gave me this gift, however rough its present packaging, isn’t it both wise and good manners to accept and use it? How else will I improve?”

Now, the comparisons keep me from being complacent about my words. They remind me that there’s always more to learn, and that there are better ways to apply what we know.

Whichever writer we’re currently admiring hasn’t always written at this level. Talents are developed and honed. We need to read carefully, learn from what we see, and apply it to our own skills.

Comparisons also remind me that we don’t all write for the same audience. One person’s delivery and style won’t work for another. We need to be true to our individual voices and not try to copy anyone else.

A symphony or a kazoo, crystal vase or clay jug, are equally useful in God’s hand to serve the people He designed them to serve. Mark Twain once said, “My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine — everybody drinks water.”

My writing friends, when we encounter excellent reads, let’s choose to learn and grow, instead of giving in to comparison’s dark side. Perseverance, it seems, is won in the mind.

Writers: Perseverance is won in the mind.

[A previous version of this post appeared under the title of “Comparison” in the September 2015 edition of FineTuned, the newsletter of author/editor Carolyn Wilker]

Guest Post: What’s on Your To Be Read Pile?

What’s On Your To Be Read Pile?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do you like how-to books? Memoirs? Novels? Do you carve out regular time for reading or is it hit and miss? Do bookstores and libraries draw you in with an irresistible pull?

As you may know, I’m eclectically interested. The same holds true of what I like to read.

Currently, I am actively reading the following:

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

We are reading this for our small group study at church. I was thrilled to find four of Chan’s books on Kindle for the price of one. I look forward to reading the other three volumes as well. (I also like listening to Chan’s teaching on RightNow Media.)

Beyond the Hate by Michael Bull Roberts

What happens when God gets hold of a former gang member and white supremacist? Well, He just may pave the way for said individual to visit the death camps in Germany and the poverty stricken in Africa. Mind-boggling! Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?

Writing Success by various authors

I rarely pre-order a book, but this one I did. If you write for the CBA (and even if you don’t), you may recognize some of the contributing authors, among them, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, Mary DeMuth, Tricia Goyer, and Susan May Warren. This book overflows with invaluable information for novice and experienced writers alike.

Fit for Faith by Kimberley Payne

This seven-week fitness program covers disciplines for both physical and spiritual health. Kimberley includes basic info, workouts, exercise descriptions, charts for the reader to fill out, and more. (I can’t call her “Payne.” She’s a personal friend. [grin]) It was my plan to work through it in January and February. I may have to extend this into March.

Humble, Hungry, Hustle by Brad Lomenick

I came across this teaching via COMPEL Training. This is the most unique leadership book I’ve ever read. I admit when I think of books in this category, I think “dry.” This is far from it. I’m really enjoying it. Even if you don’t usually read leadership books, you may want to check out H3.

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKuerst

Do I say yes too often. <averts eyes and hums> This book helps readers consider why they say yes when they shouldn’t. It equips them to say no in order to prepare for “the best yes.” The author is authentic and genuine and uses examples from her own life. I love that. I highly recommend this book as well.

Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves

Although my worldview is far different than Reeves’s, I am reading this for an online book club and it challenges me to consider how to express my individuality on the page. And it’s never a bad thing to learn to respectfully express one’s differences of opinions. If we don’t allow emotion to rule the day, we can gain a lot from an insightful debate.

The Red Fish Project by Andrew Gillmore

Andrew is the son of longtime family friends. I was thrilled to offer him encouragement about publishing his first book. (Turns out he’s got it pretty much figured out. His book is quickly rising through the ranks on Amazon.) Andrew loves to live abroad and doesn’t feel at home in “the West.” This book is an honest look at life in different cultures—and I stress the word “honest.” If you are offended by certain topics and the occasional inclusion of “colourful language,” you may not want to read The Red Fish Project. But if you want to know what makes this and other travelers tick, I recommend it.

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Lee

Always up for a good challenge—and checklists to mark off (I’m funny that way)—I have joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge. In order to nab some books to fit the various categories, I made a trip to our local library. There I found Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s book Between the Lines. It’s unique. It’s fabulous. It’s delightful. Can you tell I like this YA novel about fairy tale characters whose lives are completely different when the book is closed? There’s a second book in the series too. Woohoo!

The End Begins by Sara Davison

Do you fear the day when gathering with other Christians means you’re breaking the law? When you may be accused of crimes you didn’t commit? When you may be hauled off for interrogation? How would you feel holding a child and looking down the barrel of a gun? Would you beg for your freedom? Would you cower and comply? Or would you throw back your shoulders and challenge the one holding the gun? I haven’t gotten far into this novel, but I love the protagonist’s spunk and look forward to reading more.

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

Have you ever started watching a movie you didn’t really want to keep watching but you couldn’t help it? Yeah, that’s this book. It’s as if I’m trapped in the psych ward with the main characters. I feel desperate and claustrophobic just thinking about it. But that’s probably a good thing. Talk about being drawn into the story!

The Language of Sparrows by Rachel Phifer

From the beginning I knew this novel was going to be unique. It drew me in. This is one of those books that makes me think, “I wish I had more time to read.” How can a mother help when her daughter doesn’t fit in? When she fears her daughter has inherited her late husband’s mental health issues? When her daughter begins to spend time with a solitary older man?

This is the original list of books I want to read this year. I wonder how many I’ll get to … especially since I keep adding to the pile: 25 Books to Read in 2016

Scroll down to the comments form to tell us what’s on your list!

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Writing and Reading: Settings

Writers, do you prefer to “write what you know” geographically, or to discover new settings, real or imagined? Readers, what do you look for (or avoid) in a setting? Or does it matter?

Pop over to my guest post at International Christian Fiction Writers and join the conversation.

Top 10 Books From 2014

‘Tis the season for “best of 2014” lists, and here are  my picks for top 10 books I’ve read this year. (Goodreads tells me I read 64… ouch! And I know I didn’t record everything there.) Some were published in 2014, and some are older. These are in no particular order, and each one is best in its own category.

Non-fiction:

Fiction:

My stash of books to read is already intimidating, but how about sharing some of your picks from 2014? I can always add a few more…

My Favourite Genre

Stack of books and e-reader

This was my summer-reading stack a few years ago… some are still waiting…

Back to the biweekly writers’ blog hop again… this week we’re chatting about our favourite genres.

I love writing Christian suspense. Good thing, with two more books planned for the Redemption’s Edge series! I’ve dabbled in speculative fiction too, and that’s another genre I want to pursue. Still have those three characters sitting in a corner of my brain waiting for a science fiction plot.

But I thought Ruth L. Snyder‘s question for this week was about our favourite genre to read. I’m not quite as eclectically-interested as Steph Beth Nickel, but one look at my review list will confirm I’m pretty scattered. That’s a good thing for writers, because it keeps us learning.

Favourite genre: action/adventure, clean and fun. Best from a Christian worldview, whether it mentions God or not. It may show up in suspense, speculative, or historical. Any genre. If it makes me laugh too, that’s a bonus.

Feel free to leave me some reading suggestions in the comments, and share your own favourites.

And stop back tomorrow: there’ll be a special Saturday post with more birthday-month news.

Join me in visiting the other stops on the blog hop and checking out everyone else’s favourite genre(s). Just click the blog hop graphic below.

Blog hop for writers