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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

December 10, 2018

Sue's Best of 2018 Book List #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

2018 is coming to an end.  I have exceeded my reading goal and have read some fantastic books this year which makes it even more difficult to pick my favorites.  The best I could do is to come up with my top 15 books - I just couldn't narrow it down to 10.  The books are in alphabetic order by author and there are links so you can see my original review from Girl Who Reads (and since I often review groups of books together you will often discover more great reads by following the link).

Amazon is offering $5 off $20 book orders until 11:59 pm (PST) on December 21, 2018 with code GIFTBOOK18. (Terms & Conditions)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site.

A few interesting statistics from my reading list for this year:
  • I've read 214 books and hope to make it to 220 by year-end.  My original goal was 150 which is the most I've ever read in one year.  I LOVE retirement!
  • 80 of the books I read were 5 star books. 10 of those books would have gotten more than 5 stars if it was possible.
  • I was unable to finish 10 books.
  • I read
    • 60  historical fiction  (of these 24 were about WWII)
    • 30  psychological suspense
    • 22 Southern fiction
    • 6 non-fiction
    • 2 dystopian fiction
  • Less than 8% of the books I read were by male authors.

The Taster by V. S. Alexander

The Taster
This is a fantastic war story about a subject that we don't usually read about. It's a story about love and courage in the face of war. Read my full review.

In early 1943, Magda Ritter's parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty--working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Fuhrer's food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.

Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation--though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich's atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.

Buy The Taster at Amazon

Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle

Three Days Missing
WARNING - clear your calendar before you open this book because you aren't going to want to stop reading once you start. Read my full review.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.
Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

Buy Three Days Missing at Amazon

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant
Chris Bohjalian's new book is an intricately plotted suspense novel. It also made Donna's best book list. Read my full review and also read what Donna thought of it.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean—or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Buy The Flight Attendant at Amazon

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

How to Walk Away
This is one of those books that you won't put down once you start reading it. It's extremely well written with characters that are easy to love (and a few who are easy to dislike). Read my full review.

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

Buy How to Walk Away at Amazon

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter
When I read the blurb for this book and saw that it was about time travel, I was a bit reluctant to read it but since it was an author that I love, I decided to give it a chance. Once I started reading it I quickly realized that it was as fantastic as other Diane Chamberlain books, I was hooked. Read my full review.

When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back.

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby's heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline's part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

Buy The Dream Daughter at Amazon

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Rain Watcher
I am normally a very fast reader but I read this book slowly so that I could savor every word and marvel at the way the family secrets were brought to the light. Read my full review.

The Rain Watcher is a powerful family drama set in Paris as the Malegarde family gathers to celebrate the father's 70th birthday. Their hidden fears and secrets are slowly unraveled as the City of Light undergoes a stunning natural disaster. Seen through the eyes of charismatic photographer Linden Malegarde, the youngest son, all members of the family will have to fight to keep their unity against tragic circumstances.

In this profound and intense novel of love and redemption, De Rosnay demonstrates all of her writer's skills both as an incredible storyteller but also as a soul seeker.

Buy The Rain Watcher at Amazon

The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette

The Fourteenth of September
There will be some readers who will consider this book historical fiction. Other readers, like me, who lived through this tumultuous year, will consider this book as a reminder of what life was like. Read my full review.

On September 14, 1969, Private First Class Judy Talton celebrates her nineteenth birthday by secretly joining the campus anti-Vietnam War movement. In doing so, she jeopardizes both the army scholarship that will secure her future and her relationship with her military family. But Judy’s doubts have escalated with the travesties of the war. Who is she if she stays in the army? What is she if she leaves?

When the first date pulled in the Draft Lottery turns up as her birthday, she realizes that if she were a man, she’d have been Number One—off to Vietnam with an under-fire life expectancy of six seconds. The stakes become clear, propelling her toward a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any draftee.

Buy The Fourteenth of September at Amazon

The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Secret to Southern Charm
Note - this is Book 2 in the Peachtree Bluff series. You need to read these books in order to get the most enjoyment out of them. Read my full review.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

Buy The Secret to Southern Charm at Amazon

In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt

The Shadow of 10,000 Hills
This is a beautiful well-written novel about a horrific event in world history - the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. It's about love and creating our families not from blood but from the people who mean the most to us. Read my full review.

In 1968, Lillian Carlson left Atlanta, disillusioned and heartbroken, after the assassination of Martin Luther King. She found meaning in the hearts of orphaned African children and cobbled together her own small orphanage in the Rift Valley alongside the lush forests of Rwanda.

Three decades later, in New York, Rachel Shepherd, lost and heartbroken herself, embarks on a journey to find the father who abandoned her as a young child, determined to solve the enigma of Henry Shepherd, a now-famous photographer.

When an online search turns up a clue to his whereabouts, Rachel travels to Rwanda to connect with an unsuspecting and uncooperative Lillian. While Rachel tries to unravel the mystery of her father's disappearance, she finds unexpected allies in an ex-pat doctor running from his past and a young Tutsi woman who lived through a profound experience alongside her father.

Buy In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills at Amazon

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage
This was an outstanding novel. It's the first book that I've read by this author but it won't be the last - in fact, I just ordered one of her earlier books. Read my full review.

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-illusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.

Buy An American Marriage at Amazon

The Man She Married by Cathy Lamb

The Man She Married
I love Cathy Lamb's book and this is one of her best. I loved the characters, the plot, the location - I loved it all.  Read my full review.

When Natalie Shelton thinks back to how things were before the car accident, she remembers a great marriage. She and her husband, Zack, seem as strong and dependable together as the houses he builds. They live in Portland, Oregon, and Natalie is co-owner of a successful accounting firm. They're happy, she's almost sure of it.

Yet as Natalie lies trapped in a coma, unable to communicate though aware of everything around her, she realizes that her husband is hiding something. Zack has always been reticent about his past, which she attributed to an unhappy childhood. Now the strange calls he's receiving, the apologies when he thinks she can't hear him, and her fragmented memories from the morning of the accident suggest a deeper secret.

When she finally awakens, Natalie is determined to find out the truth. Sorting through clues as her brain heals, she realizes she has a rare opportunity--to reexamine the life she's made and the man she's made it with. But as answers come to light, she faces surprising, heartrending decisions, as well as a danger that could upend her world once again, as Zack's past finally catches up with them.

Buy The Man she Married at Amazon

Swimming Between Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr

Swimming Between Worlds
Normally I try to write reviews as soon as I read a book but this one affected me to the point that I had to wait a few days and think about the book before I could review it. This is another book that Donna and I both enjoyed. She too included in her best reads of the year. Read my review and also Donna's review.

The lives of one young woman and two young men collide in a small neighborhood in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Kate, a recent college graduate, is still reeling from the deaths of her beloved parents when the discovery of hidden letters forces her to re-examine everything she knew about her family. Tacker, a young engineering student and all-around boy-hero, has returned from a West African odyssey where he fell in love with the local culture but was sent home in shame. Kate's and Tacker's stories come together when, on the same day and in different moments, they encounter a young African-American man named Gaines. The relationship that develops between the three is complicated, as each one searches for love, freedom, and new beginnings.

Buy Swimming Between Worlds at Amazon

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

The Promise Between Us
I have enjoyed all of Barbara's books but this is my new favorite. It has characters that I won't soon forget, a fantastic plot that keeps you turning the pages and a wealth of knowledge of OCD and how it affects the person with the illness as well as their family and friends. It's a story of love and family and most of all forgiveness and redemption. Read my full review.

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

Buy The Promise Between Us at Amazon

Across the Great Lake by Lee Zacharias

Across the Great Lake
This beautifully written new book by Lee Zacharias spoke to my soul. It was so well written that I not only followed the story but felt like I was part of the story - I was cold in the ice, hot in the fire and seasick during the storm. If I could give it more than five stars, I would definitely do it! Read my full review.

In her eighty-fifth year, Fern Halvorson tells the story of a childhood journey across Lake Michigan and the secret she has kept since that ill-fated voyage.

As his wife lies dying in the brutally cold winter of 1936, Henrik Halvorsen takes his daughter Fern away with him. He captains a great coal-fired vessel, the Manitou, transporting railroad cars across the icy lake. The five-year-old girl revels in the freedom of the ferry, making friends with a stowaway cat and a gentle young deckhand. The sighting of a ghost ship, though, presages danger for all aboard.

Buy Across the Great Lake at Amazon

Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

Beautiful Music
Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you happy as you read it. This new novel by Michael Zadoorian was that book for me. Read my full review.

Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.

But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.

Buy Beautiful Music at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter

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  1. Well dang, there you go adding a whole bunch of books to my tbr pile. Ha. Seriously your description makes me want to put all of these on my lists. I have to say The Taster is the one I will read first. I just read On Hitler's Mountain by Irmgard A Hunt. A true story of a German girl who lived near Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian mountains, so this one would be so fun to read since I know about that. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions. (Retirement is fun; I read 165 books so far.)

    1. Thanks for the suggestion for On Hitler's Mountain - I am going to Amazon right now and order it !

  2. Ah! I am SO excited. Thanks a million for including THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE in your best of the year. Totally makes my day! Much love, Kristy

  3. The only one I've read is How to Walk Away, and it's in my top 10 for this year also.

  4. Ooooh just put The Rain Watcher on my TBR.