Happy Monday, and welcome to day one of the 2023 Five Fall Favorites blog party!
I’m so thrilled to be taking part in this creative and collaborative event, organized by the lovely Kate Willis (click on her name to head over to her blog)! This is the event’s 8th year in a row, and my second time joining in. It’s going to be a great week of bookish fun!
Whether you’re looking for book recommendations, enjoy seeing a bunch of book covers, or just like reading about books in general, this is for you. Each day, starting today through September 30th, a group of bloggers (me included) are going to be sharing our top five favorite books that fit a variety of prompts.
This year’s theme centers around who and where our books have come from. There are so many great stories and memories behind books, so explore all of the featured posts to find some great reads! My TBR is definitely going to be overflowing after this!
Now onto today’s book recommendations!
Top 5 Gifted Finds
I’m starting off slightly different on day one. Most FFF participants will probably be sharing five of their favorite library finds today, and originally I was too. I absolutely love libraries, and used to spend hours and hours of my childhood there, devouring armloads at a time.
But sadly, I haven’t been to our local library (which has undergone a lot of major changes) in a good number of years, and most of the books that I read back then are not really worth sharing, haha. They were great for a middle-schooler, but not anything too special.
So instead, I’m going to start with an alternate topic, and share five gifted finds! This can be books that were gifted to me, or books that I’ve gifted to someone else. There’s something special about receiving books, I think. Knowing someone either read or saw the book and thought specifically of you is sweet.
I’m going to try my very best this week not to include duplicates of my recommendations from last year’s event, but admittedly, today is one of the exceptions. Today will include a couple of the same ones from last year, but it’s because they’re just that good! Most of my recommendations will also be fiction, but today, again, I’m including one non-fiction.
Let’s look at those five books now! (I’ve reviewed many of these in more depth on Goodreads, so if you’re interested in reading my thoughts – or just other reviews in general – you can find the Goodreads link under each book, or by clicking on the book’s title).
Author: Nadine Brandes
Target Audience: Young Adult (YA)
What Stuck Out to Me: I received this as a late birthday gift in 2022 because my family knew I was a big fan of Nadine’s.
No doubt, this is my favorite book of hers so far (and that’s saying something, because I love all of her books). The entire premise of a tear and/or crying being able to grant wishes, and also be deadly, is a story idea I wish I’d thought of, haha. The magic system is fascinating and well thought out, and the worldbuilding is both descriptive and mysterious.
The characters are definitely my favorite though. Both protagonists were relatable and flawed, and I cared for them a lot. The romance was sweet. The plot kept me on my toes, and there were several times when I actually gasped while reading (something that doesn’t happen often). Overall, I was very engaged, finished the book in a day, and really appreciated this story and its deep, meaningful themes.
Tricky Content: A complex and allegorical magic system, violence, intense action, loss, several kisses, and mentions of several pregnancies out-of-wedlock, including to a teenager.
I’d Recommend It To: Teens and up that enjoy intriguing and engaging fantasies with a bit of romance woven through.
Author: Hannah Hurnard
Target Audience: Anyone (the older you are, the more you get from it)
What Stuck Out to Me: This was a gift from my mom after I started to wear out her copy.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read this book by now (it was also one of the primary inspirations behind The Toymaker’s Doll) Simple and even child-like in its writing style, it’s filled with powerful spiritual reminders of what it means to be a Christian.
The Bible alone teaches us what we need to know about God in order to be saved, but allegories like this one have helped me truly grasp God’s character, and how He feels about us. Hurnard’s representation of the Good Shepherd is touching, and has led to some very meaningful times of prayer. Also, boy, do I relate to Much-Afraid and her struggles!
Tricky Content: An older and repetitive style of writing that might be too childish for some readers’ preferences, and some questionable moments of theology that can be compared to Hinduism. While I feel the truth outweighed the troublesome content for my journey personally, as always, allegories should be read with much discernment and prayer.
I’d Recommend It To: Readers of pretty much any age that enjoy sweet allegories about growth and journeys through the hardships of life.
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Target Audience: Young Adult and above
What Stuck Out to Me: This was another gift from my mom, as she knew I enjoy biblical fiction.
While Bread of Angels took me a while to get into, due to a slower writing style and time skips, once I got into it, I was hooked. The author has a warm writing voice that makes the story feel almost cozy, if that makes sense. I also appreciated how much research she did!
I’ve never read a book about Lydia from the New Testament before, so I loved getting a glimpse of what her life may have been like. Including the detailed dive into her dye-making, something that fascinated me! The characters were interesting and sympathetic, and the setting was extremely vivid. And the faith aspects that she included were well-done – not too preachy, or too subtle. All in all, worth the read.
Tricky Content: Villain is shown being cruel to small animals, brief references to child abuse, loss, flogging scenes (moderately described).
I’d Recommend It To: Teens and older that enjoy interesting and well-researched biblical fiction, especially about “side characters” in the Bible and what they’re lives might have been like.
Author: Daniel Schwabauer
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Target Audience: Young Adult and above
What Stuck Out to Me: I’m not usually a science fiction reader. Frankly, I don’t feel smart enough for it, and can rarely follow along. But I admire Daniel Schwabauer greatly, so after receiving this book for Christmas, I gave it a shot, and I’m extremely glad I did! Whatever boring jargon I was expecting, this book was anything but.
The writing style was crisp and engaging, the characters vivid, the setting extremely intriguing, and oh my word, the twists. Despite the complexity of it all, I felt like it was written in such a way that I could actually follow along, even being a science fiction newbie. All in all, I’ll definitely be re-reading it. I feel like I have to, to catch all of the subtleties I missed the first time!
Tricky Content: War-set violence, some light kisses, a couple of very mild swears, brief descriptions of injuries, and psychological trickery.
I’d Recommend It To: Older teens and above who enjoy complex, military-focused science fiction stories with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.
Author: Gary L. Thomas
Genre: Christian Non-Fiction/Dating
Target Audience: Christian singles
What Stuck Out to Me: This was a gift from my parents to my then-boyfriend and I after we started dating.
I appreciated how this book is laid out. There are chapters covering everything from infatuation, to why we should date (and why we shouldn’t), dating with intention, communication styles, expectations, and how to tell when a relationship isn’t good for us.
There are also discussion questions at the end of every chapter to get you thinking, and to give you and your partner something to talk deeper about together. All in all, I loved the practical advice, and the God-honoring focus throughout the entire book.
Tricky Content: Nothing of note, although these types of books should always be read with discernment and prayer. Physical attraction is covered in one chapter in particular, but through a clean, God-honoring perspective.
I’d Recommend It To: Single, dating, or engaged Christians seeking practical and spiritual advice for growing closer to their prospective partner, and God in the process. My now-husband and I read this and answered the questions together, one chapter at a time, and I’d highly recommend doing the same if you have the chance (with your own partner, haha).
And just like that, we’re already wrapping up day one of the Five Fall Favorites blog party! What are some of your favorite books that you’ve either received as a gift or gifted to others? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear from you!
Again, check out Kate’s host blog here, for all of the additional information (including an awesome giveaway, and the full list of bloggers participating!), and so that you can find even more book recommendations!
See you tomorrow for some more bookish fun!