Happy Saturday, and welcome to the sixth – and last – day of the Five Fall Favorites blog party! (As well as the last day of September!)
For a quick recap, each day this week, bloggers (me included) are each sharing their five favorite books under a variety of prompts – the goal being for us all to find some great new reads!
This week’s theme is all about who and where we’ve gotten our books from.
Today we’re looking at some of our favorite reads from the past year! That can mean in the last twelve months since the previous Five Fall Favorites party, or in the calendar year of 2023. Mine are all from the last twelve months, as I still haven’t read as many books as I’d like to in 2023 (that’s what autumn’s for, right?).
I will say that these aren’t my top picks from the last twelve months. Because I’ve already been using some recent favorites in my other posts from this week, today I decided to just share five more books that I’ve enjoyed recently. The past few months, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with new-to-me genres and re-reading childhood favorites, so many of today’s picks fit those categories.
Let’s take a look at them! (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: Katherine Paterson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Middle Grade (MG)
What Stuck Out to Me: This is a small but surprisingly deep story that I read often in my youth. It took me far too long to realize that the author also wrote Bridge to Terabithia (another of my favorites during childhood), but I appreciate her approach to storytelling.
This is very easy to get invested in. I appreciate the focus on family, hard work, difficulty fitting in, and the main character’s strong morals, even in atrocious circumstances. For a middle-grade book, it takes on and honestly tackles very tough topics.
It’s not a fairytale, feel-good story, but it is very real, and I like to read it every now and again for that reason. And although there isn’t a ‘happy’ ending, it’s a hopeful and very realistic one. I would hope that in similar situations, I could manage to conduct myself with as much strength, honor, and courage as the main character does. I feel this is a strong story for readers of any age.
Tricky Content: Slavery, harmful working conditions, death, tactful references to (and shown intent of) sexual assault, infidelity, pregnancy outside of marriage, and mental health struggles.
I’d Recommend It To: Middle-grade readers and above that enjoy compelling historical fiction stories with a strong protagonist, sibling ties, and themes of courage and determination.
Here’s the link to add it on Goodreads! (the cover is wrong, but it is the correct page)
Author: Tayari Jones
Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
Target Audience: Adults
What Stuck Out to Me: I have such mixed feelings about this one, so in regards to recommending it, I’d say that if this sounds like one you’d find interesting, you probably will, and if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t suggest reading it due to the potentially problematic premise.
For me, the concept was fascinating and well-delivered. Though the content wasn’t my favorite, the author states that her goal in writing it was to spur empathy in readers for people in similar situations in real life. And I respect and appreciate that.
There are those kinds of situations that people deal with all over the world, and as I empathized with the characters, I could find myself understanding why others may act the way they do. I sympathized with those characters and found them relatable. So in that regard, the book was well-written. The setting was easy to picture, closer to contemporary than very historical, but still not modern-day. Overall, probably not one I’ll be re-reading but it was worth the read for me.
Tricky Content: Scattered uses of strong language, frequent references to sexual matters, dysfunctional family (understatement), bigamy, and I didn’t agree with the morals of the characters, as a Christian.
I’d Recommend It To: Adults seeking a unique, character-driven read that makes you think, and spurs you to empathize with real people in their kind of situation.
Author: Colleen Coble
Genre: Christian Western Romance
Target Audience: Young Adult and above
What Stuck Out to Me: This was a huge venture outside my reading comfort zone, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. I think it was a good first look at the genre.
The story itself was compelling, the characters were interesting and relatable, and the setting felt true to the time period. The romance was also sweet, and I especially appreciated that it was clean.
I also appreciated the Christian elements and discussions of God inside, including the main character wrestling with how to accept God’s unconditional love. Thanks to the Christian elements, there wasn’t any content I was uncomfortable with.
The second half of the book really picked up the pace action-wise, which I enjoyed. Was it the most realistic? No, but it was interesting, and it kept me reading to find out what might be thrown at the characters next. If lack of realism bothers you in stories like this, you may not appreciate the second half as much, but I didn’t mind dispending belief for a while. Probably because I don’t read many slower romances. All in all, it was a solid story and I do love that I can recommend it thanks to its being clean.
Tricky Content: Kisses, references to physical attraction, mild injuries, kidnappings, deceit.
I’d Recommend It To: Fans of Christian novels, westerns, and clean romance stories with a good amount of action and interesting characters.
Author: J. K. Rowling
Target Audience: Middle Grade (MG)
What Stuck Out to Me: This is my go-to series any time I want to get lost in an expansive and captivating story. I’ve read the series several times over, and am currently reading them yet again.
I’ve always enjoyed how immersive this series is. Between the vivid characters, the mystery woven through each storyline, and the sheer amount of details that Rowling somehow keeps track of from book to book, I get the sense that this is truly a real world, with real people, that I’m stepping into. The first time I read them, I didn’t see many of the plot twists coming at all, and they’re still fun every time.
I personally enjoy the later books more than the earlier ones, as the story progresses and the plot thickens, but they wouldn’t be the same without the earlier books. In a way it makes the series even more immersive, as you see the book plots grow and mature as the kids do.
Tricky Content: Kids disrespecting authority, violence, magic. Later books grow darker in tone, with some more romantic/mature elements mixed in, but nothing inappropriate. I know everyone has differing views on the magic elements, and you should follow your own convictions. I personally wasn’t allowed to read them until I was old enough to understand the distinction between demonic activity/ witchcraft that the Bible talks about, from the magic system in this series, and would do the same thing with my own kids.
I’d Recommend It To: Middle-schoolers and above that enjoy fun, school-featuring fantasy stories with large casts of characters, some mystery, and lots of whimsical adventure.
Author: Thomas Watson
Genre: Christian Non-Fiction
Target Audience: Teens and above
What Stuck Out to Me: A cousin loaned me this book when I was going through a discouraging patch, and it was such a refreshing read.
Romans 8:28 has been one of my favorite Scriptures for years, and this book focuses almost entirely on it. It explores how joyful times and blessings, other people, even suffering and misfortune, all work together for our good and God’s glory. It’s surprisingly in-depth, and, though it’s written in older English, it was still written simply enough to understand and enjoy.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone needing encouragement and understanding for hard times, or just wanting to understand that passage of Scripture and biblical truth better.
Tricky Content: Nothing that I found, though, as always, books like this should be read with discretion and prayer.
I’d Recommend It To: Christians that enjoy deep, thought-provoking, and encouraging dives into Scripture, particularly Romans 8:28.
It’s hard to believe (and kind of sad), but we’ve officially reached the very end of the Five Fall Favorites blog party! What have been your favorite reads from the last year? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear from you!
If you haven’t already, check out Kate’s host blog here, for additional information, an awesome giveaway, and so that you can find even more book recommendations! There are so many other amazing bloggers that have shared countless great reads this week, and I’d hate for you to miss out on them!
Thank you so much for joining us this week, and for celebrating in the midst of these bookish, fall vibes. It’s been a blast, and I appreciate you! I’m already looking forward to next year!