Favorite 2018 Reads, Staff Picks!

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The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.
— Descartes

It’s that time of the year again to pick your favorite reads from the year before! Have you ever noticed how different opinions we readers tend to have on a specific book? Very reasonable given that the word “favorite” is more subjective than objective. Even on Hope by the Book, not all of us have the same tastes in books, and that’s what makes all the reviews fascinating to read. Don’t you think so?

Instead of subjecting our readers to just one person’s favorite reads of 2018, we compiled some of our staff’s favorite reads and shared a snippet of why they chose it as their top pick! (Personally, I’m surprised by how little redundancy there was!)

Top Honors with multiple top 3 picks goes to:

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

“This book UNDID me. Ugly crying to the max. Beautiful, heartwrenching story of how God redeems even the most broken places.”

- Carrie Schmidt

“Catherine brings real life topics to the forefront, and makes the reader feel as if they are not alone in their struggles. I found myself crying, rejoicing, and experiencing every emotion right along with the characters.” - Jessica Baker

“Right from the first line to the last, Catherine West compelled me to move forward. Almost like a trance, my eyes kept glue to the page. Word after word, page after page and thought after thought, I didn't want to stop. “ - Annie Sturt

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

“This timeslip book completely hit me in all the feels, both as a history lover & a book nerd. A powerful story of sacrificial love.” - Carrie Schmidt

“Hidden Among the Stars is well crafted, brutally honest in its rendition of historical accounts in a time best to let go, but never forget. Brutally may be too strong, but it'll impassioned readers in nearly 400 pages of heartfelt entertainment for sure. Literary indulgence and fervor in this novel that will take more than days to release from your mind!” - Annie Sturt

“So many emotions are wrapped up in this story. Be prepared for an adventure into the heart of WWII in this time-slip story.” - Rachel Dixon

These two are definitely up there on 2 staffers’ top picks:

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

“Thor. Need I say more? Sacrifice, family, love, woven into a beautiful story that will inspire and move you.” - Rachel Dixon

“A realistic portrayal of alcoholism against the backdrop of our Heavenly Father’s true redemption” - Andi Tubbs

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

“Poignant, yet profound in the underlying themes of trust and working around complex emotional stress. Chilling and at times haunting, this first book in the Kaely Quinn Profiler series makes for one unforgettable start. “ - Annie Sturt

“I am STILL thinking about this riveting thriller - specifically the ending. Wow. Wow. Wow.” - Carrie Schmidt

The following titles appear on staffers’ top 3 picks:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

“The name C. S. Lewis typically conjures up images of snow capped mountains, solitary lamp posts, and a continuous winter without any Christmas. However, the woman who grabbed the attention of one of the most respected theologians of the twentieth century was anything but "typical". Joy Davidson was brilliant in her own right; flawed to the core by misfortune and poor decisions,  her transformation into the woman that C. S. Lewis grew to love is beautifully illustrated in this outstanding work of fiction.” - Rebecca Maney 

Falling for the Cowgirl by Tina Radcliffe

“I just love Tina Radcliffe, and this year she became one of my favorite authors!Her romances are swoon worthy and BOY does she know how to write a hero. Radcliffe did amazing research and I appreciated the accuracy of the horse and rodeo scenes! (The rodeo scene was probably my favorite part of the whole book.) #CowgirlAtHeart 

The dialogue and banter throughout this book was WONDER.FUL.   I loved the whole set-up of characters!” - Alysha Worthen

Finding Evergreen by Jennifer Rodewald

“Delving beyond happily ever after, Jennifer Rodewald delves into the difficulties and challenges of relationship. It’s in the brokenness of Brandi, Ethan, and their marriage that God does his best restoration work.” - Suzie Waltner

Ghost Heart by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

“Steeped in international suspense, "Ghost Heart" plunges its readers into the dangerous world of black market organ harvesting; setting the stage for a gut wrenching decision by a desperate parent. Will an Ohio mother break her own heart in exchange for her daughter's life?” - Rebecca Maney

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

“The kid gloves are off as the author presents the good, bad, and ugly on both sides of the Revolutionary conflict yet, the impending battles fade to the background as my heart became completely invested in the lives and loves of the characters. Laura Frantz brings the past to life with vivid, compelling, and heartachingly beautiful storytelling.” - Beth Erin

Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany's by Julie Wright

“This story has all the feels.  It's entertaining, enjoyable, and absolutely hilarious.” - Sydney Anderson

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

”This story left a permanent mark upon my heart. Filled with mystery, war, love, passion, this is a book that will change your life.” - Rachel Dixon

The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart

“I love how the book highlights grace and how God doesn't say anything about our sin, He just welcomes us back. “ - Andi Tubbs

The Making of Mrs. Hale by Carolyn Miller

“The stark contrast of desperation and tender, budding faith in the depths of their shipwrecked lives lends the characters a rare authentic and tangible quality. I was completely swept up by the soul-stirring message of hope, forgiveness and grace.” - Beth Erin

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

“This page turner is different from my typical read, but it immediately pulled me in with its well-crafted characters, vivid scenes, and active pace. Though a fantasy story, the characters' struggles are relatable, and the overall story is a good illustration of our lives and the part God plays when we choose to follow Him.” - Leslie McKee

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

“There’s a lot to like about this book such as the history and introduction to Boston, a mystery to be solved, and some character cameos from McMillan’s previous series, but it’s Hamish Deluca who makes the biggest impact. Despite his social anxiety, Hamish forms relationships with those around him that are meaningful for both him and readers.” - Suzie Waltner

Never Doubt a Duke by Regina Scott

“Scott can write sassy, witty characters to a tee! I instantly fell in love with both main characters and I have anxiously awaited each book in the series just so I could catch a glimpse of them again. With a love story that left me smiling from ear to ear, definitely a favorite book of the year!” - Alysha Worthen

Night at the Opera by Stacy Henrie

“An excellent Edwardian romance novel.  Filled with sweet romance, as well as intrigue and mystery which adds an exciting and excellent twist that readers will love.” - Sydney Anderson

No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

“With a bit of nostalgia and a character whose integrity makes readers root for him, Stevens delivers a story filled with truth while never veering toward preachy.” - Suzie Waltner

Ours for a Season by Kim Vogel Sawyer

 “It’s nice to read a story that doesn’t gloss over such difficult topics that are prevalent in today’s society. This powerful story is a reminder that God’s hand is always at work, even if we don’t always see it at the time.”  - Leslie McKee

Room on the Porch Swing by Amy Clipston

“This is a truly heartbreaking series, but fear not, because Clipston is the master of handling difficult emotions with a realistic yet hopeful hand. Laura and Allen share a grief only they can understand, although others are suffering through the loss of a lovely young woman in their community, and as they help each other, fall in love, wondering if it is what the one they mourn would wish for them.” - Kerry Sutherland

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

“Politano wows with clever, intelligent, and engaging characters and completely beautimous storytelling! I savored and devoured the story in turn as it richly satisfied an aching word-hunger within me with her unique, fresh and smart style and I can’t get enough of it!” - Beth Erin

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

“Old Testament sanctuary cities played an important role in the Hebrew justice system; providing the accused a safe haven and an audience before the high priest. Captivating from beginning to end, the author gifts her readers with fascinating biblical history and the kind of hero who adamantly declares, "I will never stop fighting for you".” - Rebecca Maney

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

“This powerful story is something that I will remember for a long time. Elizabeth has managed to bring three POV's together in an unexpected way that will have readers at a loss for words.” - Jessica Baker

The Teacher's Bride by Kathleen Fuller

“I laughed so much reading this, then I thought - wait a minute, is there such a genre as Amish romantic comedy? If there isn't, I think Fuller just invented it. Ruby and Christian are complete opposites, but you know what they say - and yes, they do attract, with some hilarious outcomes and confusion. Ultimately, they do help each other with more serious issues, and discover that they are perfect for each other in every way.” - Kerry Sutherland

The Tower Princess by Shonna Slayton

“A spelendid and original fairytale.  This story is full of adventure and a bit of romance that readers will delight in from the turn of every page.” - Sydney Anderson  

When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner, Illustrated by David Catrow

“An exquisite light show, displaying God's glory in the day and in the night, beaming deep into the soul of every boy and girl. " . . . . and whenever light shined, dark stopped being dark." The illustrations themselves are worth turning the pages.” - Rebecca Maney

When The Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma

“This is a story that readers cannot put down. Not only does it provide the year's best villain, but the attention to detail Tolsma put into every chapter is uncanny.” - Jessica Baker

 Words from the Heart by Kathleen Fuller

“I had a hard time putting this story of devotion and perseverance down, with believable and likable characters I only wanted to see happy in the end. Fuller knits together community stories with others from the series so well that this new installment feels like a visit with old friends from prior books as well as an introduction to new characters. She has a gift for keeping the community in her series rich and engaging from start to finish.” - Kerry Sutherland

So many great ones! How many are on your list of favorites?


Annie is an associate editor of Hope by the Book and the mind behind Just Commonly blog, sharing what she loves most – Jesus & all things book and bookish. She is also the co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours.