My Fave Reads of 2016: Contemporary Fiction

December 26, 2016 Best Books 2016, Christian, contemporary 86

It’s that time of year again!! When book bloggers from far and wide dust off their Goodreads shelves and look back fondly at the books they’ve read that year. And then we torture ourselves by trying to narrow those books down to a handful of favorites. LOL.

Nevertheless, every day this week will feature my favorite reads for 2016!

TODAY – Contemporary
Tuesday – Fantasy/YA
Wednesday – Historical
Thursday – Mystery/Suspense
Friday – Amish Fiction
Saturday – Nonfiction

Let me preface today’s list by saying that none of these lists were easy choices! 2016 has been a year of such good books – so many that I haven’t even had time to read all the books I wanted to read! (Denise Hunter, Kara Isaac, and Julianna Deering… I’m looking at your books wistfully)

Back in November, I had the privilege of being on The Writers Alley and I talked about what makes a great book. As a way of helping myself with this impossible task of picking favorites, I’m using those three factors as a guide:

  1. It hit me in the feels (I laughed. I cried. I swooned.)
  2. Characters that just march right into my heart and set up camp for the duration of the read and beyond.
  3. Somewhere in the story is a thread of redemption. (This doesn’t have to be just in Christian fiction either)

All that to say that these books are ones that really touched me in some way and have left a lingering impression. I’ve read so many good books this year, but these are the ones that have hung around in my heart.

As no two people ever really read the same book, my list will certainly be different from yours but here are my favorite CONTEMPORARY reads from 2016!

Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Phoenix
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2016
PAGES: 336

 

My Review

Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix is haunting and poetic and not a book you can easily walk away from. It’s a cautionary tale and a riveting story, all at once. I’m still reacting to a lot of it, to be honest. In my spirit. In my gut. In my heart. Wanting to hug some characters close. Wanting to shake some sense into others. This is not a book to be read lightly but it’s one with the power to heal and the power to prevent. Which, really, is the best kind of fiction.

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti
PUBLISHER: Worthy Inspired
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2016
PAGES: 272

 

My Review

If you’re a fan of home restoration shows, then you’ll love Restoring Christmas. More than just a sweet romance or an uplifting story worthy of the Hallmark channel (though it would be the perfect choice for their Christmas lineup!), Cynthia Ruchti’s latest takes a grace-filled look at grief, insecurity, addiction, abuse, loneliness, and dementia. With her exquisite talent, she offers us a delightful tale that will warm your heart – and maybe even restore it too. Additionally, the hardcover is just lovely and makes a great addition to your bookshelf or coffee table.

Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald
PUBLISHER: Rooted Publishing
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2016
PAGES: 118

 

My Review

Ordinary Snowflakes is a must-read for anyone who feels less than enough. For the mom who worries she’s failing her kids. For the single lady who doesn’t think any man would find her worth loving. For the woman who wonders if even God sees her. This may be a quick read, but it will linger with you long after you’ve devoured every last word. And the next time a snowfall graces your world, maybe you’ll look at it – and yourself – a little differently.

 

The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese
PUBLISHER: Waterfall Press
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016
PAGES: 325

 

My Review

The Promise of Rayne is a romance, yes – and a darn good one – but it’s so much more. It’s a convicting look at how bitterness can tear a person apart and how its flames spread to everyone that person touches. It’s a sobering example of the way “desperation undermines wisdom“, but it’s also a tender picture of the power of forgiveness in action as well as an inspiring fight song for mercy. Do not miss this book!

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck
PUBLISHER: Zondervan
RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2016
PAGES: 384

 

My Review

The tenderness of this theme (Jesus values you – no matter what!!), matched with the masterful handling of a dual timeline narrative and two deliciously toecurling romances, make this one of my very favorite books this year. In The Wedding Shop, Rachel Hauck gives us characters we can embrace with our whole heart as well as a peek into history and a mirror on the present. It is gentle and bold all at once, and grace rests on every page like a lacy veil. A definite must-read!

Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne
PUBLISHER: Multnomah
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2016
PAGES: 320

 

My Review

I reviewed this one for RT Book Reviews so I can’t include a snippet here (per my agreement with them) but you can read it at the link above. I can also point you to four other really great reviews for this fantastic book! Check out Annie’s review at Just Commonly, Beth Erin’s review at Faithfully Bookish, Kav’s review at Best Reads and Rebecca’s review at More Than A Review.

Homestands by Sally Bradley
PUBLISHER: Salena House Publishers
RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2016
PAGES: 336

 

My Review

Homestands combines romance as well as the truest Love with “real” characters who struggle and react and fail… and succeed. Bradley’s writing evokes emotion even as it soothes and engages readers from the very beginning. There are moments when you’ll smile, moments when you’ll laugh, moments when you’ll hold your breath, moments when you’ll cry, and moments when you’ll feel your stomach sink with dread. This may be fiction but it’s also life at its rawest. Faith at its realest. Hope at its most beautiful. Love at its truest.

Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann
PUBLISHER: bHd Books
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2015
PAGES: 416

 

My Review

Kristen Heitzmann’s first book in the Told You series is fun and romantic and full of grace. Not just her sassy catastrophe-prone heroine with a heart of gold and a diehard fan base. But the kind of grace that washes over you when you least expect it and most need it. The kind of grace that amazes and humbles and redeems. On top of it all, you are treated to an absolutely swoonworthy story and two characters that have enough electricity between them to power New York for at least a few days.

Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann
PUBLISHER: bHd Books
RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2016
PAGES: 417

 

My Review

The prodigal son has never looked so gorgeous on the outside as Bo Corrigan, nor as damaged on the inside. His story is impossible to put down so gear up for an emotional roller coaster ride that is equal parts exhilarating and heartwrenching. His romance with Exi, his friendship with Eileen, his rivalry with Devin, hitting rock bottom and climbing back out – all of this will grab your heart and refuse to let go. You will smile. You will swoon. You will cry. You will hold your breath. You may even find yourself praying for a fictional character. (Not that I know this from experience or anything) And as you turn the last page, you will find that you’ve once again breathed in exquisite grace and called it amazing.

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink
PUBLISHER: Harvest House
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2016
PAGES: 224

 

My Review

Stephanie and Rhett are both on a journey. Literally…. figuratively… and spiritually. Dana Mentink has created a story that ties all of these together beautifully – and with a lot of fun! The common thread between the two characters – of siblings and regrets and plans – was made all the more meaningful by the faith elements woven unpreachily (new word) throughout the story as well as the ways in which Sweetness drove a few points home on his own. And Sweetness – the quirky, endearing, slobbery mess of a dog who eats pancakes and chews on spatulas and rescues the wounded and abandoned. Sweetness steals the show. And a few kisses. And a whole lot of laughter. He may be a dog, but you get the treat when you sit down to read Fetching Sweetness! An absolute delight in every way!

Going Up South by Janet Ferguson
PUBLISHER: Southern Sun Press
RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2016
PAGES: 259

 

My Review

Fan-necessitating romance, a swoonworthy leading man (he doesn’t just play one in the movies), a couple of hilarious supporting characters (Big Roy!), and a poignant message of reconciliation and forgiveness are all wrapped up with a bit of southern sass and a lot of Mississippi charm. Going Up South is a lot of fun as well as being sweetly poignant, and Janet Ferguson achieves the perfect blend of each. The characters leap off the page, and you’ll feel as though you’ve known them for years.

The Things We Knew by Catherine West
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2016
PAGES: 352

 

My Review

The Things We Knew is more than a story of family drama to tug at the heartstrings. It’s more than a mystery to unwrap. It’s more than a romance to savor. It’s more than a masterfully written piece of fiction. It is, in fact, all of those … but it is also a story rich with healing and honesty and hope. It is a novel that will hold you captive until you’ve finished the last word and one which will linger in your heart long after. This should be on everyone’s summer reading list! Or fall reading list! Or MUST READ SOON reading list. Or all of the above! Keep some tissues handy, but be prepared to smile and even laugh too. Most of all, be prepared to fall in love with Nantucket, with the Carlisle family, and with Catherine West.

Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2016
PAGES: 349

 

My Review

Just as an unopened quartz hides its greatest beauty deep within, so it is with us. In our brokenness, Jesus reveals our true beauty and strength. Victoria Bylin wraps this message beautifully and honestly around her latest novel, Someone Like You. The romance between Zeke and Julia – their second chance at loving each other – settled in my heart with a dreamy sigh and a sappy grin, and I even enjoyed the goat lol. A host of secondary characters that add humor and heart, a vivid setting that will make you want to go on vacation ASAP, and one character in particular who will make you grit your teeth against the urge to reach inside the book and strangle him (maybe that was just me?) ensures that all of your emotions will be fully engaged as you read Someone Like You!

Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon
PUBLISHER: Radiant Publications
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2016
PAGES: 336

 

My Review

Finders Keepers is the perfect book to kick off your summer reading! The descriptions are beautifully crafted, and both story threads will have you dreaming of sandy beaches and ocean breezes. Sarah Monzon’s characters are layered and real, and they feel like people I would want as friends in real life. Humor dots every chapter, and grace coats each word. Breathtaking scenery and breath-stealing romance will have you wishing for SCUBA gear even if you’re reading this safely on dry land – simply because you need another source of oxygen. This sophomore novel is a new favorite and one I will be re-reading for years to come!

Her Texas Family by Jill Lynn
PUBLISHER: Love Inspired
RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016
PAGES: 224

 

My Review

Warmth lingers on every word of this story! The romance will steal your breath, and the characters will steal your heart. Jill Lynn’s writing is a beautiful dance of wit, charm, and heart; combined with the vivid personalities in Her Texas Family, her latest offering is just what the doctor ordered! The perfect choice for a weekend read. You won’t be able to stop smiling (except maybe for those times when you’re swooning or trying to breathe around the lump in your throat)

Her One and Only by Becky Wade
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016
PAGES: 224

 

My Review

I loved Her One and Only. I adore Dru and Gray together, and the depth to their story is still stirring in my heart. I don’t love saying goodbye to the Porter family, but if we must… this is the perfect farewell. All my favorite peeps made more than an appearance, and my favorite conversation (the one that shows up in every book, thanks to Mrs. Porter) slipped in there too. The suspense, the action, the KISSES – all stellar, along with Becky Wade’s witty style and engaging characters.

The Carpenter’s Daughter by Jennifer Rodewald
PUBLISHER: Rooted Publishing
RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2016
PAGES: 349

 

My Review

In The Carpenter’s Daughter, Jennifer Rodewald has crafted a tender and poignant story of love. Not just the love between man and woman but also the love that Jesus has for each of us. The first person perspective, shifting between three main characters, adds depth of both insight and emotion and breathes vivid life into these names on a page. Every woman who has ever felt like she wasn’t pretty enough… or smart enough … or creative enough… or just ENOUGH needs needs NEEDS to read The Carpenter’s Daughter. Because in Sarah, we find a kindred spirit. In Jesse, we find a hero. And in Jesus, we find ourselves.

A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham
PUBLISHER: Firefly Southern Romance
RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2016
PAGES: 310

 

My Review

A Twist of Faith puts a delightfully Appalachian and modern spin on “My Fair Lady” – and does so with such wit and warmth that readers will be grinning like Haus the dog through the whole read. The characters – primary and secondary… even tertiary, for that matter – will steal your heart and sometimes your breath, and the romantic tension swirls deliciously through any scene in which Reese and Dee share the page. The message of faith is tender and organic – never preachy – and settles around your shoulders like a hug from Reese’s mama.

The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer
PUBLISHER: Zondervan
RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016
PAGES: 320

 

My Review

Warmth exudes from every page of Kathryn Springer’s The Hearts We Mend. The characters will set up camp in your heart and may even start refurbishing it if you aren’t careful. Humor, love, and several poignant twists make this a truly enjoyable and inspiring read. It’s loaded with some great symbolism if you’re paying attention, a couple of pretty swoonworthy kisses, and lots of adorable little-girl twirling! Jack and Evie together are just … dreamy sigh. Jack by himself would be dreamy-sigh-worthy enough but Jack in love with Evie is completely twitterpating.

Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti
PUBLISHER: Abingdon Press
RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2016
PAGES: 320

 

My Review

With her exquisitely engaging style, each word in perfect pitch, Cynthia Ruchti creates a beautiful story of healing and humor and hope. A story for the riffed teacher, for the frustrated wife, for the mother of adult children. A story for everyone whose life failed to proceed according to plan. Vivid characters, wry wit, and gentle truth held me captive from the first page to the last. This is a book that will linger in my heart for a long time!

What about you? What are some of your favorite CONTEMPORARY reads from 2016?

Carrie

86 Responses to “My Fave Reads of 2016: Contemporary Fiction”

  1. Sarah

    I knew we’d have done shared favorites! Honored that you added Finders Keepers. And noting wrong with a top 20 hehehe

  2. Michele

    Color me honored. Thank you for exploring Lauren’s past and present this year…and for finding her story worthy of this list.

  3. Amy Leigh Simpson

    Seeing lots of my raves here too! You’ve got good taste, my friend! <3 wonderful list!

  4. Melony Teague

    What a great list and I agree with every single one of these on your list which I too have read. The ones I have NOT read, I added to my TBR pile! (*hear the sound of book stoppling…Avalanche!!!)

  5. Sally Bradley

    Carrie, thank you so very, very much! I’m thrilled to be on this list. It’s Christmas Day all over again. And thank you for listing the others. Got a couple I’m putting on my TBR list. I’ve read Michele Phoenix before and liked her, but I’d not even heard about this book of hers. Looks like a winner!

  6. Tracey Hagwood

    I like your top 20! Some of ours match, but some of my top 20 may be on your other lists later in the week. (I have only read a third of the books you’ve read so mine are all on one list 🙂

    By month of release:
    Jan-Cold Shot, Jilted, The Hearts We Mend
    Feb-You’re the One That I Want, The Goodbye Bride, Special Delivery Baby
    April-Someone Like You, Retro read-Courting Morrow Little
    May-Land of Silence, Her One and Only, Finders Keepers, Taken
    June-The First Gift, Where There’s Smoke
    July-Playing With Fire, Homestands
    Aug-The Captive Heart, Burnin’ For You
    Sept-Home on the Range, Wild Montana Skies

    I have four of your top picks sitting on my kindle waiting to be read so I’m doubly looking forward to them with a thumbs up from you.

    Have a blessed New Year Carrie!

  7. Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse

    I very rarely read Christian or inspiration contemporary romance, but your mini reviews on here have me interested in several of these!
    P.S. I love how you’re breaking down your favorites by genre over the week. Very cool!

  8. Kav

    Oh man, I’m not brave enough to play the “my favourite things aka books” game. Just too many. I love reading your lists though because it helps me prioritize my catch-up reading list. And I love that you’ve highlighted so many smaller publishers that don’t get the same kind of shout-out as the big ones do.

    So…I’d at least add Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren. I have pages of inspirational quotes from that book. Such an emotional, faith-promoting read.

    Also — The First Gift by Ruth Logan Herne. That one knocked my socks off and put me in a blue funk because I read too fast so it was over too soon. You know a book is beyond wonderful when you go into mourning after you’ve finished it. LOL

    Oh — and just finished The Promise of Rayne (thanks to your encouragement on this blog) and I can see why it’s on your list. Amazing and powerful and now I’m disgruntled because it’s all over. I wonder if there’s a sequel? About Rayne’s cousin, Gia? Seems to me there’s more Shelby tales to be told.

    • Carrie

      i have not read WMS or TFG yet and it’s killing me! Nor any of Kara Isaac’s books. ARGH. Darn my TBR planet!! lol.

      Yay! So delighted you loved The Promise of Rayne! And i agree – there needs to be a sequel. Gia needs her own story 🙂

  9. Winnie Thomas

    Great choices, Carrie! And I’ve already read 9 of them. Yay! I’ve got 4 more of them either on my Kindle or in print ready to read. So that only leaves 7 to put on my wish list! LOL I really must learn how to speed read.

      • Winnie Thomas

        I haven’t figured it out yet, Janet, but I’m going to see if Carrie will give me lessons. 😀

          • Winnie Thomas

            I can’t figure out how you can read so many and actually remember them! Sometimes I can re-read a book, and it can be completely new to me again. One time I got half-way through before I realized I’d read it before. Must have been really memorable, huh? I like to think I’m a little more selective now. LOL I used to have a fantastic memory, but it’s gone with the wind. Like they say, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”

          • Carrie

            LOL i have honestly done that too (read a book and then realized i’d already read it lol)

  10. Katie Donovan

    I’m lying in my tent out in country Australia, listening to the birds and the sheep, and doing the math. Please tell me you’re not going to give us 120 favourite books to add to the TBR pile over the next week! 😳 I’ve probably read at least half and it will still bury me alive!
    I have to say, I agree with quite a few of your choices though 😊 For my part, Told You Twice, Homestands, and The Carpenter’s Daughter are right up there on my TBR pile already.

    • Winnie Thomas

      Great math skills, Katie! And tenting over Christmas holidays? You rock, girl. I’m afraid my tenting days are long past. Did you take your badminton racquet with you? You must keep in practice for our contest, you know! We have about 10 inches of snow, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to practice for a while. I may try on my outfit, though, just to make sure it still fits after all the Christmas goodies. 😀

      • Katie Donovan

        Phew! to Carrie. And Lol! to Winnie. We’re actually camping on my sister-in-law’s farm, so at least we have nice bathroom/kitchen facilities. I’m definitely not known for my love of camping! And it’s far too hot for badminton! I melt just walking out to the car. 🌞 I’m totally identifying with Carrie’s wistful ‘Snow. Sigh.’

  11. Jen

    Sigh. Happy, happy sigh. 🙂 You just made my after-Christmas Christmas.
    The Things We Knew and Someone Like You are at the top of my read list for 2017. However, since I read like a snail, it may be a while!
    Love the list, and I see several authors on here that I love–both as writers and as friends! 🙂

  12. Joanne Bischof

    Love your list! I really want to read Jennifer Rodewald’s books and also Homestands and The Things We Knew, and others. I need more hours in the day, LOL. I managed to squeeze in a few historical reads this winter, but didn’t have many contemporarys on my stack. This must change. 🙂

  13. carylkane

    Carrie, you have EXCELLENT taste! I hope to be able to read some of the amazing books in 2017. 🙂

  14. Rel Mollet

    Great idea to do in genres, Carrie! I’ll be sticking to my traditional Top 10 (it kills me every year!) which I post NYE. I’m listening to Jennifer Rodewald’s Ordinary Snowflakes at the moment and am really enjoying it.

    Loved a number on your list but I’m not giving anything away just yet 😉

    • Carrie

      Ohhhh there’s just no way I could do a top ten. I even tried to pick the top TWO from this list & I couldn’t do it lol

  15. Melissa Romine

    I trust you, Carrie! I’ve read several in this list and loved them. I read Ordinary Snowflakes based on your review!!! Looks like I need to add to what my son calls my book addiction!
    And, yes, you must read Kara Isaac very soon!

  16. Kim

    Carrie love your list! Of those I have read, I agree with all but one (I think it was me or the mood I was in while reading that book though cause EVERYONE else loved it :/) Those I have not read are going straight to my TBR list. I agree with everyone else about Kara Isaac. Can you tell us what your absolute favorite book of the year was? Looking forward to all of your coming lists.

    • Carrie

      Oh gosh – I was afraid someone was going to ask me that LOL. But yes, I think I can. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s list.

    • Winnie Thomas

      I loved Someone Like You, Victoria. One of my favs from this year, too! Thanks for sharing your talents! Kristen Heitzmann has written some amazing books. I have a few of her newer ones that I need to get to soon.

  17. Andrea Stephens

    Thanks to you I have read and loved a couple of books on this list. Other’s are on my wishlist.
    I do not know how you can make a list of faves. I don’t know how you read as many books as you do. You, my friend, are truly gifted with a superpower! I am so thankful for your reviews and recommendations.

  18. Amanda J.

    Hi Carrie. I’m so pumped to see many I’ve read on this list and totally agree with how excellent they were…I’d say my top 5 contemporary in no particular order: Close to You, The Hearts We Mend, Red Door Inn, The Carpenter’s Daughter and Told You Twice. A belated Merry Christmas, and I look forward to checking your winning book lists.

  19. Camille Eide

    What an intriguing list! I have not heard of a couple of these authors, so thank you for bringing notice to more great inspirational fiction! Definitely putting these on my must read list.

  20. Ruth Logan Herne

    I’m so excited to be on a list with PEPPER BASHAM!!!! 🙂

    Carrie, you are the best…. and I love being on this list with all these amazing authors, and with Nick and Elsa…. !!!!!

    Grinning in upstate with No Snow. WHAT?????

    • Carrie

      No Snow?!? How sad! But I’m delighted I gave you a reason to smile in spite of the uncooperative weather 😉

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