Shauna Niequist: Bittersweet
As good as could be expected, after all those who listed Niequist's Bread and Wine as one of the best books in 2013. The cover text, "thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way," sums it up beautifully.
Jim Gaffigan: Dad is Fat
This guy is a successful standup comedian? Perhaps I might have found the book more funny if I had heard him live (so I could 'hear' the book the way he'd deliver it) - or if I had ever had more than one child of pre-school age at a time - or if I had ever been a parent in the USA. As none of those apply, I didn't laugh much. Some parts he wrote did resonate with me and made the effort of reading worthwhile, and those were mostly when he wasn't trying to be funny.
Cheryl Strayed: Wild
At 26, Cheryl Strayed had the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: mostly to sort out her life and thoughts. I loved the way she wrote about nature, the effort of hiking, her mother and some of the people she met on the trail. Could see how the drug/s*x bits were a part of her story that she needed to tell but, nevertheless, I didn't like reading about them.
Maria Amelie: Luvaton norjalainen (Illegally Norwegian)
Maria Amelie gives a face to undocumented, illegal immigration. Her and her family's story is something I wish all the 'immigration critics' would read. What impressed me the most was her hope and her appreciation for the present moment - because, at any minute, life could change drastically again.
Marilynne Robinson: Home
The story is parallel to Gilead, which I read in February, but this time the point of view is mostly Glory Boughton's. To be honest, I don't think I would have stuck with the story for all the 300+ pages if I had not read Gilead first and thus learned to care about these characters already before starting to read this book. Robinson is a great writer, but the pace of the story is very slow and perhaps a bit less would have been enough to give the sense of the distance between Glory and Jack and the gradual growth of closeness and understanding.
Jeff Lucas: Helen Sloane's Diary
Recommended to me by Amazon.co.uk because I like books by Adrian Plass. I can see the connection to Adrian Plass: good points and insights about Christianity, communicated through a story with humour. I enjoyed this book a lot.
According to the back blurb, Helen Sloane is "a frustrated 27-year-old rookie social worker". She's also a Christian, active in her local church. She's single, and her circle of friends, family and fellow church members make a nice cast of characters. Some parts made me remember my own days as a single Christian woman approaching thirty.
The twist at the end took me by surprise - and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, called Up Close & Personal. It's still only on my wish list, but maybe I'll buy it for the next holiday trip. (ALERT: don't read the blurb of the sequel on Amazon.co.uk unless you have read part 1!)
Cara Putman: Shadowed by Grace. A Story of Monuments Men
A sweet (though somewhat predictable) romantic story set in Italy during WW2. If I had not heard the author's interview on Chris Fabry live, this might not have caught my attention on the e-library list. I liked the main characters and thought the wartime setting was well-written and as credible as a romantic story needs to be.