Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Top Twelve Books of 2022

I'm officially making this a "top twelve" thing now because I'm just that kind of reader who can't narrow down favorites very well. It's been a long, kind of rough year (I'll get into that in my year in review post), and I wasn't sure based on my slow reading lately if I'd have a good list...but I read a lot of great stuff before this semester, and a few things since. 

Before I get into my list for the year, I have to mention my notable rereads/relistens because they don't qualify for the list, but y'all, Blood of Kings is even better the second time around! And so is Blades of Acktar. Such great stories, and they got me through a very rough semester for sure. Even while I'm sick, Vrell and Achan still make me so happy. And it's even better that I got most of them on sale via Chirp Audiobooks!

12. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I really wouldn't have thought I'd want to put this on my list. When I first started it, I was extremely underwhelmed. It's basically a dystopian The Bachelor with a prince and at first I found it rather eyeroll worthy. When I got to the end of the first one, I still didn't think it was that great, but strangely wanted to know how it played out. And then book two happened. I'd been listening to it, but I got to a certain part where things were going crazy, so I got the kindle version from the library, read during dinner, and less than 24 hours later, I'd finished the initial trilogy. As I was going into finals week with a lot of homework to do. And then the next week read the two books about the next generation. 

America Singer doesn't actually want to compete for Prince Maxon's hand in the Selection, but she enters anyway, and leaves behind her boyfriend (who I don't like anyway) for the palace. Where she challenges their caste system, causes all sorts of trouble, and ends up falling in love. And Maxon is the kind of guy that once you learn about his backstory, you want to wrap in bubble wrap. Such a fun series.

11. The Betrothed duology by Kiera Cass

Had to put this on too because I actually liked it better than The Selection. I checked the first one out from the library on a whim because I'd enjoyed The Selection, didn't get around to it until it was almost due, then read it in basically one night and decided it was a good thing the library didn't have the second one on kindle because I would have gotten no sleep. Hollis Brite is the king's love and is looking forward to being queen. But when a family from a neighboring country arrives as refugees, everything changes, true natures begin to be revealed, and deadly secrets are shared. Lots of political intrigue, and holy cow, the way the first book ended! No spoilers, but I was in shock. I had to wait a few days for the second book to come in at the library, but I read the entire thing in the car on the way to Disney and loved every bit of it.

10. Olivia Twist by Laurie Langdon

This one caught my attention years ago while browsing my library's ebook collection. Then I saw it on Kirk DuPonce's banner at Realm Makers (he did the cover). Then I got into an Oliver Twist mood and decided to rewatch the musical. And then saw Kara Swanson mention Laurie Langdon as one of her author friends and requested it from the library. Finally, I read it just the other day. I kind of feel like this book is for a particular audience, but I also feel that I fit that audience to a T. Like the author, I fell in love with the musical as a child (only unlike her, I was in a local production, I didn't just go see it), and then read the book later. And so I loved all the nods to the musical and the original book. 

Olivia Brownlow was disguised as a boy from birth to protect her, going by the name Oliver Twist, but when she was taken in by her uncle Brownlow after the Artful Dodger picked his pocket, she learned how to be a lady. Well, sort of. Ollie the street kid isn't totally gone, even though she's grown and expected to find a match. She still sneaks out in disguise to help street kids, and while she is technically engaged to a respectable young man, she's actually in love with Dodger, who is now going by his real first name of Jack (though not his real last name). And Monks is out there and dangerous, especially where Olivia is concerned.

9. The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella

For this one, I actually got an ARC, and I really very much enjoyed it. It's sort of a dystopian Alice in Wonderland where those with the Wonder gene can access the Wonderland Reality. Alice's sister disappears and Alice herself receives a cryptic invitation to compete in the dangerous Wonderland Trials, during which many players go missing every year. I hadn't thought I was super familiar with the original before I read this, but I kept picking up different references and ways she wove in elements of the original that just made me appreciate it more. But it was still a very unique and original take on Wonderland and, as a nearsighted person myself, I loved that Alice wears glasses. And then the end leaves you hanging and ready for the Looking Glass!

8. The Secret Letters by Margaret Peterson Haddix 

As always, when a new Haddix book is released, it makes my favorites list. (There were actually two this year, both really good, but I decided to put the other on honorable mentions.) I'd been sick and overworked and barely reading, but one Sunday I read this entire book. And it felt great to read a book in a day, especially when it's as good as this one. Colin's mom helps people get rid of their junk. Neveah's dad sells people's junk. And when Colin finds old letters in an attic he and his mom are cleaning out, he sets out to unravel a decades old mystery and find out why two children from the past ended a friendship. And what that means for the future. It's just a really, really good story and I enjoyed it immensely.

7. Wishtress by Nadine Brandes

I preordered this and then got sick the day it came out, so it was a good while before I managed to actually read it. But I finally did and it was so good! Myrthe's tears grant wishes, but then she is cursed that her next tear will kill her. Bastiaan can stop time with a snap of his fingers, but in doing so he was responsible for the king's death. Myrthe wants to break the curse and Bastiaan wants to get rid of the Trials protecting the Well that gives people talents. And danger and deception and all kinds of great stuff. And the themes that came out in the end really made me think. I always love Nadine's books, and this one is definitely no exception. Plus it's a cool concept with intriguing worldbuilding. 

6. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis Majors

This one I got on audio at a library book sale. It had a few scratches but was mostly intact, and wow did it make me cry. Like, a lot. But it's so good. This is Katie's story about how God called her to move to Uganda when she finished high school and all about her ministry there and the girls she adopted. It's very inspirational, very God-focused, and honestly heartbreaking seeing the poverty some people live in. But it's so wonderful seeing her testimony, how God can use anyone to touch people's lives, help them, and share His love. It's beautiful, but definitely prepare to cry. 

5. Single Isn't Second-Best by C.E. White and Philip Wilder 

Okay, technically I haven't quite finished it because I had a couple chapters left when I got sick and all my reading was derailed, and then my sister took it to read and I just got it back from her. But I've read most of it and it's really good and important (and not just because I'm quoted it it). Most Christian books about singleness are focused on "until you get married." The church seems to perpetuate this, and it's not really uncommon for singles to feel invisible and to get sick of well meaning people making suggestions about how they can find a spouse. Single Isn't Second-Best takes a very different angle to singleness, addressing the trials of singleness, acknowledging that singles often feel like second-class citizens even though we're not, addressing marriage myths, exploring what the Bible actually says about singleness, explaining the worth singles have in the body of Christ, and really shifting the perspective on singleness. An important read for singles and people who know singles (which pretty much comes down to everyone).

4. Heirs of Neverland duology by Kara Swanson

I actually went to the launch party for the second book, Shadow, at Realm Makers 2021 before I'd read either of them. But I fully intended to read them. And finally did read the first book on our Disney trip in August. And I have to say, it was an interesting experience reading it at Disney surrounded by Peter Pan stuff. And goodness, I loved them both so much! I love Claire and Peter, and Peter is such a mess but he has such a wonderful character arc, and so much danger and traumatic pasts and bad choices and sacrificial love and it's just so good! I read Shadow in pretty much one day once we got back from Disney and I was able to get a copy from the library and I had such a book hangover. Kara did a great job of continuing the story of Peter Pan while both honoring the original and making it unique. And now I want to go reread them both.

3. Shield Band by Tara Grayce 

New Elven Alliance book? Of course it's on my list! Now, naturally I assume Tara Grayce books are going to be good. Not just because she's my friend, but because she's a great writer with books that I always love. But I wasn't sure how invested I'd be in this one since Essie and Farrendel are no longer POV characters and it's focused on Essie's brother Julien and his intended troll bride Vriska. There was no reason to have any doubts. I came to love Julien and Vriska very much and they're just adorable and she's a great fighter but does actually have a soft side. And there's a deadly illness and suspicions of traitors and fighting and danger and romantic fluff and they're just so well suited for each other. I just love their story, and maybe I don't love them quite as much as Essie and Farrendel, but I still love them dearly. And seriously, if you haven't read Elven Alliance yet, DO IT NOW!

2. Daican's Heir by Jaye L. Knight

I debated how to rank these last two, almost decided to put them in a tie, but then decided to put the one you can actually read now first and the one you have to preorder second. And that's literally how I made the decision because they're both such amazing books that I love so much and have waited literal YEARS for.

Ahem. I FINALLY GOT TO READ THE ILYON CHRONICLES FINALE!!! Y'all. This book is amazing and so worth the wait. So much Jayrin fluff, and also danger and fighting and injuries (is this a theme in my favorite books? maybe?) and so many things brought full circle and Davira is scary evil and it's time for her to go DOWN and I just don't know how to be coherent right now. They're ready to go head to head with Davira for Arcacia, but of course things can't possibly go smoothly. I don't want to spoil anything, but you should definitely go reread the previous books so you can experience the full glory of this amazing book. Plenty of action and danger and torture, but also plenty of fluff and lots of time to wrap up all the story threads and I just can't wait for it to be released so y'all can read it! (The kindle version is available for preorder, but if you want a paperback like I do, you'll have to wait for the actual release to purchase.)

1. Eleftheria by J. Grace Pennington

This is the book I waited literally almost nine years for. Not a joke, not an exaggeration. My beloved Elasson was introduced in In His Image which I read on Christmas 2013 and now in 2022 I FINALLY got to read the book wherein he returns! And it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Well, I still don't have confirmation of my ship, but I'm still pretty sure I'm right. Most of my favorite things about this book are spoilers, but I'll say this: The Surveyor finally gets to return to Kainus Ge while Andi's life is being turned upside down by an attorney who's calling them out for infractions of policies and such (like Andi helping in medbay even though she doesn't have official medical training), and they get to see Elasson again and things go crazy and Elasson is as adorable as ever and I just want to unleash the fangirl squealing. Definitely worth the nine year wait and I'm even more excited about future installments than I was before. Such a fabulous series and it's another one of those that if you haven't read it yet, I don't know what you're doing with your life. So good!

And for honorable mentions: The School For Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock, Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Welcher, Elite by Kristen Young, and The Stern Chase by John Flanagan.

What are your favorite reads of 2022?

Friday, December 2, 2022

Daican's Heir Cover Reveal

The Daican's Heir cover is here!

I had the great privilege of reading an early version of this book a few months ago, and let me tell you, this book is FANTASTIC!!! I CANNOT WAIT to read the final version. It's been a good while since we got new Ilyon, and this book is so totally worth the wait. All the angst and danger and also fluffiness, and Jace and Kyrin are just SOOOO ADORABLE. So many things to bring the series full circle, again, so much angst and so much fluff too. I can't wait for y'all to get to read it.

And now.

Yes, I'm trying to make you have to scroll down to see the cover.

Here it is.

Don't you just love it? Davira is just...she's so evil and it's time to take her DOWN.


Here's the description, and make sure you check out the preorder!

For three years, the Resistance has suffered under oppression—first from Emperor Daican and now from his daughter. In her quest for vengeance, Davira has ripped Arcacia apart, and more blood is spilled every day. Newly married, all Jace and Kyrin want is to be able to live their lives in peace. In order to do that, they must help restore the rightful heir to Arcacia’s throne.

Carrying the weight of everyone’s hopes for the future, Daniel works every day to be the leader and king they have all fought so hard to see him become. With the Resistance and their allies from all across Ilyon united behind him, he prepares for a final confrontation with Davira. But to do so will require facing the full might of Arcacia’s military and Davira’s wrath.

When Jace and Kyrin become the primary targets of her ravenous hatred, Daniel finds himself in a race against time to stop his sister and avoid the bloodbath she is determined to unleash. Can he find a way to protect his loved ones and bring peace to Ilyon or will Davira succeed in bringing them all to their knees and destroying everything they hold dear?

And an excerpt from chapter 1!

Jace didn’t like ships.

His stomach had threatened to heave itself up his throat since he’d re-boarded the talcrin vessel an hour ago. So far he’d managed to keep it in place, but Holden wasn’t so lucky. He had already lost what remained of his supper over the edge and now leaned heavily on the railing. Clearly, it would take a lot more than the two days they’d previously spent on board, sneaking the Militia into Samara, for their stomachs to get used to the sea.

A low groan rumbled from Holden’s hunched form. “Remind me never to set foot on a ship again after this. I’ll happily stick to dragons.”

Jace had to agree with him there. As much as he hated heights, he’d far rather fly with Gem right now. And it wasn’t just his churning gut that bothered him. Despite only small waves rippling the sea, each dip and tilt of the ship robbed him of balance. The lack of solid footing left him feeling vulnerable. Not that he had any threats to worry about just yet. Those awaited him on shore.

Footsteps passed behind him, and he looked over his shoulder. Though pre-dawn darkness cloaked the ship, and they’d forgone any lanterns that could give away their position, General Torva strode across the deck with a confident stride. He made an impressive figure, as most talcrins did. He reminded Jace of Sam, especially in stature, though his hair was long and gathered into small braids, and his eyes flashed a cunning copper.

Their talcrin allies were obviously masters of the sea. Jace hadn’t seen any of them on the verge of losing their stomach contents, though maybe that had not been the case when they’d first left Arda a few weeks ago. Somehow, Rayad and Trask didn’t seem affected either.

Torva stopped at the railing a couple yards away, feet planted and fists on his hips as he stared out over the dark sea. His bronze scale-mail glinted faintly like dragon scales. Jace had never seen armor quite like it.

“We should be nearing the city.”

Jace scanned the horizon. He could barely make out the shore from this distance—just a black line against the indigo water and sky. No signs of a city, but the talcrins would know better how far they had traveled.

Someone else drew near. Jace shifted, and Rayad put his hand on his shoulder.

“How are you doing?”

Jace wasn’t sure if the question was in regards to his queasiness or what lay ahead. He shrugged. He still thought Balen should have chosen someone other than him to lead this mission. Someone with actual leadership skills and experience. But then, he was the one who could see in the dark, and their plan to take back Samara’s capital depended on infiltrating the city undetected. Logically, he offered the greatest chance of success.

Rayad gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll be right behind you.”

It'll be here before we know it!