December 2021 Reads!
The Star Clock Chronicles, Books 1-5 by E.J. Kitchens: these steampunk novellas follow different main characters in each book, but all of them are interconnected. This is a world where the sun, moon, and stars are akin to mythology. Clocks are banned. Automatons are needed to travel more than three miles in any given direction. A long time ago, a faerie queen fell in love with a human. She cast a spell to blot out the heavens and replace it with crystals. When she returned to her realm, she left her lover in charge of earth, and he fashioned himself as a totalitarian dictator known as the Time King. There is a small faction of people from all walks of life who believe that these 'myths' are reality and are determined to lift the faerie veil to destroy the Time King's rule. These are their stories. I enjoyed these more than I had expected! I have not read much in the way of steampunk but found it rather fascinating. Each novella started out with a Bible verse, which I loved. And the ending made me appreciate the sunsets and sunrises much more. Recommend!
Penny's Yuletide Wish by Sally Britton: orphaned as a child, Penelope returns to her childhood home with her aunt and uncle over the Christmas season. She has resigned herself to never marry as she has a small dowry and lack of familial importance. When she runs in to her childhood friend and first love Robert, hope begins to blossom. Memories and misunderstandings abound. This is a sweet, clean regency romance!
The Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar: Christian historical fiction set in the times of the early church. Chariline, the daughter of a Cushite man and a Roman woman, discovers that her maternal grandparents have been lying to her her entire life. Her father is not in fact dead, but alive and working for the Kandace, the Cushite queen. After some prayer and counsel from fellow believers, Chariline stows away on a boat owned by handsome new acquaintance Theo. Once discovered, Theo agrees to help her on her quest. Famous Biblical characters are woven into the story. I loved this book! Both the main protagonists were likable and relatable. Their faith stories and character development were believable and showed growth, Afshar's books are wonderfully written, gripping, and full of great Biblical history. Highly recommend.
Timeless Fairy Tales: Books 1-3 by K.M. Shea: books 1-3 are retellings of Beauty and the Beast, the Wild Swans, and Cinderella. In Beauty and the Beast, Elle falls through the skylight window of the cursed prince's palace breaking her leg. But she has a secret. Something different in this retelling--the servants' faces partially disappeared due to the curse. In Wild Swans (I was not familiar with this fairy tale), you get to choose your own ending, which is not my favorite! I am not a fan of open endings. In Cinderella, the stepfamily is not-so-evil, the love interest wears an eyepatch, and involves the melding of two nations into one. All three of these were really enjoyable and well-written. Recommend!
The Taste of Ginger by Mansi Shah: a first generation immigrant from India struggles with where she belongs. Pro: contained interesting information on Indian culture. Con: I skimmed the majority of the book after the author compared modern-day America to the caste system in India. After that comparison, I decided that I would skip to the ending. This story could have been well-written, but several chapters were devoted to the main character explaining to her white friend why she was racist without realizing it. I do not believe that modern-day America is systematically racist, so this book was not for me. It unfortunately felt like a secular sermon when Shah could have been more nuanced in her writing.
Mystery at the Midnight Ball by Kristen Niedfeldt: a Cinderella retelling. Ellie, serving as her family's servant, suddenly finds herself dancing in the arms of her childhood best friend Prince Alexander at a masked ball. Her resignation and peace with her life of solitude and servitude begin to crumble. Hope sneaks in the cracks. When Prince Alexander realizes who Ellie is, and a threat to the kingdom arises, Ellie finds herself in the middle of surprising events. I enjoyed the added intrigue Ellie is thrown into in Niedfeldt's retelling. It was a great read!
The Eldentimber Series by Shari L. Tapscott: each of these books follow the different remaining princes who competed in Pippa's marriage tournament. Each book follows a different prince and his kingdom. These were so great! The characters were well-developed, and the plots were each unique. All of the books are interconnected which is also fun. Seirsha of Errinton was the hardest to read. It was darker and subjects were broached that are glossed over in the other installments. If you have your (pre)teen daughter read these, maybe read that one first. I am not usually a rereader, but I may do so with these.
The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews: newly divorced Ivy Perkins flees Atlanta by buying an old farmhouse formerly owned by Santa and Mrs. Claus impersonators. When Ivy discovers an old Santa suit with a letter to Santa in it, she determines to figure out the history of said letter. Her efforts bring her friendship, romance, and career inspiration. This was a book club pick for December. It was a cozy, Christmas novel. I thought the writing style and plot development was just okay.
At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon: the first in the Mitford series. Father Tim, a bachelor rector in Mitford, has his life thrown for a loop when a large dog who responds to Scripture adopts him, he becomes a guardian for a young boy named Dooley, and a lovely lady neighbor moves in next door. One of my oldest friends loves this series and encouraged me to pick the first one up. I thoroughly enjoyed Mitford! It was charming and funny. I will have to read the rest.
The Mark of the Thief by Jennifer E. Nielsen: fantasy YA. Nic, a slave in the Roman mines, is forced down into a concealed cavern to discover the lost treasure of Julius Caesar. He discovers Julius' bulla and a griffin that marks him. With magic running through his veins, Nic is desperate to free himself and his sister. However, the political machinations of the many senators vying for his attention and the bulla are thrusting him into a battle to destroy Rome. This is the first in a trilogy. I'm on the lookout for fantasy books with male leads for my boys as they get older. This first book was good! I'll have to check out the next two in the series.
The Lost Heiress by Roseanna White: Brook Eden has never known who she is or where she came from. Raised in Monaco's palace, she was brought to the Grimaldis as a baby under mysterious circumstances. When her best friend Justin finds her family, he accompanies Brook to the English moors to meet them. However, danger is lurking all around. Brook's friendship with Justin begins to grow into more. Lots of suspense, familial secrets, Christian growth. I loved it! First in a trilogy.
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James: four short stories all set during the Christmas season. The first one was my favorite. I thought I had the case all figured out until the very end. Super good! The second short story was not typical James fare. It was more seedy and creepy--definitely could have done without it! I like the Adam Dalgliesh full-length stories. Numbers 3 and 4 both featured him. I would rank the third higher than the fourth. Typically I do not read much in the way of short stories, but they are quite easy to pick up and read for short periods of time while four kiddos entertain themselves.
Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale: sequel; Miri, several other Prinicess Academy graduates, and Peder head down Mount Eskel to Asland in order to help Brittany prepare for her wedding to Prince Steffan. Miri enrolls in the Queen's Academy and finds herself confronted by coming change. She struggles with loyalty toward her best friend and a knowledge of needed changes in the kingdom. So good! Hale is a wonderful writer. I've been drawn in to each of her books. You definitely need to read this series in order. Recommend!