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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

January 2022 Reads!

The Hidden Mage Series, Books 1-4 by Melanie Cellier: the daughter of the Spoken Mage disappointingly has no discernible powers. She is sent as an ambassador to the Mage Academy in neighboring Kallorway, a nation with whom they used to be at war, where her constant struggle to prove she is of use takes a turn. Instead of useless, Verene discovers by accident that she has more power than she ever could have imagined. Protecting her secret, Verene dodges assassination attempts, engages in political intrigue, and inadvertently falls in love. It is so hard to summarize fantasy books! This series was really good, although if it interests you, I would suggest reading the The Spoken Mage series first. I thoroughly enjoyed both series.

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin: after the death of her mother, and being turned out by her unkind uncle and his family, Grace and her best friend Viv head to London on the eve of WWII. Grace's family friend persuades a curmudgeonly bookseller named Mr. Evans to hire her. Never one to read, Grace discovers the power and solace found in great books. Mr. Evans becomes a father to Grace, while the shoppers become her framily. I read this book in 24 hours. It was a wonderful example of how reading draws together an unlikely community of people from different walks of life. Highly recommend!

Timeless Fairy Tales, Books 4-6 by K.M. Shea: Book 4, Rumplestiltskin contained a great male lead, although the female lead slightly annoyed me. I enjoyed the story as a whole however. Book 5, The Little Selkie was my favorite of these three! It made me laugh aloud in several places with the Selkie's observations of "landers" and her love for food. Book 6, Puss in Boots was humorous as well, specifically in scenes with the talking cat (who prefers NOT to be called Puss). This retelling is sort of a prequel to The Wild Swans, book 2. I finished this series in January, and I highly recommend all of them if you like humorous fairy tale retellings.

Soot and Slipper by Kate Stradling: Cinderella retelling; Eugenie lives isolated on her family's estate. They are poor, but Eugenie is highly gifted as a seamstress and cook. After sending her stepmother and stepsisters off to the highly anticipated ball wearing dresses she created, Eugenie is confronted by a fairy who proclaims that she has come to balance some wrongs. Eugenie doesn't understand exactly, but gives into the temptation to attend the masquerade. She unexpectedly stumbles on lies, devious plots, and more. So good! Stradling is a wonderful storyteller.

Enchantress from the Skies by Sylvia Louise Engdahl: a group of anthropologists from advanced planets in space go on missions to aid Youngling planets who know nothing of their existence. In this particular case, one Youngling planet is attempting to colonize a less advanced Youngling planet. The job: enable a Youngling native to save his own planet without telling him about their origins. This job soon becomes much more to Elana who snuck away on this mission to join her father and fiancé. She finds herself emotionally struggling between her intended and the young man they are training. I read this story slowly because I was afraid the ending would be dismal, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a hopeful ending instead. It was written partially in olde medieval English (Youngling) and partially in modern English (Advanced planet). The style took some getting used to, but after I knew what to expect, it was actually rather lovely to read!

The Reading List by Nisha Patel Adams: an elderly widower, who feels adrift in life, finds one of his late wife's library books under their bed and begins to read it on a whim. It opens up his life in ways he could never have imagined. Around the same time, lonely teen Aleisha is bored out of her mind at her summer library job, until she takes her coworker's advice to actually read a book and then recommend it. When she discovers a beautiful book list for 'if you need it', she takes it as a sign and begins. Aleisha's and Mukhesh's lives become so much richer. I loved their friendship! This is a book about how books are there for you no matter your emotional health or life circumstances. Note: contains a suicide.

Rescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally Britton: Esther heroically saves a man's life but it inadvertently starts a gossip train that cannot be derailed. In order to prevent damage to her reputation, the gentleman marries her. This marriage of convenience turns into one of love as their missteps and misunderstandings grow them as people. I always try to sneak a few Britton novels in each month because they are fun, sweet escapes. They always make me glad that I live in the present--women had so much less freedom back then!

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence by Gaven de Becker: nonfiction/nonChristian; premise--women should not discount their intuition or apologize for being forceful in saying 'no'. de Becker walks through several real-life scenarios: their initial suspicions that they ignored, where their subconscious picked up these clues that something was not quite right, etc. This exercise was incredibly interesting to read about. He includes chapters about school shootings, workplace violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. I really loved how de Becker reinforced that living in a constant state of fear/anxiety that some terrible hypothetical situation might happen actually dulls your senses to real threats that can/might indeed happen to you. I was afraid this book would be creepy, but it was much more informative. I appreciated that the author didn't sensationalize the victims' stories. Recommend.

Timeless Fairy Tales, Books 7-9 by K.M. Shea: Book 7, Swan Lake: Odette, who has been cursed for years, runs a successful smuggling operation to help those in desperate need. When the evil wizard starts to spiral, and the crown prince unwittingly hunts one of her swans, events spin out of control. Book 8, Sleeping Beauty: when Briar Rose is told her true identity, she struggles with how to fit into this new world. As her birthday approaches and the spinning wheel looms in her future, she decides to take things into her own hands. Book 9, Frog Prince: a vain prince is turned into an indestructible frog for his own protection, and ends up falling in love with his maid/caretaker. Hilarious. Definitely my favorite retelling of this bunch!

Her Unsuitable Match by Sally Britton: a misunderstanding due to an inebriated party guest leads Lady Philippa to propose marriage to a war veteran whom she barely knows. Their marriage of convenience saves her from her rather vindictive family, and gives him resources he never dreamed of. Can it turn into more? This was one of my favorites by Britton so far.

Timeless Fairy Tales, Books 10 and 11 by K.M. Shea: Book 10, Twelve Dancing Princesses: I wasn't familiar with this tale, but really enjoyed it! Shea's battle scenes are vividly done, and I love her skill at humorous conversation. Book 11, Snow White: Snow is painfully shy but determined to do whatever is necessary to save her loving stepmother. She is aided by the Seven Warriors, It was fun to pick out which warrior matched with which dwarf! This story ends on a cliffhanger!

Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar: a fictional tale following the origins and love story of Biblical couple Priscilla and Aquila. I almost stopped reading during the prologue, but I encourage you to stick with it! I ended up devouring this book. I really enjoyed the imagining of Paul of Tarsus. Through my read-throughs of the Bible thee last three years, I have never appreciated the truths God revealed to him more. The biblical truths within brought me to tears a few times. Highly recommend!!

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: this was my first time reading this aloud to my older boys, and it was so enjoyable for us! I love introducing them to great books. We read The Magician's Nephew last year, and hope to continue the series this year as well. If you've never read this series, you are missing out.

Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus by Nancy Guthrie: Guthrie provides her perspective on the different people who encountered Jesus in the New Testament, their motivations, and how/if they came to regard Him as LORD. Some chapters discussed John the Baptist, Judas, Peter, Zaccheus, Caiaphas and more. There were some really interesting details included throughout the book, but for whatever reason it took me forever to read through it! I had to force myself to finish it. Perhaps I stretched it out too long, or maybe it was her writing style?

Brine and Bone by Kate Stradling: this retelling of The Little Mermaid follows Hans Christian Andersen's creepier version. This is not Disney! I have not read HCA's version and probably won't, but Stradling's was fantastic. Creepy yet clean and immediately sucked me in! I don't really know how to add more to the plot and do it justice. Pick it up.

The Heir and the Spare by Kate Stradling: Iona is the second-born princess in the kingdom of Wessett. When hidden abroad in Capria, she was tormented and bullied by the other students. That was nothing when compared to the abuse from her older sister Lissen. After a terrible civil war in Capria, the heir (one of the young men who tormented Iona) has arrived in Wessett to secure a marriage alliance with Lissen. At first, Iona sees this as an answer to prayer...until she realizes the Jaoven is a changed man. Iona is left to internally debate whether or not warn Jaoven against her sociopathic or psychopathic (arguments could be made for either) sister. This was so dark, but so well-written. I reread the ending twice to glean all information from it. I was immediately hooked.

Discovering Grace by Sally Britton: Grace Everly switches places with her identical twin Hope when Hope's punishment for irresponsible behavior is being banned from the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure Grace has no desire to embark upon. The only problem is that their childhood friend Jacob, a man desiring to court Hope but whom Grace loves, immediately recognizes their deceit. Perhaps Grace will rise from behind her sister's shadow.

Saving Miss Everly by Sally Britton: Hope has taken off on her adventure to the Caribbean when she and her companions are shipwrecked on an island. This island has been home for over a year to a South American castaway. Still pretending to be Grace, Hope struggles to stand up for herself to her unpleasant companions while falling in love with her castaway.

The Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan by Enjeela Ahmadi Miller: set in late 1970-1980s; Enjeela grew up in a wealthy family in Kabul. Her mother had left with half of the children to India for a heart surgery when the Soviets invaded. Enjeela's father, ever an optimist, refused to see this coup as anything other than temporary until it was almost too late. Finally, he sent Enjeela and her three remaining siblings with a guide on a six month trek to safety in Pakistan. Enjeela's story is heartbreaking, scary, emotionally turbulent. So timely considering what happened in 2021. This memoir read like a novel. Recommend.

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley: 1707--tensions are high as old enemies of the Highlands protest Scotland's new union with England. Plus, France is attempting to return the Jacobite king to the Scottish throne. Danger lurks in the streets. When a young widow comes forward to claim her husband's wages for the failed Darien mission, two men are are given a handful of days to determine its legitimacy. But, things may not be the way they seem. I loved this book! It completely threw me and I had to keep going back to reread chapters to see what I had missed. Lots of twists and turns. I enjoyed learning more about this time period from a Scottish perspective. Highly recommend! I've thoroughly enjoyed all Kearsley's books thus far.

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