It’s the most wonderful time of the year; a.k.a. the time I get to rant about the books I really loved and really hated. I read 37 books in 2022. One of these days I’ll hit that 50 or more goal but having a toddler really takes away from my reading time😅 Anyways, of those 37, I’m going to talk about 15 of them today. These 15 books were either the best, the worst or the most disappointing. If you’re interested in any of the other books I read, you can check out my Goodreads. With that, let’s talk about some books!
The Best of the Best:
The first book I read this year was The Night’s Chosen by E.E. Hornburg, book one in The Cursed Queens series. This book was just pure magic. It’s a New Adult, fantasy novel that is loosely based off the “Snow White” story, but it definitely stands on its own. You can read my review here.
CHOSEN OF THE MOON GODDESS. DESTINED TO RULE. FATED TO MARRY.
A QUEST TO SAVE HER FAMILY, KINGDOM, AND HEART.
In this retelling of Snow White, for the past five years Princess Eira has run from her impending wedding. As much as she loves her goddess and kingdom, she’s searched the kingdoms for another way to rule as queen someday while also choosing her own husband. Yet, Eira’s claim to the crown falls into jeopardy when her father, King Brennus, is poisoned and fated to a sleep of living death and Eira is next on the assassin’s hit list – who happens to be her stepmother, Queen Amelia. After Eira escapes Queen Amelia’s clutches she journeys to the northern Paravian mountains in search of an enchanted cup to save her father.
Yet Eira’s quest is more than she anticipated with evading Queen Amelia’s guards, traveling with the one man she shouldn’t be with, and having to bargain with the ancient dragon guarding the enchanted cup. She’ll have to decide how to save her family and kingdom, even if it means sacrificing her heart and all she’s wanted her whole life.
The Shadow’s Heir, also by E.E. Hornburg, is book two in The Cursed Queens series. It is RARE that I like the second book in a series as much as the first but this “Cinderella” retelling was great. You can read my review here.
Myra has spent years hiding—in servitude of the now imprisoned Queen Amelia, and from a lineage she never wanted.
Now that she is freed from Amelia’s clutches, Myra is ready for a new start, but the echoes of the past, and the truth of who she is—a direct descendant of Stula, the goddess of death—will only disrupt the peace she wants to find in the kingdom of Oxare.
The kingdom is beautiful, as is the handsome prince Alvis and though his offer to join him at the Golden Palace is tempting, Myra is determined to make her own way.
But when a life on her own becomes too difficult, Myra is forced to accept Alvis’ offer and lands in the thick of a plot to free Queen Amelia. To keep the entire realm and her people safe, Myra and Alvis must find out who among the Golden Palace court is the betrayer before Amelia escapes.
But with each passing day Myra feels her connection to Alvis growing stronger, and her past continues to haunt her. Can they protect the kingdom and each other, before Amelia takes her revenge and Alvis finds out the truth?
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is a “The Six Swans” fairytale retelling. This book was my first introduction to Marillier’s work and I fell in love with her gorgeous writing. It is book one of the Sevenwaters Series; a six book, historical fantasy series about a prominent family in ancient Ireland. There’s fae, magic, romance and everything else that I adore. You can read my review here.
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives: they are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift—by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.
When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…
While I really enjoyed the entire Sevenwaters Series, only the first and fourth books were five star reads. Heir to Sevenwaters was just as great as Daughter of the Forest. You can read my review here.
The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, sharing a wary trust. Until the spring when Lady Aisling of Sevenwaters finds herself expecting another child?a new heir to Sevenwaters.
Then the family’s joy turns to despair when the baby is taken from his room and something…unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her newborn brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Black is book one of a four book, dark fantasy series. I bought it at the beginning of the year but only recently read it and I’m so annoyed that I didn’t read it sooner. It’s amazing and has everything I love in a fantasy story. You can read my review here.
When kingdom come, there will be one.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.
When I’m not reading fantasy, I love a good historical Western romance and Colorado Dawn by Kaki Warner is just that. This is a second chance romance, a trope I always enjoy, set in Colorado in 1870. Warner’s characters are flawed and realistic, so their stories are never smooth or fluffy. You can read my review here.
The next in Kaki Warner’s sweeping new series about unlikely brides who make their way west-discovering newfound freedom and rediscovering love…After only three letters and one visit during her six-year marriage to a Scottish Cavalry Officer, Maddie Wallace decides to build a life without him. Accepting an assignment from a London periodical to photograph the West from a female perspective, she sails from England, determined to build a new life as an independent woman.
After injury ends his military career, Angus Wallace returns home to find his wife gone, his family decimated by fever, and himself next in line to an earldom. His new mission is clear–find his wife and sire heirs. His search takes him across an ocean and half a continent, but he finally tracks her to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado. There his biggest challenge awaits–to convince his headstrong wife to return home as his viscountess.
Amidst statehood struggles, claim jumping, and railroad disputes their passionate battle rages…until word comes that Angus has become the earl. Now they must decide between a life in the mountains of Colorado, or in the glittering ballrooms of London…and between duty and desire.
Last but certainly not least for my five star reads is Hauntings and Humbug: A Steampunk Christmas Carol by Melanie Karsak. I didn’t expect a steampunk retelling of A Christmas Carol to make it into my top books of the year but here we are. This is an amazing retelling and so well written. You can read my review here.
Humbug! This Christmas, Ebony Scrooge will learn the true meaning of the holiday season.
It’s Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and Ebony Scrooge is hard at work tinkering weapons of mass destruction and avoiding all things Christmas. When the spirit of her deceased partner, Jacqueline Marley, warns Ebony that she will be visited by three ghosts, Ebony writes the visitation off as a dream. But on this Christmas Eve, the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future must try to pull off a miracle, restoring Ebony’s heart before it’s too late.
The Most Disappointing:
House of Sky and Breath, book two in the Crescent City series, by Sarah J. Maas was so lackluster that I forgot I even read it this year. I gave it three stars because I really liked the last 25% of the book but everything before that was so boring🥱 You can read my review here.
Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.
The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.
In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it.
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten was so hyped up that I had to read it. I assumed this YA fantasy was inspired by “Little Red Riding Hood” but it ended up being more of a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. Those things should have made this book a winner but unfortunately, it fell woefully flat. You can read my review here.
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.
As you can probably tell, I love fairytale retellings so I had to read The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne. This book is set in medieval Germany and is about the life of Mother Gothel before Rapunzel. I should have loved this book but characters with no depth and flat writing ruined it for me. You can read my review here.
Germany, 1156. With her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, young Haelewise has never quite fit in. Shunned by her village, her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, and of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.
When her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother spoke of—a place called Gothel, where she meets a wise woman willing to take Haelewise under her wing. There, she discovers that magic is found not only in the realm of fairy tales.
But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles, behind the world Haelewise has always known.
Katherine by Anya Seton is one of my all time favorite historical fiction books so I was very excited to dive into The Winthrop Woman. Until this book, I hadn’t read any historical fiction about early America. I did enjoy that aspect of the story BUT man, this book dragged on and on and on. Katherine brought history to life in a factual but entertaining way while The Winthrop Woman read more like history book with the addition of whiny, annoying characters. You can read my review here.
The Worst of the Worst:
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth could technically be in my most disappointing section because I LOVED Bitter Greens by this author and so had high hopes for this book. I thought this was going to be a romantic, fairytale-esque story about the life of Wilhelm Grimm. Unfortunately, it was depressing with little joy, no romance and graphic sexual abuse. You can read my review here.
Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.
Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.
It is a time of war, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as Hansel and Gretel, The Frog King and Six Swans. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.
Scarred by Emily McIntire wins the award for worst book of 2022. It has the audacity to be both horrifically graphic and horrifically boring at the same time. You can read my review here.
She doesn’t belong to him…she belongs to the crown.
Prince Tristan Faasa was never destined for the throne. That was always his brother, Michael. The same brother responsible for both Tristan’s tormented childhood and the scar that mars his face. When their father dies, Michael is set to assume the throne, and Tristan is set to steal it. The leader of a secret rebellion, Tristan will stop at nothing to end his brother’s reign. But when Michael’s new betrothed, Lady Sara Beatreaux arrives, Tristan finds himself in the middle of a new kind of war. The kind that begs the question of what’s more important, the crown or the woman about to wear it.
Sara has one plan. Marry the King and eradicate the Faasa line, even at the risk of her own peril. But she never expects the Scarred Prince. He’s dangerous. Forbidden. And one of the men she’s been sent to kill. But the line between hatred and passion has never seemed so thin, and as secrets come to light, Sara grows unsure of whom she can trust—torn between vengeance and the villain she was never supposed to love.
I am always up for a new fantasy so when I found Faerie Silver, Iron Cold by Vic Malachai, I immediately started reading. Unfortunately, this novel has found its way to my worst of list because it read like a first, maybe second, draft. The grammar wasn’t particularly bad but there were mistakes, and the writing didn’t flow smoothly. I caught myself rereading the same paragraph over and over because it was either poorly written or so dull that I couldn’t focus on it. You can read my review here.
No well-brought-up child of Brinley would ever dream of crossing the stepping stones. In Brinley, no one ever goes out at night and cold iron guards every door and window, for the stream crossing doesn’t just lead to the deep forest—it leads to Faerie. All children of Saxony were told Faerie stories, but the ones of Brinley whispered of protective yellow hardhay flowers and cold iron to ward away the ever-looming danger.
Ciar Eckstein isn’t a well-brought-up child of Brinley.
When her mother dies, her father sends Ciar and her brother to live with their grandparents, guardians of Brinley’s bridge to Faerie. Ciar’s mother’s Faerie stories were alluring, but in Brinley the tales are dark. Despite their parent’s warnings the children of Brinley play dangerous games along the bank. Ciar is the only one to ever take the ultimate dare—cross the stream into Faerie.
Faerie is beautiful and dangerous, and nothing in Faerie is quite so beautiful or dangerous as the young Fae, Mael. Ciar and Mael grow up together as Brinley watches in horrified fascination, wondering when the Fae-touched girl will disappear over the stream forever, swallowed up by the hungry woods that have claimed so many others. Brinley breathes a sigh of relief when Ciar goes off to school, town and girl finally freed.
But with a promise to return hanging in the balance, is Brinley right about what waits in Faerie?
The last, worst book I read this year was We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. This book was shockingly boring. It was one of those stories that I had to force myself to concentrate on and fell asleep while reading it multiple times. It took me weeks to finish, despite it only being 158 pages long. That’s basically my full review but you can read the rest here.
Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece: the deliciously dark and funny story of Merricat, tomboy teenager, beloved sister – and possible lunatic.
“Her greatest book …at once whimsical and harrowing, a miniaturist’s charmingly detailed fantasy sketched inside a mausoleum…Through depths and depths and bloodwarm depths we fall, until the surface is only an eerie gleam high above, nearly forgotten; and the deeper we sink, the deeper we want to go”. (Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch).
Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.
That is all of the good, bad and ugly books that I read in 2022! I’d love to know if we share any opinions or if you feel differently! Thanks for reading and have a great day!