2022 Reading Review

I love using Goodreads to track my yearly reading goals! My completed goal of 50 books read is a personal record! I don’t count books I only started, individual chapters for research, random poetry, Bible reading, or baby board books. I do count audiobooks, re-reads, and some children’s story books I read aloud. I prefer paper books to ebooks and audiobooks are lifesavers for listening while working! I own physical copies of almost all my audiobooks.

It was fun to participate in some online reading community! I was a volunteer judge for Realm Awards and a member of 3 book launches. I participated in 2 live book clubs through The Center for Biblical Unity. Here is a breakdown and a few of my recommended favorites. What was your favorite book of 2022? Download the link below for my full reading list!

Of the titles below, 7 were ebooks and 18 audiobooks.

8 Children’s Books. Favorite: Ocean Sky by the Fan Brothers

7 Children/Middle Grade (3 re-reads). Favorite: The Chronicles of Prydain Bk 3 The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander.

7 Classics (5 re-reads). Favorite: Dracula by Bram Stoker

6 Fantasy/Steampunk/Dystopian. Favorites: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson and The Skyworld Duology by Morgan L Busse

2 Romance. Favorite: The Time of the Hunter’s Moon by Victoria Holt

3 Sci-Fi. Favorite: The Wayward by Tabitha Caplinger

6 Historical Fiction/Mystery. Favorite: Bird in a Snare by N.L. Holmes

4 Non-Fiction. Favorite: Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K White

6 Christian Worldview/Theology. (2 re-reads). Favorites: Stand Up Stand Strong by Sarah Barrett, Faithfully Different by Natasha Crain, The Crucifixion of the King of Glory by Eugenia Constantinou

1 Educational Philosophy (Christian): For the Children’s Sake by Edith Schaeffer McCauley  

Review: The Wayward

This book is now available for pre-order! I am thankful to be a part of the launch team and received a free ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Christian-made hopeful dystopian. Realistic relationships. Loving married couple. Surviving trauma. Alien invaders welcomed on earth. Value of human life.  Free country living vs controlled and lifeless domed cities. Truth revealed. Adult/YA.

5 stars because this is a well-written, thrilling, yet hopeful sci fi adventure! This book took me by surprise because it doesn’t feel like science fiction/ dystopian right away.  I saw one reviewer aptly refer to this book as “cottagecore sci fi!” I highly recommend this for a reader who wants to “get their feet wet” in the sci-fi/dystopian genre. Set in North America in 2079 long after aliens are welcomed on earth as bringers of peace, the reader finds out that things are not what they seem.

Wilder is a relatable character who doesn’t seek leadership but rises to the occasion to defend her town despite the tragedies she suffers through. The relationship between her and Declan is uplifting and realistic. It’s nice to have a sweet married couple as the story’s main characters without being steamy. Their initial romance was a bit sappy for my taste, but here I am splitting hairs. I want to live in the tightknit mountain community of Beartooth and attend the simple church services there. The contrast between the free-thinking, tough, and loving humans of Beartooth and the willfully ignorant, weak, and self-centered humans of the carefully curated domed cities is stark.

The story is told 3rd person from 6 different POV’s and I enjoyed that! The concept of the aliens in this story is fascinating, and their POV’s are central to the story. This seems to be a standalone story, although I would love a sequel spending more time with some of the characters! The world building is good, but I wanted more explanation about the alien’s origins. The ending leaves a few questions, and I believe the author may have left them intentionally open-ended. There are scary/disturbing elements of this story but nothing gratuitous (see spoilers for more details). The ending is thrilling but satisfying!

Scroll down for additional thoughts… (Spoiler alert!) Please do not continue reading unless you have already finished the book!

Additional Thoughts. SPOILERS! Comment if you have read the book and what you thought!

This book can be intense but nothing gratuitous because (Spoiler alert!) there is mental/physical torture, soul sucking, human sacrifice, and the aliens are frightening when they reveal their true form. Tackling aliens can be a difficult one for Christians authors who place them in a real- world situation.  One of the main themes is God’s special creation of the human soul. These aliens claim to kill humans and drink their souls for survival. Later it’s revealed that they can physically live without doing this, but they have no souls so they feel spiritually empty without sucking the human souls. At the end, the repentant alien Hesperia (who is a great character!) comes to live with the humans at Beartooth and it is hinted that maybe she can find a soul without killing humans? This makes me think that maybe they do have souls but they don’t think they do because their culture has drilled it out of them???? These aliens would have to be God’s creations… but maybe they weren’t given souls? They claim to be an ancient race… whose souls did they eat before coming to earth? Also, there are supposed to be more aliens coming to earth but the ending never suggests if they do or if so, what happens. Fascinating… I want to pick the author’s brain on what her theories were when writing this and if she will ever revisit it! Also- I wanted to cry with joy at the end when Wilder and Declan adopted one of the rescued babies and she looked similar to them! This was such a great ending especially when she was devastated to be barren.

Blogging All The Way | Day 1

Jovey's Journal

Hello all! 

Happy December and welcome to Blogging All The Way! My now twenty-five-day Christmas event! Last year we only did 12 days counting— er, blogging down till Christmas and that was a lot of fun, hopefully, you all will enjoy this too. Because this year we now have a bigger team so there are more lovely people whose posts you will be able to read as the month goes on. 

Alright, enough rambling! Allow me to officially kick off Blogging All The Way!

Here’s how it works, 

Every day starting now until Christmas there will be a new post on my blog written by someone from this amazing group…

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Review: SkyWorld Duology

Skyworld: Secrets in the Mist and Skyworld: Blood Secrets are action-packed steampunk novels by Morgan L. Busse. I read Secrets earlier this year and eagerly anticipated the sequel. I joined the launch team for Blood Secrets and had the opportunity to read an advanced copy. I now own the beautiful hardback copies of both books! The audiobooks are great also! This series has sparked my interest in steampunk-themed fantastical fiction.

This story takes place in a dystopian world where humanity lives at the highest elevations, using airships and gliders for quick air travel. After a world war, ubiquitous Mist takes over the surface of the earth, rendering the land inhabitable and turning anyone who breathes it into the undead “turned.”  Resources are limited and the wealthy class suppresses the lower class as they fight for survival. The story follows Cass, a young survivor of the dreaded purges. Seeking a way to make a living for herself, she joins the crew of an airship as a hired diver, searching for items left behind in the Mist. Her life is forever changed when she meets Theodore, a wealthy and educated member of the ruling five families. Theo and Cass’s places in society would set them at odds, but they share a common purpose; ridding the world of the Mist before it takes over all humanity. Once they discover a cure, Cass wrestles with the concept that the world is worth saving. It is great to have clean steampunk with airships, gliders, creepy metal men, firearms, sky pirates, and “zombies.” I do not prefer zombie stories, but I enjoyed how the author used the concept in this story.

Cass is a relatable female character, brave yet vulnerable. She is not overbearing or unrealistically independent like many female characters in YA fiction today. Theo is a genuine gentleman, scientist, and adventurer. He is kind and strong, and their romance is sweet! They are one of my new favorite literary couples. They both rely on their faith for strength and meaning.

I had no issues with the first book, but the sequel lost a star from me because the ending was rushed. Even though it ended the way I wanted, it wasn’t fully developed. This made for a surprisingly unsatisfactory ending.

I would love it if the author revisited this world with another novel or maybe short stories. I highly recommend these books. It is thrilling YA, but not too scary or graphic for MG and some younger readers.

Review: The Star That Always Stays

The Star That Always Stays gets 5 stars out of 5 from me! Anna Rose Johnson’s debut novel is a beautifully written piece of middle-grade historical fiction. In 1914 Norvia and her four siblings are thrust into life in the city with a new family. Their childhood in poverty around Lake Michigan is left behind when Ma divorces and remarries a kind, financially stable man who encourages Norvia’s appetite for novels and education. The stigma of being the daughter of a divorcee with Ojibwe heritage makes navigating high school challenging! Norvia finds strength through her faith to navigate relationships, prejudice, divorce, and high school! I pre-ordered my hardback copy from Amazon and was thrilled at the beautiful cover!

I love the references to some of my favorite classic stories as Norvia reads books like Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables. This book is uplifting and charming while realistically addressing raw and complex themes. The characters in this story are all compelling! Through Norvia’s eyes I learned a little about the Ojibwe Indian culture and experienced a slice of life in 1914 Boyne City. My only complaint is that the ending left me wanting more. My only complaint is there are a few characters that I loved as much as Norvia and wish had more “time” on the page (especially Aylmer!)

Reviewing this book was special because this author is a member of the Author Conservatory, from the creators of Young Writers Workshop.  of which I am a member. Anna Rose Johnson is an inspiration! I cannot wait to see if she writes more MG fiction. There is a need for wholesome and memorable Christian-made stories of excellent quality. I’m thankful for the authors working to fill the void! Maybe I can count myself among them one day!

What is the Gospel?

Writing Prompt: In your own words, explain the Gospel to a non-believer.

This was more difficult to complete than I realized! Despite my experience in children’s ministry, I stared at my blank screen in discomfort. How can I put this in my own words? It was a thought-provoking exercise to write it out, then spend time in God’s word making sure what I was Biblical accurate. Here is the result of my inadequate, late- night meanderings!  

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sin, but what does that mean? The Bible is the Word of God revealed through His Holy Spirit, so it contains no mistakes. The truth found in scripture can be seen in the world around us and is evident throughout history! To me, God’s Word gives the best explanation for our origins, gives life meaning, dictates morality, and reveals our destiny.

God is the only supreme, Holy entity outside of time, and He created the universe and everything in it. He created human beings in His image, higher than the animals. Because He is triune (Father, Son, and Spirit), He is relational, and we were created for perfect communion with Him. All creation was perfect, with no death or pain. He gave the first humans (Adam and Eve) free will. He placed the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden of Eden and commanded they should not eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Satan, the fallen angel, tempted them to eat of it anyway so they could gain the knowledge of God. With their free will, they willingly gave into that temptation. This was the first sin- disobedience toward God. When sin entered the world, a curse covered on the universe. Death and pain became the norm. Perfect communion was broken between God and humanity. Since then, every human is born under the curse of sin. No person’s innate nature is good, and our punishment is eternal separation from God.

Because we are created in God’s image, any human is capable of contributing good and beautiful works to this dark world. However, these good works are not good enough to pay the penalty and lift the curse. This is why after Adam and Eve were cursed, God immediately gave a promise that He would one day send a Savior for humanity. The Old Testament is the story of how God interacts with His chosen Jewish people, teaches them the moral law, and foreshadows the coming Messiah Savior. The prophecies detail how all humanity would have the opportunity of salvation through the Jewish Messiah. The New Testament shows us that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of those prophecies. He was 100% God and 100% man, the “second Adam.” 2,000 years ago, He was born of the virgin Mary, God in flesh. He lived a sinless life but died a torturous death by crucifixion to pay the penalty for sin: past, present, and future. He conquered death by resurrecting 3 days later and appeared to many witnesses. He later ascended into heaven and reigns on the right hand of God the Father to this day. Jesus will return one day to restore this broken world and defeat Satan forever. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live inside all who confess their sin and believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has allowed all humanity to accept his salvation and lordship. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation, it is a gift freely given and undeserved. Even though we are born selfish, born into rebellion against a Holy God, He loves us and wants to restore communion with us. If we die without repenting (turning away) from our sins and accepting that gift, we will forever be separated from God in eternal hell.

Romans 10:9 ESV says “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Jesus was a real person, God in the flesh. During His life, he claimed to be God, claimed to be the promised Messiah. You either believe He was who He said He was, or you think He was a madman. You cannot believe he was “just a good teacher.” You cannot try to “balance the scales” by doing more good in your life than bad and trust that “whatever god is out there” will accept all people who try to be “good.”

Humans are made in God’s image, so we are triune in a way: body, spirit, soul. Once you accept Christ, your sin is forgiven and your soul is sealed for eternity. You cannot do anything to make Him change that. However, we still live in a broken world and your spirit and body are capable of sin. As the Holy Spirit guides believers through life, our spirit is constantly sanctified (becoming more like Christ.) Our bodies are subject to the curse of pain and death, but one day he will redeem our physical bodies by giving us new, sinless ones. Jesus says in John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”