Okay, let's see if I can make anything coherent about this.
My personal rules:
It has to be indie (small press or self-published). If something's a best seller, you probably heard of it, and my take on it probably won't be the difference between you reading it or not. The point of doing this is to draw attention to books you might not have otherwise heard of and telling you they're out there. These are the ten that, for whatever reason (usually incredibly personal to me, and sometimes bizarrely inconsistent), I liked the most.
So let's get started with a good old fashioned countdown.
Oh, and because I like to scrape what I can out of the Zon, this post has affiliate links.
All Hallows Airship by Liz Delton
This was a super cozy book, decent little mystery, but more just a nice coming-of-age story about a rather shy girl finding courage when she is taken in by an older mentor and allowed to test her wings.
Candlelight Gifts by JA Andrews
Okay, so it wasn't far into this story that I realized it was a retelling of The Gifts of the Magi. It says so on the blurb, but I'd downloaded it significantly before I read it, and by that point I hadn't forgotten, but how you feel about this story is probably going to depend on your take on that. This is apparently connected to a larger universe/series, and I think me not being familiar with that took it down a few points because there were some world building choices that did NOT make sense to me but which might be illuminated if I'd read the series. I spent a lot of time questioning certain aspects ... but some of the world building that I did get into was cool, and ... dang it, it made me cry and then my daughters made fun of me for crying. I'm going to like sneak them a copy of something where a dog dies to get back at them.
All That Glimmers by Selina J. Eckert
This gets extra points for saying something brave and true about grief and letting go. A lot of fairy tale retellings, especially shorter ones, wouldn't have the margin to be this honest, and without spoiling the ending, it impressed me. It's otherwise a fairly light "fairy realm adjacent to humans, humans challenging fae to a test to try and win something invaluable to them" tale, but the choices in the end really elevate it.
Pangar Ban by Fay Sampson
This one stretches "indie" a little bit. This was originally published in 1980 but when out of print, bu then (if I have my story straight), an indie author who loved it got permission to publish it for the author.
It is a WEIRD little book but if you like George MacDonald or Charles Kingsley and that sort of bizarre but beautiful religious allegory that has kind of a dreamlike feel to it ... this is very good. A little old fashioned, but definitely memorable.
Sky Keeper by E.J. Kitchens
This was my first read of 2022 and I remember liking it a lot, but the details are fuzzy. I will defer to last January me who said: Fun adventure with interesting characters and continuing world building. I got into Vesper a little less than the other characters. I think because she was hiding so much for the first section of the book we weren't really allowed to get to know her. It looks for once the next book continues with the same characters instead of introducing new ones, so maybe we get more time with her to figure her out more.
Current me remembers the world building in this series being really cool ... if only EJ would let someone kiss every once in a while ...
Love at Second Sight by LiWen Ho
Liwen Y. Ho is one of the only contemporary Christian romance (or any contemporary romance, really) writers I can read without gritting my teeth at how contrived everything is. Her characters are funny and real and the "drama" is usually something that I can see actual people getting into. This one was pretty sweet. I'm not sure I bought Brad as a huge star and still so down to earth, but in fairness, I have never met a huge movie star, so maybe I'm just jaded.
I rated VERY few books 5 stars this year. So everything past this is my five star reads, and ... I'm still uncertain of the order. These are all pretty good, so ... hang on, all.
Shadow Light by Sarah Delena White
Delightful short in a classic fairy tale style. Fun to read. Quick but that's to be expected with a short story. Definitely feels complete.
Fey of the Castle Garden by Naomi P. Cohen
Great world building and characterization. Plot did kind of feel a little strung out in the end like she was determined to tie up EVERY loose thread no matter what (I'm the sort of reader who can let minor plotlines go to an extent), but that was only the last couple of chapters and I'm sure other readers will like the completionism involved. I fought with myself about this being higher. It was so close to being my favorite, but ... well, read on.
A Time of Mourning and Dancing by Abigail Falanga
I read this super early last year, and originally I was a little harder on it, but I remember it way better than books I read later in the year and rated higher. Really good characterization, and older (meaning not teens) MCs than you usually see in this genre. I had some issues with the end which seemed like it was just setting up a bunch of sequels for the various princesses to have their own adventures/retellings later, but I liked the main characters and the world building twists given to this classic story enough that it still made my top three books of the year.
Okay, here we go ... number one.
Seaspoken by Sarah Delena White
This slot often goes to a "candy" book... and I don't mean weightless or inconsequential, I mean I devoured this thing like sweet frothy goodness and enjoyed every moment of it.
Adorably fantasy romance, good world building, some heat, but it's fade to black and it's one of those "if we lie together we are now married for all times" worlds so not even technically pre-marital.
Super pretty book.
Not just the cover, just overall.
K, so that was it. I plan to read 40 books next year (2022 I read 46, but my theme this year is taking it easy on myself) and I've already read one, so off to a decent start. Yay!
If you are interested in my 2021 list, here it is.