I’ve already read over ten books in 2019. For some of you, ten books in four months is nothing, but for me, it’s an achievement—in my adult years, at least! I used to read all the time as a kid and constantly needed to more books to meet the demands of my voracious reader’s appetite. In college, I majored in English, and while I certainly continued to read plenty of books, reading for “work” instead of for fun took its toll on my desire to read outside of the classroom. As a result, my “to be read” list has been stuffed for years, and it’s something I hope to tackle in 2019 as I finally start working through the books I haven’t had the time to read. So far, I’ve not been disappointed with the adventures I’ve had through fiction. Here are the top three stories from the first part of the year:
The Ellie Sweet books by Stephanie Morrill:
I read The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet and The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet back-to-back in the first week and a half of January. About a teen author, the two books tell a charming story of love, friendship, and forgiveness that I found relatable, endearing, and hard to put down. Often these books kept me up late into the night as I kept telling myself “Just one more chapter!”
My favorite part of the books was their focus on Ellie’s path to publication, as it’s a journey I’m currently beginning with my own book. Reading about Ellie’s efforts right before I started my own querying attempts gave me real-world insight and perspective—as well as a small level of anxiety as I was reminded of all that goes into getting a novel published these days. I also loved the romance plot and was delighted by who ended up with Ellie at the end. Though I didn’t read a lot of romance when I was younger, in my adult years I’m discovering that I appreciate a feel-good romance plot done well (like in these books!).
I’ve had the privilege of hearing Stephanie speak at conferences over the years, and I’d just left an event where I had the opportunity to speak with her one-on-one when I started reading the first Ellie Sweet book. It’s neat to read the work of an author I’ve had a chance to learn from, as I came away from her books knowing without a doubt that she knows what she’s talking about. Not that I had any doubt in the first place, but all the same it is encouraging and inspiring to see an example of how the tools and advice she’s given me over the years was used to create a stellar pair of well-crafted, well-written novels.
Ellie Sweet was a hit with me, and I became emotionally invested in all the trials that Ellie faced over the course of her two books. I believe any young writer would appreciate and love these books, as well as anyone who loves contemporary YA.
The Out of Time trilogy by Nadine Brandes:
Written by another author I’ve heard speak at conferences in the past, A Time to Die, A Time to Speak, and A Time to Rise (the three books of Nadine’s debut series) occupied my reading time late February through early March. It is a Christian dystopian following the adventures of Parvin Blackwater as she seeks to confront the injustices of her society, which is bound and heavily affected by the use of clocks counting down how many days each individual person has left to live. The three books are full of adventure, heroic feats, spiritual growth, emotional moments, and romance. As with Ellie Sweet, the three books of Nadine’s trilogy kept me up late into the night, and I couldn’t stop reading them until I’d completed the entire series.
What I appreciated most about Nadine’s Out of Time books was the use of the Christian narrative. Parvin undergoes major spiritual transformation that drives a lot of the actions she goes on to take throughout the course of the books. While most Christian fiction can be heavy-handed, the way Nadine weaves this subplot throughout Parvin’s story was believable, contributed to the overall plot and themes of the novels, and touched me personally. I felt like I not only read an amazing story, but also grew alongside Parvin in my own understanding of how to live a life for Christ’s glory. Strangely, I found the things that Parvin had to learn in the course of her journey to be extremely applicable to where I found myself a couple months ago. It’s cool—I don’t really think I’ve had a fiction reading experience quite like that before.
All in all, Nadine’s Out of Time trilogy is the best dystopian I’ve read. It moved me and convicted me, made me weep and cheer, and in the end, left me feeling very satisfied.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson:
This 1,000+ page book is the second of The Stormlight Archive, which might be my new favorite fantasy series (other than The Lord of the Rings, which is an untouchable #1 on my list of favorites). This epic fantasy took up about three weeks of April, and they were three weeks well spent with Sanderson’s characters and world.
It was an awesome read, with never a boring moment. The pacing was excellent and kept me engaged throughout the length of the novel. I’m in love with the characters and thought their arcs and point of views were perfectly balanced. I’m in awe of the world and magic system. Many of my unanswered questions from the first book, The Way of Kings, were answered, and yet still more mystery about the world and unfolding plot remains to be explored. Constantly I reacted to the many shocking events of the story, crying “No. Why? What? How? No,” audibly, and frequently I laughed aloud—and I rarely make a sound out loud as I read. Every time I picked up the book to resume reading, I got excited—I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go and what the characters would experience. It is truly an epic piece. And my only reason for not immediately jumping to the third book? I’m trying to pace myself—book four doesn’t come out until end of 2020 at the earliest, and I love this series so much already that I want to savor it and not swallow it whole all at once. Though I probably would read The Stormlight Archive straight through if all of the books were out.
If you’re a fantasy nerd like me, you’ve probably already heard of Brandon Sanderson. If you haven’t, go read The Stormlight Archive right now. You won’t regret the thousands of pages when you’re done, I promise.
If you’re looking for a great new book to read, I recommend each one of these series. They swept me off into their unique adventures and worlds with ease and well surpassed my high standards for an engaging read.