Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays! 2021 is coming to an end, and that means it’s time to ring in what’s becoming an annual tradition for me: my reading recap of the year! Since I read nearly 40 books this year, I’m only going to go over a few of the highlights. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive into my Reading Recap for 2021…
Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War (4/5 Stars): Of course, as a continuation of Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive, I loved this book and it did not disappoint. Yet…I did struggle to get into the story at first, and there were moments that seemed a bit sluggish or overly repetitive. Kaladin, Navani, Venli, and Adolin all shone in their respective storylines. Raboniel was a fascinating villain and trying to figure out her motivations kept me on my toes throughout the book. On the negative side, I don’t particularly enjoy Shallan’s split-personality storyline, mostly because Shallan continues to frustrate me ever since the end of Words of Radiance. As always, the climax of the book was incredible and left me longing for the next book.
Daniel Schwabauer’s Operation Grendel (3/5 Stars): While military sci-fi isn’t my genre of choice, the storyline of this book, which weaves in flashbacks with present moments, is super intriguing. Also, this book has THE BEST plot twist I’ve ever read.
George Orwell’s 1984 (4/5 Stars): A compelling and thought-provoking read with a heart-wrenching ending. It is on the dense side, so it’s not necessarily a pleasurable read, but it is an intriguing book all the same.
Catherine L. Haw’s I Did NOT Choose This Adventure (5/5 Stars): A sweet and humorous fantasy adventure, this little book is an enjoyable ride. Catherine is a friend of mine through the One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) community, and I got to critique an earlier draft of this novel at a winter retreat. It was extra fun to see how the story changed and improved for the final version! It’s a quick and easy read, and great for young readers. I’m curious to know if there’s any additional stories set in this world for the future… but if not, Reggie and Princess Chel’s adventure was satisfying and full of heart!
Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris (5/5 Stars): I’ve had this book on my shelf for over two years now, and first tried to read it during my first semester of grad school. I couldn’t quite get into it at the time, mostly due to my lack of time for anything fun or enjoyable during that semester, but I’m happy to report that I absolutely loved it. The characters and magic system were extremely well done, and the resolution of the book surprising. I also enjoyed this book for its glimpse into Sanderson’s beginnings. There were lots of parallel elements between this book and The Stormlight Archive: a broken, lost magic system that is now looked on with fear; glowing magicians with different power specialties; political intrigue among the nobles; and mystical beings somehow connected to the magic. I honestly find it comforting to see that Sanderson, too, has his recycle bin of favorite tropes, as I also have similar themes and elements across my own stories.
Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals (1/5 Stars): I’ve heard a lot of great things about Terry Pratchett, and this book—about a wizarding university starting a football [soccer] team—piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the book didn’t quite meet my expectations of what the story would be about based on the impressions from the back cover summary. The plot felt rambling, with no clear scene breaks (the book is 500+ pages with no chapter breaks) or rising and falling of tension, and there were a few random “side” plots that seemed to come out of nowhere. In fairness, this book—as one of the later Discworld novels to come out—was probably not the best for me to start out with, as I couldn’t fully appreciate the Easter eggs and lore built up by the 40+ books published before it. I did find the book funny, as Pratchett includes lots of clever lines easily overlooked if you’re not reading carefully as well as some amusing social commentary on the nature of sports culture. Ultimately, the book left me with a mix of met and unmet expectations that kind of left me feeling… “Huh.” I’m motivated to read some earlier Discworld novels to see if I’m able to get into and appreciate Terry Pratchett’s style more.
Brandon Sanderson’s Cytonic (4/5 Stars): Despite telling myself I wasn’t going to read anymore Sanderson books this year (I’ve still got the unread Mistborn trilogy sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for 2022…), when my preordered copy of this book landed on my porch before Thanksgiving… I knew I had to read it immediately. After the cliffhanger of the last book (reviewed in last year’s reading recap), I needed to know what happened next. And I wasn’t disappointed! Book Three of the series was a fun, non-stop adventure with plenty of interesting world-building and characters. Spensa’s struggle and the pull towards forgetting and finding reprieve in the middle of a war-torn life was relatable in some sense and added nice character development on her part. M-Bot, too, continues to hold my fascination, and without giving too much away, his actions made me tear up towards the end of the book. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and it was a good addition to the series. I think Book One is still my favorite of the series, but I enjoyed this one more than Book Two.
Jenni Sauer’s Yesterday or Long Ago (3/5 Stars): Amya and Gibbs were the highlight of this book for me. I loved Amya as a character, and her budding romance with Gibbs is so compelling and relatable. On the flip side, I didn’t care that much for Rinity, who made a couple of poor choices that made me feel less sympathetic towards her, and her romance with Prince Tov moved too fast for me to buy into it. That being said, it was a fun, sweet story, and it was a pleasure to be immersed in the world of Liosa.
Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi (4/5 Stars): Very intriguing story, which I read on the recommendation of a friend. Overall, the fantastical mystery kept my attention captivated and I liked the story. It’s a little mind-bending in places and I still have a lot of questions about the world, but its resolution is satisfying.
Andrew Peterson’s The God of the Garden (5/5 Stars): Best nonfiction book of the year. Balm for my soul. Relatable stories and encouraging words. I could say more, but instead, I’ll just say this: Go read it!
I hope you enjoyed this year’s Reading Recap and maybe gained a couple additions to your TBR pile for 2022! As for my reading outlook for next year, I’m hoping to kick off the new year with rereading the “Tolkien Canon,” or The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. I also plan to read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy (finally), some classic literature (such as David Copperfield, The Three Musketeers, and Les Miserables), and break into my first Neil Gaiman book as a part of my attempt to read more in the fantasy genre.
What are your reading goals for 2022?