Reading Recap 2022 – Part 1

Normally, I wait until end of December to release my annual Reading Recap, a collection of mini reviews the fiction books I read for the first time over the year. However, my list is growing SO large that I decided to split up the lists rather than cutting books from it. It’s exciting that I need to do this, as it means I’m actually reading a lot of new books, perhaps the most I’ve read in a year since high school. 

In addition to these titles (and the ones I’ll discuss in Part 2), I also reread a lot of my favorite series: the entire Tolkien canon (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings), A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Mission League by Jill Williamson (review for that series in one of 2019’s Reading Recaps).

Here’s all the first-time fictional reads from the first part of 2022 (January – June…ish):

Dune by Frank Herbert (4/5 Stars): Dune is a very intriguing story. It’s certainly not a read for the faint of heart, though, as it uses technical world-building language and terminology, features many characters, and frequently jumps point-of-views, all of which require a lot of focus while reading in order to follow what’s happening. The beginning is very slow, but once the story picks up, it keeps moving steadily forward, though in my opinion it relies on time jumps a little too frequently. Sometimes it felt difficult at the start of a chapter to discern where in the story it takes place. The book also introduces several different plot threads that I personally felt a little lost at times, wondering “So…how does all of this come together, anyway?” But the ending manages to pull it off; everything makes sense and ends in a satisfying way. It’s clear to see how Dune made an impact on sci-fi stories to come, and I genuinely enjoyed it. The political intrigue in particular was engaging, as was the relationship between Chani and Jessica. I truly enjoyed it, and hope to read the other books of the series in the near future!

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3/5 Stars): The beginning half of The Sign of the Four, the second Sherlock Holmes novel, was great, full of wit, intrigue, and the classic Holmes feel. However, I did feel like the mystery was “solved” too early in the story, with the last half focusing on catching the villains and confirming what Holmes had already deduced. It lost my interest a bit because of that, though the storytelling overall was much better than it was in A Study of Scarlet (which I read last year). I also loved the little romance between Watson and Mary – very cute.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (4/5 Stars): Delightfully Dickens. The semi-autobiographical nature of David Copperfield is relatable to my own writing, as Whitman Court and Our Company of Fools, through their main characters, tell deeply resonant stories of my own life. This novel can be a dense read at times, though. I found myself disengaged in places. Like Dune, David Copperfield progressively introduces storylines that early on appear to be unrelated, but as the book progresses, characters reappear to add new twists, turns, or advance storylines in unexpected ways. It is a very episodic plot, reminiscent of a British TV Period Drama (which I suppose does make sense), yet culminates in a well-rounded, satisfying conclusion as the characters from across David’s life converge toward the end. I aspire to be like David’s aunt, who perhaps was my favorite character of the book, though it is hard to pick a favorite when Dickens writes such lively ones. All in all, it was an intriguing read and a great classic, but certainly not a book for casual readers, unless classical literature is your thing. If you aspire to read a Dickens novel, I recommend starting with Great Expectations over this one.

The Fiddler’s Gun by A. S. Peterson (4/5 Stars): This book is a swashbuckling American Revolution-era adventure, filled with twists, turns, and treachery. Fin Button, the protagonist, is a well-written tomboy who, despite some moral grayness and clear flaws, I found myself rooting for. Her relationship with Peter grounds her and helped me relate to her, too. The plot does meander a little bit and the brunt of the story takes several pages to get into, but the opening scenes of Fin’s life at the orphanage, her budding romance with Peter, and learning from mentor Bartimaeus sets up the later high-stakes adventure well. It was interesting to read a book set during the Revolutionary War with very little overt involvement in the war itself. The war certainly plays into the plot of the book and the tension, but it serves mostly as a backdrop to Fin’s own story of finding who she is, making mistakes, and navigating the world as a fugitive. All in all, it was a fun adventure, with an ending that makes you ready for more. Speaking of more…

Fiddler’s Green by A. S. Peterson (4/5 Stars): Much like the first book, Fiddler’s Green is a fun adventure with plenty of intrigue and unexpected twists. This book beautifully builds off of the consequences of Fin’s actions from the first installment and brings her character arc to a strong, if bittersweet, conclusion. Though still set during the time of the Revolutionary War, the story takes place primarily in the Mediterranean Sea, providing a great and creative global perspective on this part of American history. The plot wasn’t as linear or clear as I prefer, but the book manages to wrap up all the various story threads into a satisfying resolution.

Prince of Shadow and Ash by Selina R. Gonzalez (5/5 Stars): 5 stars are apparently hard to come by for my reads this year, but Prince of Shadow and Ash is well deserving of it! It’s a medieval fantasy with a compelling story, strong and believable romantic arc, great conflict, relatable characters, and well-executed writing style. The main characters, Regulus and Adelaide, are wonderful, and their budding romance is well-paced, full of “Awwww!”-inducing moments without relying on clichés or lack of realism, and demonstrates a genuine relationship built on mutual trust. Also, the antagonists are genuinely frightening, and side characters such as Dresden come alive even with brief appearances. I was drawn in and just couldn’t stop reading.

Servant, Mercenary, Brother Vol. I by Selina R. Gonzalez (4/5 Stars): As a side story connected to Prince of Shadow and Ash, my enjoyment of this novella largely hinged on my enjoyment of the main books of the series. I expected this book to be a series of one-off, loosely connected stories, but I was pleasantly surprised to instead find a cohesive story spanning across the years of Dresden and Regulus’s friendship. The volume as a whole had a satisfying character arc that rounded out Dresden’s character. While it technically could be read as the first book in the series, I think it is a better read after at least Prince of Shadow and Ash, as you appreciate it more knowing the main story.

Staff of Nightfall by Selina R. Gonzalez (3.5/5 Stars): The sequel to Prince of Shadow and Ash is great for its compelling storytelling and the dynamic between Regulus and Adelaide. The two antagonists from the first book are well-balanced in this second adventure; while they were unconnected in the first book, they’re brought together in a way that both raises the stakes and makes the conflict more personal for both of the protagonists. It’s very well done. Also, the last two chapters of this book are so satisfying. It gets a slightly lower ranking than the first book for two big reasons that I feel are important to share. First, the content of the book does take a darker direction and it was personally hard for me to read. The traumatic experiences Adelaide goes through were a little too much for me to handle, though I recognize both that it’s essential to Adelaide’s character arc and the author does give a disclaimer about the content. Still, it was hard for me to read at times. Second, and kind of related, the story was full of big, dangerous moments that seemed to overly-rely on sequences of the heroes getting tortured. The flow of the plot seemed to take an all-or-nothing approach, with big scenes of violence contrasted with much slower moments. The flow of the book wasn’t as smooth as the first one. All that to be said, it was a great story, and while it is more graphic and disturbing than the first, it does get redeemed and weaved into a satisfying ending.

Servant, Mercenary, Brother Volume II by Selina R. Gonzalez (3/5 Stars): Like the first volume, this novella does a great job with adding to Dresden’s personal arc. However, unlike the first volume, this collection of vignettes didn’t add much to the overall story of the series. It largely retells scenes from the two main books without adding much substance to the story, save for a couple of vignettes. Also, there were moments were we almost got more backstory on a few of the other knights in Regulus’s company, only for the scenes to get abruptly cut off, which disappointed me slightly since I wanted to know more about the other side characters. Still, I enjoyed several of the stories, especially the ending, and reading from Dresden’s perspective is always entertaining!

The Bells of Winter by Selina R. Gonzalez (5/5 Stars): This novelette / short story is the perfect bow on The Mercenary and the Mage duology. A sweet, heartwarming story worth a read for any fan of the main books!


Thanks for reading! I hope you found a book you might want to pick up yourself, or maybe as a Christmas gift for someone else. Part 2 of my 2022 Reading Recap will be out on the last day of the year, so stay tuned!