Here we are: another year, another Reading Recap! Welcome to Part 2 of this year’s mini-book reviews of all the new fiction books I read. If you missed Part 1, read it here. Across 2022, including non-fiction and fiction, I read a total of 57 books. I don’t think I’ve reached that reading level since high school, so that’s pretty exciting.
Let’s dive into the second half of this year’s reads, shall we?
Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson (3/5 Stars): Honestly, I struggled to get into this novella spinoff of Sanderson’s Skyward series. The writing style doesn’t read very Sanderson in my opinion, and the main protagonist, FM, is a character I wasn’t super attached to and barely remembered from the main series. Other characters from Skyward Flight interested me more, and the novella didn’t do much to boost my opinion of her. By the end, though, the story did get better and I did enjoy the budding romance between FM and Rig.
ReDawn by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson (4.5/5 Stars): The second of the spinoff Skyward novels was much better in terms of style, story, and my personal investment. This book follows the alien Alanik and introduces us to Alanik’s people, the UrDail, including their culture, planet, and politics. It was immediately interesting for that reason, and the dynamic between her and the humans was very intriguing. The book also ends with a huge gut punch moment I won’t ruin, but it does make it a must-read for the series. This story proves my assumption that the spin-off novellas wouldn’t be all that important to the main plot very wrong.
Evershore by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson (4.5/5 Stars): I almost gave this book 5 stars, but I guess I’m just picky this year? I love Jorgen, who’s the main character for this novella. This book also provided clarity for the big reveal at the end of Cytonic (Book 3 in the main series) in a satisfying and unexpected way. I love the kitsen, who are featured in this book, and I appreciated Jorgen’s character development over the course of the story. As a slight negative, there were a few awkwardly written scenes, and the book felt a little breathless with an action-packed last third. Overall, I thought it was a good addition to the Skyward series and a good cap for the trilogy of spinoffs about Skyward Flight. However, in some ways it almost went too big at the end, so Skyward fans will definitely need to read this trilogy before the fourth book comes out, or else they’ll be very confused.
Thirst by Jill Williamson (5/5 Stars): To be honest, I don’t normally go for the Doomsday-centered dystopian apocalypse genre, but I would read anything Jill Williamson writes and absolutely love it. Thirst is one of two prequels (more on the second in a moment) to The Safe Lands trilogy and shows exactly what happened when a strain of bacteria infected nearly all water sources in the world, wiping off the majority of the planet. It is haunting, tragic, and extremely heartbreaking, yet Jill manages to tell the story in a way where the reader is more focused on the immediate dangers facing a surviving group of teens and the hope that some parents and loved ones still live. It is thrilling; I read it in 24 hours with reluctant breaks. Like all of Jill’s books, Thirst also tackled issues of faith without minimizing the struggle of trusting God when the world is literally falling apart. It doesn’t skirt around hard stuff like some Christian fiction is tempted to do, and I appreciate that.
Hunger by Jill Williamson (4/5 Stars): While this was a worthy and engaging sequel to Thirst, its significantly slower pace diminished some of the driving tension present in the first book. Instead of a tense, constantly moving story like the first book, Hunger was a slow burn, a mystery about this eerie city rising up from the ashes of civilization. That being said, the conflict and character dynamics were varied and realistic, which kept my interest. The end was sad, yet satisfying.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (4/5 Stars): This book about the end of the world is absolutely hilarious, with Monty Python-esque humor and nothing overly sacrilegious. The book is inspired by Christian ideas of the apocalypse and includes some decent theological accuracy, or at least respect for foundational Christian beliefs, but Gaiman and Pratchett take clear liberties with imagining characters, events, etc. that don’t completely line up with Christianity. But it is certainly not anti-religious; the goal here is to tell a funny story rather than to make judgements on religious beliefs. I didn’t know what to expect going into the book, but was pleasantly surprised by the themes and heart of the book. Gaiman and Pratchett also have an incredible way of storytelling that gives you great and comedic details, with wittiness hidden between the lines. I appreciate their subtle writing style. It’s very intriguing. My only real criticism of the book is that its middle gets a little slow in places. But the humor is certainly what makes this book brilliant. If you need a laugh, I recommend it.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (5/5 Stars): This book is so well done, with intriguing mysteries and problems that all come together so perfectly in the end. I was blown away by the subtle love story that unfolds and how the author shows Sophie’s struggle to see how her own mindset contributes to her problems. It’s an emotionally intelligent book with vivid characters, good tension and intrigue, and a heartfelt ending. Very good story.
Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (3.5/5 Stars): Fawkes was an okay read. It certainly had strong moments that compelled me to keep reading, and the ending was a fantastic finish. The story’s beginning relied a little too much on plot convenience for my taste, and the book’s frequent time jumps gave the story a disjointed feel at times. That being said, the book has a very creative color-based magic system, I liked Thomas and Emma as individuals and as a couple, and the ending was extremely satisfying. I do recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction and fantasy.
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by Laura Geringer & William Joyce (4/5 Stars): One of my favorite movies of all time is Rise of the Guardians, a Dreamworks Animated film about your favorite childhood legends, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, take on the Boogeyman to protect the children of the world. It’s a severely underrated film. But it is related to this book, as Nicholas St. North is the first in what I assume to be a prequel series to the movie. (Although I’m a little uncertain, as from skimming the other books in the series it may be an alternate version of the story? We’ll see as I keep reading.) In any case, whether it directly feeds into the movie or not, this first book about Nicholas’s story was a charming adventure with well-written prose that feels familiar, as its artistic flair reminds me of books I read growing up and of my own writing. I went in expecting a clear Santa Claus origin story, which is why I read it during the holiday season, but aside from some connected elements like the presence of flying reindeer and references to toys, it wasn’t all that connected to the Santa Claus legend. While it was a great story in its own right and I look forward to reading the rest of the series next year, I think my unmet or confused expectations for what the book would be versus what it actually was contributed to a small ratings deduction for me. I’m certainly intrigued for how the series progresses and plan to read the rest of the series in 2023.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (5/5 Stars): My second Dickens book of the year! How fun! Despite A Christmas Carol being one of my favorite holiday stories in its various film and stage adaptations, I’ve never read the book. I snagged a facsimile copy of the original printing, which was a fun find, and determined I would finally read the book. It is a short and sweet story, very well-adapted in its various film versions, but the novel contains even more magic and heart to the story, as the prose includes extra details that you can’t quite show on screen. I was also surprised by how creepy the book actually was, as the family-friendly telling of the story I’m used to cuts back on some of the scarier scenes. It truly is one of the greatest fictional stories of all time, and well-deserving of its cultural significance even nearly 200 years after it was written.
Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (5/5 Stars): This book is a collection of the letters J. R. R. Tolkien wrote to his kids as “Father Christmas,” depicting chaotic and amusing events that took place in the North Pole that year. While it is by no means a traditional narrative, it’s still a delightful book that warms the heart and tells little stories that are interesting on their own. I highly recommend it as a worthy inclusion in your Christmas book lineup. It also makes a great holiday coffee table book, with gorgeous illustrations and copies of Tolkien’s actual letters.
While that’s it for the 2022 books I read for the first time, as a bonus for this year’s Reading Recap, I wanted to include a few shout-outs to some non-book stories I enjoyed this year.
Earlier in the year, I fell in love with two TV shows: Netflix’s recent adaptation of Lost In Space and Psych. Lost In Space is a solid show, with incredible family relationships, excellent character growth, and a surprising Gospel message about what freedom truly is. And Psych is the funniest TV show I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
On the movie side, I wasn’t too impressed this year. Marvel was lackluster and there weren’t a lot of films that excited me. However, Top Gun: Maverick was the exception. It was SO. GOOD. The film is a fun adventure that leaves you on the edge of your seat. It was very enjoyable. There are a lot of movies in 2023 I’m looking forward to, so hopefully next year will be better on the movie front.
And lastly, I played two new video games I really loved. I’m currently playing through the first Xenoblade Chronicles. I’m fully invested in the story and mystery of the game, and love the gorgeous music. My progress is slow going because it is a lengthy game (I believe I’m only a third of the way through) and it’s a game that I only want to play when I’m free of other distractions. The other game, which I have beaten, was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. I picked this game up back when they announced Breath of the Wild ‘s sequel would be delayed until 2023, and the game definitely helped fill the void of disappointment. It’s an enjoyable hack-and-slash with plenty of Breath of the Wild content and Easter eggs to satisfy Zelda fans like me.
So there you have it! My Reading Recap for 2022. What was your favorite book this year? What are you looking forward to reading in the New Year?