I read 31 books in 2022, all kinds of different oddball stuff. Here’s some of my reviews.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Well duh, it’s Howl’s Moving Castle! It’s so good! It’s very different from the movie, too. The movie followed the book to the halfway point, then threw the book aside and wrote whatever the heck they wanted. The book is so much weirder!
Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. The sequel to Howl, but it starts off as an Arabian Nights story. Just as fun and fascinating.
The People of the Mist by H. Rider Haggard. I read this to the kids because I like it better than King Solomon’s Mines. Two brothers lose their fortunes and titles and go to Africa to make back their wealth. One brother dies, and the other, the hero, gets landed with a quest to rescue a girl from slavers. The woman who hires him promises him immeasurable wealth in the form of uncut rubies, which the tribe of her people keep secret, the People of the Mist. The hero rescues the girl from the slavers (there is much swashbuckling) and sort of accidentally marries her, except not. So now there’s all this tension between the guy and girl as they go on this quest to steal rubies from these horrible, horrible people way up in the mountains in African somewhere. It’s edge of your seat, swashbuckling, and the final escape down the side of a glacier on stone sleds is pretty much the best part of the book.
Starganauts by C.E. Stone. This book was okay. It’s very clean and Christian, appropriate for homeschoolers and teens. I found the stuff on the desert planet pretty slow, but it picks up once they get their armor.
Nomads of the North by James Oliver Curwood. As a kid, I watched the Disney movie of this book a million times. I think it’s called Niki, Wild Dog of the North. I had no idea that the author of Kazan and Baree, Son of Kazan had written it. Wonderful book, wonderful story, with an ending that tied it all up in a perfect bow. Sitting here with a few happy tears, actually.
Ronnie Akkard and the Brotherhood of Blades, by AC Williams. This was a tough read. The book reads like the first half is missing. What are the armors? How did they get them? The rules of the world aren’t told to the reader. We’re left to fumble around in confusion for the first twenty or so chapters. We meet a bunch of characters who hate each other … and why are they together? Who are they? The second half of the book sort of details it, but … there are layers of things that aren’t explained, like the incident in Texas, and Barb. That happened in the missing front half of the book, but it’s important at the end. Is there a short story that introduced the armors and the tiger and the samurai mentor from another dimension? Something that explains the bad guy robot things? If there is, read that first. I was so confused for this entire book.
Linnets and Valarians by Elizabeth Goudge. This is a beautiful, wonderful book. I just read it aloud to my kids and we loved it. JK Rowling cited it as one of her inspirations, along with the same author’s other book, The Little White Horse. In Linnets, you will find a man with a pet owl, an antagonist named Tom Biddle, and a cat who is not what he seems. There is black magic and white magic, and children having to do homework. It’s not a magical school, but this book is entirely magical.
Holes by Louis Sachar. You take a bad boy, you make him dig holes all day in the sun, you turn him into a good boy. At least, that’s what the warden of Camp Green Lake says. But the hero thinks maybe the Warden is searching for something … Always a great read, so fun to read aloud to the kids.
Salvage in Space by Jack Williamson (short story). This is a story like Alien, but older, and much more positive. If you like space ships haunted by monstrous aliens, this is a very fun read.
The King’s Spell and the King’s Enchantress by EJ Kitchens. I wrote a long review post for these.
Derwood, Inc, by Jerri Massi. I’ve loved this book since I was a kid, and my copy is very dogeared. I recently read it to my kids, because they needed the Fifty-Ton, Mile-Long, Giant Killer Octopus in their lives. We laughed all the way through. We are always on the lookout for funny books, and this one fits the bill perfectly.
Dealing with Dragons and Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. Very fun books, kind of exhausting to read aloud because of the pages and pages of dialogue. My kids love this series.
How to Train your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell. Read this aloud to my kids and we had a lot of fun. The book was a lot better written than I expected, coming straight from Tracy West’s Dragon Masters books. The kids want me to read the whole series, so I may have my work cut out for me …
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. A friend of mine recommended the movie, The Eagle, as a solid, wholesome bromance. I haven’t enjoyed a good bromance in a while, so I watched the movie, and it was okay. Then I went and sampled the book on Amazon, and it was so much better than the movie. More emotional depth. But the sample ends before Marcus buys Esca, so I grabbed the book.
Oh my. If you enjoyed the movie at all, you’ll enjoy the book so much more. The bromance starts early and the book follows these bros on their quest to find the lost Roman Eagle standard. The book goes like this:
Repeat for the whole book. The funny things constantly took me by surprise. I’ve read so many dry historical fiction novels for school, it was a welcome change to read fun characters. I think I’ll pick up the rest of this author’s stuff, because I appreciate an author who can entertain and educate in equal measures.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Wonderful kids book, like the kind they used to write. I’ve read a lot of DeJong’s books, my favorite being Along Came a Dog because it’s about a chicken, lol. This one is about the adventures a bunch of kids have while searching for wagon wheels to put on their school to make nests for storks. As the kids say these days, it’s very wholesome. They make friends and help people along the way. Mean Legless Janus has the best character arc, but as a kid, you don’t see it. As an adult, Janus’s change from a mean, depressed crippled guy to the leader of the village is amazing and refreshing. Highly recommend this book.
Power On by HL Burke. Good superhero adventure for teens. Fun powers, decent characters who grow on you, and just enough peril to keep things interesting. Oh, and invisible ferrets.
Watership Down by Richard Adams. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, Watership Down is a fantasy novel. The gang of buddy male rabbits, their epic quests, first for survival, then for mates, then to defeat the crazed General Woundwort, has all the hallmarks of an excellent fantasy novel. Once you get used to all the protagonists being rabbits, it’s such an excellent read.
The Hobbit, the Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, Return of the King, by JRR Tolkien. Reading it aloud to the kids is kind of a chore, and the books get so dark toward the end. But at the same time, I realized that LOTR is actually a WWII spy novel. No wonder nobody’s ever duplicated it, haha.
The Shock of Night, the Shattered Vigil, the Wounded Shadow, by Patrick Carr. I wrote a long blog post review of these.
The Librarian of Crooked Lane by CJ Archer. A very odd mystery that was like watching a BBC period mystery series set in WW1, except with magic.
Sea and Soul by Shari Branning. Wrote a blog review for this one.
Of Ice and Roses by Heather M Elliot. This is a beautifully-written rendition of the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. But it starts off with Cinderella, so it’s this kind of neat fairytale mashup. Gemma is a poor girl who catches the eye of a prince, who invites her to a week-long ball. Her stepmother (who is not wicked!) gives her an enchantment to create beautiful dresses, and over the course of the week, she and the prince fall in love. Classic fairytale stuff.
They get married and have their honeymoon–
Why is the snow queen attacking
Why is Gemma’s missing childhood friend Casper mixed up in it
Why has Gemma’s memory of him been altered
Why does her stepmother’s enchantment for making dresses also work to make cold-weather clothing
There are amazing tribal werewolves
Casper must be rescued from the snow queen and I want to wrap him up in a warm blanket except he wouldn’t like it because the cold never bothered him anyway
Why is this book so amazing
Fate and Fang by Shari Branning. This is a fun sidestory set in the Seer’s Gambit universe. The premise is like Person of Interest: you have Elliot Reed, who has visions of murder, and you have Tristan Quinn, the werewolf who tries to rescue the victims. There is lots of werewolfy brawling and fighting and killing of bad guys, and the bad guy is a really nasty sorcerer. I hope this becomes a whole series, because it’s too good to leave alone.