Saturday, December 31, 2022

Best of... My favorite books read in 2022!

I read 130 books this year (please note these are just books read in 2022, not necessarily published in 2022). I narrowed down my favorites by genre and have summarized them all below. You can find full reviews on my Goodreads page. Here's to a great reading year in 2023!!

When You Get the Chance - Millie Price has never known her mom. But when she decides to go to arts college against his wishes, she starts searching for her. With the help of some angsty entries from her Dad's Livejournal, circa 2003, she narrows her search down to three women: Beth, Farrah, and Steph. While tracking them down, she gets an internship that she has to share with Oliver, her high school nemesis. Witty, romantic, and delightful! Millie is utterly bewitching--an amazing character that you cannot help but love.I loved this "enemies to more" romance--it was cute, filled with humor and great banter and serious moments.This is a delightful book--such a beautiful ode to family and theater. 

This Golden State - Poppy does not know her parents' real names, or why they have been on the run her entire life. She just knows something really bad would happen if they got caught.When they move to CA, things seem different. She mails in a DNA test, not realizing the true consequences of her actions--and grows close to a classmate. Totally mesmerizing read!! The family dynamic is complicated and complex, but interwoven so delicately. Weisenberg also makes some timely and intriguing points about our digital footprint and how DNA can link people together. Such a riveting read.  

Home Field Advantage - In Atherton TX, football is life. So when their late quarterback is replaced by a girl (who knew Jack Walsh was really Jaclyn Walsh?!!), the team and the cheerleaders are ready to revolt. Even worse, Jack is actually better than Robbie--Atherton is poised to finally win! This makes it hard for Amber McCloud, whose dreams (and college scholarships) are tied up in being cheer captain next year. Such a fun and sweet read while still covering serious topics such as coming out and homophobia. This book made me smile goofily even while it dealt with important subjects. And it gave us a great queer romance!!  

This Wicked Fate - second book in a great duology. Briseis has grown up a lot since learning how her family, descendants of Medea, are tasked with guarding the Absyrtus Heart--a plant that just happens to be incredibly deadly. A wonderful, queer mythical fantasy adventure that will completely sweep you off your feet! Bri is one of my absolute favorite heroines in YA literature. The writing is gorgeous, Bri is smart, funny, and bi (!), and while the books are amazing fantasy reads they also cover serious topics in a wonderful way. Stunning series.  

The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School - Yamilet Flores and her younger brother, Cesar, are headed to a new very white, very wealthy Catholic school where they will be a handful of the Mexican kids. But Yami is glad to leave behind her ex-best friend who outed her and made her life miserable. Her new goals are to keep Cesar out of trouble and to appear straight. A really powerful and moving story led by Yami's unique voice. Not afraid to get into heavy topics, but it also makes a point that these subjects are ones that gay teens are dealing with every single day of their lives. 

 6 Times We Almost Kissed - Penny and Tate have always been in each other's lives, thanks to their best friend moms. But Penny's mom, Lottie, checked out once Penny's father died. And Anna, Tate's mom, has battled cancer and is now facing another illness. Now Lottie is giving part of her liver to Anna and the families are moving in together. All well and good, except Penny and Tate seem to nearly kiss in intense situations.A gorgeous yet oft-heartbreaking examination of grief, trauma, mental health, healthcare, friendship, parenting, and more. Every character in this story flies up from the page, thanks to Sharpe's vivid writing. Beautiful story of two girls trying to find their way in the world--and to find love. [2023 release]  


The Overnight Guest -  Years ago, at this isolated Iowa farmhouse true crime writer Wylie is renting, a horrible crime happened--two parents were murdered and a young girl disappeared. Wylie is trapped there in a storm and finds a small child nearly frozen in the snow. Dark and twisty thriller--and a total page-turner!! Eerie, ominous, and creepy! 

Last Seen Alive - Ellery Hathaway met Reed Markham years ago as a teen when he pulled open a closet, freeing her from a serial killer, Francis Coben. Now Coben will only reveal his remaining victims if Reed brings Ellery to visit him in prison. A bittersweet, dark, and terrifying tale with a twisty plot.


The Secrets We Share - Sisters Natalie and Glenn appear quite different on the surface. But they share a secret--twenty years ago, their abusive father's body was found in the woods behind their home. Well-plotted mystery that keeps you guessing! 

 The Locked Room - book 14 finds Ruth dealing with the pandemic and finding a strange photo in her mother's belongings. Excellent read with a surprising and twisty modern mystery plus great appearances from favorite characters. Very atmospheric!  

Every Last Fear - Matt’s brother, Danny, is in jail for murdering his high school girlfriend and then several years later, tragedy befalls the rest of his family while vacationing in Mexico. Filled with lots of twists and surprises, this is a total page-turner!

Long Gone - book 2 featuring Detective Annalisa Vega, whose life is in tatters after making a decision that tore her family apart. When a fellow cop turns up murdered, Anna figures she has little to lose in investigating. Dark, excellent, and thought-provoking with a strong character-driven plot. 

The Last Party - excellent police procedural. DC Morgan must unravel how famous singer Rhys Morgan's body washed up on shore during a New Year's Day swim. Very character-driven and secrets abound! Tons of twists, with lots of nuance and depth.  
City On Fire - an insanely mesmerizing and excellent read about warring mob families (Irish and Italian) who lose it over a tale as old as time: a girl.  You get totally lost in the characters, and it feels as if you're in Rhode Island with these families, whose total loyalty to family is all they know.  
Part of Your World - Alexis Montgomery is an ER doctor with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She's part of the Montgomery family of world-renowned surgeons, with a huge family legacy to uphold. When Alexis' car breaks down in the tiny town of Wakan, she meets Daniel, a handsome younger carpenter. The story has some serious undertones and does a great job of exploring the dichotomy between what you want in life and the obligations of work and family. It's also such a funny, sweet, and romantic read. It has everything you could want in a romance. Chemistry, banter, humor, a raccoon encounter, farm animals, embarrassing advice about sexting... it all gels perfectly. I was laughing and crying and rooting for Daniel and Alexis the entire time.
Book Lovers - Nora is a cutthroat literary agent who reluctantly agrees to spend the summer in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina at the request of her adored little sister, Libby. Libby dreams Nora will have a rom-com transformation there, but Nora just keeps running into Charlie, an annoying guy she knows from NY. Such a fun one--witty bitter and a romance I could believe in! Plays on writing and literary tropes so well, has great side characters, and is just sweet and sexy! 
Kiss Her Once for Me - Ellie has lost her job and agrees to a fake romance with a friend--only to realize she shared a beautiful, romantic Christmas Eve with his sister a year ago! A lovely, touching, funny holiday story with fake romance and lesbians! Also covers anxiety in a thoughtful way, plus weaves in art and comics so well.     
The Key to My Heart - a sad and quiet tale at times about a woman finding herself after losing her husband. Still features fun banter and romantic prospects (two, in fact!). Our heroine, Natalie, is flawed and relatable. Serious but enjoyable and funny read. Louis has a great voice that brings her characters easily to life.  
Like a House on Fire - Married for over a decade, Merit feels exhausted by life. She goes back to work and finds inspiration in her boss, Jane. An utterly mesmerizing, character-driven novel about motherhood, marriage, and finding yourself. Lovely, with sweet, tough, and gorgeous characters and not afraid to truly explore all aspects of being a mom. 
Lessons in Chemistry - Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 60s, when very few respect female scientists. She meets Calvin at the lab, and their ensuing romance is one for the ages. Through a wild and crazy turn of events, Elizabeth also winds up the chef on the TV show Supper At Six, where she inspires women with her scientific approach to cooking. The characters in this book truly sparkle and rooting for Elizabeth is so easy. Also features one of my favorite literary dogs of all time, Six-Thirty. 
I'm Glad My Mom Died - Powerful and moving memoir from child actor McCurdy. Subject matter can be brutal--but McCurdy is a wonderful writer with a brilliant voice. Highlights that she is a brave survivor.
Out of the Clear Blue Sky - Lillie isn't looking forward to her only child heading off to college, but it's made even worse by her husband, Brad, suddenly leaving her for another woman. She finds herself hellbent on revenge, but at what cost?  An emotional read, but funny! A touching and enjoyable read that delves into relationships and motherhood.
Flying Solo - Laurie returns home to clear out her great-aunt's belongings and is drawn to a wooden duck. A quirky and different read that explores the nature of relationships and family in a nuanced way. The tale of the duck is crazy and wild, but also fun and sweet. Really emotional and good read. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

All my troubles have gone away here in your arms: MISTAKES WERE MADE.

Mistakes Were MadeMistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cassie is trying to escape being alone on Family Weekend by grabbing a drink at an off-campus bar. Erin Bennett is attempting something similar. Neither expected an amazing one-night stand, but, hey, these things happen, right? No harm, no foul, until Cassie's close friend Parker drags her to meet her mom--in town for Family Weekend--and oh yeah, it's Erin. Cassie doesn't want to hurt Parker; Erin certainly doesn't want to damage the tentative relationship she is building with her daughter since her divorce. But neither Cassie nor Erin can deny their chemistry.

This is quite a read--it starts off with a bang and never looks back. There's no slow-burn here: be prepared for plenty of sexy times when it comes to Cassie and Erin. Sometimes it almost feels too much; I would have liked to see a little more character development with these two instead of another stolen moment, but there's no denying this is a hot and heavy read!

The premise is definitely a little weird, and it takes some time to adjust. You cannot help but imagining your own life in this situation--and ICK. Cassie and Erin are a good couple, though, so that helps. The sneaking around and poor decision-making makes it more difficult, but I suppose we wouldn't have the book without it, eh? Erin is grappling with a fairly recent divorce from Parker's father, while Cassie has trouble with commitment. It's fairly easy to frame their decisions based on their overall personality types.

At first, this book feels a little slow (besides the sex) and a little repetitive (a lot of back and forth from both characters about hurting Parker, without actually doing anything about it), but it picks up and becomes more fun. I appreciate that this is lesbian novel with a different, unique premise, interesting characters, and steamy scenes. It's refreshing and much needed in our canon and for those reasons alone, my 3.75 stars are rounded up to 4.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Griffin and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Thursday, December 29, 2022

But I think its very dangerous if we do not take what's ours: THE VICIOUS CIRCLE.

The Vicious CircleThe Vicious Circle by Katherine St. John
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Sveta is quite surprised when her uncle Paul passes away and leaves his Mexican villa Xanadu to her instead of his wife, Kali. It's been a while since Sveta and Paul were in touch, and Paul was a wealthy self-help guru known for his famous videos and teachings. Sveta accompanies Paul's lawyer to Xanadu, where she finds Kali and a group of Paul's faithful followers. At first, she finds the group inspirational, but soon she starts to see a dark side to their teachings. Trapped in the jungle with no escape, Sveta starts to question why she inherited Xanadu--and what lengths those around her will go to stop her.

Ugh, this book just didn't work for me. It featured an overdone cult plot that brought nothing new: a tale of a current cult mixed with the tale of an old cult. Sveta inherits this exotic place from her uncle and is fascinated by it at first, but soon realizes it's a scary cult led by his creepy wife. By now she's trapped in the jungle with no way out--shocking. No real surprises occur, and I kept waiting for something, anything to happen other than for Sveta to sneak around and get spooked by the folks at Xanadu. The lush setting is exotic, sure, but that's about all this book has going for it. There's a weird side plot involving Sveta and whether she's sticking with her boyfriend that adds nothing. Honestly, everything in CIRCLE just seemed over the top and weird. Still, many others enjoyed it, so hopefully you'll like it more than me! 2.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from William Morrow/Scene of the Crime and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

How I'll hate going out in the storm: NINE LIARS.

Nine Liars (Truly Devious, #5)Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Stevie Bell's senior year at Ellingham Academy could be going better. Everyone else is talking about college applications and the future and Stevie just isn't feeling it... Her boyfriend, David, is abroad studying in London. She has no new case to solve. Excitement returns when David invites Stevie and the crew to join him in England, and, while there, his friend Izzy tells them about a cold case from the mid 1990s. A group of nine friends from Cambridge went to relax at a country house and played a game of hide-and-seek in the rain; in the morning, two were found murdered in the woodshed. Izzy's aunt was one of the survivors, and she's sure things did not happen as claimed (burglary gone wrong). Can Stevie solve the case in the little time she has overseas?

I'll admit this was not my favorite Stevie Bell book, which is painful to admit, because I adore Stevie and her process. This one just felt *slow*--maybe because I had just binged THE BOX IN THE WOODS, which was so good! But, wow, did it take a long time for things to happen in LIARS! The first half of the book is Stevie feeling sorry for herself about college and David (so much opining about David in this one--this is not the Stevie I thought I knew!) and trying to get to London. Then the group has to see a million London sights to satisfy the "study abroad" part of the Ellingham requirement, which is all well and good, but wow, are those tourist sights described in detail. Get on with the murder!

The proper English country house murder mystery, when we get to it, is quite enjoyable, of course. We hear from the players back in the 1990s via flashbacks and then get to meet a variety of the survivors. There's plenty here to keep us guessing, but a lot of tension as Stevie navigates relationships with her friends, too. I am still Team Nate For Life.

Overall, this is a bit slower and more angsty than other Stevie books, but the mystery is solid, and of course, I'll still continue reading about Stevie forever, because I love her. 3.5+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from Katherine Tegen Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Friday, December 23, 2022

I used to think that we were forever ever: NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER.

Never Ever Getting Back TogetherNever Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maya and Skye are going on the reality show Second-Chance Romance for various reasons. The show centers on Jordy--a "royal" by a few degrees thanks to his sister marrying a prince--who is going to reunite with his exes on television. Maya is hurting since she and Jordy dated; he went to Canada and cheated on her with Skye. Skye, a worldly traveler who is typically cautious with her own heart, had no idea about Maya, but still feels pain from her own breakup with Jordy.

This was a strange one. I always want to get behind any sort of LGBTQIAP+ story, for sure. This is billed as a teen/YA story, but it focuses on a bunch of girls on a reality show trying to win back their ex--all of which seemed a little old for YA, even if these girls were fairly young. There's already the ick factor of a bunch of women trying to win back a vapid guy who clearly has a bunch of exes and who doesn't seem like a particularly good person.

I wanted to root for Skye and Maya to get together, of course--who doesn't love the idea of the women falling for each other on the show instead of the featured cad? Sadly, there isn't a lot of character development in how the two develop their relationship. At first, they hate each other due to misunderstandings. Then they are together due to proximity. Then, viola, a relationship? Maya is tough to empathize with due to her focused hatred on Jordy and desire for revenge; I liked Skye a bit more. Jordy came across as almost too much of a 1-D villain. There wasn't a lot to work with here. The other girls competing had their moments, but it was hard to tell them apart sometimes. There was so much drama about Jordy that I found myself rolling my eyes.

I am a huge sap, so I liked the ending, which is why my rating is bumped up a little. Still, I wished I had seen more growth in Maya throughout the story.

I received a copy of this book from Wednesday Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

What makes me think I could start clean slated: THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT.

The Personal AssistantThe Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alex becomes a popular influencer by posting inspirational messages and photos of her twin daughters and husband. At first, it's just for fun, but soon, as her followers grow, it becomes a full-time job. She hires a personal assistant, AC, to help her manage the posts and everything that comes with maintaining a social media presence. When Alex hits a coveted follower count, she's thrilled, but things change overnight when she posts something controversial and her followers turn against her fast. She needs AC's help, but she's nowhere to be found. Alex isn't even sure she made the post and the more she digs into things, she can't help but wonder who AC is and if she's responsible for Alex's crumbling life.

This is an exciting, page-turner of a tale. Will it stick with me forever? Probably not. But it's captivating while reading thanks to its format, which is told from Alex, AC, and Alex's husbands POVs. The whole story keeps you on your toes--talk about the dangers of social media! We see how Alex is on top of the world one day and the subject of complete scorn the next. Her followers turn against her, sweeping her teenage daughters and husband up in their hatred. A body turns up and things get interesting quickly!

I loved the then & now format, with the snippets from Alex, AC, and Patrick, Alex's husband. The book has great insight into the power of social media and family. The ending was a little wild, but I enjoyed being kept guessing!

I received a copy of this book from Park Row and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, December 19, 2022

See how much you may receive: THE KEY TO MY HEART.

The Key to My HeartThe Key to My Heart by Lia Louis
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Natalie Fincher has spent the last two and a half years in a daze. And for perfectly good reason--she unexpectedly lost her husband, leaving her in a pool of grief. She remains behind in their fixer-upper cottage, her career in shambles, and her sister and friends constantly encouraging her to "get out there." Her one bit of joy comes with occasionally playing piano music at a London tube station and getting coffee nearby after. But when someone begins to leave sheet music at the station--music that seems so connected to her late husband--Natalie cannot help but feel hopeful for the first time in ages. Is this music a message from Russ?

I loved this book so much I finished it with only one eye thanks to an unfortunate incident with my dog and a garage door-frame. I am becoming quite the fan of Lia Louis and her lovely books. This was a sadder and quieter tale than I expected. It's a book about grief and getting over (or perhaps through) a loss. Still, it is also a romance with fun banter and hope. Louis writes romantic and friendly chatter so well.

In HEART we actually have two romantic prospects for Natalie--Joe, a man she meets at a grief music support class, and Tom, who is the son of Shauna, who runs the coffee shop where Natalie hangs out. Honestly, it stressed me out a little wondering who might win her heart--if at all--because I had a clear favorite.

Natalie is not a perfect heroine and that's quite nice and refreshing. She's learning to get out in the world again and she misses her husband. She's frustrated with her friends sometimes for pushing too hard, yet recognizes that maybe she may need that push. HEART handles grief very honestly and realistically. I enjoyed Natalie's kind, fashionable sister, and the wonderful strong character of Shauna, who is a tough cookie, even if she couldn't always acknowledge it. She has her own well-deserved subplot.

Overall, this is a sometimes serious but quite enjoyable read. While it touches on sad subject matter, it's often very funny. Louis writes with a such a great voice that she truly brings these characters to life. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Atria Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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