For the first half of 2022, I read 89 books (which I know is rather extreme, even for me). Instead of waiting until the end of the year to round up my favorites, I decided to put together a list from the first half of the year. I list all the books I read each month on one of my goodreads groups–the good, the bad, and, yeah, the ugly–but I will only list my favorites here. Two of the books I already reviewed in my posts on reading prize-winning books, so feel free to skip those two (unless I haven’t already convinced you to read them).
These are books that are new to me (no rereads), and I’m listing them in the order I read them.
First up, an audio book I started during the Christmas season but didn’t finish until January: Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (narrator Nathalie Buscombe). Really enjoyed listening to the shenanigans of Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood. She is to host the family Christmas for the first time which is stressful enough, but everyone in her family (along with her best friend) has ideas from what to serve and how to make it to everything in between. Before long, hardly anyone is speaking to one another, but Becky is determined to make everyone happy and have the best Christmas ever.
Firekeeper’s Daughter Angeline Boulley YA; indigenous; mystery. (Since I read this book it has won several awards, including the Edgar for Best Young Adult Novel, 2022). Danuis Fontaine is an unenrolled tribe member (this is important) who has a hard time fitting in with either her hometown or the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She was a star hockey player on her high school team and now wants to study medicine, but decides to enroll at a community college, so she can stay home to help her mother and grandmother. When she witnesses a murder, she is forced to help the FBI with their investigation of drug dealing on the reservation.
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James St. James. St. James is a favorite author and I greatly enjoyed this one. A dual timeline in Vermont–one in 1950 & the other 2014. Idlewild Hall is a boarding school for unwanted girls in 1950. Amid rumors that it is haunted, one of the girls disappears and little attempt is made to find her.
In 2014, journalist Fiona cannot stop thinking about the murder of her sister though it has been 20 years. The murderer was found and is in prison, but she still feels there is more to the story. Good suspense with St. James’ usual air of creepiness.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell; Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. (Reviewed earlier in prize winning post). I’ve read two books by O’Farrell and loved them both, so plan to read more soon. This one is based on the life of William Shakespeare and his family. Shakespeare had twins, Judith and Hamnet. We know Hamnet died when he was 12 but little else. The rest of this story comes from O’Farrell’s vivid imagination.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 2021. I’ve read plenty of books with a dual time-line but this was different in several ways. There are three stories told: one in Constantinople in the fifteenth century; one in present-day Idaho; and one on an interstellar ship decades in the future. The common links between these stories are books, stories, and libraries. I did write down the time-lines and main characters on an index card until I got them straight in my head. Once I got into the story though, I enjoyed the ride.
City of Brass S.A. Chakraborty. The first in a trilogy, Nahri doesn’t believe in magic in spite of the unusual powers she has and uses as a con woman in 18th century Cairo. When she accidentally summons a djinn warrior, she’s has no choice but to accept the fact that there is more to the world than she knows or believed.
Running for their lives, Nahri learns not only are their many creatures she had previously known nothing about, there are places as well, and one of them, Daevabad, the city of brass has a hold on her and the djinn is bringing her there; like it or not.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. It’s the summer of 1932 in Minnesota where Native American children are forcibly taken from their parents and placed in the Lincoln Indian Training School. Albert and Odie, orphan brothers, are two white faces who are also there. Albert tries to live peacefully, but Odie stays in trouble, no matter what the punishment. As things grow worse for Odie, tragedy happens and the brothers, along with their mute friend, Mose, steal a canoe and head for the Mississippi, hoping to find a real home. To make their situation more complicated, they also bring Emmy, a small girl who has troubles of her own.
After taking a few weeks to read the first 200 pages, I flew through the last 250 in a few days. The book is not hard to get into–just such depressing subject matter, I had to put it down a few times. I didn’t think those kids would ever get a break! Overall, I really enjoyed it and appreciate the research Krueger did to give a good picture of the Depression years and the shame of the “schools” for indigenous children.
The Lost Man Jane Harper. Three brothers are working to make a living in the harsh Australian desert. One of them is found dead from the heat. What makes his death suspicious are two things: one, he knew the area and the dangers. Two, his car was nearby, fully stocked with food and water and started up with no problem. Intense family drama as everyone looks at each other with growing suspicion.
The Impossible Us Sarah Lotz Since I put this on hold with Libby, I’m sure I heard about it somewhere but had forgotten why by the time I got it. The good thing about that is, I didn’t really know what it was about and it took me by surprise in a good way. Nick, a failed writer and husband, sends off an angry email. Bee, a serial dater and dress maker, receives it. She’s not the intended recipient but she responds anyway. Some snarky banter ensues and soon Nick and Bee become friends. Eventually they discuss meeting in person, but both are concerned about messing up a good thing. Once they finally agree, it turns out they were right but in a way they could never have imagined. The only other thing I will say about this story (since some people avoid all things fantastical) is that it involves magical realism? Or something. I loved it, but if that’s not your thing, there’s the warning. Definitely not your typical romance.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I reviewed this book in an earlier post about prize winning books, so this is a repeat for all you faithful readers. Feel free to skip to next book.This book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel 1993; Nebula Award for Best Novel; and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Doomsday Book was a bit of a slog at times, but overall, I enjoyed it. A book of time travel where a young woman, Kivrin, is sent to the Middle Ages, but, unfortunately, lands in 1348, the beginning of the Black Death. Meanwhile, back in London, an unknown virus breaks out and quarantine is placed around Oxford, making it impossible to find out what has happened to Kivrin, never mind bringing her back. I loved the characters and was amused at some of the predictions Willis made back in the 90’s (in her world, the only improvement on phones was a visual and this was supposed to be in the 2050’s), and the way a pandemic was handled in this futuristic England. The descriptions of the Black Death made me thankful the pandemic we are facing, as bad as it is, is hardly so grim.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. Dual time-line but only two years apart. In 2017, Tallulah goes out with her boyfriend and father of her baby, leaving the baby with her mother, Kim. They never come home. The next morning, Kim frantically begins to look for her daughter but all she learns is that she was last seen going to a party in the woods called Dark Place.
In 2019, Sophie has just moved to the area with her boyfriend who is the new head teacher at a boarding school. Going for a walk, she finds a sign with an arrow, saying, “Dig here.”
I listened to the audio which is excellent and narrated by Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey fame. Great suspense and family drama.
So, the first half of the year has brought me some fun, suspenseful, and entertaining reading. I’m looking forward to finding and finishing more great books for this year, and believe I might break my own personal reading record. I know I will hit 100 soon and that’s at least a month before last year.
How is your reading life shaping up in 2022?