A Year in Books, Part 2

As 2022 is close upon us, here is my final wrap-up of the best books I read this year. To be honest, I could have featured so many more tomes that impacted me on some level, but I tried to be a bit ruthless in my list.

July: The Guncle

The Guncle by Steven Rowley is a delightful, true 5-star read. When Patrick O’Hara’s best friend and sister-in-law dies, he must care for his niece and nephew while his brother Greg deals with his own health issues. What is a Golden Globe-winning actor supposed to do with two kids under 10 who are grieving for their mother?

The answer comes in the form of funny shenanigans, pool floats, and a grumpy Aunt Clara, along with a new dog Marlene and a pink Christmas tree in July. Maisie and Grant help GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) heal his own losses as much as he does theirs. One of my absolute favorite reads of 2021!

Read The Guncle if you love exceptional protagonists who pepper the pages with wit and spot-on voices.

August: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is a gift of love and color and adventure and magic. It is a book about being comfortable in your own skin, questioning your preconceived notions, and finding where you belong.

Linus Baker is a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He lives a grey existence and follows the RULES AND REGULATIONS to the letter as he investigates orphanages housing magical children. He does not sway from his life as an observer. Until Extremely Upper Management sends him on a month-long Classified Level Four assignment on Marsyas Island. As Linus gets to know – and love – the brood of characters on the island, he shifts from being an observer to an active participant in life.

Read The House in the Cerulean Sea if you love found families, magic, and endearing child-like characters.

September: The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021, and it did not disappoint!

This is the seventeenth installment of the much-loved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Penny. The beloved Three Pines characters, led by Gamache, are cautiously tiptoeing out into a post-COVID-19 world. There is fear and trepidation and a keen desire for a return to “normal,” despite a question of whether normal will ever exist again.

This book is gorgeous and haunting and a little too real. I savored every page but also rushed to read the ending. Reading a story about a post-pandemic reality was difficult for me as it felt too real at times, but Penny is a master storyteller who has created characters and settings that move me.

Read The Madness of Crowds if you love a mystery that ties together multiple voices and plotlines. But – if you haven’t read any of the series yet, start with Still Life and enjoy the ride!

October: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir continues the story of Laia and Elias, two strong-willed protagonists who are bound together by a sense of right and duty. This book is the second installment of one of my new favorite series, An Ember in the Ashes, a story of high-fantasy, Rome-like intrigue, and magical jinn while holding on to the power of family, honor, and love.

While Laia and Elias continue the search for her brother, Darin, we also get to better know Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike and Elias’s oldest friend. I liked reading Helene’s point of view as she battles two unbearable choices: to follow the Emperor’s orders and kill her best friend or to deny her role as Blood Shrike and see her family slaughtered. With magical secrets attached to each of these characters, this book is driven by their wants and needs, as well as an action-packed plot.

Read A Torch Against the Night if you like high fantasy, action, and magic – but of course, start with An Ember in the Ashes first. I think you’ll be hooked on the series within the first 100 pages!

November: Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is amazing, and I was shocked to learn that this is the author’s debut novel. It’s smart, socially aware, and engaging. With race, sexuality, social status, and money factoring into all parts of this story, Àbíké-Íyímídé has created a world where you don’t know who to trust or what to believe, and then she brings it all home to an incredibly satisfying ending.

Devon and Chiamaka are seniors at Niveus Private Academy. They both have high hopes for their futures, but Aces wants to dash all those dreams to the side. This anonymous bully knows their secrets, and isn’t afraid to tell. Devon, a quiet musician who is determined to fulfill his mother’s wishes of going to college, and Chiamaka, an overachieving It Girl who considers popularity as important as her college applications, are desperate to confront Aces, so these polar opposites join together to bring the masked texter down.

Read Ace of Spades if you like YA fiction that addresses social justice issues and thrilling mind-twists.

December: State of Terror

State of Terror by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Although I’m not much of a political thriller girl, this book blew my mind. I loved the insights into politics, and this fast-paced book kept my mind turning. This book was full of tension and alluded to so many real events/potential events that it felt like I was reading nonfiction at times.

The relationships between the characters, especially Secretary of State Ellen Adams and her best friend and counselor Betsy Jameson, were so strong and well-designed. Also, there were a few treats along the way as Three Pines (Louise Penny’s masterpiece of a small village in Canada) and its characters made brief cameos. Finally, I love that this book was written by two intelligent, strong women!

Read State of Terror if you like political thrillers, smart female protagonists, and a fast-paced novel.

December: The Love Hypothesis

I couldn’t keep myself from highlighting more than one book for December. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood has been getting rave reviews across Bookstagram, and there’s good reason for that! I’m not a die-hard romcom fan, but this one was a definite hit.

The Love Hypothesis utilizes the classic fake dating trope to bring its love interests, Olive and Adam, together, but it works on so many more levels. While I wasn’t a STEM student in grad school, I could completely relate to the pressures of graduate research and finally getting my doctorate. That stress is real, folks! Olive and Adam are a great pair, and I’ve already pre-ordered Ms. Hazelwood’s three novellas that are due out in 2022.

Read The Love Hypothesis if you like a great romcom with excellent character development.

And that’s a wrap on my 2021 favorite books! I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings for my love of reading.

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