Kate’s favorite books of 2022

I did it! I read books in 2022! Not as many as I used to, but definitely more than any other year since COVID! I am so excited! I feel like I’m back! Kind of! So, without further ado, let’s get into it. In no particular order, here are my favorites of this past year!

  1. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

I really enjoyed this book. It has mobsters. It has monsters. It has people behaving exactly as we know people behave during a pandemic in a pandemic. It’s set in colonial Shanghai. It has a sequel. I hightly recommend it.

2. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

This romance by an author who has an excellent social media presence was so satisfying. I liked the characters. I liked their romance. I liked that they both had a story arc. It was great.

3. The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

I like horror movies a lot. Like, a lot a lot. My Netflix recs are basically just baking shows, kdramas, and buckets of guts. So, this seemed right up my alley. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, but it was so good. Based on the Okiku myth, the ghost of a girl who was murdered, and has stuck around to torment her killer… and then torment more killers. I was taken in by the story and I needed to know how it ended. I just found out it has a sequel, too!

4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

I thought this was an interesting premise, so I downloaded it. In it, if you die by murder, you come back okay. Dispatchers are people who work in places like hospitals just in case things go wrong. The main character, Tony Valdez, is contacted by the police because a fellow dispatcher has gone missing. It gets sucked into a mystery about where his friend is and how he ended up there. There are two more books in the series. I binged them all back to back. They were entertaining.

5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I started this ages ago (maybe in 2017? Like, ages ago) and then finished it this summer when I was visiting my sister. It was… I want to say beautiful? Laszlo Strange is an orphan librarian who talks himself into a position on a quest to help Weep, a place of legend, rid itself of the floating palace of slain gods. When they get to the city, he meets a woman in his dreams. The woman is a child of the slain gods and lives in the floating palace above the city. Every day they live their lives, and then at night, they meet in Laszlo’s dreams. It’s not as cheesy as I’m making it sound. There’s a little bit of mystery (Is Strange really an orphan? Where is he really from?) and a little bit of lore from the world. I really enjoyed the relationships in this book. It also has a sequel!

DNF: Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I started this audio book in January because it was a popular self-help title, it was available from the library, and it was January. New Year, New You, BLAH BLAH BLAH. I thought, I’ll listen to it right quick, knock out a quick review, start the year off right.

Nope. That did not happen. It is the last day of an extra long February! I’ve had to check this out from the library three times! NOTHING ABOUT THIS HAS BEEN QUICK! (Also, the past two months have felt like an eternity? Like, 2020 has already been its own decade?)

First, I want to say that I’m behind the premise of this. Self care and taking care of yourself are much bigger projects than a good skincare routine: You have to pay your bills and exercise and feed yourself appropriately and sleep. (How do those two sentences go together? Well, I’m about to tell you.) But, whatever road you take to doing those other big and important things is a good road. Skincare, meditation, and weirdly astrology all helped me sort out* depression and a massive generalized anxiety disorder (Thanks, Grad School!) So, Hollis had me at the title. No matter where I am in the world or how bad my day has been I know that at the very least, I can run through the steps of my skincare routine and at least that will be okay. Like, not to brag, but I don’t wear foundation anymore. Like, maybe I color correct, toss a little concealer on under my eyes. I WANTED SO MUCH TO BE ON THIS BOOK’S SIDE.

I couldn’t do it. Hollis’s voice (not her actual voice, as I was listening to the audio book, but her tone and presentation) is off-putting. I can’t tell you how many times I said out loud, “No, I agree with you. I just don’t like you.” Maybe it was that I kept wanting her to put the stuff she was discussing into a bigger frame and talk about the larger cultural processes that might have you feeling like the world is out to get you and that never happened? I don’t know. This book just wasn’t for me.

Normally, even if things aren’t great, I like to stick it out and finish it. Take one for the team, if you will, so I can review the whole thing. But, it has been two months and I haven’t been reading other things because when I sit down to read (or pick up my phone to listen) I feel like I can’t listen to anything else because I have to finish this. But, I haven’t wanted to finish this, so instead of listening to this, or something else, I’ve gone down some real weird YouTube rabbit holes (and some real political podcast rabbit holes). So, I’m done. Over and out. I took How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson to the caucus last week (as an ebook. I wasn’t trying to start a fight…about books. I am always happy to start a fight about politics.) and I’m already way more into that that I was into the Hollis.

So, if you want someone to tell you to wash your face, I guess you could try this book I couldn’t finish? Or, you could just hit me up on Insta, Twitter, or in the comments. I’ll very happily talk skincare with you whenever.

*More or less. Sorting out’s an ongoing, play-the-whole-90-minutes-plus-stoppage-time process.

Review: What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Ben and Arthur have a chance meeting at a post office and they hit it off before Ben disappears in the middle of a commotion caused by someone proposing to their girlfriend. They then go on this epic journey of trying to meet again, in a city of around 8 million people. Can they meet? Will it be as magical as they think it will be? Can they get it right? Should they even bother if Arthur is just a summer intern and is on his way back to Georgia in a couple of months?

Folks, this book was so earnest and touching that it actually physically hurt my cold, cold, cynical soul. Making it to the end of this book was a journey for me; I may be a different person now. A slightly less cynical person. Ladles and Jelly spoons, Friends and Enemies, the power of literature!

Seriously, though, this was a really fun, really touching story written from two different points of view. It is about being open and trying your best in relationships and about saying what you want and admitting when you’re wrong. It was well worth the read. I’ll even forgive it for getting enormously catchy pop tunes stuck in my head.

Once again, shout out to my local library for hooking me up with this audiobook!

Review: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

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So, this is the story of Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. Gibreel is India’s biggest movie star and Saladin is an expatriate who has just been to India for the first time is fifteen years. They are on a hijacked airplane that explodes over the English channel. The two of them plummet to Earth and the novel builds from there as a series of dreams and strange transformations. They are the only two survivors of the incident. Gibreel and Saladin’s story serves as a frame for a bunch of smaller stories that all intersect and overlap with the main narrative. Gibreel’s story overlaps with the story of Muhammed. Yes, that Muhammed. There is an alleged incident in which Muhammed heard an angel whisper some verses that were meant to be included in the Quran, but that he later recanted because the verses did not come from the angel on Allah’s behalf but from Shaitan, the adversary. Yes, this is the book the caused all the controversy and had Rushdie in hiding for years because of a fatwa against him. I feel like here is where I should say something about freedom of speech and blasphemy laws, but I don’t think that there is anything that I could say that hasn’t already said better. Rushdie is exploring something in this novel, Muhammed’s life, that he should be free to explore without fear of death.

 

There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The story is clever and there are many really neat parallels between the sub-plots and the main plot. I like magical realism and enjoyed the bizarre parts of the novel. Rushdie tackles some pretty big themes like racism and migration in the text and he does it well. But, I think this might be another book that is a victim of its own hype? It has caused so much scandal (and is still banned places because of its blasphemous text about the Prophet). I was expecting to be wowed beyond belief but I wasn’t. This was a good novel, and its complex narrative with all the subplots make it a really rich and engrossing read. But, it left me cold and I wasn’t so involved in it that I couldn’t have put it down. So, it was good and I recommend it. But, it won’t be making my Top 10 this year.

 

The audible production is read by Sam Dastor and he did an excellent job. Because the narrative moves in and out of the main story and the sub-stories (and because there are characters who have similar names), I think I was saved a little potential confusion because each character had their own voice. That being said, there were sections I had to re-listen to because there was just so much detail and the text was so rich that I needed more than one pass to absorb it.