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!

Review: Deception by Selena Montgomery

Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery. Deception, A Novel

This was a fun book. There was mystery, intrigue, spiciness. Finley Borders is a professional poker player who is called home because an innocent woman has been accused of murder. She’s going to use her skills of reading people and bluffing to help uncover a criminal organization.

When home, she meets FBI agent Caleb Matthews and immediately clocks him as undercover. They both find each other intriguing and annoying and, as a reader, that’s a good time.

I liked all the characters. They were three dimensional and awesome. The spiciness was slow burn but also very hot. The mystery was detailed and believable. It was so good. I am already looking for my next Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery novel.

What I’m Listening to Now: Bad Women: The Ripper Retold

Confession time. I’ve been fascinated by Jack the Ripper. Who isn’t? But what about the his victims. This is podcast not a book but I’m counting it. Instead of looking at him, it looks at the women and who they were and how they came to cross paths with the murderer. I can’t wait to listen.

Quick Review: A Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

You thought the The Truly Devious series was over didn’t you? I did too. I’m not mad that Maureen decided to write another book but I’m also still waiting for the 4th book in her Shades of London series. I think I may have to let that go. Anyway, Stevie’s fame after solving the Ellingham murders is starting to fade and she’s back home for summer vacation when she gets the offer to work at a summer camp and help a new unsolved mystery. In 1978, four teen camp counselors went into the woods to smoke some weed and never came out alive. Stevie makes arrangements with the new camp owner that her friends from Ellingham also have jobs to help her with the case. Stevie is smart and clever and can deduce things that most of us would never think about but she’s also full of anxiety and even though she solved multiple murders, can she do it again? I like that Maureen is exploring this in her work because anxiety is a bitch. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, it never leaves you. I also really like Nate. I feel him. He just wants to be left alone in his treehouse and do nothing. He wrote one great book when he was younger and the expectations to write another great book have almost paralyzed him but it shows some real growth. I wish Janelle got a little bit more to do because she is also a great character. Here’s hoping that there are more and she gets a more central role. For mystery lovers, I do recommend this book. You don’t have to have read the first three books to know what’s going on as this is a standalone mystery but you should read the first three books because they are fun.

Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Over three books, Stevie has been trying to figure out what happened to Alice Ellingham after she was kidnapped in 1936. The truth is truly tragic. I wont’ say what happened to her because I don’t want to spoil it but the whole affair is sad. At the end of the last book, Stevie had solve the mystery who was responsible of the kidnapping but was too afraid to tell anyone. She was too afraid that her evidence was too circumstantial but if she solved it and it’s over than what does she do next. Things have already gotten out of control. Two students have died and Stevie’s mentor has also died. David has run away and after another accident is forcing the school to close down immediately. The students don’t want to leave. There is too much left unsolved so they stay despite the massive blizzard. As Stevie unravels the mysteries we get a glimpse of what really happened and how things went off the rails from the beginning. So many people could have been spared if greed hadn’t taken over everyone. True today as it is back then. Over the series, Stevie has really grown. She has learned to deal with her anxiety. She works through her insecurities because she knows that she has more to discover and learn. A reminder to all of us not to give up despite the obstacles. I did enjoy this series. It was funny and heartwarming and a good mystery. Now if only she would finish her Shades of London series.

Quick Review: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

While One of Us is Lying was a steamroller with the mystery happening in the first book. One of Us is Next is more of a slow burn. It eases us into the mystery.. It takes place 18 months after the events of the first book. The “Bayview Four” have all graduated and all have stated college except for Addy, who decided to take a year off and works at a local restaurant. She works with fellow student, Phoebe who also lives across from her and her sister. Maeve, Bronwyn sister is still friends with Addy and hangs out often at the restaurant that Addy works. Usually with her friend and ex boyfriend.Knox. They find themselves once again at the mercy of a mysterious gossip but instead of Simon’s app, it’s a Truth or Dare game via text message. Clearly the student body and really the administration learned nothing from the last time because everyone immediately gets sucked into the game and the gossip and the school teachers are kinda useless. There is mention of a new “no tolerance” policy that was put into place after Simon’s death but obviously not working.. There were some pretty unsubtle bullying happening in plain sight of the whole school and at no time did any teacher or administrated got involved. I would say there are not very good at their jobs. On a whole it was a good companion to the first book and the resolution is pretty devastating. It wasn’t as good as the first one but still a solid read. Mystery readers will want to find out what happened next at Bayview high.

Quick Review: A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

I thought that the Charlotte Holmes series was only so supposed to be a trilogy. In fact, it was in my year-end review of Series I said good bye too last year. So talk about a surprise to find out that there was a fourth book. It’s always a little unnerving when an author decides to extend their series beyond the original plans because sometimes the story just isn’t there to support it. I felt that A Case for Jamie ended things pretty well. Lucien Moriarty was caught and Jamie and Charlotte were able to have a reconciliation. They didn’t know where their relationship was going to go but they knew that they were going to have some kind of relationship. I thought it was good way to end it. This book really wasn’t necessary but also not unwanted or unwarranted. Charlotte and Jamie are in Oxford for summer courses and while they are there they pick up a case. The year before, the drama department had a series of unfortunate accidents that ended with a student disappearing. The stakes are not as high this time, since the mystery has nothing to do with them but it still works. Charlotte is healing from the all the trauma of the past couple of years and from her family. Living with her Uncle Leander has really been good for her. It also, as well as this case, has given her time to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she is. It also gives her time to truly work out her feelings for Jaime. I missed Jamie’s narration but it was fascinating to be on Charlotte’s head a little more. Getting a first hand account of not just how she deduces but also how she is processing her own trauma. I think we expect people to get over the trauma quickly and move on but it’s not the simple. We don’t change over night and that is what this novel illustrates. It’s a little bittersweet but also very healthy. I’m glad we had this final chapter. It may not have been as exciting as the previous books, it did give us the true closure we needed.

Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

I really do love a good mystery, especially when it’s well done. I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find that I was wrong. The clues were there but unless you were paying attention, you completely missed it. Just as many of the characters. Stevie is an amateur sleuth who wants to solve one of the greatest mysteries in American history. The Ellingham Academy was started by an eccentric millionaire. He had a dream to have the brightest kids study at his school and focus on what they want. An educational experiment unlike any other but when his wife and daughter were kidnapped and another student was killed during the first school year, the school became infamous. Despite it’s history, the school still strives and Stevie is determined to solve it’s most famous mystery. The problem is that once she arrives another student is killed and another goes missing. Her conservative parents pull her out of the school for fear it isn’t safe only to be convinced by their employee, Senator Edward King (not so subtlety modeled after Steve King) that the school is safe. Of course, King has his own reasons for Stevie to return. His son, David, is also a student at Ellingham and Stevie and him have a complicated relationship. Stevie doesn’t like making a deal with King but her want to go back overrides her concerns. A bright spot is when the author of the definitive book on the Ellingham case needs a student to help with research on a new edition of the book. Soon Stevie is making breakthrough in the case but at what cost. This is the middle book in the trilogy and they often times feel slow but this one moved at a pretty fast clipped. One of the revelations, I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come midpoint of the book, really throwing me off. It was a great misdirection by Johnson, to get us to focus on one direction while the answer was in the other direction. There were answers and part of the original crime was answered but who so many more are still unanswered. Who killed Iris Ellingham and is Alice alive? What happened to David and Hunter and how do they play into the mystery? Were Hayes and Ellie’s death really accidents or did they know something more? I’m really looking forward to the finale next year.