Sunday, January 1, 2023

Mini Book Reviews: December 2022

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I wrapped up 2022 with a total of 77 books read. I don't set reading goals--that's just too much pressure! Reading books is one of my guilty pleasures and I don't want to feel bad if I can't get through one to meet a goal. It's hard enough when all my library holds come in at once and I only have a few weeks to read them all!

Everyone has been posting their favorite reads and after reading so many books, I can remember only a handful of them. Tops on my list are Lessons in Chemistry, followed by Unlikely Animals. These 2 books checked all the boxes--they grabbed me within the first couple of chapters, I didn't lose my interest, I didn't want to put them down, and they've stuck with me for a long time after finishing them. The characters were interesting and quirky. The stories weren't clich├Ęd. And they were different.  A couple of other books are worth mentioning as well: What Could Be Saved, Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance, Remarkably Bright Creatures, Carrie Soto is Back, Hurricane Girl, Now is Not the Time to Panic, and Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.

I also read a few non-fiction books, most of which were really good. Non-fiction November gave me an excuse to explore some books that were on my TBR but just couldn't find the time to read! I continue to refer back to Next Level, which validated and educated me about how to train after menopause. It's also on sale for kindle for $2.99 right now! Other favorites include Good for a Girl, Corrections in Ink, Solito, and Running While Black. 

This is just an observation of mine, but it seems to me that many of the books I read this year were unnecessarily long. I don't mind a long book if the story cannot be condensed--in fact, I'm reading an amazing one right now--but there's nothing worse than reading a book that just meanders on and on. Just get to the point! It reminds me of a hair stylist I used to go to who took an hour to cut my hair but mostly spent her time fluffing it. Chop chop! Good editing is a must to make a book crisp and interesting.

Over the holidays, my sister and I were comparing favorites and it was a good reminder that not everyone likes to read the same thing. Multiple times this year, I read highly recommended books only to be disappointed. People always ask me how I find the books I read and mostly, I pick books that are recommended by a couple of the book bloggers I follow. I hope that you will find a couple here that you might like!



After the end of a relationship, Gil decides to move from New York to Arizona. After he walks there, an event that surprisingly passes in the book without much fanfare, he settles into a comfortable life in a neighborhood populated with families. He takes up birdwatching and volunteers at a women's shelter. In particular, he befriends his next door neighbors and takes their young son, who is a victim of bullies, under his wing. It doesn't sound like a very exciting book, but Dinosaurs is surprisingly engaging. The writing makes this rather simple story shine. The positivity of the story was a nice change of pace from all the pandemic fiction I've been reading this year.


Well, that was a wild ride of a read! Mad Honey is the story of young love that ends in tragedy, a theme that Picoult has written about for years. Her books have become more dramatic and long and this was no exception. There were side stories of domestic abuse, gender identity, and yes, beekeeping. There was a lot going on and the chapters are written from the perspective of various characters, sometimes forcing me to reorient myself to who was actually telling the story. If I have to be honest, I struggled to get through this one. It was unnecessarily long and it felt like all these side stories really muddied the narrative. I'm starting to think that these 'book club' books aren't being vetted!


We All Want Impossible Things
appeared on all my favorite bloggers' year end best books lists, so it seemed like a slam dunk for me. Instead, I was left wondering if I missed something. This is the story of two best friends as they navigate the end of life for the one who has ovarian cancer. The author deftly navigates between the sadness of impending death and life going on for the living. The living was the strange part for me. While the main character is in hospice, much of the story revolves around her best friend, who is sleeping with her friend's brother and the hospice physician...while her ex-husband, who seems like the perfect man, is there for her. She shares much of this with her 16 year old daughter. While readers might find this humorous, I found it an odd distraction. Read it for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

Wow. Don't Know Tough is an under-the-radar book that was just so good that I didn't want to put it down. It's a dark story of a troubled football prodigy in small-town Arkansas and his idealistic coach who thinks he can tame this young beast. When his mother's boyfriend is found dead in their trailer, the story really picks up and doesn't let you go. The characters speak in accents and it took me a few pages to get in a groove, but it's a tactic that makes the book shine. Descriptive prose paints a picture of the bleakness of the region without stereotyping. Highly recommended.





Love and Saffron
is a short but sweet little novel about a friendship between a food columnist and a fan, who sends her a package of the rare spice saffron and a recipe. This gesture kicks off a correspondence that spans several years in the early sixties. The women exchange recipes but also personal information and their thoughts on current world affairs. The story is told in mostly letter form, but the writing shines and I found myself pulled into their worlds. 





Oh, did I love this book! I waited for a long time for it to show up in my library's cloud reader, and when it didn't, I finally contacted them, they acquired it and sent it to me! Unlikely Animals is on all my favorite book bloggers best of the year lists and I can see why. It's one of the best books I've read all year. A young woman, realizing she doesn't want to go to med school and feeling lost, returns to her small town to help care for her dying father. Her dad has been hallucinating animals and a former naturalist, who 'gives' misguided direction to him. It's not one bit creepy or weird, in fact, I laughed out loud multiple times while reading the book. There are all kinds of quirky small town characters in this book and small town problems too, all handled deftly by the author. I didn't expect this one to be so lighthearted and fun, but it was just what I needed to read right now!

In my comments above, I alluded to a good book that I am reading right now. Demon Copperhead is Barbara Kingsolver's latest tome and I had hoped to be able to finish it in time for this post. It's not a book you can rush through and I'm savoring it. So you'll have to wait until next month to read my review. Or you can get a copy and start to read it yourself!! 

What have you been reading lately? Do you set reading goals? What were your favorite books from 2022? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Do you have any book suggestions for me?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics.


27 comments :

  1. I started reading Solito - my, what a moving and gripping story! I also like Zamora's writing style. Very simple, yet very effective. Thanks once again for this fantastic read, Wendy!
    Another book that I finished before I started Solito was "Trailblazer" - a biography of a trail runner star called Ryan Sandes. He grew up in Cape Town in won several big trail races all over the world. I especially liked his honesty when it came to his struggles, both in running and in life. Highly recommend!

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  2. Dinosaur looks excellent, I will look out for that. And as you know, I'll be reading Demon Copperhead soon! A good set of books there, though I agree about lack of editing in new books!

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  3. I read Mad Honey and I felt like she tried to put every social issue into ONE book.

    I love our post. I often bring your list to the library when I'm choosing a book. Unlikely Animals sounds like one I'd like.

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  4. Incredible - Well Done Little W - Well Done

    Cheers

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  5. Love & Saffron immediately made me think of my godmother (actually, one of my aunts). She'd had a pen pal, who became a close friend, since they were in grade school. I can't remember if they ever met in person, but they corresponded well over 70 years. My aunt, who has been widowed for 15 years, was devastated when she got word of her dear friend's passing. I'm gonna recommend that book to her!

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    1. It's a sweet, short little book. You'll have to let me know if she likes it!

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  6. Wow Mad Honey sounds intense! I would love to get back into reading this year but I need fiction books that will hold my attention and I think this book would!

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  7. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations. Unlikely Animals sounds like a book I'd enjoy.

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  8. Unlikely animals sounds interesting. I read a bunch of books on vacation but I am not as good at reading on a regular basis. Thanks for the recs!

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  9. I always appreciate your book reviews. I have Lessons in Chemistry in my queue. Unlikely Animals sounds like another one I have to add. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. These all sound amazing. I always have a hard time picking new books, but I think a few of these are going to make it to my TBR list!

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    1. I don't usually struggle with picking books, but lately it's been a challenge!

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  11. I’ve read quite a few of these. thanks to your reviews. And now i have more to add to my list. Thanks Wendy!

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  12. I used to really love Jodi Picoult books but I haven't been as impressed with the last few I've read. This one sounds like it would be harder to get through. Thanks for sharing these!

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    1. I agree with you about that. I thought I'd give this one a chance since it got so many favorable reviews, but not so much.

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  13. Another great list from you! So far I've been liking all of the books you have written about (some more than others). Right now I am reading Come Fly the World (my list begins from your August 2021 post). When I was reading about Mad Honey it reminded me about The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano. I enjoyed the book but sometimes got confused because of the different lives/stories since they were not in order.

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    1. There was so much going on in Mad Honey!!! Come Fly the World was so interesting!

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  14. I just finished the book The ride of Her life: The true story of a woman, her horse and her unlikely ride across America. It is a heartwarming easy read. Pretty amazing story during a time when the world was really beginning to change.

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    1. That sounds like a really good book! I'll have to check it out.

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