Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Reading Year In Review 2022

2022 was not easy. I mean, I doubt it was really easy for anybody - but I feel like it was the continuation of a marathon I started in 2020 but the rehydration stations got further and further apart. This was reflected in my reading this past year.  Yes, I managed to hit my reading goal of 100 books for the first time since 2019 and that was in large part to glomming through two suspense series, thank you Lawrence Block and Marcia Muller. Beyond that? My reading was seriously all over the place.  Here are how the grades broke down:

A Grades = 4
B Grades = 36
C Grades = 37
D Grades = 18
F Grades = 1
DNF = 4

The good news first, my F Grades and DNFs were way down. The bad news? I read 8 more D grades than in 2021, my B and C grades were once again in a dead heat, and my A grades were down (I never have a ton of these, but 4 is low even for yours truly). My resolution for 2023? I think I'm going to take a sabbatical from contest judging.  While there is one contest read reflected in my Best Of, remember those 8 more D grades I had?  Yeah, all 8 were contest reads. Hope springs eternal, but I'd like to spend the next year digging out quality reads in my own TBR. We'll see how long I stick with that! 

I'm perpetually behind on my reading, so my Best Of list reflects what I read during 2022, not just what was published in 2022.  Title links will take you to full reviews:

Best Reads of 2022: Romance and Romance Adjacent

The Summer of Lost Letters (2021) and Eight Nights of Flirting (2022) by Hannah Reynolds (Contemporary YA) - Teen romances with Jewish main characters, incredible world-building on Nantucket Island, and uncovered family secrets running through both. I hope Reynolds continues to write books in this world because these were a revelation for me this past year.

Seven Days in June (2021) by Tia Williams (Contemporary) - It's dark, it's angsty, it leans more to the women's fiction end of the spectrum, but I was sucked in by the characters, the writing, and all the messy problematic "stuff." I was engrossed and could not put this down.

Big Chicas Don't Cry (2022) by Annette Chavez Macias (Contemporary) - I was sucked into the world-building and fell HARD for the Garcia cousins to the point where they now live rent-free in my brain. It's definitely women's fiction, but there are strong romantic elements here and Macias wrung out every drop of emotion from my cold, black heart. I cried y'all.

Claiming Her Legacy (2022) by Linda Goodnight (Historical Western) - This wasn't a perfect book for me, but I fell in love with the heroine, there's still plenty of grit even with the small town setting, and the romantic tension was very well done (I yearned for the first kiss!).  The heroine has two sisters, please Dear Lord, let this series continue.

Beyond Innocence (2001) by Emma Holly (Historical, Victorian) - A lot of folks in Romancelandia like to talk genre history and canon and what that all means, and this book, while not perfect, is making my Best Of list for all those reasons.  What Holly did here with the relationship between the hero and his gay younger brother is fantastic. Trailblazing in 2001, and it was published by a major NY house (Penguin / Berkley). 

The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride (2021) by Terri Brisbin (Medieval) - My one contest read of the year that blew the doors off for me, and when it didn't final I decided I needed to take a break from judging contests for a while. The heroine's growth arc is fantastic and Brisbin really makes her couple work for their happy ending. 

Best Friend to Doctor Right (2020) by Ann McIntosh (Contemporary) - This is a perfect example of a book that didn't blow the doors off, but it was such a comforting, cozy read that McIntosh is now on my list of "comfort read" authors with a host of her Harlequin series brethren. Lovely characters, beautiful setting, and an evil mother character who stays off page and isn't "forgiven" in the end.

Best Reads of 2022: Everything Else

Eight Million Ways to Die (1982) by Lawrence Block (Suspense) - I rang in 2022 working my way through Block's Matthew Scudder series but didn't blog about any of them. Why? They're grim-dark AF and the series started in the late 1970s, so just insert every single trigger warning you can think of. I have a strong constitution for crime novels of a certain age, but some of the books in this series even left me questioning my sanity (Why am I reading this? Why am I enjoying this?!).  Anyway, this is book five in the series and the gold standard for me. The New York City setting is well drawn and Scudder is very early in his sobriety, which gives the mystery some added punch.

Like a Sister (2022) by Kellye Garrett (Suspense) - I am utter trash for suspense novels that explore the seedy side of celebrity and Garrett sets this one around the death of a social media influencer, who could have starred on Growing Up Hip Hop. I loved the heroine in this one, the victim's estranged sister, who has a complicated relationship with her family but knows immediately her sister wasn't "just another overdose." 

Listen to Me (2022) by Tess Gerritsen (Suspense) - After a five year hiatus, Gerritsen gave readers another Rizzoli/Isles story this year, and it was really well done. While Jane is trying to figure out why someone would brutally murder a nurse who had zero skeletons in her closet, her mother is snooping on her oddly behaving new neighbors and trying to convince everyone that the troubled girl from the next street over didn't just "run away."

The Nurse's Secret (2022) by Amanda Skenandore (Historical Suspense) - The world-building in this story is fantastic and I fell into it hard.  Pick-pocket heroine witnesses a murder and the cops think she did it.  She needs to lay low for a while and finagles her way into the new nursing program at Bellevue Hospital. However it's not all fun and games. Nursing is hard work and it seems the killer may have followed in her tracks...

Wham! George Michael & Me (2019) by Andrew Ridgeley (Nonfiction / Memoir) - It's not a tell-all and that's what makes this book so enjoyable. Ridgeley tells the story of his friendship with George, first meeting him in school, discovering their mutual love of music, the formation of Wham!, and becoming some of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s. Read it for the friendship, stay for the nostalgic revisiting of a memorable British pop era.

2022 was a reading year that started and ended with me struggling with fatigue and slumps, but somewhere in the middle I managed to get through some memorable reads. Not all of these were A reads for me, and certainly I had quibbles, but each of these books were ones that "stuck" with me in a positive way. And truly, as we look ahead to 2023, I'm counting that as a victory.


eurohackie said...

The Matthew Scudder series is truly excellent (or at least, the first part of it is). 8 Million Ways to Die is a classic of the genre. It was one of my favorites of the series (the other being Walk Among the Tombstones).

I struggle with ARCs, so I can't imagine contest judging. I'm not really much for contests anyway - I have only rarely found good books from genre awards, etc - but yeah. It's disheartening when the stuff you love is largely ignored by the greater reading public. Harlequin is still publishing the best HR, IMO, but they do not get credit for it. Ah, well. Those authors can be treasured as "hidden gems" =)

Congrats on meeting your reading goal! May you find many treasures on Mount TBR in 2023.

Wendy said...

Eurohackie: Walk Among the Tombstones was another high point for me as well, but Eight Million Ways edged it out a tinch mainly because I loved how Block tackled Scudder's burgeoning life of sobriety. What worked so well for me in that series is how Block wrote the entire character arc - start to finish Scudder "grew" as a person but never morphed into a pod person. I did notice that the series tended to stumble for me when Block travelled down the Sadistic Serial Killer road - which I guess I can cut him some slack on. Many an author was doing that during the same period.

I keep contest judging because I usually find at least one gem (this year it was the Brisbin). But in 2022 it was the Brisbin and...nothing else. Everything else was really not good, although the one "OK" book I read ended up finalling, so go figure. It's a sign I need to take a break - and maybe catch up on the unbelievable volume of Harlequin Historicals I have on my Kindle 😉

azteclady said...

I am always grateful for the people who volunteer to judge writing contests, but I can absolutely see how that much obligation reading would engender burnout.

Sadistic serial killer: speaking of burn out, I grew tired of spending time in their heads very, very quickly. I could take some true crime gore/sadism/etc, but I really don't want to spend *any* time in the killer's head in my fiction reading.

Wendy said...

AL: I believe in following through on my obligations (organizing contests is hard enough without judges flaking out on you) but this year's slate of contest reads were littered with books I would have DNF'ed in a hot minute if not for that obligation. Thank gods for the Brisbin. It was my beacon in very stormy waters.

In Block's defense, his sadistic serial killer phase hit hard towards the end of the series, which was early 2000s. Sooooo many writers went down that road during that period. So. Many. His most interesting period (at least for me) was the 1970s-early 1990s period. Before Times Square went tourist. But that also means ALL the trigger warnings.

S. said...

Hello Wendy!

Happy new year!
Wishing you great reads ahead ;)

The best part about your blog is your unique voice, so I hope you will be able to keep posting and if the books don't always end up being good, I'll be selfish to say I won't mind reading your opinions then!!
Still, happy reading for 2023!

Wendy said...

S: That's nice of you to say! Yes, the plan is to keep blogging about what I'm reading - the good, the bad and the ugly 😉. And Happy New Year to you as well! Glad to have you back for the 2023 TBR Challenge!

Jen Twimom said...

I also hit a "high" this year with books after being down for the past couple of years. And while I agree things went sideways in 2020, I feel like the underlying anxiety started in 2016. But that said, I'm looking forward to 2023 and finding some great reads along the way!

Wendy said...

Jen: Completely agree. It started in 2016 and then 2020 showed up and was all "hold my beer." My hope this year is to uncover some great reads I've had languishing in my TBR! Hope springs eternal!

Keira Soleore said...

Looks like you had a solid year of reading despite starting and ending the year feeling meh about reading. Your reviews for The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride by Terri Brisbin and Best Friend to Doctor Right by Ann McIntosh have convinced me to give them a 'go.' I like categories for historicals and medicals. Here's to a great 2023 of reading!

Wendy said...

Keira: LynnAAR was the one who turned me on to McIntosh. So far I've read two by her and they've both been solid reads. I've got a few more by her in the my TBR.

My hope for 2023 is to get through some of my category romance backlog (ha ha ha! Hope springs eternal, as always!).

Unknown said...

I felt the same way about Ridgeley's Wham! book. A great story of friendship. <3

Wendy said...

Unknown: I just loved reading about those two guys in that moment in time. I thought Ridgeley did a wonderful job of bringing that friendship to life for the reader.