Monday, December 5, 2022

Favorite Books of 2022

Life really gets in the way of reading some good books, you know? This year, I had time to actually finish a couple books which was super nice, and also renewed my love for reading, which had felt like it was dwindling somewhat in the last couple years. I've gotten a little lackadaisical in keeping up with writing book reviews for every book I've been reading this year. I only have so much energy, you know?

Anyway, on to the list...

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Synopsis: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. 

Why it made the list: I was skeptical about whether I would like this book or not, but I could not keep it down. I was drawn into this book from the start, and even though I knew that the two would eventually get together, I still wanted to see just how they would. It's definitely a romance, so if you're not in to that, you might not like it. But I definitely did!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Synopsis: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone. Or does he?

Why it made the list: While I didn't always love Weir's writing style and some of the ways he decided to tell the story, the story itself was super compelling. I could not wait to see what would happen next, just waiting for the next moment I could go back to reading it. I've heard this is being adapted into a movie as well, which I can totally see. You can read my longer review here.

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus

Synopsis: True crime can leave a false trail. Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she's sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin's body know more than they're telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He's definitely hiding something. When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds. Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it's time to uncover the truth...

Why it made the list: I've liked most of McManus' mysteries, and this one was no exception. Not only is there a mystery (and mysteries are always compelling unless they are boring), there is also a developing romance that you know is coming, but can't help but root for regardless. The answer to the mystery is unexpected, even though I now can't remember what it is! 

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Synopsis: Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened? Late October. After midnight. You’re waiting up for your seventeen-year-old son. He’s late. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody. His future shattered. That night you fall asleep in despair. All is lost. Until you wake... and it is yesterday. And then you wake again... and it is the day before yesterday. Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. With another chance to stop it. Somewhere in the past lies an answer. The trigger for this crime—and you don’t have a choice but to find it...

Why it made the list: I love a good time travel story, and this one is definitely unique in that the lead character is continually going back in time to try to figure out what happened when the book first starts. There are mysteries upon mysteries, and it all wraps up in a very satisfying way. 

Other books I enjoyed this year, but wouldn't call my favorites: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

You can check out all of the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page, but let me know if you’ve had any favorites from this year that I should check out!

Past Years:
20212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy WeirGood Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Published: April 30, 2020

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult

Pages: 417

Synopsis: Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it's too late?

Thoughts: In this sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, one of my favorite books read in 2021, the story picks up a bit after the events that took place in the first book, with Pip having started a podcast about her investigation. It takes a little while for the story to really get going as Pip has decided she doesn't want to be a "detective" anymore, but once a new mystery takes hold, she of course gets pulled back in.

Though it's a slow start at first, once things get going, the story picks up quickly, and before I knew it, I was already nearing the end. The mystery itself takes some unexpected twists and turns, and to be honest I had no idea it was going to end in the way it did. While sometimes that would be annoying because there's something to be said for anticipation, I do enjoy when a mystery isn't cut and dry and goes in an unexpected direction.

While the first book focused on what you'd call a "cold case" and digging up information about something that had happened in the past, this book's mystery is very much in the present and focuses on actively trying to find a person who has gone missing. That mystery, combined with Pip evolving and changing into someone a bit darker than she was in the previous book, gives this one a bit of a different feel. Though I enjoyed it, I would definitely say that I prefer the first book over this one.

Still, I enjoyed it enough to round out the trilogy. Here's hoping it sticks the landing!

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon links in my posts.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy WeirProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Published: May 4, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 476

Synopsis: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it's up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he's got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could imagine it, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Thoughts: Some years ago, I tried to read The Martian and fairly quickly gave up because of the author's writing style and the abundance of science mumbo jumbo from the get go. Now, if you know me, you might be like, hmm, that's weird, you like science (especially space science), why would the science turn you off? Maybe I just wasn't in the right head space for it, because I loved the movie version. Now, flash forward to this year, when I thought I would give the same author's most recent book a try. Would I feel the same?

To a very small extent - yes. I don't particularly like how he writes character dialogue. I feel like it comes off a little bit hokey, but I pushed through that initial hokey feeling in Project Hail Mary to truly give the story a chance, and I am very glad I did. I will say, though I got used to the writing style of the dialogue, I still don't particularly love it, but I did end up loving the story itself. My only other qualm with the book is in how it was formatted, going back and forth between the present day and the past, with those past moments explaining how the main character, Ryland Grace, ended up on this mission in the first place. While those flashbacks were intriguing at first because Ryland had amnesia, once the story really got moving, I found them annoying and just wanted to get back to the present story as soon as possible. 

Now, I get the point of those flashbacks - they show us that Ryland has grown and yada yada yada - but I feel like that could've been presented in a different way. Still, I zipped through this book, wanting to see what was going to happen next and how each new obstacle would be overcome. I rooted for and grew attached to Ryland and another character, and may have even got a little teary eyed toward the end. And the science in this did not bother me as I found it pretty fascinating and was also impressed with how accurate it all felt. Weir clearly did a lot of research for this book, and it shows.

While I would like to give this the full 5 out of 5 rating, because of those two issues I had with the dialogue and the flashbacks, I had to knock it down a little. Despite that, though, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is a space scifi fan, and especially if you read and liked The Martian.

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon links in my posts.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Book Review: Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5) by Robert Galbraith

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert GalbraithTroubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

Published: September 15, 2020

Genre: Mystery, Fiction

Pages: 944

Synopsis: Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough — who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot's disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly...

Thoughts: First off, this book is long. Like, really, overly long. For comparison, the previous book in this series was about 775 pages, whereas this one was about 950. Since I use a Kindle to read these days, I generally have no idea how long a book may be when choosing to read it. Compare that to being able to see how thick an actual physically published book is, I probably would make some different choices in the books I decide to read. 

That's not to say there's anything wrong with a long book, if it indeed deserves that length. This book does not, in my opinion. It really starts to drag on in the middle, and honestly made me wonder if the same author had even written it given the repetitive nature of some scenes. The main mystery here, while at times intriguing, was oftentimes convoluted, with many different characters to try to keep track of, which I did not always succeed in doing. Who's Steve Douthwaite compared to Paul Satchwell? I'm still not 100% sure.

Still, the reveal of the mystery was unexpected and one I did not see coming. And, I enjoyed all of the more personal scenes with Strike and Robin -- in particular those featuring Robin. Indeed, the satisfaction those scenes gave really kept me going despite the slog-ish nature of the rest of the book. Seriously, what was the point in making it so much longer than the rest of the books in this series? 

I did consider not reading this book because of all of the stuff the author has said about certain things, but it creates this conundrum -- are you not allowed to enjoy things you once did because the person who created them isn't as decent of a person as you had previously thought? It's a tough question, and one that I'm sure many others also struggle with as well. Like, I don't condone that stuff, but I also still want to see what happens next in the story... Sigh. Anyway. There's that.

Rating: 3/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon links in my posts.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Book Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Book Review: Steelstriker by Marie LuSteelstriker by Marie Lu

Published: September 28, 2021

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Pages: 384

Synopsis: As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.

But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.

With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.

Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara – or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red's only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.

While the fate of a broken world hangs in the balance, Talin and Red must reunite the Strikers and find their way back to each other in this smoldering sequel to Marie Lu’s Skyhunter.

Thoughts: While I may have forgotten to write an official review for Skyhunter here back when I read it earlier this year, I quite enjoyed it, and was looking forward to this sequel to wrap up the duology. If you've followed my blog for long, you'll have noticed that I've been a fan of author Marie Lu for awhile, and though I haven't loooooved every one of her books, I have liked all of them. 

So, how does Steelstriker rank? I'd say it's middle of the pack for me. Though I appreciate the reasons why the story had to play out the way it did, it felt like it took a really long time for it to to start going places. I just wanted things to start coming together faster, particularly since it seemed pretty clear where everything was eventually headed. 

What I always find a little tough about these types of series, where the focus is on a group of oppressed people who want to rise up against their oppressors, is that you always know where things are headed. And it always seems to end in some sort of battle. And I just... find battles boring. Like oh here we go, more fighting, woo hoo. That's not to say this book is full of fighting, because it really isn't, I just wished it had a few more unexpected twists. 

Nonetheless, it was a satisfying conclusion to Talin and Red's stories, so if you read the first one and enjoyed it, you probably won't be disappointed, you just might wish it all went a bit quicker, like me.

Rating: 3/5

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What I'm Reading Next: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon links in my posts.