As I often lament (and should be better at keeping track of by now), I don’t know how Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde ended up on my TBR list. “Willa Marks has spent her whole life choosing hope. She chooses hope over her parents’ paranoid conspiracy theories, over her dead-end job, over the rising ocean levels. And when she meets Sylvia Gill, renowned Harvard professor, she feels she’s found the justification of that hope. Sylvia is the woman-in-black: the only person smart and sharp enough to compel the world to action. But when Sylvia betrays her, Willa fears she has lost hope forever. And then she finds a book in Sylvia’s library: a guide to fighting climate change called Living the Solution. Inspired by its message and with nothing to lose, Willa flies to the island of Eleutheria in the Bahamas to join the author and his group of ecowarriors at Camp Hope. Upon arrival, things are not what she expected. The group’s leader, author Roy Adams, is missing, and the compound’s public launch is delayed. With time running out, Willa will stop at nothing to realize Camp Hope’s mission—but at what cost?” (Amazon) On the whole, I enjoyed this book, though it certainly makes one freak out even more about the state of the world. I do felt as though Hyde rushed at the end and didn’t fully detail many answers to the questions I had. However, I do think it was a good read and would recommend it.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Lee was good, but not great. Amazon: “History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back. A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago. His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down. Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.” This was a creative story and I liked the ending, but it dragged a little for me. I thought there was going to be a lot more action than there was.
The beginning of 2023 brought a motherlode of both digital and actual library books – they all seemed to rain down at once. Memphis by Tara Stringfellow has been on my list for a while. It’s a family saga that takes place back and forth in time, which I love. “Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass—only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected. As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother’s mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger—that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.” (Amazon) It was a bit of a tough read, but I enjoyed it.
I am not sure how The Verifiers ended up on my list, but it was a good read and a mystery, not my usual choice. “Claudia is used to disregarding her fractious family’s model-minority expectations: she has no interest in finding either a conventional career or a nice Chinese boy. She’s also used to keeping secrets from them, such as that she prefers girls—and that she’s just been stealth-recruited by Veracity, a referrals-only online-dating detective agency. A lifelong mystery reader who wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austen, Claudia believes she’s landed her ideal job. But when a client vanishes, Claudia breaks protocol to investigate—and uncovers a maelstrom of personal and corporate deceit. Part literary mystery, part family story, The Verifiers is a clever and incisive examination of how technology shapes our choices, and the nature of romantic love in the digital age.” (Amazon) This was a good read and keep me guessing until the end, which makes for a solid mystery. I recommend.
Another year, another Colleen Hoover. Maybe Someday is the beginning of a trilogy. I can’t wait to read the rest of them! Amazon: “At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be. Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.” Reading candy? Yes. Enjoyable? Also yes. Plan to keep on going until I have read them all!
The Paris Library by Janet Charles was recommended to me. And, even though I am a little done with WWII books, I grabbed it. I know, I know, I keep saying that. This was a good read, nonetheless. Amazon: “Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet seems to have the perfect life with her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into the city, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal. Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.” This was the kind of book I like – back and forth historical and almost present day. A good read. Highly recommend.
Colleen Hoover is certainly a guilty pleasure and All Your Perfects was a perfect end of year/first of new year read. Amazon: “Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair. All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?” Somehow Hoover nails all the situations she writes about as though she herself was in them. Very enjoyable read.
Why not fill up with ALL the Colleen Hoover books? Confess was the next on the list. “At age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry. For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it. To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.” This was another good one. My only complaint was that they kept referring to the bathroom as the restroom (in houses)…weird. Otherwise, kept the pages turning.
Every year, at the end of the year, I look back on all the books I have read the year before and list my favorites overall. This year, my goal was again 100 books. I made it slightly above goal due to a lot of reading this winter break. The added bonus of this post is that you don’t have to bother to read any of my other posts over the course of the year.
And, in other exciting news, THIS IS MY 1000th POST. I have kept this blog for 9 years and in November of 2023, it will make the decade. Crazy. I hope it still is helpful to people. While I have grown lazier over that decade, it helps me remember what I have read and hopefully suggest good titles for others.
This year I had seven 5-star books and 19 4.5-star choices.
Here are my 2022 reading stats:
Books finished: 106
Fiction: 91 (86%)
Non-fiction: 14 (13%), including 13 memoirs
Authors of color: 20 (19%)
Male/Female authors: 89 female (84%), 17 male (16%)
Average rating: 3.8
Repeat authors: 46 (43%)
WOW! I loved The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd. And, while the fantasy element wouldn’t usually be my thing, it worked here and I just couldn’t put this one down. What a great last read of the year! And, if you grab it today, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon. “Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map. But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence…because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way. But why? To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps…” (Amazon)