The Best Books of 2022
You may have noticed that I haven’t shared the favorite books I’ve been reading in a while! But I have been reading a lot (as usual). Some of my reading has been pure escapism as I binge my way through romantic series by author favs like Deveny Perry, Mary Kay Andrews, Jeanne St. James, Jolie Vines, and Jude Deveraux. Or dystopian survival series by Grace Hamilton and T.L. Payne. Pure guilty pleasures, check them out if you are also fans of these genres. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
But I must share the best of the best of 2022, from middle grade to young adult/teen novels and beyond, 5-stars all around for these excellent books.
Mackenzie’s Last Run by Gayle Rosengren
MacKenzie’s Last Run is a poignant story of loss, grief, healing, and hope that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. In a family torn apart by sadness, MacKenzie can’t shake the idea that he’s to blame for his dad’s death. Unable to move on, he’s angry with his mom’s decision to remarry. Rosengren’s skillful writing makes our heart ache for MacKenzie and, indeed, his whole family, which also includes his twin sister Tessa. Well-written scenes confront the fact that on the page and in real life the dynamics of grief are tricky to navigate as we all process sorrow in different ways and times. Exceptionally plotted, Mac’s decisions spiral out of control, delivering one page turning moment after another. This is another beautiful, must-read story from Rosengren and one that will resonate with readers struggling with losses of their own.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Thirteen-year-old MacKenzie (Mac) Lawrence blames himself for his father’s death. He has pulled away from everyone, even his twin sister Tessa. When Mom announces her plans to remarry, Mac is furious and runs away in an attempt to force her to break off the engagement. Unfortunately, nothing goes as Mac plans. He ends up seriously injured, miles from home, and unable to call for help. Tessa sets out on a desperate search to find him. But she’d better hurry, because Mac is running out of time.
The Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
You all may more easily remember the movie version of the first book in the series (see the trailer below.) But I finally caught up with reading the books. I included it in my post over on Shepherd.com Witchcraft Novels that Launch Bingeworthy Series. Simply gorgeous writing, wonderfully gothic setting, enchanting characters, and deep, dangerous plotting.
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. Mysterious, suspenseful, and romantic, Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption introduce a secret world hidden in plain sight. A world where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen. Sometimes life-ending.
Running out of Time & Waking in Time by Angie Stanton
Now in a two-book set for Kindle.
The first book in the series, “Waking in Time,” is fabulous, and the sequel “Running out of Time” is just as wonderful, if not better. In this book we get Will’s point of view as he travels in time and meets up with Abbi from book one. This is a twisty tale as their paths cross at different times and they or may not know about their other meetings. Each year’s news and inventions and changing social structures are delightfully presented through Will’s eyes as he leaps forward and has to quickly adapt to the year he is in. The author clearly did her research to properly present the fads and norms of each era. As a University of Wisconsin graduate, I loved the familiar locations across campus and the city of Madison. And as always, Stanton’s excellent writing, plotting, and character development keep us entertained page after page. Just brilliant!
ABOUT THE BOOKS:
WAKING IN TIME—Abbi arrives at college still shaken by her grandmother's mysterious, dying request, and wakes to a different world: forty years in the past. That is just the first stop on Abbi's journey backward through time. Will, a charming college freshman from 1920s carrying his own burdens, travels forward through time. When Abbi and Will meet in the middle, love adds another complication to their lives. Communicating across time through a buried time capsule, they try to decode the mystery of their travel, solve her grandmother's mystery, and plead with their champion, a kindly physics professor, to help them find each other again ... even though the professor is younger each time Abbi meets him. RUNNING OUT OF TIME —Spanning across decades, a dashing young man, lost in time, risks everything to save a beautiful, modern-day girl who is trapped in the past. Starting college in the fall of 1927 is a life-long dream come true for Will, that is until he loses his family to a smallpox outbreak. Before he can return home, he’s suddenly popped forward in time. Lost and confused, he’s taken aback when in 1930 a beautiful girl, Abbi, who claims to be from the year 2022, appears and pleads for his help. Working together to survive, they fall helplessly in love. But in a devastating moment, he’s thrown further forward, leaving Abbi alone and trapped in the past. Will struggles through the decades to find her, while dodging the life-altering perils of modern times. Their only hope is to communicate via a buried time capsule and an aging professor, as Will desperately tries to reunite with his true love.
Old Sins by Lynne Handy
Sadly, this author passed away recently, and it makes me very upset to know that her finished manuscripts will likely not be published.
Old Sins featuring poet and amateur sleuth Maria Pell, grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. Exceptionally well plotted, the book’s mysteries and crimes—both old and new—weave together in intricate and unexpected ways. The author builds a creative cast of characters that will have you guessing as to the real culprits as murder, kidnapping, sex-trafficking and more have the small Irish coastal town on high alert. This setting along with the influence of Celtic myth, archaeology, ancient religions, and Maria’s haunting memories provide a rich backdrop for her sleuthing activities and the danger she faces. A satisfying, well-written mystery you won’t be able to put down!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Battered by her archeologist lover’s betrayal, poet Maria Pell flees to an Irish village to study prehistoric people and write her next volume of poetry, but her sanctuary is invaded first by her moody cousin and then by her Togolese lover who unexpectedly show up on her doorstep. When the discovery of a girl’s body on a rocky shore reawakens Maria’s devastating childhood memory of finding a dead baby floating in a stream, her days become haunted by this child’s death. As teenage girls disappear, villagers are terrified that sex-traffickers are targeting their community. With crimes to be solved, both past and present, Maria risks her life to bring the perpetrators to justice. Old Sins is a standalone sequel that can be enjoyed without reading books one and two in the series
Nunzio’s Way by Nick Chiarkas
In this standalone sequel to his debut novel, Weepers, Chiarkas takes us back to the rough and tumble era of 1960s New York City and into a neighborhood where gangs vie for control and the local mob is a constant presence. The ability to create likeable characters who do terrible things is an interesting balance for an author and Chiarkas does it so well. While not condoning the violent acts, we understand the motivations and the deep-seated code of conduct about protecting your turf, your people, and your family from threats. It’s a delight to be transported into this lower-Manhattan neighborhood and this era through skillfully written scenes.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In Weepers (Book 1), Angelo and his gang, with a bit of help from his beloved "uncle" Nunzio Sabino, defeated the notorious Satan's Knights. Now, in this standalone sequel to Weepers, it's 1960 and Nunzio is still the most powerful organized crime boss in New York City, protecting what's his with political schemes and 'business' deals. Against this backdrop of Mafia turf wars, local gang battles, and political power-plays in the mayoral election, the bodies begin stacking up. An unlikely assassin arrives fresh from Naples after killing a top member of the Camorra to avenge the murder of her family. She blends seamlessly into the neighborhood and with the focus on the threat from the Satan's Knights, no one suspects that Angelo's father and Nunzio are next on her hit list. Nunzio has lived his entire life by the mantra; Be a fox when there are traps and a lion when there are wolves. Will Nunzio be a lion in time?
Double Exposure by Jeannée Sacken
The fast-paced, thrilling storyline continues in book two as photojournalist Annie Hawkins is facing trouble on all fronts. While still coming to terms with the tragic events from book one. . . Annie’s job is now in jeopardy, her relationship with her Navy SEAL boyfriend is shaky, and family life is in upheaval as Annie’s teen daughter clashes with her dad/stepmom. The story takes us from the Middle East to the US (D.C./Milwaukee) and back again to Afghanistan where danger is omnipresent for Annie as she tries to honor the legacy of her best friend. The author seamlessly navigates multiple subplots with a refreshing authenticity—while bringing us into heart-wrenching and hair-raising moments where we aren’t sure anyone, including Annie, will survive. This is a beautifully complex story that’s skillfully written and touches on so many important issues taken straight from today’s headlines.
ABOUT THE BOOK
November 2015-Seasoned war photojournalist Annie Hawkins returns home after an assignment to find her life falling apart. She's under investigation for an incident that happened six months earlier in Afghanistan. Her best friend's daughter, Seema, is still missing, apparently with her Taliban boyfriend. Her daughter Mel and friends are busy fundraising to rebuild the Wad Qol Secondary School for Girls and expect Annie to deliver the money. To make matters worse, she has a major argument with the love of her life, Finn Cerelli, and they're no longer speaking. When Annie returns to Afghanistan to cover peace talks between the government and the Taliban, she takes a side trip to Wad Qol, where she discovers that not everyone wants the new school. Sabotage delays construction, and when a worker ends up dead, it's clear the militants are to blame. It's also obvious that they know exactly where Annie is.
Price of Passage by Larry Sommers
This is a well-crafted historical fiction tale that brilliantly intersects the story of a Norwegian immigrant with that of an escaped slave set within real world events leading up to the United States Civil War. A rich cast of other leading and secondary characters draws us into the daily struggles and hardships they all face in their own way as decisions made turn into either triumph or tragedy in the unforgiving world. The accurate historical details are alternately delightful, edifying, surprising, and, sometimes, horrifying as they firmly root the reader in the time and place of the story. This is a heartfelt, suspenseful, and skillfully written novel that is a fine tribute to the author’s own ancestors who inspired the story.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It's 1853. ANDERS, the law at his heels, sails from Norway to seek a life of honor and respect in America. MARIA, a boat builder's daughter also seeking a new start, knows that she is just what Anders needs. DANIEL, a young plantation runaway, flees northward to "free soil." Newlyweds Anders and Maria find him in their barnyard, hiding from slave catchers who can legally capture and return him to his master. Daniel's plight draws Anders, and drags Maria, into the conflict that is tearing the country apart.
Price of Passage is a tale of three pioneers whose lives depend on one another. The coming of civil war puts one in the Navy, one in the Army, and one at home, where she strives to save her farm and herself from a merciless creditor and finds a unique solution. Their harrowing journeys-filled with death and despair, love and hope-take Anders, Maria, and Daniel from New Orleans up the Mississippi River, into America's wild heartland.
Pandion by William Michael Ried
The best novel beginning I’ve read in ages! The first few pages masterfully set the stage for a wild, fast-paced ride as secrets are shared, betrayal is exposed, and revenge is exacted. A rich cast of characters is woven beautifully into multi-layered plots and subplots with shocking twists. Ried is as skilled as they come in his ability to write a complex, suspenseful story that satisfies the reader at every turn. Unputdownable!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Having it all is great, until everything comes crashing down. Atticus Forester is the son of a billionaire, living a life of privilege between a Manhattan townhouse and Pandion, the family compound on the coast of Maine. But young Atticus misses a flight on his father’s jet, and that changes everything. Suddenly alone and on the street, Atticus must fend for himself armed only with his wits. He crashes in a Loisaida tenement and invents one scheme after another to feed himself and his dog. But tragedy piles upon tragedy when the jet crash is ruled sabotage, his father’s empire collapses, and a killer stalks what’s left of his family. Now Atticus must face the fact that everything he believed to be true is a lie, and he must find a way to save the ones he loves.
Nightwork by Nora Roberts
I read pretty much everything this author puts out and always enjoy her stories. Some I like more than others, and some I absolutely love. Nightwork is most definitely in the love category. You’re firmly on the side of the main character from the beginning, even though he’s a thief. He’s really good at what he does and following his escapades from ‘job’ to ‘job’ makes for page-turning suspense. Mix in a compassionate backstory and a good dose of romantic tension, and you have a winner!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Harry Booth started stealing at nine to keep a roof over his ailing mother’s head, slipping into luxurious, empty homes at night to find items he could trade for precious cash. When his mother finally succumbed to cancer, he left Chicago—but kept up his nightwork, developing into a master thief with a code of honor and an expertise in not attracting attention? Or getting attached. Until he meets Miranda Emerson, and the powerful bond between them upends all his rules. But along the way, Booth has made some dangerous associations, including the ruthless Carter LaPorte, who sees Booth as a tool he controls for his own profit. Knowing LaPorte will leverage any personal connection, Booth abandons Miranda for her own safety—cruelly, with no explanation—and disappears. But the bond between Miranda and Booth is too strong, pulling them inexorably back together. Now Booth must face LaPorte, to truly free himself and Miranda once and for all.
And previously read and reviewed earlier in 2022 here – but as they made the overall best books of 2022 list, I’m repeating them here as well.
Stranded on Castaway Island by Amy Laundrie
The premise of this book is awesome—two ex-best friends get stranded on an isolated island and must rely on each other to survive. The author executed this plot brilliantly. Not only do we immediately like the main character, Annie, and want good things for her, but we also don’t hate Mirra—even while we don’t like what she did. We gradually learn what drove these former best friends apart and watch them work together as best they can to survive their current predicament and possibly rebuild their friendship. But that’s just the underlying friendship theme. Hold onto your seat for the rest of the action-filled plot! The twists and hardships just keep coming and the revelation that they might not be alone on this island after all will make you read faster and faster. Excellent characters, realistic dialogue, great pacing, and beautiful description that pulls the reader directly into the island setting. Perfect for survival-story enthusiasts!
ABOUT THE BOOK
After a sudden storm turned what should have been a quick boat ride into a nightmare, Annie is shipwrecked on a remote island near Nova Scotia with her ex-best friend Mirra. Learning to survive together would have been easier if they could get along--not possible after the hurtful words neither can forget. Annie and Mirra's only company is a herd of wild horses--or that's what the 14-year-old girls think at first. But when they discover still warm embers from a campfire and man-sized footprints, they know they're not alone. Someone is watching them. Why is he hiding? Why doesn't he help them? When he does reveal himself, he leaves them with even more questions.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
Verity by Colleen Hoover is crazy great (I'm still thinking about this book!) It is a bit of a departure from her typical genre and is suspense through and through. I couldn’t agree more with another reviewer who says, "Rebecca meets Gone Girl in this shocking, unpredictable thriller with a twist that will leave you reeling." In part, I love this book because it’s about two authors who are thrown together in very unusual circumstances, but also because I didn’t see the twists coming. (I usually do, so I am also very fond of a plotline that veers away from what I had been guessing / anticipating.) If you start this book at bedtime, do not hold me responsible for how tired you are the next day, because you won’t be able to put it down.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night her family was forever altered. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents could devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her.
South of Luck by Jim Guhl
This is a wonderful coming-of-age story set in the last days of World War II in rural Wisconsin. A fast-paced plot with some heart pounding twists and turns mix skillfully with poignant and heartbreaking moments. You'll think about this one long after you've read the last page.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s the summer of 1945, and sixteen-year-old ruffian Milo Egerson has been shipped from his Minneapolis home to his great-uncle Ham’s farm in rural northwestern Wisconsin. Though his mother puts on a smile and says it’ll do him good to be out in nature, they both know otherwise. Milo’s stepfather, the one who gave him that jagged scar, is set to be released from Stillwater Prison soon and has already promised to finish what he started. Hoping there are enough miles between the Twin Cities and dusty Milltown, Milo sets about trying to make the most of life without running water and electricity while trying to better understand his own place in the world and what it all means. His tough-guy act softens as he blends into the community and befriends an endearing group of small-town folks. And that’s lucky for him, because to stay safe, he’s going to need all the help he can get.
Submitted by Christine Keleny (not verified) on December 16, 2022 - 11:19am
Submitted by valeriebiel on December 16, 2022 - 11:23am
Thanks, Christine! There were so many more books I read that were excellent. It's always hard to choose!
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