Favorite Books of 2022: Part One
It’s been a long time since I wrote a post highlighting my most recent favorite books. This list goes back to the beginning of the year, and out of the 40+ books I’ve read so far this year I'm sharing my Top Nine. These include middle grade mystery, young adult suspense, cozy mysteries, biblical fiction, coming-of-age historical fiction, and contemporary suspense/thriller.
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.
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. PURCHASE LINK
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.
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. PURCHASE LINK
Go, Gwen, Go: A Family’s Journey to Olympic Gold by Nancy & Elizabeth Jorgensen
Even though we know that Gwen Jorgensen earns USA’s first Olympic gold medal in the triathlon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the story remains suspenseful as we follow her journey from the first days of her triathlon training through the highs and lows until her Olympic achievement. This book is a fabulous read for anyone who appreciates the discipline, diligence, and fortitude it takes to excel at any sport or activity. Wonderful book for aspiring athletes. (A young-adult version of the story is forthcoming.)
Narrated in alternating voices by mother Nancy and sister Elizabeth, Go, Gwen, Go: A Midwest Family's Journey to Olympic Gold is an inspiring story about Olympian Gwen Jorgensen and her family. This memoir introduces readers to a young woman of modest athletic achievements who uses desire and discipline to attain the ultimate in sport the Olympic gold. Readers will enter the secret world of Olympic training, professional coaching, international travel, sponsor funding, anti-doping requirements, athlete nutrition, and sports physiotherapy. This book will take them inside the personal life of a professional athlete, complete with family crises and holiday celebrations. In this inspiring story, Gwen Jorgensen and her family grow together, from average to Olympian. PURCHASE LINK
Defending David by Barbara M. Britton
Barbara Britton has done it again! Every time I read one of her books, I think, “Now this one is my favorite!” Defending David is a special, special story. I love how the author turns the spotlight on little known Biblical characters and tells the rest of their story in such a beautiful way. Britton places us firmly in Biblical times with her lush descriptions along with a page-turning plot of war, deceit, honor, and loyalty, making this a book you won’t want to put down. She makes us care about both main characters--Rimona and Ittai--from the start. We’re rooting for their happiness. I appreciate how the author crafts sweet scenes that show their growing love and Ittai’s tenderness, even though his exterior is that of a tough warrior. This is a wonderful addition to the Tribes of Israel stories.
When a quiet journey to Jerusalem turns tragic, newly orphaned Rimona must flee a kinsman set on selling her as a slave. Racing into the rocky hills outside of Hebron, Rimona is rescued by a Philistine commander journeying to Jerusalem with six-hundred warriors.
Exiled commander, Ittai the Gittite, is seeking refuge in the City of David. Protecting a frantic Hebrew woman is not in his leadership plan. Although, having a nobleman's niece in his caravan might prove useful for finding shelter in a foreign land.
Rimona and Ittai arrive in Jerusalem on the eve of a rebellion. In the chaos of an heir's betrayal, will they be separated forever, or can they defend King David and help the aging monarch control his rebellious son?
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!
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.
Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries by Sherill Joseph
Middle grade readers (and up!!) will love this series! I appreciate the historical details skillfully embedded in each of these well-crafted stories. The characters are likable, interesting, and relatable to both kids and adults. It's particularly enjoyable to read stories where the kids are respected by adults for their intelligence (along with their detective skills.)
NUTMEG STREET: EGYPTIAN SECRETS
Kids, get ready to meet your new heroes! In Book 1 of the Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series, four modern-day teen sleuths take on ancient Egypt and those intent on stopping their investigation. . . . World-famous Egyptologist Dr. Winston Thornsley died suddenly two months ago in disgrace. His widow, Ida Thornsley, remains convinced her husband was falsely accused of stealing an ancient burial urn he discovered in Egypt last summer, but local and federal law enforcement officers are stumped. Mrs. Thornsley, desperate for answers, calls in her thirteen-year-old neighbors, the Botanic Hill Detectives—twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, Moki Kalani, and Rani Kumar. Their exciting mission? To find the urn and its real thief, bring the criminal to justice, and exonerate Dr. Thornsley so his spotless reputation can be restored. A roomful of venomous snakes, the poisoned Egyptian pond, and Dragon Pit Man are just a few of the tests awaiting the four tech-savvy teenagers. As the detectives begin to unravel the sinister plot, the mystery takes a dangerous turn. Answers are at their fingertips—if they can only convince their parents to let them solve the case.
Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series by Joy Ribar
You're going to love the community of Deep Lakes created by author Joy Ribar. This setting along with a charming (and potentially deadly) cast of characters and well-written plot creates an entertaining story that will make you laugh out loud (at times) and definitely keep you guessing about who is guilty. Frankie is fabulous and if she were real, I'd want to be friends with her!
You're invited to visit Deep Lakes, Wisconsin and meet a new friend, Francine "Frankie" Champagne. The 40-something owner of Bubble and Bake-bakery by day, wine lounge by night-Frankie is a spitfire pastry maker, vintner, and budding journalist.
Frankie finds herself on the perimeter of a suspicious death that upends the peaceful winter slumber in Deep Lakes when the local pastor is found dead inside his fishing shanty on Lake Loki. Frankie sticks her curious nose into the investigation, despite warnings from the local sheriff to leave it alone. But she has something to prove, maybe to the newspaper editor who wouldn't hire her as a reporter, maybe to herself as she searches for fulfillment. Regardless, her fierce independence won't allow her to back down. Follow Frankie as she stumbles upon one discovery after another, trails potential suspects, and solves the case!
The Harlow Brothers Mystery series by Jacqueline Vick
I love the Harlow Brothers! This is a fabulous (and often hilarious) sleuth-y murder mystery. The author is masterful at creating a cast of characters that is full of quirks and interesting backstories. The excellent mystery development and twisting possibilities will keep the reader guessing! A very satisfying read, indeed!
Everybody loves Aunt Civility's etiquette books, though no one but her secretary, Nicholas Harlow, has ever met the author. That's because the genteel, grandmotherly Aunt Civility is in reality his short-tempered older brother, Edward, who gives lectures as the official representative of the allegedly agoraphobic author. When Edward and Nicholas arrive for an appearance at the isolated Inglenook Resort, the guests are snowed in before the conference attendees arrives. Then the brothers discover a body in the bedroom next door. With Edward dangerously close to losing his manners, Nicholas convinces him they should team up to solve the crime. Soon teamwork turns into competition, and Nicholas will do whatever it takes to best his brother. However, as the body count rises, so do his chances of becoming the next victim. PURCHASE LINK
Scambait by Ryan Campbell
Another fabulous story from Campbell. The main character, Eric, is a potentially unlikeable guy who slacks at his job but does so for the greater good as he spends his time battling internet scammers instead. An unlikely hero, to be sure, but we’re rooting for him to win just the same. I loved the fast pace of this story and, of course, things just keep getting worse and worse for this guy—life is unfair, curve balls keep coming his way—and still he perseveres (with a little help from a new-found friend.) This is a wild ride with a carefully constructed plot—that brings us deep into the modern-day problem of internet scammers and might make you ask, “What if I didn’t just hit delete on those emails and decided to fight back, instead?”
Ever since his grandma squandered the family fortune to two-bit hucksters from “Microsoft Tech Support,” corporate do-little Eric Amundsen has spent his workdays wasting the time of Nigerian princes and car warranty salesmen everywhere.
But when Eric’s supposedly long-deceased father contacts him through his spam folder, Eric—whose workday mantra isn’t exactly “solutions-oriented”—has serious problems to solve.
Distracted by the slew of emails from the person who claims to be his father, Eric’s scambaiting shenanigans become increasingly careless, jeopardizing his personal life and his livelihood. As his problems pile up, Eric must choose: turn to a stranger on the internet to help him get his life back on track or embrace utter destitution?
And if you’re looking to binge through a bunch of romance and romantic suspense (most available via Kindle Unlimited) check out, Jolie Vines, Willa Nash, Lillian Monroe, Devney Perry, Carian Cole, and Rachel Hanna. Some have a little more sizzle than others, so reader beware.