Without going into personal stuff details too much, 2022 was a more difficult year than I had anticipated. It’s been a rough time with COVID-19. I really hope that personally and globally, we all recover. On a book front, I was able to maintain my reading goal of reading over 52 books every year. It was a decent year for reading books. I read 60 books which is not as good as 2021’s 70 but a great year in terms of quality books and audiobooks. This is by no means exhaustive and I really could not list all the good books I read this year.
For 2023, I am aiming to read more from my collection so less new books and more classics.
Audiobooks and Non Fiction
2022 was a great year for audiobooks. I was able to appreciate it more and listen to them while I was sick, knitting, or puzzling. The following are great books and well narrated.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Not non-fiction but narration by Tom Hanks really made this novel.
General Fiction and Literary
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Young Adult and Children’s Fiction
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
Last Night at the the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
Satoko and Nada series by Yupechika
This review is overdue. I am writing and finishing it now in another country but posting it after my holiday. This novel was the last novel I read in 2022 and one of the best.
This is a true classic. It is well written with a large, diverse cast of characters, some that you root for and some that you love to hate. It feels humane and true to life. It’s very similar to classics such as War and Peace, Far from the Madding Crowd,, Middlemarch (which I haven’t read yet but it always feels like I have), and Jane Austen novels.
This is one of the longest single volume novels in English literature. I was fortunate to read this over the course of three days including Remembrance Day so I did not have to work. I was was feeling poorly due to my covid booster but it allowed me to get through most of this novel thankfully.
Like the war parts War and Peace, I did find the political aspects of the novel a tad boring and my attention waned. Other than that, everything else was engrossing. The characters are rich. Everything happens in the space of the year but it did not feel tedious or long. I did worry that things would not resolve quickly enough because the pace was not as quick as it could have been. Then again, that sort of reflects life.
There is some tragedy and I was surprised that I was triggered by a mentally ill character in this novel. One of the characters experiences episodes of psychosis. I’ve had experiences with someone very close to me who has gone through it. I felt very sad and disturbed when reading the passages.
I know a sequel was announced about 14 years ago, and I am looking forward to it whenever it does get published.
Reading this novel reminded how much I love classics and reminded me about the 1001 books list. I revived it and will aim to read more classical books fro my stash in 2023.
5/5 stars. Read November 10-12, 2022. Review finished January 1, 2023.
In 2009, I owned a copy of this book when I lived in London. As with a few other books I had there, I never got around to reading it due to my graduate studies. These books became casualties of my move when I left. Since then, I continued to want to read it especially after reading March by the same author. In the last year, I heard someone in my book club read and I also found a copy of this in a Little Library. It seemed that the universe was telling me to finally read this book.
I really like Brooks’ writing style and how she researches a time period and historical events but weaves ordinary characters into them. She did the same here as she did in March where she has people in history acting as best they can in extraordinary circumstances. I like her prose and character writing and will read more from her.
Both novels are about difficult times and there is a lot of death. It actually got too grim and bleak as so many bad things happened to the characters in this book. Thankfully it’s not too long. I won’t recommend this book to people because there is very little levity in it.
I do appreciate how Brooks wrote about a time in history that I don’t see covered a lot in literary or contemporary novels. I wish there were more interesting novels about the 1600’s and 1700’s in the old world. The epilogue was satisfying and intriguing. That could be a whole novel in itself. At the core of this novel is a strong friendship between two women of different classes and wish we had even more of it.
4/5 stars. Read October 15-17, 2022.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
This was a lovely YA novel. It’s is a queer love story and very good historical fiction. I found the writing mature and well done. If the main protagonist was a few years older, I could see how this could have been marketed as an adult novel. Really well done
Read Sept 5, 2022
The Maid by Nita Prosse
I noticed this bestseller mystery awhile back and was intrigued by the cover and the concept of the maid in an escape mystery. The protagonist maid is neurodivgerent and this reminded me of Curious Incident of Dog in the Night time. The plot was obvious and depended a lot on the naivety of the title character. I have mixed feelings on how the author leaned into this because it was part of the story that the character was gullible for a time. There is an additional twist at the end which I appreciated but I don’t think I liked this enough to read another book from the author.
Read September 7, 2022.
The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake
I shouldn’t have read this but I wanted something so mindless. This not something I normally read. It’s basically a Hallmark Christmas movie. The characters are all two dimensionally drawn and most of them are not that likeable. The ending is super sappy. I’m wondering if I should be pickier with my books these days. Thank goodness I read fast.
Read September 23-24, 2022.
Reticence (The Custard Protocol #4) by Gail Carriger
I have been reading this series for a few years now. They are mindless steampunk urban fantasy fun. Most of the characters are enjoyable and the author has added onto them over the years. I have read most but not all of this series. I did not know this book was the last in the series until the end. I felt a bit sad that it was over. I gave it a 4 for the solid end to the journey.
Read September 18-25, 2022.
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
I loved this. It really helped relax me during a very bad weekend. I love the use of East Asian fairy tales and iconography. There was not enough of the dragon character. I liked all the characters. I also loved how the author subverted one particular fairytale staple. Very fun. I can’t wait for the second book coming out later this month. I already have the author’s first series lined up on my bookshelf.
Read July 31-Aug 1, 2022.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book is a bestseller. I had heard good things from members of my book club. I liked the old Hollywood era and know about it from my love of old movies. I really liked the characters and the romance. The writing is also really clear. There is something really straight forward in Reid’s prose which makes her novel so easy to read. I have Daisy Jones and the Six on audiobook so I will get that next and read her other works too.
Read Aug 2-5, 2022.
Dirt: Adventures, with Family, in the Kitchens of Lyon, Looking for the Origins of French Cooking by Bill Buford.
I read Heat many years ago and remembered vaguely liking it. This one was much longer and I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. I didn’t warm to Buford’s narration for the first few chapters, but I came to enjoy the stories of his working in the French kitchens and all the characters he meets. Sometimes the book meanders on the origins of the French Cooking without much definition. The best part to me was the reflections and connections on the history in the region. While I have not been to Lyon, I have actually lived in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes so I could picture the landscape. It made me miss France and the French language which has become very rusty in the last 6 years. Not necessarily a memoirs that I would recommend unless one really likes French food and history.
Listened July 30-Aug 11, 2022.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
This was different and engrossing even though there were definite moments where I was annoyed with the two leads. It features too many characters and was a bit slow to start, but it’s a fascinating look at class and coming of age in 1950s Naples. Not hard to read but not easy either because I grew to appreciate both the leads. The book ends with a wedding but it’s not a happy one. I have all the novels in this quartet and will make my way through them slowly.
Read August 16-18, 2022.
The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Vol. 10
This volume has background on the main character and a revelation. The background was good but the revelation at the end makes me think the ending won’t be satisfying.
Read August 28, 2022.
The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Vol. 11
The ending was confusing and odd. It’s bittersweet. Not sure how I felt about it.
Read August 31, 2022.
Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton
Enjoyed this little book of short stories by Wharton. I liked a lot of them had satire and darkly humorous ones. It was also largely dominated by female characters.
Read June 20-July 3, 2022
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
I listened to this while I was bed ridden with COVID-19. It was really good. John Green is one of those authors whom I prefer their nonfiction work to their fiction.
Listened May 20-July 7, 2022.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
This was such a good book and listen. Patchett asked Tom Hanks to narrate the audiobook and says the audiobook is better than the written one as a result. She said it’s funnier. It’s true. It’s a darkly funny story at times because of Hanks’s narration. I listened to it while recovering and I loved it. It gripped me. I’ve always liked Patchett’s prose and I loved the setting and the characters.
Listened July 7-9, 2022.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto
This was chaotic. A lot of stuff happened. It’s a summer read centred around a murder, mystery, romance, and family. It’ was non stop drama and action. It would actually make for a fun dark sitcom. The narrator is an actor of Indonesian descent and could do the accents. I just found the story too frenzied for me to enjoy. The Aunties were amusing for the most part but then also annoying and stereotypical caricatures at other things. The love interest was boring too. He was like the one in a lot of romance stories where he has no flaws and you’re suppose to buy into the main romance. While I found some moments amusing and it was a real romp as I recovered, I do not think I will continue this series.
Listened July 9, 2022.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
This was a plane read. It was short. Even though it’s product of its time because it has lots of misogyny, homophobia, and other issues, I enjoyed it. I found it better written than The Big Sleep. It was a more cohesive plot.
Read July 18, 2022.
Reboot Your Portfolio: 9 Steps to Successful Investing with ETFs by Dan Bortolotti
I am fan of the author’s blog. There is nothing really new that I didn’t know here but definitely good overall.
Read July 23, 2022
The Verifiers by Jane Pek
This is a debut novel which is a mainly a mystery with a dash of Chinese-American family storytelling. The writing is not bad exactly but the climax was a bit of a let down. It seemed to be building up to nothing much at all. Maybe it’s because I am familiar with IT and digital consumerism but I found the IT stuff boring. Maybe this kind of suspense would have worked if the world didn’t have bigger problems right now. It feels like this will be a series, but I did not find enough roundness or intrigue in the characters for me to continue.
Read July 24-25, 2022.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton G. Malkiel
Most of the info from this book I already knew from taken undergrad econ classes years ago, econ podcasts, or other investment books. This is a well written and thorough history of American and world investment financing. In terms of helping with personal investing, most of the info is too American leaning. However, I still found this a good run down history finance.
Read July 24-27, 2022.
Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Lovely cover. I liked the premise of this novel. It’s historical young adult fiction with a person of colour protagonist who is not featured often in anglophone literature of this time period. It’s set in the American south in 1890 and is the tale of of a young Chinese woman and her guardian. I liked that it had lots of decent characters and since it is YA, it was not that violent or salacious. I did find one of the twists a bit too soap operatic. I wish I could say I loved it so much that I would read another book by this author, but it didn’t make me “besotted” (which is the protagonist’s favourite word).
Read June 3-6, 2022.
Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas
I enjoyed Deluxe by the same author and I think that needed a new overhaul. This was written pre pandemic but I think the fashion industry still needs the changes outlined in this book. More than ever. I felt a bit more hopeful as Thomas outlines what some companies are doing to be more sustainable. Sometimes the book felt more like a series of articles, but I like the research that goes into it.
Read May 30-June 12, 2022.
Happy go lucky by David Sedaris
I do not think I’ve read a Sedaris book or article during the pandemic. He has published at least twice but I like to avoid his older things and his New Yorker articles as there is overlap. I basically only read Sedaris every 5 years now. I also listened to this on audiobook and most of the chapters were read in front of live audiences. A real novelty in the pandemic era. Some of the moments were still funny. Sedaris has a very wry, edgy sense of humour that does not work for everyone. I think he sees the world both different and at the same time, the same as some people. There is something impolite about it but then again, a lot of society is irrational and impolite. I will listen to the next book in audiobook form if available.
Listened June 12-14, 2022.
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
This was an easy young adult classic. It is a bit out dated with the indigenous characters and objectification of the culture. It’s not the worse and Caddie is a good young children’s heroine. Some of the stories were more interesting than others. It was nice but not enough for me to seek out the sequel.
Read May 1, 2022.
Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
I read this on a particular anniversary. I liked Madeleine L’Engle’s introduction actually. I’ve always liked C.S. Lewis’s writing so I enjoyed this. Grief is unique to everyone and my grief was not for a partner. He did express things about losing someone which most people in grief understands.
Read May 8, 2022.
Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani
A book of recommendations by a former book critic of the New York Times. A lot of the books I had already heard about and a couple I did not so I added to a list. However, the nonfiction and non memoirs books were heavily predisposed to political science and western history. The recommendations were more American focussed and the author spent a lot of time mentioning Donald Trump and how his ilk are the end of the world. I don’t like Trump either but it was excessive. I personally found it a bit limited as a result.
Read May 10, 2022.
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Wanted to try this book for a number of years because it’s a common trope in East Asian dramas so I had a feeling how it would end. I loved it. I’d been quite stressed and depressed in the last couple of weeks. This book lifted my spirits when I read it and made me miss the days when I read a lot of classics. I really enjoyed reading a novel from the past which was written for the time, but this was such a universal coming of age story in a way. I found Judy so delightful and well developed. I even gave this book 5 stars!
May 11-14, 2022.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
This one is popular in my bookclub ( it’s read what we want book club). I liked the writing. I loved the characters and female relationships in particular. I just wish there was more of them and the ending was sad and left me a bit dissatisfied. I wish there were more on the characters and less on the whole actual dictionary part. A good read none the less.
May 18-24, 2022.
It’s All in Your Dreams by Kelly Sullivan Walden
Meh. A self-help dream book.
May 29, 2022.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
This was slow to start for me and I actually found it difficult to tell some of the crew members apart for the first third. The book finally picks up pacing and understanding halfway. From what point, I really loved the world building and I enjoyed the characters.
May 26-31, 2022.
Go Tell The Bees I am Gone (Outlander Book 9) by Diana Gabaldon
This was so long and slow. It felt like not much happened. I have mixed feelings about these books. I am not a completionist but I keep reading this series. It’s like going back to watch a tv show every few years with characters I recognize. I even stopped watching the TV show. I don’t mind the minutiae of the books. I actually like some of the social history bits. I do like some of these characters. It was also not that violent this time. I’ll keep reading but I don’t recommend this series overall.
Read March 30-April 7, 2022.
The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
Satoko and Nada, Vol. 3 by Yupechika
Still cute. One more to go before this lovely manga is done.
Read April 17-18, 2022.
I gave this book 4 stars on GR. I think more for the subject matter than the writing or overall book.
I do like Michael Lewis’s writing. This book captures what he is really good at: he writes real people as if they are characters in a novel. He really captures their essence through their dialogue and it almost feels like you are hearing things from their perspective. He did it in Flash Boys and The Undoing project as well. It’s one of the reasons I keep reading his works. His background in social sciences and economics influences his analysis of the topics in his books.
I was really interested throughout this book because I actually have a graduate degree in health policy. Unfortunately, outside of an internship at an international organisation, I have not worked in the field. I was interested in social epidemiology, emerging health trends such as communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and the confluence of public heath, governance and policy. There is a large theme of this book which is frustrating for the reader of how inept and inefficient health systems are when dealing with epidemics, pandemics, or health topics. This is all too familiar to me and probably one of the reasons I never could find a job in public health. There is a lot of sitting around in public health and not a lot of action or willingness to do work. Lewis really captures these frustrations that all the characters and personalities comes against political and bureaucratic inertia.
The book’s ending is anticlimactic as we are still in the midst of the pandemic and nothing feels solved or that there is a lot of hope. The book feels like it needs a sequel.
It felt a bit aimless at times like he wanted to feature so many interesting people but the book doesn’t really have a final direction or message.
While I would universally recommend this book, I personally had interest in it that made me like it more than Lewis’s last book. Only recommended if you have an interest in public affairs.
Read April 10-14, 2022.
Satoko and Nada, Vol. 1 by Yupechika
A really cute manga about two college roommates, one from Japan and one from Saudi Arabia. It is inclusive and genuine. I really enjoy it and am going to read the rest.
Read February 28-March 1, 2022.
Love Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey
This was cute. An author testimonial on the back said it’s better than Georgette Heyer. As a Heyer regency novel fan, I think overall it’s as good. I read at least 1/3 of this book while in extreme pain waiting in the ER so it was a great distraction. When I read it more closely to the end after I came home, I found it was okay but not great. I think it’s a bit too long and while I didn’t find issue with the characters, I also found that they lacked some depth. Heyer was not always great at that either but I don’t think this book was better. I did like this better than Bridgerton though.
Read March 5-8, 2022.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Choi
Wow. This is a South Korean feminist novel. The content was somewhat enraging at the times. Translation was a bit odd for a couple of reasons that are revealed in the twist ending. I am still not sure if the translator did the right thing. A thought provoking novel.
Read March 10-14, 2022.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Over the years, I’ve read and liked many novels by Japanese authors. I did notice that these are all predominantly men (Murakami, Ishiguro, Higashino). I began to look for more works by female Japanese authors. I stumbled upon this two novella anthology published in the early 90s. Both stories deal with death, grief, and loneliness. The first story “Kitchen” has an almost enchanting and relatable protagonist. I really liked both stories and the translation. Simply written and very lovely.
Read March 14-16, 2022.
Satoko and Nada, Vol. 2 by Yupechika
My continuation of this lovely manga series. I immediately requested Vol 3 and 4. So wholesome.
Read March 20, 2022.
Dreamworlds of Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism: The Third Place by Angela Sumegi
This is an academic work. I am doing a personal project researching dreams and henceforth there may be dream books in my lists.
Read March 29, 2022.
I don’t really read modern romance novels, but I do read romantic fanfiction. I read this novel mainly because it was based on a fanfic from a ship and fandom that I was familiar with. Even better, a friend of mine wanted to read this book too so we did it as a mini read along.
If I had read this novel objectively and not known it was fanfic, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. There were a lot of cheesey and romcomy moments which did not work for me. The characters lacked development. I did not really see the depth of their characters without the fanfic lenses. We don’t really get to know the male lead Adam Carsen. The author made the female lead Olive a Canadian from Toronto. There were a couple of things that were off because I am from Ontario. Mainly that Olive claims to be emancipated but there is not an emancipation law in Ontario. I also found it a real stretch that she didn’t know what Ultimate Frisbee was. She seemed science smart but not exactly clever about other things. I never actually bought their meet cute either since how could she not recognize him?
I read the original fanfic this was based on after I finished the novel. It was shorter, smuttier, and less cheesey. The meet cute was not in the fanfic. The novel has its cute moments but without the fanfic element, I don’t think I would have really liked it. I may read her upcoming novels knowing that at least one other one or two is based on her fanfic.
The lack of character development in the novel does not bother as much in fanfic because I could slot in what the characters looked and acted like. I could already picture the characters. This novel’s cover leans heavily into this. This novel came into my life when I was overdue for a dip back into fanfiction.
Read March 11-15, 2022 in ebook.
Disclaimer: The rest of this post will be a discussion of fanfic in general and my history with it.Continue reading →