Last year, I created a post called Tara’s Favourite Books of 2021, after I joining a reading challenge called 52 Books in 52 Weeks. While it was a great challenge, I decided not to participate in it again this year only because there were some other things I wanted to focus on. But that’s not to say I didn’t read a lot!
I set a challenge for myself this year to read 25 books. If I look at my Goodreads profile, I exceeded that (without trying)! I read a total of 41 books and I’ll probably read another two or three before the year is out.
Some of the books were quick reads, as I looked for some lightness. I discovered some other books on ‘must read’ lists and thought I’d try them for myself. (See what the hype was about.) Some were duds. Others surprised me. Best all, when I went to ‘pick up a book or two’ from my local library, I found some true gems. Turns out it was a year of literary surprises…
Here are my favourite books for 2022:
Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
I found this book on a multitude of ‘must read’ lists, so I thought I’d give it a read. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down. It drew me in from the first chapter. This book is heartbreaking yet inspiring. I loved how the scenery was so vibrant. You could taste the heaviness of the mornings on the water, feel the intense vibe of the children’s home. This is a historical fiction woven in with ‘present day’ and done so beautifully.
by Robyn Mundy
Inspired by the story of Svalbard’s first female trapper, Cold Coast is a gripping portrayal of survival within the stark beauty and perilous wilderness of the high Arctic.
In 1932, Wanny Woldstad, a young widow, travels to Svalbard, daring to enter the Norwegian trappers’ fiercely guarded male domain. She must prove to Anders Sæterdal, her trapping partner who makes no secret of his disdain, that a woman is fit for the task. Over the course of a Svalbard winter, Wanny and Sæterdal will confront polar bears, traverse glaciers, withstand blizzards and the dangers of sea ice, and hike miles to trap Arctic fox, all in the frigid darkness of the four-month polar night. For Wanny, the darkness hides her own deceptions that, if exposed, speak to the untenable sacrifice of a 1930s woman longing to fulfil a dream.
Alongside the raw, confronting nature of the trappers’ work, is the story of a young blue Arctic fox, itself a hunter, who must eke out a living and navigate the trappers’ world if it is to survive its ﬁrst Arctic winter.
What an incredible book. Two words: Stark and endearing.
Through incredible storytelling, you feel every emotion, every heart stopping moment, and (with tears at the end), just how incredible this woman’s life was. Thank you @RobynMundy for another incredible story.
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
by Yeonmi Park & Maryanne Vollers
In In Order to Live, Yeonmi Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.
Park confronts her past with a startling resilience. In spite of everything, she has never stopped being proud of where she is from, and never stopped striving for a better life. Indeed, today she is a human rights activist working determinedly to bring attention to the oppression taking place in her home country. Park’s testimony is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.
This is a book everyone needs to read. I’m trying to form a comprehensive review but all I can think are words. And those don’t explain it – or do it justice.
Shocking. Honest. Raw. Heartbreaking. Inspiring. Acknowledging. Criminal. Animalistic. Opportunistic.
Just read it.
By Colleen Hoover
Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.
The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.
Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines, when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.
Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.
Poignant and powerful, Without Merit explores the layers of lies that tie a family together and the power of love and truth.
There is a reason Colleen Hoover gets a lot of hype, and I am now a life long fan. Colleen Hoover’s twisted sense of humour shines again in this novel about heavy subjects. Her characters are offbeat, a little weird but always so relatable. This is a novel I would read again and recommend (loudly) to others. Another gold star.
The Stationery Shop
By Marjan Kamali
Roya, a dreamy, idealistic teenager living amid the political upheaval of 1953 Tehran, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, stocked with books and pens and bottles of jewel-colored ink.
Then Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—and she loses her heart at once. Their romance blossoms, and the little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.
A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square when violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she moves on—to college in California, to another man, to a life in New England—until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did you leave? Where did you go? How is it that you were able to forget me?
A beautiful story of love found, lost, and everything in between. Your heart will soar and break with this story. And it will also give you serious cravings for Persian food!
by Marian Keyes
Back in the long ago nineties, Rachel Walsh was a mess.
But a spell in rehab transformed everything. Life became very good, very quickly. These days, Rachel has love, family, a great job as an addiction counsellor, she even gardens. Her only bad habit is a fondness for expensive sneakers.
But with the sudden reappearance of a man she’d once loved, her life wobbles.
She’d thought she was settled. Fixed forever. Is she about to discover that no matter what our age, everything can change?
Is it time to think again, Rachel?
If you were like me and devoured Rachel’s Holiday back in 2009, you were probably just as excited as I was about this book’s release. It was worth the wait. Rachel is just as flawed, but we go deeper with her as she is now. It’s funny, raw, descriptive and everything else you hoped it to be. Worth the read for any Marian Keyes fan.
By Karin Slaughter
Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.
Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful novel from one of the finest writers working today.
Fark. This novel scared the bejeezus out of me. But what a page turner. On my Goodreads review I wrote “I will not be sleeping tonight… or the next week.” And how true that was. This book has stayed with me. And I could not wait to read another by Karin Slaughter.
It Wasn’t Meant To Be Like This
By Lisa Wilkinson
Lisa Wilkinson has lived much of her life in the public eye. One of Australia’s most respected journalists and media personalities, her warm, intelligent and elegant presence has graced our television screens for many years, where she has shared, shaped and even shifted many important national conversations. But it all could have been so different …
Subjected to horrific bullying as a teenager, Lisa survived by making herself as small as possible. But she swore when she left school that no one was ever again going to determine who she was – or limit what she was capable of. That determination and drive led to Lisa blazing an unprecedented and enormously successful trail through the Australian media and cultural landscape for more than four decades.
An early ground-breaking career in publishing – at 21, Lisa was the youngest editor ever appointed to take charge of a national magazine, Dolly, before spending ten years as editor of the iconic Cleo magazine – then led to a stunning television success story. This included spending more than a decade as co-host of the Nine Network’s Today show, before she caused a media storm across Australia and the world on the issue of the gender pay gap, when she moved to the Ten Network as co-host of its prime-time award-winning program The Project.
It Wasn’t Meant to Be Like This is the story of how a young girl from Sydney’s western suburbs came to be such a force in Australian cultural life. It is a story that is honest, funny, engaging – and powerfully inspirational.
Celebrity is a funny thing yet Lisa Wilkinson has never quite fit that description. She is real and dare I use the overused ‘in’ word – authentic – no matter what her role. I have followed her career since Dolly days and this incredible biography just proved she’s just as I always believed. I admired her before. Now I am in awe.
This is a story all women should read. And maybe even a few (particular) men!
The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
This book was not what I thought it to be and I loved it for for that. Lots of twists, great scenery and flawed characters. Highly recommended. I look forward to reading more from Laura Dave.
New York, 2061: The place called the Pleasure Academy is a living nightmare where abducted girls are trapped, trained for a life of abject service while their souls are slowly but surely destroyed. Dorian, a thirteen-year-old runaway who’d been imprisoned there, might never have made it out if not for her fellow inmate Mina, who’d hatched the escape plan. Mina was the more daring of the two—but they’d been equally desperate.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get away fast enough. Now Dorian is injured, terrified, and wandering the streets of New York, and Mina lies dead near the waterfront while Lt. Eve Dallas looks over the scene.
Mina’s expensive, elegant clothes and beauty products convince Dallas that she was being groomed, literally and figuratively, for sex trafficking—and that whoever is investing in this high-overhead operation expects windfall profits. Her billionaire husband, Roarke, may be able to help, considering his ties to the city’s ultra-rich. But Roarke is also worried about the effect this case is having on Dallas, as it brings a rage to the surface she can barely control. No matter what, she must keep her head clear–because above all, she is desperate for justice and to take down those who prey on and torment the innocent.
I’ve taken to listening to the audiobooks for the “In Death” series, because Susan Ericksen just NAILS the characters. I’m going to always put one of the “In Death” novels on my favourite list, because this is an incredible series.
Desperation In Death is Book 55 (!!) in the series and it’s still going.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
What book was your favourite of your 2022 reads?
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