I’m bringing this back from a couple years ago. It’s just time to talk about books. Again, I’m mostly limiting this to fiction.
1. Best book you’ve read so far this year and 2. Best sequel you’ve read so far this year
Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire is the sequel to Middlegame, one of my favorite books from last year. When I finished Middlegame, I didn’t want to read the sequel, because I liked where it ended and didn’t want to mess that up. But it turned out Seasonal Fears focused on different characters, so I changed my mind. It follows two teenagers who have been best friends/in love their whole lives, who get drawn into a competition to become the next incarnations of summer and winter. The characters from the first book are involved a little bit, but not so much it messed up the end of their story. I found some of the ending a bit anticlimactic, but there was plenty of great stuff along the way, so I didn’t mind too much.
3. New release you haven’t read yet but want to
New might be a strong word; David’s Crown: Sounding the Psalms by Malcolm Guite came out in 2021. But I haven’t read it yet. This is a collection of sonnets inspired by the psalms, with one sonnet for each psalm. Each one begins with the last line of the previous poem. I heard the author talking about it in an interview, and he said he had to start at the end of Psalms, because the last poem ends with the first line of the first poem. I think this is so cool, and I love Malcolm Guite’s work. A copy is sitting on my shelves at home, and I’m planning to read it soon.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2022
To my knowledge, none of the authors I follow have anything coming out in the second half of 2022. But I went looking around, and I’m interested in Dream Small: The Secret Power of the Ordinary Christian Life by Seth Lewis. All I know about it is the publisher’s description, so here:
“We are all looking for significance and meaning in our lives. The world tells us that this comes from dreaming big, achieving personal success, and making a big impact. But the Bible says that self-worth is found in knowing our Creator, and contentment is found in discovering his purpose for our lives.
This book reminds us that when we know Jesus, we are free from the world’s definition of success. We can listen to God’s word and direct our dreams towards the things that he says matter most, even if they are small and unimpressive in the world’s eyes.
Celebrate the dreams God has for us: serving others, investing in individuals, and living faithfully. Although these things seem small, their impact will be bigger, and their rewards will be better, than anything we could dream for ourselves.”
5. Biggest disappointment
In the 1960s, an adoption agency in New York City purposely placed identical twins in separate homes without telling the families and then studied them. Which is, of course, horrible, no one should do that, but I think what they learned from it is probably fascinating. Unfortunately, Deliberately Divided: Inside the Controversial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopted Apart by Nancy Segal does not go inside the study at all. The people who conducted the study had the records sealed in a university library until 2065. Not at all indicative that they knew they were doing something sketchy and didn’t want to deal with the fallout… But this means there’s no inside information to be had. Most of this is interviews with the twins and families who were involved and how upset they are about it. Which, sure, that’s an important thing to do, and you can’t wait until the records are unsealed to do it because they’ll likely be dead by then, but I don’t think it’s what the book promised. It was also very repetitive. It was 400 slow pages and could have been much more concise and interesting.
6. Biggest surprise
I talked about The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard in my post Great Books I’ve Read in 2022 – Part 1. I think I really needed something to read when I found it on Hoopla, and I didn’t anticipate how much I would like it. It’s a different sort of thriller, and I stayed up way too late finishing it because I needed to know what happened.
7. Favorite new author
Malcolm Guite, mentioned above.
8. Newest fictional crush and 9. Newest favorite character
My brother recommended the series He Who Fights With Monsters by Shirtaloon to me, and I’ve been listening to the audiobooks. The reader is fantastic. The main character, Jason, unexpectedly wakes up in a whole different world, one with magic and monsters and his own personal video game interface. Jason quickly becomes an official adventurer and picks up lots of friends. My favorite combination so far is:
– Jason, in his early 20s, New To This but getting quite competent with his odd and threatening abilities (keeps getting asked if he’s the guy with evil powers, insists they’re not evil), cheerful smart-aleck who makes friends with pretty much everyone and is excessively prepared.
– Humphry, teenager who just became an official adventurer, from an old and wealthy family, has trained for this his whole life but is kind of clueless about normal people, rather preppy.
– Clive, who I think is closer to middle age, worked in a civil servant-type job for quite a while and has been getting reluctantly dragged into actual adventuring by Jason, keeps revealing that he has surprisingly powerful abilities, very much a nerd who gets excited about learning weird things.
I love Clive. Clive can get the newest favorite character slot. If I were picking one for crushing, that can be Humphry. Clive has a girl I think is becoming his love interest, and I support them.
10. Book that made you cry
The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman is the last (at least for now) in The Invisible Library series, which I love and have been eagerly following for several years. Overall I didn’t think it was the best book in the series – there was a lot of information gathering and not a lot happening for most of the book – but I still enjoyed it, and the ending made me emotional.
11. Book that made you happy
I loved Fangs by Sarah Anderson, a tiny little collection of comics about a vampire and werewolf falling in love. It’s SO CUTE. There’s not really a storyline, just illustrated little moments, and I think it works well that way. It’s very short, and I read the whole thing in one sitting. Took it back to the library the next day and recommended it to my boss, and she also read the whole thing in one sitting. Occasional inappropriate humor, so fair warning, but overall this was a delight. I would be happy to get more.
12. Favorite book to movie adaptation you saw this year
The only one I can think of is Death on the Nile. I have not read the book, so I can’t compare, but I enjoyed the movie. It was very pretty. I loved the Egyptian scenery. To be honest, I thought the solution to the murder was a little obvious, but that’s all right.
13. Favorite review you’ve written this year
I don’t think I’ve written any particularly stunning reviews this year.
14. Most beautiful book you bought this year
Perhaps Every Moment Holy Volume II: Death, Grief, and Hope by Douglas McKelvey. It’s perhaps not stunningly beautiful, but I don’t actually buy many books (that’s what libraries are for), and in person it has a lovely texture and feel. And it has a ribbon bookmark! Always special.
Also, I highly recommend both this book and the first volume (simply titled Every Moment Holy). They are collections of prayers for both normal and difficult moments in everyday life, and they are excellent.
15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
I am ever-so-slowly working my way through The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien when I hit lulls in library books. It’s excellent, I love it, but it’s very slow going. I certainly hope I finish it before the end of the year!
I want to read Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite during Advent.