I finished 3 books this month despite the hustle and bustle of Back-to-School. I enjoyed all three, with my favorite being Book Lovers by Emily Henry. See full reviews below!
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Lawson
After a reading slump in July, I decided to reread something easy on my bookshelf and picked up the Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky. I’d bought the sequel, Hattie Ever After, way back in 2013 but had never gotten around to reading it. I wasn’t sure if I could picture Hattie in a big city like San Francisco after being so invested in her making it as a homesteader in Montana. However, Hattie’s quest to become a reporter when there were few women working in the industry was just as gripping as her prairie adventures. I have mixed feelings about the ending, so if you’ve read it and want to chat in the comments, let me know! Overall, highly recommend this as a work of middle grade historical fiction! * 3.5 out of 5 Stars *
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
This is my first book by Emily Henry and it was delightful! I loved how the author played with tropes within the romance genre. I loved all the characters: Nora, Charlie, and Libby especially. Nora and Libby had some witty dialogue that will trigger memories of Gilmore Girls for millennial readers. I literally giggled at some of their conversations. I especially loved the glimpses of the publishing world through these characters and wished we had gotten more of that world as well as more of New York City. While I predicted one key plot point, the book was well-paced, and I didn’t want it to end. Highly recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance! * 5 out of 5 Stars *
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
This book was such a fresh and original story! I’d seen it listed on many best of 2021 lists and labeled as sci-fi which piqued my interest. The world is entirely fictional but heavily based on Chinese culture. As I’ve begun receiving acupuncture for nerve pain, the concepts of qi, yin, and yang were fun to see incorporated into a science fiction world. The characters were very likable and well-developed. The world-building was fascinating. I had a few issues with the ending feeling convenient, but there were some foreshadowed twists I liked as well. If I had to describe this book, I’d say it was a feminist sci-fi military “Transformers.” Some mature topics, “off-screen” sex, scenes of torture, and battle violence to be aware of when recommending to younger readers. This is a duology, and I’d probably borrow the second book from the library. Highly recommend if you like sci-fi and want a fresh, feminist story! * 3.5 out of 5 Stars *
Amidst trauma, a difficult year of public school teaching, and several reading slumps, I’ve still managed to read some outstanding books this year. Here is a full list of titles with more detailed highlights of my favorites so far in 2022.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon Far From the Tree by Robin Benway Grenade by Alan Gratz The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson Scythe by Neal Shusterman Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas True Beauty by Yaongyi The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson (reread) Saga (Vol 1 & 2) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (reread)
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
In an effort to read books that had been on my bookshelf for awhile, I drew this title (written on a slip of paper) from a jar. This was my first book by Becky Albertalli and it won’t be my last! This book was delightful! I adored Molly and Reid as characters. The Maryland setting was a fun surprise, as that’s where I’m from. The themes of first love, self esteem, and sisterhood were thoughtfully done. Highly recommend!
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
This audiobook was truly outstanding and I can’t imagine reading this book any other way. With three different point-of-view characters, the narrator (Julia Whelan) expertly crafts distinct speaking styles for each character and makes them come to life. This book tackles tough topics such as adoption, teen pregnancy, alcohol addiction, guilt, family, and belonging. There is a reason this is a National Book Award Winner, but I’d encourage you to experience it in audiobook form. I couldn’t wait to have a quiet moment to listen and the characters stuck with me long after I was finished. Highly recommend!
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
I’ve always had a thing for post-apocalyptic survival stories, and this one caught my eye on a school library visit with my classes. Another book with three point-of-view perspectives, I grew to care about each character. My favorite scene took place in an abandoned Books-a-Million store, and I was quite upset that they didn’t just spend the rest of the book camping out there (that’s what I would have done). This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea right now with reminders of recent pandemic experiences. My biggest takeaway was how this book inspired gratitude for small moments in everyday life. I found the ending to be a tad anti-climactic, but if you enjoy this genre and want something weird, give it a shot.
Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
This series was recommended to me by a student, and I thoroughly enjoyed them! Pure pirate fun! The series is a blend of fantasy, action adventure, and romance intended for a young adult audience. The main character, Alosa, is a witty and confident female pirate captain. Loved her! While I predicted a few twists, overall the pacing, world-building, and sharp dialogue were excellent and made for an engaging read! Highly recommend if you are looking for a fun and light young adult read.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
This is one that I can’t wait to recommend to next year’s students. Middle grade fantasy is one of my most requested genres and this will certainly feed that appetite. If you’ve read Dhonielle Clayton’s YA title The Belles, you’ll know that she excels at world-building. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in the world of The Belles, the world of The Marvellers is a different story! The Arcanum Training Institute is a magical boarding school in the sky with sensory descriptions that paint a vivid world in the imagination. With a diverse cast of characters from all over the globe and opportunities to have conversations about bullying and prejudice, this is a fantastic addition to classrooms and libraries! Highly recommend!
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
While on a trip to Vermont, I visited the most wonderful indie bookstore (Northshire Bookstore). My husband had to drag me out of the store. I could have stayed there all day. I noticed one particular staff member had similar taste in books to me, and she recommended Lore Olympus in the graphic novel section. I bought it. I loved it. And discovered it was a Webtoon. The volume I purchased only had the first 25 episodes, but there were currently over 200 episodes on Webtoon… hence why the Webtoon app is now downloaded on my phone. I was skeptical of reading comics on my phone, but it is gorgeous and intuitive with the full color and scrolling panels. In addition to Lore Olympus, I also read the wildly popular True Beauty. Webtoons are a great alternative to mindless phone scrolling with their quick episodes and appealing graphics. Give the app a try if you haven’t already!
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
I read this book-in-verse for a teaching professional development session. It is a valuable read for teachers to reflect on their role in the school-to-prison pipeline. The book features two characters in teaching roles who are opposites in terms of their approach, and we had a valuable discussion as educators about power: wielding power vs empowering students. This book spurred me to dive deeper into learning about the flaws of our criminal justice system. Yusef Salaam is one of the “Central Park Five” who were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in New York City. While this book is a work of fiction, Yusef contributes his experience and perspective as someone who spent six year in prison for a wrongful conviction. (If you are unfamiliar with the Central Park Five case, the Netflix miniseries When They See Us is well done and will break your heart.)
Let me know if you have questions about any of the books I’ve read so far this year! Are there any books you recommend I check out in the second half of 2022? Below are the titles that I am hoping to read soon!