Archive for December 2022

Top 5 Favorite Reads of 2022


2022 was a banner year for A Book A Week in more ways than one. In January, I celebrated my milestone 10th anniversary of the blog. It is crazy to think I've been doing this for as long as I have. The connections this outlet has afforded me have been the number one thing sustaining me through all these years. I'm so grateful for the friendships I've made and the fantastic books I've been exposed to. 

In addition to this being a landmark year for the blog, I also achieved a personal best of reading 59 books this year. There are always way more books on my TBR than I have time to read. I'm at a point where I enjoy reading most of the books I pick up (I usually set a book down if I don't like it), so distilling my reads down to 5 favorite titles proved to be more challenging than usual. I was surprised that the books I most enjoyed were also all published this year. That speaks to the quality and diversity of selections that were published this year. Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Reads of 2022 listed in the order that I read them. 

Unmasked by Paul Holes

Part memoir, part true crime, Unmasked sees Paul Holes recall his life as a criminal investigator on some of the most high-profile cases in recent history. From bringing the Golden State Killer to justice to investigating the murder of Laci Peterson and the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard, Holes has had a front-row seat to the headline-grabbing crimes that have captured our nation. He writes of balancing the pressures of his demanding work with trying to be present for his young family. The book succeeds as both a fascinating inside look at the mechanisms of solving a crime and as a memoir of one man who has dedicated his entire life to seeking justice.

Read the full review

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alsion Espach

The loss of a child brings the kind of inconsolable grief that defies comprehension. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance sees Alison Espach present her own contemplations upon grief and loss through the eyes of a young woman directly in the process of dealing with it. Espach doesn't pretend to have answers. Instead, she writes an intimate novel that allows her characters to naturally go through life, making decisions that seem authentic to each of them. I was riveted by this challenging yet rewarding work. 

Read the full review

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

It is hard to comprehend that Nightcrawling is a debut novel. Mottley has crafted a narrative akin to the best writing from the most seasoned and celebrated authors. Inspired by the true story of a young girl who was physically and mentally taken advantage of by a group of corrupt police officers, Mottley weaves the crumbs of that reality into a sobering portrait of poverty in America. Nightcrawling is a phenomenal debut from a promising author who is worthy of all the hype and praise she has already received.

Read the full review

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

What would you do if you knew the exact length of your life? In her debut novel, Nikki Erlick takes this grand "what if" concept of moral ambiguity and unleashes it upon an ensemble cast of well-crafted characters. Erlick effortlessly shifts perspectives as she tells the stories of people coming to terms with the lengths of their lives. The Measure is a novel that dares its reader to contemplate their own life and place within the world. You'll be thinking about it long after you turn the final page.

Read the full review

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

It is rare to find a nearly perfect book, but this one is. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a big book filled with big ideas, all grounded through some of the most brilliantly crafted characters I've ever read. We follow these characters through three decades of life, feeling companionship, exhilaration, frustration, and heartbreak. Zevin shifts perspectives between the main characters, ensuring the plot moves in a way that is authentic and ever-compelling. By the end, Sam and Sadie are completely known to us, as real as the people we know in our own lives. I don't often heap universal praise upon a novel, but this is easily my favorite book of the year. 

Read the full review

Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite read of 2022? As always, thanks for supporting A Book A Week. I can't wait to share all the great reads that 2023 will bring. 

Shadow Prey by John Sandford


What's the longest-running series that you read? In the crime fiction genre, establishing a well-received character and spawning a series featuring that character is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Not every detective is shaped up to star in a series. John Sandford's Lucas Davenport is one who has withstood the test of time. The first book to feature the character, Rules of Prey, was published back in 1989, and the 32nd installment Righteous Prey released earlier this year. I've read and enjoyed both books, but I haven't routinely kept up with the series. In fact, I've only read that first novel and the latest two releases. Needless the say the Lucas Davenport of thirty years ago is quite different from the character that appears in Sandford's series today. I've enjoyed Sandford's writing enough that I decided to venture back in time again and pick up the second book in the Prey series. 

Murder is a grisly affair no matter how you shake it. The brutal execution of a slumlord in Minneapolis, an up-and-coming politician in New York, and a judge in Oklahoma City would be newsworthy in their own right, but it is the similarities in each instance that make the murders all the more unsettling. Each of the victims' throats has been ritualistically slashed with a type of knife most commonly used in Native American ceremonies. The killer seems driven by a primal force to murder. Not even those closest to him will be able to stop his reign of terror. 

Lucas Davenport, an investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is called to the case when the first murder occurs. He's got a few things working against him from the very start. For one, his usual strategy of planting himself within the community and working with his contacts to gather information is narrowed by the close-knit Native American community's unwillingness to work with an outsider. He's also got a few distractions on the home front. He's still in a relationship with the mother of his young daughter, but Lucas's eyes have strayed to that of a New York cop who is also investigating the murders. As his personal life begins to tangle, the killer and those who are driving the crimes set their target upon him. He'll have to overcome every obstacle to make it out alive and bring the murderer to justice. 

Books can be seen as something of a time capsule to the time in which they were written. Shadow Prey, the second Davenport novel by John Sandford, is certainly an example of this idea. Davenport is still in his raw form. Sandford works to give him some higher stakes in this book, but I could tell that the character lacked the confidence that he owns in the more recent installments. The underbaked elements of the character aside, it is the cultural ramifications of this book that really took me out of the entertainment. The main plot centers around some troubling stereotypes about Native Americans that I found to be alarmingly out of date. Sandford toys with a few social commentary moments, but they just ring so wrong to my modern ears. Having read his more recent works, it is clear that Sandford, like many of us, has evolved with the times. Still, some of the more blatant elements of this novel are pretty tough to reconcile with. There are the bones of a solid thriller here, but I feel this story may be one that is better left in the past. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2022, 59)

Here's To Us by Becky Albertalli & Adan Silvera


"Just because someone says they love you doesn't mean they'll never say it to someone else."

Love was in the air this past week as my family celebrated my brother's wedding. It was a great time with family and friends, and it made me want to read a romance novel. I decided to pick up Here's To Us, a sequel to Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera's hit novel What If It's Us. That YA gay romance charmed me back when I read it in 2020. While I wasn't sure that the characters needed a sequel, I was eager to find out what would happen next. 

Love is complicated. It isn't a simple happily ever after like you see in the movies. When we reconnect with Ben and Arthur, the former couple is learning this lesson for themselves. Ben is still in New York, slogging through classes for a creative writing major. He still lives with his parents and even works part-time with his dad. Life just isn't what he thought it would be. Even his best friend Dylan is being cagey, not his normal happy-go-lucky self. The only real bright spot right now is Ben's writing partner Mario, a cute guy who has captured Ben's heart and encouraged him to dream big with his aspirations of being a novelist. Despite his infatuation with Mario, Ben can't shake his thoughts of the last boy he gave his heart to. At a time when he's dreaming of his future, he can't run away from his past. 

Arthur has found new love too. Mikey is the sweet reliable boyfriend that any guy would be happy to have. The stability of their relationship is about to be put to the test when Arthur accepts an internship that takes him back to New York. Being the intern to the assistant of the director of an off-Broadway play isn't the glamourous job of his dreams, but it does get his foot in the door of the theater industry. Being back in the city has him reminiscing about his first love. In some kind of cosmic destiny, Arthur seems to be running into Ben all around the city. But Arthur is perfectly happy with Mikey, and Ben seems to be head over heels for his new beau too. Plus, it isn't like there is any chance of rekindling their old flame. Or is there?

Like its predecessor, Here's To Us is an irresistibly readable novel with a cast of affable characters who you can't help but root for. This is the kind of story that makes objective critique nearly impossible. As it is a sequel, you'll want to read the first book before diving into this one. Albertalli and Silvera continue their story in a way that thoughtfully explores the implications of maintaining a friendship post-romance. The main characters have grown from their teenage years into young adulthood, bringing new maturity and a host of new challenges. Life isn't as simple as it once was, and the authors relish in their characters grappling with more complex issues. There's a will they/won't they aspect to the relationship that helps to drive the plot forward. Toss in enough dry humor to add some levity to the more serious subject matter, and you've got a great continuation to an already wonderful story. Here's To Us is another hit and a must-read for any romance fans. 

For more information visit Albertalli's website, Silvera's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2022, 58)

Livid by Patricia Cornwell


This is the time of year when every day seems busier than the last. It can be a miracle to cook dinner in the evening, let alone sit down to read a book. With a family wedding later this week, it seems like this trend will continue for a while. While I may not be as quick to spend time reading physical books, I almost always have an audiobook going. Last night, as I frantically rushed to meal prep for the week, I managed to finish listening to Patricia Cornwell's latest Kay Scarpetta novel. After a kind of soft reboot of the long-running series with last year's release Autopsy, Cornwell's twenty-sixth installment in the series, Livid, proves there are still plenty of fresh cases for Scarpetta to solve. 

When we first reconnect with Kay Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner is on the stand as an expert witness in a murder trial. The book's title comes into play in two ways. First, it describes the state of the victim's body, colored with the bluish-gray twinge that results from spending time floating in the water. Concurrently, livid is an apt description for the mob of protestors outside of the courtroom. You see, Kay's findings have led her to believe that the death of this victim was merely an unfortunate accident, not the violent attack of a spurned man. The prosecuting attorney is diligently working to discredit Kay, her science, and her already contentious reputation. 

Later on, Kay is called to the scene of an unusual death. The deceased just so happens to be the sister of the judge who is hearing the controversial trial that Kay was just testifying in. Even odder, though, is the sheer amount of death in the area. Not only is there a dead woman, but it seems that every living thing in the radius of the scene has suddenly died too. Kay is surrounded by dead birds and insects as if someone switched a button and eliminated all of the life around them. This is no ordinary murder. The means by which this crime was committed has huge ramifications that reach much further than this single case. As her life and livelihood simultaneously come under fire, Kay will have to pull all of her resources to solve this case and prevent a national security crisis. 

I've read the Scarpetta series off and on for the better part of 15 years. The books are at their best when they combine cutting-edge science with chilling mysteries, and Livid further proves that point. Rather than shy away from the timely, if a bit silly, political debates around the validity of science, Cornwell dives right into the thick of it. I found her imagined throng of protestors to be eerily reminiscent of the group that overtook the US capitol last year. The anger of those misinformed souls, both in real life and in this fiction, gives the entire story an underlying tension. Cornwell captures the uncertainty of these times with a precision that sees her characters racked with pressure. She balances this paranoia with a mystery that is rooted in a doomsday scenario ripped straight from the headlines. All in all, Livid is another solid entry in the Scarpetta series. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2022, 57)

Suspect by Scott Turow


Believe it or not, we are in the final month of 2022! Please tell me I'm not the only one wondering where the time has gone! December tends to be a busy month, so I try to tackle lighter reads than I may normally gravitate toward during other parts of the year. This year, it seems those reads are taking me back to my comfort genre of mystery/thrillers. Having already completed my reading goal for the year, I've decided to kick off the month with a book by an author who I've never read. Scott Turow is one of those authors who I've always been aware of, but have never dived into. With thriller authors, especially those who write series, I find that I'm hesitant to either start a long-running series from the beginning or jump ahead to their current installment. The folks and Grand Central Publishing helped to force the subject a bit by sending me Turow's latest novel Suspect, the twelfth entry in his Kindle County Legal Thriller series. 

As the series title would suggest, this book centers on a court case. The case in question sees the police chief Lucia Gomez accused of sexual misconduct by three of her officers. Each of the men claims that Gomez solicited sex in exchange for their subsequent promotions. Already somewhat of an outsider in this small town, Gomez knows that these accusations will tarnish her already precarious reputation. She also maintains that the complaints are patently false. Desperate to prove her innocence, she turns to an old friend and seasoned attorney Rik Dudek to act as her representation in the federal grand jury investigation. 

Clarice "Pinky" Granum is about as unconventional of an investigator as you could possibly imagine. The granddaughter of a well-respected lawyer, Pinky spent much of her youth experimenting with different drugs, having casual romantic trists with both genders, and coming up short in every undertaking she attempted. Her last big failure came as she was booted from the police academy. Pinky has landed on her feet though. She now works as a licensed private investigator for Rik Dudek, looking into the minor cases that he takes on. When Rik agrees to represent disgraced police chief Gomez, Pinky knows she will need to keep her head down and stay out of trouble. She's about to find out, though, that keeping a low profile is easier said than done. 

I'm always a bit hesitant about starting a series with the newest installment instead of beginning with the first book. As far as I can tell, Suspect works perfectly fine as a standalone read. Turow does a fine job of setting the stage for each of the characters and the stakes of the trial that the book follows. He deftly balances both the courtroom drama and the investigations that are occurring outside. The book delves into small-town politics, gender bias, corruption, and sexuality, using the thriller to keep the pace moving. As an introduction to the author, I found Suspect to be an engaging read with a main character that really helped to differentiate this book from others in the genre. I'll be eager to go back and read more of his work in the future. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2022, 56)

Powered by Blogger.