According to Good Reads, I read 175 books in 2022, and, well, it turns out my favorite books for this year combine:
- Tension created from some stupid reason the protagonists just aren’t together, usually their own insecurities;
- Poignancy and throat-aching longing;
- Fake dating;
- Neurodivergence, mental health awareness, and men who struggle with their own trauma;
- Pop culture allusions;
- Big vocabularies;
- Epistolary or other content (letters, emails, journaling, text messaging, articles).
- Food or writing as plot devices;
- Steamy, creative, consensual, non-PiV focused sex scenes with all the feels and all the gory, awkward details;
- and, diversity, especially Asian culture, Jewish characters, and less mainstream sexual orientations.
In alphabetical order:
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Ghost writer Florence is beyond deadline for the last of four contracted books, and has a new editor to content with; she has to explain to Benji Andor that she cannot write a romance novel when she no longer believes in romance. Oh, and her family owns a funeral parlor and she sees ghosts, NBD. 5 stars for superb plotting, angst and awkwardness, gothic atmosphere, and a truly unique story.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Secretly un-engaged Wyn and Harry must keep up the charade of their long-distance relationship and engagement at an annual retreat of their circle of college friends. 5 stars for character-driven story; brilliant, evocative writing; and fantastic then-and-now structured storytelling.
Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun
A demisexual girl gets fake-engaged for money to her ex’s brother (she didn’t know the connection, though). Told in flashbacks that describe a webcomic series based on a perfect romantic snow day with a mysterious Jack one a year ago, and Ellie’s present day dilemma, the only thing that could make this more perfect is if the described comic sections were actual panel format. 5 stars for celebrating messiness; learning from failure; three-dimensional characters that pop off the page.
Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernest
Disgraced when her long-time romantic partner embezzles a ton of money and disappears with her (and a lot of investors and co-workers) retirement savings, Lucy accepts a job in Rennes to reinvent an eighteenth-century family-owned boutique hotel into one with the notoriety of the Fielding Hotel in NYC. 5 stars for wonderful characters, renovation details; hospitality industry drama; and carefully chosen words.
Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone
When plus-sized adult film star Bianca von Honey and former naughty boy-band member turned actor Nolan Shaw get cast opposite one another in a Hallmark movie-esque time travel rom com, she’s under orders to not reveal her porn industry connection, and he’s under orders to maintain a squeaky-clean image for rebranding. 5 stars for dealing positively with mental illness, sex work and slut-shaming, body image, and feminism; multifaceted, diverse characters; and refreshing and affirming Jewish-adjacent characters in a Christmas book.
The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Co-authors Nathan and Katrina have a three-book contract to fulfill: their first novel was good, but the second, about an affair, was a torrid best-seller that left the world wondering if art was imitating reality and imploded their friendship; their third book will focus on a divorce. 5 stars for excellent plotting; great dialogue; off the charts chemistry; and using words I had to look up.
Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot
Sadie is still recovering from her simultaneous job loss and breakup with her chef boss/boyfriend when she gets a screening call for the televised cooking competition Chef Supreme. Of course, her impulsive date and kiss with a cute guy on the way to the show turns out to be with one of the judges on said show… 5 stars for humor and yearning; inventive, amazing and mouth-watering descriptions of Jewish fusion cuisine; and authentic reality TV color commentary.
See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Barrett Bloom gets stuck in a Groundhog Day like time loop after the worst first day of college ever; her physics teacher’s son is also stuck and might be able to help get back into the correct timeline. 5 stars for deeply fleshed out, real new adult characters; strong setting; compelling story; a sweet romance; and pitch- perfect voice and writing.
Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly
The Pacific Coast Trail is the backdrop for a relationship between a nurse and data analyst; their meet cute is Alexei noticing a rattlesnake just before Ben and his hiking companions walk into it, and they reconnect again off the trail on a break for food and running water (sinks!) and decide to walk together for a bit. 5 stars for authentic details of hiking culture and PCT setting; realistic and hot! sex scenes; beautiful writing; and carefully constructed plot.
Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese
In this modern retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, Jamie and Bea literally bump into one another at a party and it’s hate at first sight. Her sister and his best friend (who are dating) set them up on a blind date, and for revenge, they fake date, but ultimately fall for one another. 5 stars for fast paced witty writing; clever chapter headings; Shakespeare allusions and tropes; beautiful writing and beautifully rendered intimacy scenes.
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
After an Emmy gets hurled through the window at the local Hilton, meteorologist Ari sports broadcaster Russell make a drunken pact at the annual Christmas party to Parent Trap their bosses into getting back together to create more office harmony, and find themselves bonding at a series of fake dates. 5 stars for clever design; weather science details; romance with vulnerability that normalizes mental health concerns, body issues for men; and real sexual encounters with a hefty dose of consent, anxiety and insecurities.
Best YA Novel: Seven Percent of Ro Devereux by Ellen O’Clover
When Rose Devereux’s senior project, a future-predicting app based on a childhood cootie catcher game, goes viral, she is unexpectedly matched with her childhood best friend turned enemy, Alastair Miller, who agrees to participate in the ruse they are in love and meant to be for the price of his college tuition. 5 stars for covering ethics, science, psychology, media, grief, fame, love and loyalty with authenticity and grace.
Best Book I read in 2021, forgot to review and re-read in 2022: Float Plan by Trish Doller
Ten months into her healing from the loss of her fiance by suicide, Anna is eloping from her life to take the trip of a lifetime through the Caribbean in the boat Ben restored, on the trip they had planned to take together. After a rocky start, she determines she needs a first mate and hires a competent and sexy one-legged pirate. 5 stars for true, evocative writing; raw and imperfect resilient and nuanced characters; and a realistic portrayal of grief.
Best Series: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. I read both All The Feels and Ship Wrecked in 2022, and this is my favorite series to recommend. The series centers on Guardians of the Gates, a fictional epic (and possibly epically bad) fantasy television series, their stars, and their love interests. 5 stars for worldbuilding; humor; fanfiction + texting+blogging interspersed with the narrative; and flawed, accountable, neurodivergent characters.
Best Re-Read: The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand, which I finally wrote a review of; Adrienne is on the run from her latest relationship disaster when she lands on Nantucket ang gets a job as the first lady hostess at a playful and upscale fine dining beachfront restaurant in it’s final season. Boyishly handsome co-owner Thatcher takes an instant liking to her, but his heart seems to belong to the famed but reclusive chef/co-owner, his childhood friend Fiona. 5 stars for the fly on a wall feeling to the restaurant industry; the encapsulation of summer on the Cape; the hopeful but doomed romance; and the mouthwatering menu descriptions.
Best Graphic Novel: Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristin Radtke. Part memoir, part history, Radtke examines loneliness through biology, sociology, psychology, art and pop culture, citing a number of studies, articles and books that document and examine our longing to connect, and why it’s so difficult. 5 stars for evocative writing; arresting metaphors; masterful narrative; and a muted palate that perfectly captures the murky tone of the theme.
Best Non-fiction: The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy by Sheila Moeschen. Self-proclaimed comedy nerd Sheila Moeschen presents this browseable, humorous and highly readable overview of fifty famous female comics: their start, their breakout roles, their signature jokes, their often! acclaimed and award-winning work, their influences, and for some, their legacy. 5 stars for laser focus on women and their achievements; quick quips; and wide inclusion.
What were your favorite reads of 2022?