I am back today to recap the books I read during Q4 — and the end of the year brought quite a lot of good reading to my life.
Before we dive in, I wanted to share a quick recap of my year in books! This winter, I read 21 books. This spring, I read 28 books. This summer, I read 22 books. And this fall — drumroll please — I read 24 books. All in all, I read 95 books in 2022 — my highest reading total ever! My reading goal for the year was 75 books, so I blew right past it. (I’ve always met my reading goal, but if for some reason I didn’t, I wouldn’t beat myself up about it; reading is something I do purely for pleasure, I never want it to feel like a chore.)
Before I recap all the books I read recently, I wanted to remind you of my book rating system:
- Five Stars: an amazing book I could not put down and/or stop thinking about once I finished it; would highly recommend reading it!
- Four Stars: a great book that stands out above your average read that I would highly recommend reading.
- Three Stars: an average book that I generally enjoyed, but if you asked me for a book recommendation, I’d probably recommend another title first.
- Two Stars: a terrible book that was hard to finish; I would not recommend reading it.
- One Star: a book that was among the worst I’ve ever read. You probably won’t see too many of these because I usually DNF (do not finish) these books and don’t count them towards my yearly reading goal.
As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and am really grateful for the opportunity to partner with Random House in this way. And, as always, you can follow along with what I am reading in real time over on Goodreads.
Here’s to another great year of reading!
I discovered Jamie Brenner this year, and I am so glad I did — she is such an amazing author, and I’ve loved all her books. This one was particularly enjoyable given it follows three sisters, which you know I relate to.
Meryl has three grown daughters and she’s living her dream — they’re all engaged. Meg, the oldest, is engaged to the son of a prominent politician. Amy, the middle, is engaged to the son of a celebrated clothing designer. And Jo, she’s engaged to a European Lord. But throwing three weddings of this caliber is a little outside of her and her husband’s budget, so the solution is a triple wedding — and chaos ensues.
Cassie and Tom lost their parents as children, so they’re super close to each other and their friends — especially Sam. Now, 20 years later, Tom is gone, too, and Cassie feels more alone than ever. Until she finds an envelope with her name on it, written in Tom’s handwriting. She knows immediately what it is — the first clue in the Christmas scavenger hunt that Tom made for her every year. And this year’s scavenger hunt sends her on a journey that will change her life.
I read this one over the Thanksgiving holiday and could not put it down — I loved it!
I read Roses by Leila Meacham in 2020 and loved it so when I realized there was a prequel to that story (this book!), I knew I had to read it. Roses was published first, but if you want to pick this series up, I would start with Somerset so that everything is in chronological order. I had to flip back through Roses a few times while reading this to refresh my memory on how things played out. Both books in the series are long — 650+ pages — but the series is so good.
Somerset follows the story of Jessica, who is born into one of the wealthiest families in the antebellum south. She was expected to act with decorum, marry a suitable match, and not speak out of turn. However, as she begins to be more and more outspoken against slavery and involved with the Underground Railroad, her plantation-owning father sees no choice but to marry her off to Silas Toliver. Soon thereafter, the newlyweds leave to create a new life in a wild land called Texas. The story spans the following century — following the three families who found Howbutker, Texas.
I read this book in one sitting because it was such a great rom com read! I’ve read a few of Katherine Center’s book now, including Things You Should Save in a Fire and The Bright Side of Disaster, and this is my favorite one yet.
Hannah is an “Executive Protection Agent” — also known as a bodyguard. She may not look the part, but she’s someone who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. And her most recent assignment is Jack Stapleton, an A-List actor who has fallen off the map over the last couple of years after a family tragedy.
But now, he’s back in his hometown because his mom is sick and he wants to help out, but he needs a bodyguard 24/7 because of a stalker. The only catch? He doesn’t want his family to know about the stalker. Or that he has a bodyguard. So to seamlessly blend in — and protect Jack at the same time — Hannah agrees to pretend to be Jack’s girlfriend.
This is hands-down the best non-fiction book I purchased all year — and you know how much I love it since I have been talking about it a lot recently on the blog! Consider it the personal finance 101 course you wish you would have taken in high school. I can’t recommend this enough — it would be great to read through this time of year, too, as you think about your financial goals for 2023.
I listened to Atomic Habits on Audible, and holy shit, everyone needs to read this book! I learned so much — the thesis is essentially that if you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you, it’s your system. Bad habits repeat not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system to implement change. So the author walks you through how to build a better system to ensure your habits are obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying, and therefore, more likely to be successful. And, he provides may tangible, real life examples to illustrate these principles so the concepts are easy to grasp.
I also loved his points about 1) the compounding effects of habits and why even little changes add up, and 2) why the most successful people are the ones who can push through boredom, and 3) how to become better at delayed gratification because this is an area I struggle with.
In short — read this book!
I really enjoyed this one — it’s part romance, part thriller, part mystery. It’s a page-turner and also has great depth.
Belle’s best friend from childhood, Summer, invites her on an all-expenses-paid vacation on a luxury yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean. Summer’s much older, very wealthy boyfriend is picking up the tab. But as Summer boards the ship, she starts to notice things aren’t going quite right — their passports are seized, they are locked into their rooms at night, and there’s no working Wi-Fi. As Belle begins to uncover what’s really going on, she realizes Summer isn’t the friend she thought she was.
I’ve read all of Chanel Cleeton’s books, and especially loved Next Year in Havana and The Last Train to Key West. This story follows the oldest Perez sister, Isabel. Next Year in Havana, Cleeton’s first book, follows Isabel’s sister, Elisa, and When We Left Cuba, Cleeton’s second book, follows Isabel’s and Elisa’s sister Beatriz. Cleeton’s other two books in this series follow other women on the Perez family tree. For the three books about the Perez sisters, I would recommend reading them in order of publication because the plots build on each other. As with many of these series that are released a few years apart, I wish there were quick summaries of the previous books at the beginning!
After Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage. Along the way, Isabel finds a piece of family history that changes her life forever.
This is the sequel to my favorite Colleen Hoover book, It Ends With Us. Truthfully, I thought that book ended in the perfect spot and didn’t think a sequel was needed — so while I liked this one fine, you could easily skip it!
Lily and her ex, Ryle, have settled us into a civil co-parenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. She’s elated that they are both single this time and says yes when he asks her on a date. Only, her excitement is dampened by the fact that even though they aren’t married anymore, Ryle is still very much a part of her life — and the one man he will hate being in his daughter’s life is Atlas.
Ashley Flowers is the host of the popular true crime podcast Crime Junkie, which I listen to almost every week. There are a lot of parallels to this story and the JonBenet Ramsey case, and I thought it was a page-turner with a lot of twists.
In 1994, January Jones, a six-year-old, is found murdered in a ditch near her house in small town Wakarusa, Indiana. Her murderer has never been caught and brought to justice. Fast forward, and Margot, January’s neighbor, is back in town to care for her uncle with dementia. Margot is now a journalist, and when the news breaks that a five-year-old from the next town over goes missing under similar circumstances as January, Margot can’t help but think the cases are connected.
Marin seemingly has it all — a job at a prestigious law firm, a gorgeous fiancé, and parents that low her. But one moment of weakness leaves her single and unemployed. To top it off, a woman claiming to be her half sister shows up after finding her on a genealogy website. Seeking escape, she agrees to spend the summer at the house of the grandmother she never knew she had. And the half sister? That’s just the first of many revelations that will change Marin’s life forever.
Lauren and her high school boyfriend are a golden couple — they get married right out of college, and as a star hockey player, Rory heads to the NHL. Their future could not look any brighter when Rory shocks everyone as he enlists in the army. Several months later, he’s killed in action in Afghanistan. Lauren is left devastated and under intense public scrutiny, so she goes off the grid by moving to her family’s beach house on the Jersey Shore. Fast forward a number of years and a documentary filmmaker shows up in town wanting to talk to her about her husband — which she refuses to do. But as he wears her down, Lauren begins to understand the past — and for the first time in a long time, welcome the future.
Exhausted and on deadline with a story that could make or break her career, investigative journalist Georgia Ross is on the verge of a meltdown when a cancelled flight leaves her stuck. But when the older brother of her childhood friend, Alec Kim, shows up and offers help, Gigi seems to have caught a break. Alec Kim is handsome, humble, and kind — exactly the sort of man that Gigi has forgotten existed after her own painful heartbreaks. An evening of reconnection followed by a night of no-strings-attached passion with Alec feels like a gift — that is, until Gigi finally realizes that their childhood connection isn’t the only reason he seems so familiar to her.
As long as Jodi Picoult is writing, I will be reading — and this was my first by her co-author Jennifer Finney Boylan. This one was a page-turner and I really enjoyed it. In some ways, it reminded me of Picoult’s Small Great Things in that it’s centered around a crime that attracts a large media sensation, while also exploring a cultural issue.
Mad Honey is told in two parts — before Lily’s death and after Lily’s death. And when Lily is found at the bottom of the stairs, dead, her boyfriend, fellow high school student, Asher, is accused of murder. Asher’s mother, Olivia, is convinced her son is innocent — but she would be lying if she didn’t see flashes of his father’s anger in Asher. And, as the murder trial unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden even more than he’s shared with her.
This was a super cute read — I have never read any of the other books in this series, but I don’t think you need to in order to follow along. Country music’s golden boy Colton Wheeler fell hard for Gretchen — only problem is that she hasn’t talked to him in a year. But when her wealthy family who she is slightly estranged from reaches out with an offer to serve on their board — something she’s always wanted to do — she’s excited. The only catch? She has to convince to become the face of the family whiskey brand.
After reading Leila Meacham’s Roses and Somerset, I knew I wanted to read more of her work. Like the other titles by her that I have read, this book explores what life was life on the frontier in Texas at the turn of the 20th century.
The story focuses on two main characters who’s fates are intertwined: Samantha Gordon, the privileged heiress to a sprawling cattle ranch near Fort Worth, and Nathan Holloway, a charming young man from a small farm in Texas. As changes and technology impact the Texas frontier, you learn about all the ways these two are connected and share in their love, grief, and betrayal.
This is a popular self-help book from the 80s, but I found it on a recommendation from an influencer I follow and I really enjoyed it — if you’re into mindfulness or journaling, I think you could get a lot out of this one. It essentially explores the way that limiting thoughts and ideas control and constrict us, she offers us a powerful key to understanding the roots of our problems.
This is a super cute, easy read that I really enjoyed. Liv met her best friends the first week of college — and every year, they take a trip without her. She’s never gone before because she is someone that follows the rules and she has never had the disposal income to go. But when she quits her job, she decides at the last minute to join the crew on their trip to South Africa. While there, she realizes the proximity to her friend Lucas is about to make everything more complicated.
Emma is working the front desk of The American Hotel when one of Sag Harbor’s most famous residents dies — artist Henry Wyatt. When the will is read, it’s discovered that the artist left his waterfront home to Emma’s teenage daughter, Penny. When Bea Winstead, Henry’s lifelong friend and business partner, hears about this, she descends on Sag Harbor determined to reclaim the house and preserve Henry’s legacy.
Of all the Jamie Brenner books I’ve read this year, this one was probably my least favorite — but I’m so glad I discovered her regardless as she has quickly become one of my favorite authors.
Ruth is ready to retire and heads to Provincetown on Cape Cod to do so. After years of hard work, she’s ready to relax — but when she finds a baby girl abandoned on her doorstep, her retirement quickly becomes anything but relaxing.
Marnie is a professional gift buyer for high-end clients. Brian is her most prized customer, and she wraps up the perfect anniversary gift for his wife, Suzanne…and a birthday present for his mistress. When they accidentally are switched, Marnie’s life — and her biggest dreams — come crashing down.
This one was cute, but I would probably skip it — there are better reads out there!
I listened to this one via Audible — I thought Danielle did an amazing job of examining racial identity, pop culture, white supremacy, and self worth in this memoir. Growing up in a mostly white environment, she tried to conform to the beauty standards around her, while tolerating micro-aggressions from her peers as she played the token Black girl. As she got older, she tried to control her image through fashion, which ultimately led to her career in the fashion industry, a predominantly white space. I do not have a lived experience as a Black woman, so it was informative to hear this perspective — and continue to reflect on racial injustice.
Gwen is hoping her family Christmas at home will solve her problems — she recently lost her job and the love of her life. Then, Gwen wakes up to discover it’s Christmas Day. Again. So it’s like Groundhog Day, but with eggnog and family arguments. As she figures out how to escape this Christmas hell, she learns a lot about herself along the way.
This one reminded me a lot of Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze, and while I liked both fine, I don’t think you need to read them both.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors, but I have to say, I thought this one was a snooze fest. Maybe it’s because I don’t like tennis at all, but I was bored from start to finish. Carrie Soto — who is also in Malibu Rising — is the greatest tennis player of all time. When her record is about to get smashed, she comes back out of retirement to defend her record.