2022 Reading Review

Happy New Year! 2022 was an eventful reading year for me. I read about 160 books (mostly romance novels) and switched up some things about my reading that turned out to be a lot of fun.

Storygraph (and Goodreads) Stats

This year I started heavily using Storygraph to track my reading. Goodreads automatically records everything I read on my Kindle, which is most of my reading, so it has a pretty good record, too, but I really only use it for giveaways haha. I did win several giveaways last year, which was nice.

Storygraph also now has giveaways and a social aspect, but I just like it for its stats 🙂

I finished off the Demon Slayer series this year and loved it all! I’ve been reading a bit more contemporary romance, and while it’s still not a favorite of mine, I’ve been enjoying Susannah Nix’s current series called King’s Creamery about a large family that owns an ice cream company in Texas.

Of course Paper Girls was the longest book I read, since it was like six graphic novels combined. I loved both it and its Amazon Prime adaptation. I normally don’t include books I read to my kids in my own reading totals, but neither of mine had much interest in Finding My Dance because it was for a slightly older age group. I really enjoyed it though!

From Goodreads (since it has more users), the most popular book I read was Book Lovers, a perfectly nice contemporary romance that I very much enjoyed. Totally understandable why it was so popular. Also understandable was that only 50 people shelved the obscure At the Earl’s Command, because I barely made it into the book before moving it to my DNF shelf.

Wash Day Diaries and Obama: An Intimate Portrait were my highest rated reads (by others) on Goodreads and Storygraph, respectively. I would definitely recommend both!

Storygraph Genre Challenge 2022

To expand my reading horizons, I decided to participate in a reading challenge of 5 fiction/5 nonfiction books with various genre prompts. I managed to finish 8 out of 10! (Ducks might be a bit of a stretch for a “political book,” but it does mention political issues of the oil sands in Canada, specifically as it deals with First Nations lands.) And I enjoyed them all. I had books planned to read for the remaining 2 prompts, but I just didn’t get to them, which is ironic because those are the only 2 books of the set that I actually own. I look forward to reading them next year! Right? RIGHT?

I’ve already joined Storygraph’s 2023 Genre Challenge, and I’m looking forward to another 10 interesting and varied books this year!

Nonfiction Audiobooks

I have tried audiobooks previously, and I just couldn’t enjoy them. However, this year I discovered that I do enjoy listening to nonfiction audiobooks. I think the difference is that with nonfiction, if I zone out and miss a detail, I can pick up the thread of the book more easily than with a novel. Plus, authors often narrate their own nonfiction books, and I enjoy that authenticity. I’ve listened to four books during my commute this year, and I’ve already started another so I’m looking to continue this trend into 2023.

I Joined a Book Club!

One of the librarians at my work started a book club this fall, so once a month over lunch I’ve been meeting with a handful of other people to talk books! This is the first time I’ve ever done an in-person book club, and it’s been a great experience. We’ve been picking the books from a list by ranked choice voting, which has resulted in me reading three books I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Again, great for expanding my reading horizons. While I enjoyed reading all three, I can’t say I liked any of them enough to re-read them in the future or anything. But it was still very satisfying to be able to discuss them with a group!

If you want to check out more of what I was reading this year, here are my 2022 book review posts:

What was your favorite read of 2022? And what are you planning to read in 2023?

Reading Indigenous Authors

Today happens to be the last day of Native American History Month here in the US, so it seems like a good time to mention some of the Indigenous authors I’ve been reading this year. I’m always trying to diversify my reading in various ways, and recently I’ve been enjoying some Native viewpoints across various genres.

Calling for a Blanket Dance

by Oscar Hokeah

I discovered Oscar Hokeah’s writing through his blog here on WordPress. When I saw that his debut novel was coming out, I immediately requested it at the library. Calling for a Blanket Dance is a contemporary generational family drama, with a similar feeling to Pachinko or Roots. It tells the life and struggles of Ever Geimausaddle through the myriad voices of his family members, finally ending with himself. It was such an engaging read, and I loved the writing and the voices of each of the narrators. I also loved the format of interconnected vignettes that fit together to tell and overarching story. Hokeah draws a lot from his own life and family, so it feels very authentic.

Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a biologist, this nonfiction exploration of Native ecological wisdom really appealed to me, but it is so well written that it is very accessible to nonscientists as well. We often have a stereotype of Native peoples being “noble savages,” living in perfect harmony with nature, and this book explores some of the Native myths and practices behind this, both from Kimmerer’s Potawatomi heritage as well as the peoples of upstate New York where she lives. It also backs up observations with clear, accurate scientific details, much of which I remembered from college botany, but I’ve been learning some new things, too.

Though there is some interconnectedness, each chapter mostly reads like its own distinct essay, which makes it easy to pick up and put down; it’s not really the kind of book to read straight through as fast as possible. I’ve been listening to it on audiobook (narrated by the author) while I drive, and each essay is conveniently about the length of my commute.

A Snake Falls to Earth

by Darcie Little Badger

I just started reading this one for the recent Big Library Read on the Libby app (which allows for unlimited copies for lending). The sophomore effort from the Elatsoe author (also a scientist!) has been nominated for numerous awards, including this year’s Newbery Medal. It is a bit of a slow tale, but it has really great elements of magic mixed with a coming-of-age story. It pulls from folklore of DLB’s Lipan Apache heritage. If you like YA fantasy like I do, I think you will enjoy this one.

Finding My Dance

by Ria Thundercloud

Ok, I’m going to throw a picture book in here, too. I read this to my kids, and while it was just a touch above their age (better for early elementary), as a former dancer myself I loved it. It tells the author’s journey into the dance world, starting with powwows with her family. The pictures were lovely, too. Here is the author performing the Eagle Dance mentioned in the book.

What’s next on my list? On my to-read list:

  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, a contemporary adult novel about a haunted bookstore set in 2020
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, a contemporary YA mystery/thriller nominated for a lot of awards
  • anything by Joy Harjo, the former US Poet Laureate

If you are looking for further recommendations, here are some great infographics from the bookstory Room of One’s Own

Review: A Darkness at the Door

One of my last posts I wrote last spring was the cover reveal for A Darkness at the Door, and I am happy to present to you now the final product, in living color. Here’s the special Kickstarter edition that I just received in the mail!

Gilt foil! Blue pages!

A Darkness at the Door is the much-anticipated sequel and conclusion to 2021’s The Theft of Sunlight, both part of the Dauntless Path series by Intisar Khanani. It’s a YA fantasy series (with a touch of fairy tales) featuring the author’s signature “mighty girls and diverse worlds,” and it quickly made its way onto my bookshelf alongside my favorite YA fantasy books of all time.

Theft saw our main character Rae working with everyone from princess to street thief with the goal of uncovering a ring of slavers that had snatched a young friend. And now FINALLY its terrrrrrrible cliffhanger has been resolved in Darkness, which sees Rae traveling even further afield and becoming more bound up in the magical struggle going on among the leaders of Menaiya and the Fae.

In short, this book was sooooo satisfying. Rae is such a fantastic character, and the story has so many wonderful elements, including disability rep, slow burn romance, justice, magic, and thief lords on rooftops. I was so pleased with the clever way Rae was able to decisively take down the powerful group behind the slavers while staying true to her own ideals. And I really liked the way the ending alluded to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, echoing Thorn and its retelling of “The Goose Girl.”

Also, do yourself a favor and go watch the delightful Ms. Marvel on Disney+ so you can see Bren in real life:

Red Dagger from Ms. Marvel… AKA Bren in my headcanon

So, in short, I really cannot say enough good things about this book, and the Dauntless Path series in general. Khanani is definitely one of my auto-buy authors. I also recommend her Sunbolt series, and she has just been published in an anthology of grief-centered SFF called The Alchemy of Sorrow.

If you would like to learn a little more about the author and her writing, here is a charmingly rambling interview including such things as:

  • A story about rescuing a baby crow
  • Her career trajectory from indie author to a 2-book deal with HarperTeen
  • Working with sensitivity readers to write a disabled MC
  • Her difficulties in writing Darkness, including struggling with writing the romance sub-plot, writing during the pandemic, and getting stressed-induced shingles
  • Magical vasectomies
  • Dramatic ukelele strumming!

Some future works that we can look forward to from her include more Sunbolt installments (YAY), a story for Rae’s sister Niya to possibly wrap up the Fae Lady’s arc, maybe a Kirrana story, and a genderswapped post-apocalyptic Sleeping Beauty story.

Also check out her panel below discussing my favorite topic: writing fairy tale retellings! As well as a fun Instagram chat with fellow author Stephanie Burgis.


Feeding Reading — Free Book Haul!

It’s that time of year again…summer means free books from Kellogg’s Feeding Reading program. You technically still have 2 days to buy select Kellogg’s products and submit the receipts to redeem up to ten free books. You can find the details here.

Can you tell we are into Paw Patrol around here?

Frankly, this year I found the system for submitting receipts and ordering books to be pretty frustrating. Here are some tips that I found from navigating my way through.

  1. Submit only one receipt at a time. Once you have one receipt accepted then you can do the next. There is no way to track receipts in the system, so if you submit two and one is rejected you have no way of knowing which it was.
  2. Read carefully the advice for submitting receipts. I had several of mine rejected almost right away and I found what really helped was circling and/or highlighting the relevant products on the receipt.
  3. If you are taking photos of your receipts, crop them to reduce size. You only get 5MB total for one receipt, and most of mine needed three pics to get the whole thing.
  4. In the catalog they used to have separate categories for different age ranges, so I didn’t have to look through all the YA books to find the board books for my toddler. Alas, they are all listed on one page now. There are age ranges listed once you click on a book, but I found it saved some clicking to just open Goodreads or Amazon in another tab and search whatever book I thought looked interesting to see if it was something my kids would like.

However, I was still able to get ten free books for me, my kids, and my nieces so it seems a bit petty to complain. We eat Eggo waffles and Cheez-Its on a daily basis around here so I didn’t even have to buy anything I wasn’t already buying. And they have a great selection of popular books for all ages and interests. I’ve been participating in this program for years and I hope they’ll keep doing it for years to come.

Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.

This week we celebrate Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association and others to celebrate our freedom to read and bring awareness to challenges of materials in schools, libraries, and bookstores. This past year has seen a huge number of challenges in local school districts; the ALA recorded 729 challenges last year, compared to 156 challenges in 2020 and 377 in 2019 (pre-pandemic).

You may notice some trends in the top ten challenged materials this year: sex and LGBTQ+ content. Nine out of ten books fall into one of these categories. There has been a huge push by conservatives, fueled by social media use, to paint these books as pornographic or grooming or indoctrinating children. You can see this in the language they use in their complaints below: “woke” “indoctrinating” “critical race theory” “Marxist” In school board and library board meetings across the country, people have stood up to read explicit passages (out of context) from books found in school libraries to try to shock the community into having them removed from libraries and class syllabi.

Of course, not every book is appropriate for every child at every point in their development. But I reject the premise that any inclusion of sex, racism, gender dysphoria, etc. is automatically harmful. The context is important as well, and the whole point reading literature in school is to teach children to think critically. For my children, I would rather have them reading and struggling with tough concepts in an age-appropriate way, with the guidance of their teachers and myself, rather than shelter them. Books help expand one’s worldview; it’s not always a pretty picture but sometimes we find something that really resonates with us and helps us grow. Here’s a thoughtful Twitter thread from author Shannon Hale that speaks to this:

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe has been the subject of much controversy since its release in 2019. It was recently the subject of a lawsuit in Virginia in which two Republicans requested a restraining order against Barnes & Noble to prevent them from selling Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury to minors, claiming they are obscene. A judge recently dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that either book was obscene and further that “Virginia Code § 18.2-384 is unconstitutional on its face.” However, Virginia Beach City schools did remove all copies of Gender Queer from their libraries. Gender Queer is a 2020 winner of the ALA’s Alex Award and has a 4.35 star rating on Goodreads.

The #2 title, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, was the subject of some local controversy here in Northeast Ohio. After some parents in Hudson, Ohio complained about a prompt in a book used for a college-level course (which involved the mayor threatening the school board with charges of child pornography), one parent went further to complain about Lawn Boy being available in the library, citing inappropriate sexual content. It was eventually returned to shelves after a review. Lawn Boy is a 2019 winner of the ALA’s Alex Award and has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads.

Jumping down a few to #5 is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is the only book on this list that I have read. And I do not hesitate to say that it is a book all teenagers in America should be reading. It has been nominated for/won more awards than I have room to list and has a 4.5 star rating on Goodreads. It is gripping, compelling, and entertaining while being an educational experience; it deals with justice and morality without being preachy; it is both timely and a classic. Starr is a wonderful protagonist that I would love for all teens to meet.

Fight book banning on a local level

If you’ve made it this far in this post, you have seen how censorship is taking place on a local level, in school districts and city libraries. While I have voted in local elections all my adulthood, this past year has really hammered home to me how critical these elections are. Pay attention to the positions of the candidates for school board in particular. Since my children are not in public schools, I never concerned myself about these elections too much. But now I understand that I want to live in and foster a community that sees diverse literature for young adults as a tool for growth and self-discovery. Vote for library levies and utilize library resources; librarians are the ones on the front lines of the fight for freedom in reading. Practice thoughtful reading in your own home. When I find problematic things in children’s books (typically sexism in older books) for my four-year-old I try to mention them and give my thoughts. As he gets older, I’ll ask more for his thoughts as well.

What are your favorite banned books? How do you celebrate your freedom to read? What are you reading right now?

Previous Banned Books Week posts