Books Read in 2022: Three-Star YA/Children's, Fantasy and Fiction

How do you store your Christmas decorations? This year I am determined to sort them all and next year the angels will be with the angels, the kids' respective ornaments will be in two different well-arranged places, the customary tangle of spirals, stars, and snowmen will be no more. But I took them off the tree and started putting them on the table and I can't figure out how I should proceed. 

I also need to have a box of Eve's stuff that I deliver to her in November for her student house, although I'm not sure it came home with Matt so that might be a problem for another day. Then I think I want to have a box of stuff to pull out when my sister's family comes and we do Christmas in February, although I might be over it by then. 

In the All Win column, we used Matt's grandmother's china for Christmas and Matt had stacked it on the table preparatory to taking it back downstairs where we had been storing it in a completely unsuitable location. Because I cleaned out the sideboard in the fall, the china slid in like a penguin - wait, that's not a thing, is it? I couldn't think of how to say it slid in, so I googled and "slide in like a penguin" was the first result. Oh, it's a club penguin thing. Upon a minimum of further research, penguins do slide around on their bellies, which is called "tobogganing". I don't feel like I slid the china in remotely like a penguin, but this knowledge is enjoyable enough. 

Three-Star YA/Children's

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Synopsis from Goodreads:  Intrigue, riches, and romance abound in this thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Inheritance Games perfect for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson. The Inheritance Games

 ended with a bombshell, and now heiress Avery Grambs has to pick up the pieces and find the man who might hold the answers to all of her questions - including why Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to Avery, a virtual stranger, rather than to his own daughters or grandsons. Thanks to a DNA test, Avery knows that she's not a Hawthorne by blood, but clues pile up hinting at a deeper connection to the family than she had ever imagined. As the mystery grows and the plot thickens, Grayson and Jameson, the enigmatic and magnetic Hawthorne grandsons, continue to pull Avery in different directions. And there are threats lurking around every corner, as adversaries emerge who will stop at nothing to see Avery out of the picture - by any means necessary. With nonstop action, aspirational jet-setting, family intrigue, swoonworthy romance, and billions of dollars hanging in the balance, The Hawthorne Legacy will thrill Jennifer Lynn Barnes fans and new readers alike.

-”’So, to summarize,’ Max said, ‘the dead uncle? Not dead, might be your father. Hot boys are also tragic, everyone wants a piece of your fine ash, and the woman who tried to have you killed is foxing your father?’

I winced. ‘That pretty much covers it.’

I picked up the first one because of the Westing Game vibes, and it largely did not disappoint. This one? Ugh. I mean, love triangles, barf. Love triangles involving brothers? Double barf. It sort of felt like this should have been a duology rather than a trilogy, and the author was trying to stretch out the middle entry with a lot of annoying filler. She pulled it together at the end, but I'm not sure I care anymore (I talk a big game, but I totally read the third one, my principles are paper thin, forgive me).

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards: Synopsis from Goodreads: I know seven secrets: One caused the fall. One did nothing. One saw it all. One didn’t care. One used their head. One played the hero. One was left for dead. On her eighteenth birthday, Cleo receives a mysterious invitation to a scavenger hunt. She’s sure her best friend Hope or her brother Connor is behind it, but no one confesses. And as Cleo and Hope embark on the hunt, the seemingly random locations and clues begin to feel familiar. In fact, all of the clues seem to be about Cleo’s dead boyfriend, Cyrus, who drowned on a group rafting trip exactly a year ago. A bracelet she bought him. A song he loved. A photo of the rafting group, taken just before Cyrus drowned. And then the phone calls start, Cyrus’s voice taunting Cleo with a cryptic question: You ready? As the clock on the scavenger hunt ticks down, it becomes clear that someone knows what really happened to Cyrus. And that person will stop at nothing to make sure Cleo and her friends pay. Can they solve the hunt before someone else winds up dead?

-”The screen door bangs shut behind her, leaving me standing in the living room with the cat clock ticking. We’ve never even owned a cat. But then, Mom also owns some weird-ass little kid statues called Precious Moments. Ironically, we don’t have those here either.” I read one book by this author because it had amnesia in it - the totally not real kind that I still can't resist reading about - and it was fun, but I've tried two more and I might be done. This was fine as far as it goes - I mean, does anyone really believe that someone out for revenge would resort to a scavenger hunt with rhyming clues? Not that she is remotely the only author to go there - it just doesn't go anywhere that I haven't seen before. Because I'm old and maybe I should stop reading YA.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass: Synopsis from Goodreads: Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee. Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

-"They are always keeping their eyes on me. Most days I want to run off this campus, find shelter in the woods, and spend a few years not being perceived, just to recover from the trauma of being hyper-visible"

I don't know Danielle Vega, but I freaking loved Get Out. So I tried to like this. Didn't really. The racism part is loud and clear - micro-aggressions, aggression-aggressions, the benefit of the doubt always being given to the white bullies, never the black kid. But the horror was sloppy and too much of a breakneck pace to really figure out what was going on. The author also can't seem to figure out if Sawyer is supposed to be a sympathetic figure who does something terrible for understandable reasons or a pure villain - this is probably what bothered me most. I tried to make the case to myself that the unrelenting shittiness of what was happening to Jake was supposed to be a metaphor for enduring racism - it never lets up, you never get a break from it - but I don't think it was that well-planned. Gay representation is also great, but it's a little too much like insta-love rather than any organic relationship development. This just needed a little more nuance and expansion.

How to Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine: Synopsis from Goodreads: Alice Lawrence is the sole witness in her sister’s murder trial. And in the year since Claire’s death, Alice’s life has completely fallen apart. Her parents have gotten divorced, she’s moved into an apartment that smells like bologna, and she is being forced to face her sister’s killer and a courtroom full of people who doubt what she saw in the corn maze a year prior. Claire was an all-American girl, beautiful and bubbly, and a theater star. Alice was a nerd who dreamed of becoming a forensic pathologist and would rather stay at home to watch her favorite horror movies than party. Despite their differences, they were bonded by sisterhood and were each other’s best friends. Until Claire was taken away from her. On the first day of the murder trial, as Alice prepares to give her testimony, she is knocked out by a Sidney Prescott look-alike in the courthouse bathroom. When she wakes up, it is Halloween morning a year earlier, the same day Claire was murdered. Alice has until midnight to save her sister and find the real killer before he claims another victim. 

Kind of like Groundhog Day with murder? As IF I wasn't going to read this. Unfortunately the execution was a little bit lacking. For an homage to slasher movies that I loved, see My Heart is a Chainsaw. There was both too much and not enough going on here for me. 

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie: Synopsis from Goodreads: Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is always watching. From the author of Scritch Scratch comes a chilling middle grade story about a creepy mansion and sinister creatures in the woods. All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to relax. But when Ginny's father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren't staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they're staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures that escaped a mad scientist over a hundred years ago. And some say campers routinely disappear never to be seen again. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: there's more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren't after campers. They're after her.

As several other disappointed reviewers noted, this ends up not actually being about anything that lives in the woods. I liked the family dynamic here. The ghost story was kind of weak. The phrase 'lopsided smile' was overused, but the innocent young romance was sweet. 

Three-Star Fantasy

A Long Day in Lychford (Lychford #3) by Paul Cornell: Synopsis from Goodreads: It's a period of turmoil in Britain, with the country's politicians electing to remove the UK from the European Union, despite ever-increasing evidence that the public no longer supports it. And the small town of Lychford is suffering. But what can three rural witches do to guard against the unknown? And why are unwary hikers being led over the magical borders by their smartphones' mapping software? And is the European question *really* important enough to kill for?

Just a slightly less magical entry in a series I loved and finished this year - I will rave about the others in a future post.

A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding #1) by Freya Marske: Synopsis from Goodreads: Set in an alternative Edwardian England, this is a comedy of manners, manor houses, and hedge mazes: including a magic-infused murder mystery and a delightful queer romance. For fans of Georgette Heyer or Julia Quinn's Bridgerton, who'd like to welcome magic into their lives . . . Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he's actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world. Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

-”’Edwin,’ said Robin. ‘I utterly refuse to spend the rest of the daylight helping you hop back and forth between trees just because you want to test a theory. Entertaining as it would be when you inevitably got stuck halfway over a fence.’”
This was perfectly good, it's just that it was 75% thoroughly enjoyable queer romance and 25% magical fantasy mystery, and I thought I was signing up for, and I guess wanted, the reverse proportions. I am there for the worldbuilding, and I'm looking forward to Maud featuring more centrally in the next book.

Three-Star Fiction

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand: Synopsis from Goodreads: Synopsis from Goodreads: In this #1 bestselling page-turner a Nantucket novelist has one final summer to protect her secrets while her loved ones on earth learn to live without their golden girl. On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she's assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them. From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her. With all of Elin’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals, and picture-perfect homes, plus a heartfelt message—the people we lose never really leave us—Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other.

"She’s a person who has spent her entire life planning for some imaginary point in the future when she would achieve…perfect happiness. There’s a way in which Vivi’s death has freed her from this quest. Nothing will ever be perfect again because Vivi won’t be there to share it with her. Even if Willa lives to be a hundred and is surrounded by children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she will still miss her mother. So all she can hope for are unexpected moments of grace. Like now.”
3.5. I have a snobby knee-jerk reaction against "women's fiction" or "beach reads" - by which I only mean that I don't reach for them, not that I think less of other people for reading them; I tend to like reading fiction that challenges me in some way, but I am often less demanding of genre fiction, and I watch plenty of crap tv. More power to any author who can produce enough of a product that many people enjoy to make a good living as a writer, and people LOVE this author. I read this because it came up in one of the baffling algorithm glitches on my library ebook site, where you search for "Knives in the Dark" and it throws up "Flowers in Springtime". I needed a book about the afterlife for my book bingo, so I gave it a shot.

This had a lot of what I don't like about this kind of fiction - a predictable formula, some glaring manipulation. Even horrible things are glossy with rounded edges, so they're not too horrible. Unforgivable things are all forgiven just because it makes the narrative a little bit neater - like, a woman punches her sister twice, and then when the sister slaps her back she screams "You IDIOT, I'm pregnant" - and the sister apologizes. What? There's a nod to acknowledging systemic racism, and even that has angered some readers as "wokeness", and others as being an inadequate sop. Then there's the supposedly good but laughably incompetent local sheriff who doesn't bother to follow up with an instrumental person in a hit-and-run investigation because the kid is away at summer camp - um, take a road trip? Pick up the phone? It's an enjoyable in-joke that Hilderbrand's protagonist is a version of herself, although I would have liked if there was a touch of skewering in with the adulation. It did absolutely make me want to live on Nantucket (as a wealthy woman), but that wasn't a stretch.

That said, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I enjoyed the ride and looked forward to picking it up again every time I sat down to read. I rolled my eyes at a few places, but I also took note of a couple of beautifully articulated realizations, like the quote above. Vivi's afterlife is absurd and yet bizarrely satisfying. I probably won't read any more of the author's work, but I see the appeal.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn: Synopsis from Goodreads: Synopsis from Goodreads: Rachel’s current troubles—a middle-aged son mining digital currency in her basement, a scientist granddaughter trying to peek into her genes—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, hundreds of children, and 2,000 years, going back to Roman-occupied Jerusalem. Only one person shares her immortality: an illicit lover who pursues her through the ages. But when her children develop technologies that could change her fate, Rachel must find a way out. From ancient religion to the scientific frontier, Dara Horn pits our efforts to make life last against the deeper challenge of making life worth living. 

I had seen this for quite a while in my library's ebook section, and I was expecting something a little...chewier. I found the tone and writing pretty uneven, although overall I did enjoy it. Some parts were a little superficial for my taste, with glib proclamations and annoyingly flat characters, and then on the next page I would find a kernel of the insight into living multiple lifetimes that I had been expecting from the synopsis. 

That's the end of the three-stars. On to the fours!


NGS said…
Hm. We have all of our ornaments in one GIANT tote with smaller boxes inside. We have all our lights in another tote and each strand is labelled with what it's used for. We have a small tote with the tree skirt and random pieces of home decor (the candles for the upstairs windows, a wreath made of jingle bells, some pieces my sister made for us). Lastly, we have the box with the tree in it. That's our entire collection of Christmas and how it's stored. I think it would be much more complicated if we had a lot more home decor items.

When I was a child, my mom had a tote for me and my sister with "our" ornaments on it and when we moved out, she gave us those totes, so we each started with a collection of 20-30 ornaments and I think mine also had a strand or two of lights in it.
Suzanne said…
Slid in like a penguin created a delightful visual image, so I'm glad you kept it. Also wonderful to know that penguins "toboggan."

We have our Christmas decorations mainly in plastic bins, stored on shelves in the basement. The tree is in its own special tote -- and, I mean, it better have a special tote considering how effing expensive it was -- and then I keep the banister pine garland and my daughter's miniature tree in separate labeled garbage bags. Those things are the most annoying, because the fake pine needles poke through the bags and they are hard to stuff onto the shelves. But that's how it is working currently.
Nicole said…
I just put all my ornaments in boxes. The tree ornaments are in one box, actually, two boxes because I have a ton of them, and then the rest of the ornaments are in all the other boxes. I think I have like six boxes or something. The tree is an artificial pre-lit, and I cannot recommend this enough. So easy! No light stringing.
StephLove said…
Funny you should mention My Heart is a Chainsaw. Noah got it for me for Christmas and he's pretty good at picking books I'll like.

Did you ever read the Tales of the City series? There's an amnesia plot in one of those books, one of the later ones I think, and it might appeal. Plus, it's just fun. Or it was back in the 90s. You never know how things are going to age until you re-read/watch them.
Ernie said…
"My principles are paper thin" and "double barf" - you always make me laugh.

My answer to how do you store your Christmas decorations: not well. The kids ornaments are stored in separate plastic grocery bags with their names written on them in Sharpie. Those bags are then shoved into the big bin of ornaments. It isn't pretty, but it mostly works. I have 3 big bins for decorations and then 2 boxes full of the village houses. I keep the lights for the Christmas tree is a small, WELL-LABELED box. Coach is on his own for the outdoor lights. I suspect most of them don't work and he has no system for what to keep or toss. I stay as far away from that mess as possible.

Happy about your newly found, penguin-friendly china storage. I also have a Grandma's china story. Mine doesn't end as well as yours.

Popular posts from this blog

Clothes Make the Blog Post

Laying bare my haddock... er, soul