Although I didn’t read as much as I did in 2021, I still hit my 2022 reading goal and I’m proud of everything I did read – I started my tbr jar (‘to be read’ – a list of every book I own that’s never been read…) and promptly chose a series that I owned six books of but had 13 total… I’m yet to pull another title out of my tbr jar… but soon!
In December, I managed to read 7 books and I’m hoping to take that momentum into January. My goal for this year is 42 books – I started with 12 in 2020 so it would be one a month, then 25 in 2021 (because 24 felt weird) to be roughly two a month, then 2022 was 36 books. I read 39 total, so jumping to the next multiple of 12 to 48 felt like too much of a leap, so halfway between at 42 felt like a good balance and breaks down to three and a half books a month, which I think I can manage.
I’m nearly finished my first read of 2023 (Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz – the 10th book in the Alex Rider series) so I thought I’d do a summary of all the books I read in 2022, what I rated them and a quick summary of my thoughts – enjoy!
One – Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert (audiobook, 4 stars)
This audiobook is a fantastic example of how the voice of the narrator can completely change your relationship with the story – I found the voice of Chloe so incessantly annoying that I really thought I wasn’t enjoying myself, but actually it was heartwarming, a fantastic representation of invisible chronic illness and an honest insight into how hard it can be to break away from what’s easy. I’d like to reread in paperback and maybe try the sequels as well.
Two – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz (audiobook, 5 stars)
I was in two minds about reading this one as it sounded a little bit pretentious, but when I had an audible credit and the narrator is Lin Manuel Miranda, I had to give it a go. Although it was a bit poetic and metaphorical in places, at it’s heart it was a story of two boys just trying to figure the world out. In my book journal I wrote: ‘It was wholesome and emotional and funny in the perfect balance. It was raw and real and unapologetic in a way you don’t often see in YA.’ It was a lovely listen and I hope to pick up the sequel at some point.
Three – Talk Bookish To Me – Kate Bromley (paperback, 4 stars)
I categorise this book as ‘one of those one’s that’s in the deals section of The Works that I’ve never seen anyone talking about but is actually fantastic’ and this is why I keep going back to The Works (I got 8 books for £24 last time I was there). Another sub-genre that I appear to love is books about people who love books, who are writers or work in publishing. This was a nice easy romance read that was very relatable as someone who also likes books and writing and Instagram. A lovely read!
Four – Albion: The Legend of Arthur – Robert Valentine (audiobook, 1 star)
I was so excited about this audible find – a full cast story about the Legend of Arthur, one of my favourite legends and one I love to see retold? It was one of the most painfully long audiobooks I’ve ever listen to and this was when I realised a full cast without a narrator is incredibly difficult to follow when the entire cast is posh British men who don’t sound that different, and I’m meant to somehow differentiate between? As well as having basically no plot and killing off the main character at the end, it was a huge waste of time. Glad it was on Audible Plus and I didn’t have to use a credit!
Five – Billy and Me – Giovanna Fletcher (paperback, 3 stars)
I only really know about Giovanna Fletcher as an author because of her husband and sister-in-law and it’s the only reason I own her books, but I was quite disappointed in the writing of this one. The characters felt fake and stagey and it made it hard to connect to them, but it was an easy enough read and engaging enough to make me actually pick it up and read it every night. An average 3 stars!
Six – Grand Theft Astro – Scott Meyers (audiobook, 1 star)
I don’t know if I just haven’t read enough sci-fi, or if this one in particular was just really bland. Having an emotionally devoid protagonist narrated by someone who sounded like they were bored out of their mind was so difficult to listen to. Most of the story was really in depth description of the main characters actions – she did this, then she did this, then in a really detailed long-winded way of explaining it, she did this. It was so dull and considering it was about a space thief doing a series of massive heists, it should have been so cool!
Seven – Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher – (paperback, 3 stars)
I have this terrible habit with reading that I have to give everything a chance to get better – hence why I will finish a series I’m not enjoying and I only stopped reading (DNF – did not finish) one audiobook this year. It was the same, slightly-below average women’s fiction. In my journal I wrote: ‘Standard contemporary romance; easy to read, predictable proposal conclusion.’ The subplot with the protagonists’ mum’s wedding, how she was running the little cafe and her life in her little town was way better than the romance plot. In my journal I added: ‘Would have been a brilliant curveball if she’d met someone more settled and she and Billy parted ways amicably wanting the best for each other’ (and I think it would have made way more sense).
Eight – Ace of Shades – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 5 stars)
I adored this series. I knew there was a popular TikTok book called ‘Ace of Spades’ and I downloaded this in confusion but I have zero regrets. An epic YA fantasy that built the most brilliantly immersive universe with seamlessly integrated fantasy elements that it felt so real. The characters were sweet and flawed and self-aware and I adored this series so much – need to get myself copies of the paperbacks! Maybe even hardbacks if they’re pretty.
Nine – Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Bayron (paperback, 2 stars)
Normally when I see books that are getting loads of hype online, I love them – I tend to have the same opinions as the majority but in this one I was so wrong. The concept was truly unbelievable, the laws and traditions make literally no sense and the ending was incredibly anticlimactic. The two main characters were so bland and I didn’t understand how anyone could feel any chemistry between them and it felt like shoving in some LGBT representation for the sake of it. I don’t understand. Donated this one immediately.
Ten – The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood (audiobook, 5 stars)
On the flipside, a TikTok book that I absolutely adored leading to me finding a new favourite author. What I wrote in my journal was: ‘Nerdy science shit? Enemies to lovers / fake dating / it was always you romance? YES PLEASE’ and there’s no other way to describe it. The characters were perfect, Adam the hero made my heart ache with love and wow, the spicy scenes were spicy. Considering I listened to most of my audiobooks while commuting to work, this felt borderline inappropriate and I kind of loved it. 100% adore Ali Hazelwood.
Eleven – The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang (audiobook, 5 stars)
Another fantastic book I saw getting lots of hype online but I was sold on it when I read the blurb on a random Waterstones trip and decided to use an Audible credit on it – an autistic main character! Whilst I’m on a waiting list to be diagnosed! The representation was beautiful and wow I love a dual narrative. Also incredibly spicy sex scenes again… oops?
Twelve – Where There’s A Will – Beth Corby (paperback, 4 stars)
I don’t know how or why I convinced myself this was a story about a guy called Will, but I really did. However, it was about an absolutely ridiculous challenge set by long lost Great-Uncle Donald in his will upon his death (no people called Will in sight) which leads protagonist Hannah to find out more about her family than she ever thought she could know, getting to know his assistant very well in the process. A lovely reminder to live in the present, take no shit and love wholly.
Thirteen – Heartstopper Volume 1 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 3 stars)
A surprise rating, but my first ever graphic novel and I think getting used to the format impacted my understanding of the story. Although I devoured it in one sitting and I found Nick and Charlie very cute, I found this format being so much faster pace meant I didn’t quite get to know them properly before it was all over. But I knew I needed to read Volume 2 before I watched the Netflix show…
But I also finished an audiobook in between so here’s that:
Fourteen – The Bridge Kingdom – Danielle L Jenson (audiobook, 4 stars)
I really thought this would be a smutty historical fantasy, but Audible Plus gave me so much more. Enemies to lovers, accidentally falling in love, manipulative political rivalry between Kingdom’s where a Princess has been trained as an intelligent killer. But by the time she realises everything she’s been told is a lie, it’s too late to save the Kingdom and it’s people she’s come to love. It was actually brilliant, though I don’t think it’s fantasy because there wasn’t any magic but it’s a bit historical and kind of mythical? The categories confuse me!
Fifteen – Heartstopper Volume 2 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
This is when I fell in love with Nick and Charlie. They’re the perfect representation of how wholeheartedly teenagers can fall in love, how difficult and complicated it can be to figure out emotions and sexuality and who your friends really are amongst the absolutely shambles that being a teenager is. And I’m going to take a moment to say Charlie’s casting in the Netflix show? Joe Locke was born to play Charlie – considering it’s a graphic novel and there’s less flexibility with what the characters can look like, it’s actually incredible how perfect he is to play Charlie.
Sixteen – The Traitor Queen – Danielle L Jenson (audiobook, 4 stars)
A fantastic second part to The Bridge Kingdom shows fantastic character development from Lara, the power of love despite betrayal and a fantastic demonstration of forced proximity and surviving in treacherous conditions to try and save the day. A lovely duology which I would happily revisit.
Seventeen – Love, Lucas – Chantele Sedgwick (audiobook, 2 stars)
I picked it because my now-husbands name is Lucas, but turns out the Lucas in this book is dead and his sister is trying to process her grief by reading a series of letters he left for her in his dying days. Angsty teenage romance that ended with the most ridiculous fight where she was definitely in the wrong and then the pivotal plot point was a shark attack? At the time of reading, I wrote in my journal: ‘An adult badly writing teenagers with no creative plot at all.’
Eighteen – Take The Shot – Susan White (audiobook, 3 stars)
Again, I keep making things up about books I download that aren’t true – assumed this was a sports romance, turns out it was a 14 year old with Marfan syndrome who loves basketball and is told he’s not allowed to play anymore. It was actually a harmless YA story of friendship, truth and lies that was easy to read and captivating. My first Australian audiobook too!
Nineteen – The Queen of Volts – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 4 stars)
Owing to an innate sexism I need to address, I made the incorrect assumption that ‘Queen’ came before ‘King’ in the sequels to Ace of Shades, so I actually listened to book three before book two which was only mildly confusing and still surprisingly easy to follow, which just further adds to Amanda Foody’s fantastic writing style and wonderful world building. I just wish I’d double checked the order before I listened to it.
Twenty – King of Fools – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 4 stars)
Though, there was an added suspense to reading them out of order that meant I knew of some major plot points that impacted book three and it was a waiting game as to when they would happen. The only reason I rated it four stars was because I actually found the supporting characters far more interesting than En and Levi – Tock deserves her own books, Jack and Sophia are really sweet and the introduction of Poppy Prescott was so fun. Definitely need to make time to re-read/listen to this (amongst my disgustingly long tbr…)
Twenty-One – The Mismatch – Sara Jafari (paperback, 5 stars)
I loved this book so much – I learnt so much about Iranian muslim culture and how it particularly impacts young people who’s parents grew up ingrained in the culture and figuring out where the line is for forcing that culture on their children now living in the UK. A wonderful intergenerational family drama/romance about the parallels and differences between a mother and her daughter’s romantic stories from the same age in different decades and countries. The romance was arguably the least interesting part of the story but absolutely wonderful nonetheless.
Twenty-Two – Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse – Alex Kingston (paperback, 2 stars)
The book that put me in a reading slump – a beautiful cover and one of my most anticipated books that I’d waited a really long time to get my hands on… and it was awful. The concept of the actress who plays the character writing a story about her was so interesting, but it just felt like a caricature of who River Song is and making a bunch of sassy, girl-boss jokes that didn’t land. Turns out, just because you play the character doesn’t mean you can write her.
Twenty-Three – Five Feet Apart – Rachel Lippencott (paperback, 5 stars)
Oh my heart. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I saw the advert for the film because I think Cole Sprouse looks adorable, but the story itself was just beautiful. I learnt a lot about cystic fibrosis and what it’s like to be a kid who lives with such a chronic condition, but on top of all that the characters were immediately so raw and authentic and real. My journal says: ‘It’s like John Green without the pretentious poetry and ‘I’m not like other girls’ attitude’ and that sums it up really.
Twenty-Four – Heartstopper Volume 3 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
By this point I am fully obsessed with Heartstopper and Nick and Charlie’s story – I love their characterisation, I love how inclusive the characters are and I’m starting to get used to the graphic novel style. Nick’s observation of Charlie’s mental health is the sweetest and most beautiful way to address such a heavy topic and, importantly, emphasise that it was not his job to ‘fix’ him. 10/10.
Twenty-Five – Heartstopper Volume 4 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
Perfection. I don’t cry at books generally, but this one had me on the edge of tears the whole time. How Alice Oseman has created such a compelling story with such loveable characters with so few words and some pictures is mind boggling. How I am full on obsessed with them makes me feel like I’m a fangirl on tumblr again.
Twenty-Six – Stormbreaker (Alex Rider #1) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 3 stars)
The first pick from my tbr jar! What I wrote in my journal was: ‘Nice, relatively short, generic YA read – nicely paced, not super obsessively in love with the characters but don’t hate them either – perfect middle ground’ and having just finished book 9 in the series, it’s funny seeing how I wrote about the first book. What I really learnt from Stormbreaker is how fantastic the 2006 film with Alex Pettyfer was made – a spot on adaptation.
I did accidentally have a reading slump for two months after I finished it as well as a mental health crisis, which might also reflect why I only gave it 3 stars.
Twenty-Seven – Love on the Brain – Ali Hazelwood (paperback, 5 stars)
My love, Ali Hazelwood. The one that brought me back from my reading slump and I started by reading this one by the beach in Brighton in October – cold, but lovely. Wonderful characters, really cool to have another science based protagonist and very, very spicy sex scenes. I could read Ali Hazelwood’s books on loop forever, I adore them so much.
Twenty-Eight – Nick and Charlie – Alice Oseman (borrowed, 5 stars)
I borrowed this novella from my sibling so had a time limit to read and return it, but I would have devoured it anyway. I didn’t think it was possible to love Nick and Charlie more but at seventeen and eighteen, going to parties with alcohol and not ashamed of talking about sex? Somehow Alice made them even better. I did prefer the novella format, though the intermittent drawings were lovely. I wasn’t sure what to write in my journal about this book that I hadn’t already written about the Heartstopper series, so I just wrote a list of things I love about Nick, Charlie and the Heartstopper universe and the point that just sprung out at me as I was looking back is ‘they’re big ol’ gay goofballs’ and honestly, that’s it.
Twenty-Nine – Point Blanc (Alex Rider #2) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
This was the point where I realised that just because it’s middle grade, doesn’t mean it can’t be dark and gripping – Alex as a protagonist may only be 14, but he’s been repeatedly put into life threatening scenarios and manipulated by MI6 and he’s aware of it. His awareness is a lot of the reason that makes the series feel so dark in a way. I believe the newer Amazon Alex Rider series starts with Point Blanc and I’m very intrigued to watch it.
Thirty – Skeleton Key (Alex Rider #3) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
With every novel in this series I’m more and more surprised that it’s recommended for 8-12 year olds and I have had a conversation with my god-mother’s 10 year old daughter about this series – Alex is put through so much and faces such evil that it really made me think about how there might actually be people like them out there in the world and it’s astonishing. In my journal I wrote: ‘It really does keep me guessing! Though that may be a poor reflection of my intellectual capabilities’. For now, we’re going to pretend it’s Anthony Horowitz’s genius, though.
Thirty-One – Eagle Strike (Alex Rider #4) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
Around this point I realised I wouldn’t be able to stop with the first six books in the series and I would need to acquire the remaining seven to have the full set of thirteen, though I would really like to use my tbr jar again. Another fantastic Alex Rider novel, which was actually the last novel I finished before I got married!
Thirty-Two – Scorpia (Alex Rider #5) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
The introduction of Scorpia and everything Alex learned about his dad in this one was honestly so enthralling I would consider bumping this one up to 5 stars in hindsight. Alex starts to scope out his own trouble without MI6 and I definitely don’t think this is suitable for children anymore, considering I found it heavy to burden a fourteen year old child with everything he’s been through, I definitely wouldn’t have coped with it when I was in primary school! Honestly, a fantastic addition to the series.
The rest of November was predominantly filled with writing for NaNoWriMo, so reading came back in December with the festive books I’ve been saving!
Thirty-Three – The Holiday Swap – Maggie Knox (paperback, 2 stars)
Although starting as a quirky, Hallmark-movie esque Christmas book, it became quite clear quite quickly that everything in this story would have been easier if the characters just talked to each other. How two women in a contemporary romance can be so detached from their phones (‘I lost it under the sofa and it ran out of charge for three days’… how!) would have been the least unbelievable bit, if it weren’t for the absolutely ridiculous epilogue.
Thirty-Four – The Christmas Murder Game – Alexandra Benedict (hardback, 5 stars)
I’m so glad I chose to read my Christmas books in this order because holy smokes The Christmas Murder Game was exquisite – I’m not much of a crime/mystery girl, or at least I didn’t think I was! The entire story was intriguing as I soon realised that not only was there lots that the protagonist didn’t know, but there was some things that the protagonist wasn’t sharing too. But the last 80 pages. I don’t want to say ‘everything’ happens in the last 80 pages but the story moved from nought to a hundred in a heartbeat and I am obsessed. Fantastically written, I’m definitely putting Alexandra Benedict’s ‘Murder on the Christmas Express’ on my list for next December!
Thirty-Five – This Winter – Alice Oseman (paperback, 4 stars)
Another story about Nick and Charlie, this time set during the Christmas of Volume 4 (I think?) told in three parts from the perspective of each of the Spring kids – starting with Tori, it was a heartwarming narrative of an outwardly heartless girl just wishing she could protect her brother from insensitive family comments during a difficult season for those with eating disorders. Then there was some lovely mushy stuff with Nick from Charlie’s perspective, all rounded off with a very sweet section from younger sibling Oliver’s perspective, showing how much little one’s really take in.
Thirty-Six – Ark Angel (Alex Rider #6) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
And with all my Christmas books read, it’s back on the Alex Rider train for the book that I met my reading goal with! I was seriously concerned I wouldn’t reach 36 books so I was really proud of myself for getting there. Ark Angel was a truly fantastic ‘end’ to Alex’s story (as it was meant to be, but of course an author that had worked so intently on such an engaging series couldn’t put it down!). The last few pages are an absolute rollercoaster that had me genuinely telling my husband about it in bed. Just astonishing.
Thirty-Seven – Snakehead (Alex Rider #7) – Anthony Horowitz (hardback, 4 stars)
The prettiest of the Alex Rider books that I have, probably a first edition from my husband’s collection when it was originally released. With more references to the organisation Scorpia, the promise of more information about his parents and working with yet another international intelligence organisation, Snakehead is as fast paced and exhilarating at the rest of the series, ending just days ahead of Alex’s 15th birthday.
Thirty-Eight – Crocodile Tears (Alex Rider #8) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
With more brilliantly written enemies, incredibly clever plot and an extreme attempt on Alex’s life at the end, I was as hooked on Crocodile Tears as I have been with every other book in the series. Though, at this point I think it’s pretty 50:50 that I’m trying to read these books quickly because 1) they’re very good and I’m enjoying them and 2) I’d really like to read about someone other than Alex Rider now!
Thirty-Nine – Scorpia Rising (Alex Rider #9) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
Scorpia is such a wonderful villain organisation and the reformed members plotting their revenge on Alex Rider by playing MI6 like a game was truly brilliant – the whole series continues to be clever, action-packed with just a touch of wit from a 15 year old who is bored of taking things too seriously. I was so determined to finish this on New Year’s Eve so I could go into 2023 with a brand new book, so I read over 50% of this book in a day (which is a lot for me) whilst sat in a broadcast truck at the Wolverhampton vs Man U football game (my husband took me to work).
This one is supposedly the last in the books about Alex Rider, with book 10 looking into the origin story of Yassen Gregorovich (which I’ve nearly finished and has been fantastic!) so I’m not sure what books 11, 12 and 13 are about but if you want to find out with me my reading Instagram would be the place to look! I post a review of every single book I read there plus I’ve just ‘announced’ (if you can even call it that) a new book club and the book I’ve chosen for January, if you’d like to read along.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! You just read 4000 words of rambling about books – I’ll have to come up with a shorter form of recap next year but in the meantime, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are reading lots of amazing stories!