My 2022 Reading Log
Let's get this year started! January!
1. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 365 pages What a great way to start off my reading year! There was so much hype about this book on all the reading Facebook groups I belong to and the hype was worth it. This is the story of the adult Riva children. Their dad was the great Mick Riva, a very famous singer, who left his family when his 4 children were young because he basically couldn’t keep it in their pants. The story is one day in their lives in 1985 when Nina, the oldest is throwing her annual rager party in her massive house on a cliff in Malibu. Her siblings are all there and at this stage they are all trying to figure out life after a childhood being raised by an alcoholic single mom. It’s this party that defines and changes everything about the siblings. The party is also the epicenter of a massively destructive California wildfire, and you know this the whole time you’re reading the book and you just know that one of the Rivas is responsible for the fire… but who?? This was a standout read for January 2022.
2. The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth 313 pages. This is the story of fraternal twins Rose and Fern. Fern is definitely on the spectrum and has some sensory issues that she is dealing with, and Rose spent her life looking out for Fern. But when Rose leaves Fern for a month to go visit her husband in London, Fern gets the confidence to look out for herself. She meets a man and develops a relationship with him. But when Rose gets back you definitely get the feeling that Rose isn’t happy about Fern’s new coping-in-the-world skills. Then it sort of makes you wonder if Rose is really all that altruistic in caring for Fern.
3. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai 368 pages. This is the memoir of a teenage Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban on the bus on her way to school. There was a strong Taliban presence in her area of Pakistan and they completely took over. They shut down the schools for girls, but Malala valued education over anything else. She, as a young teen, was very outspoken against the Taliban. As a result she was a very big blip on their radar screen and they shot her in the head. She managed to survive the shooting and continues to be outspoken about educating girls in Pakistan. Fascinating read!
4. Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica 352 pages. The story starts out with a woman in the neighborhood going missing. Over the course of trying to find this woman another woman goes missing. They don’t look like they are connected, but we learn that they are and not in a way that you’d think. This story takes us in past and present as we learn why Meredith ends up going missing, and what really happened to the first women who went missing, Shelby.
5. The Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno 304 pages. Marin is a student at a private school in Massachusetts. She’s on the fast track to getting accepted at Brown, her boyfriend is a star on the lacrosse team, and she’s the co-editor of the paper with her best friend. But it’s a crush on her English teacher that completely derails everything. When he makes a move on her she has to decide whether or not to report him. When he tells her that he wants things to be cool between them she snaps. She starts to notice all those subtle things about what it means to be a girl and publishes an editorial in the paper about all those rules that girls have to follow. “Be assertive, but don’t be bossy. Don’t be a slut but don’t be a prude, etc.” The blowback from that editorial is huge and she ends up reporting the teacher. At which point every thing unravels. She doesn’t get accepted to Brown and she learns it was the teacher who she reported who made her rejection happen. An awesome insight in how all the microaggressions form teenage girls, and how despite how far we think we’ve come we still have a million miles to go. This was a standout read for January 2022, and a top read for 2022.
6. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Aliso Arngrim 320 pages This is the memoir of the woman who played the character Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie. I wasn’t a huge fan of the show back when I was a kid, but I thought it was interesting that to this day she still goes to publicity events where attendees tell her how much they hate her still for how her character acted on the show. Interesting that some girl on a show still evokes that level of ire decades later.
7. When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald 272 pages This is a novel written by the 80s teen actress. She’s a solid writer, the story is told in a series of short stories about characters who are all interrelated in the story. It starts off with an infidelity between a couple, then you move on to other people who know the couple and it’s a story about what they’ve got going on. It’s a cool concept. The thing I didn’t like about it was that every single story was sad. Surely with all these people we might have one whose life is going well, right? It thoroughly bummed me out toward the end.
8. Pretty Mess by Erika Jayne 304 pages Memoir of the reality star and pop singer Erika Jayne. Of course this book pre-dates the legal troubles with her husband misusing client funds at his legal practice. Overall OK, not earth shattering.
And that’s it for January.8 books and 2,326 pages so far.
9. That Night by Chevy Stevens 381 pages I was kind of obsessed with this one. It starts out with Toni Murphy getting out of prison. We learn that we went in just after she finished high school for murdering her sister. The story goes back and forth past leading up to the murder, and the present where she’s trying to figure out how to live after spending a dozen years in prison. In the past we learn that Toni is getting horribly bullied by Shawna, who seems determined to destroy Toni and keep her destroyed. Of course Toni didn’t murder her sister, we’re all on board with that. But over the course of the story she figures out who actually did. The thing that gets me is that how can she go on knowing she lost 12 years of her life for a crime that she didn’t commit. This was a standout read for February 2022 and a top read for 2022.
10. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah 450 pages. This one was all anyone could talk about on the reading groups on Facebook, and man did it live up to the hype. For me Kristin Hannah is hit or miss. Like her Firefly Lane, I thought, was sappy. But she does some great historical novels, like this one. This one takes place during the Great Depression. The story starts out in northwestern Texas where Elsa starts out. She’s the “ugly duckling” of her family and gets pregnant unexpectedly in a fling. Her family throws her out and she ends up living with her new shotgun husband’s family. She falls in love with his family and their farm, not necessarily him, and devotes herself to farming the land and raising their two children. Then the depression hits along with drought. To escape starving and her son’s illness due to the massive dust storms she and the children head west to California, a few years after her husband left them in the middle of the night. This story takes us what it was like to live through the dust bowl days, what it took to head to California and the less than welcome feeling they received in California where they lived in shanty town encampments and tried to find work so they could survive. It takes us through the corporate farm with housing and the on campus store all that serves to keep the workers in debt to the farm working for pennies an hour. Very well researched and a fascinating read. This was a standout read for February 2022.
11. The Breakdown by BA Paris 354 pages Cass was driving home late one night when she saw a car on the side of the road in the woods, her friend was in the car. She didn’t stop to see what was going on, and the friend got murdered. She is profoundly and terribly impacted by the murder. But then the rest of her reality starts to slip as well. Her mother had suffered from early onset dementia and she starts to wonder if she will as well. She’s forgetful, she loses track of things, she gets incredibly paranoid after a prank caller harasses her every single day. She is absolutely losing it. Then she discovers there is a more sinister reason why she seems to be losing it. Totally twisted around in the best possible way. This was a standout read for February 2022.
By the end of February I have read 11 books for a total of 3,511 pages.
12. The Secret Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab 434 pages. I was totally into this one as well. Addie was born in the 1700s in a tiny village in France. She is supposed to be married to someone she barely knows when she essentially makes a deal with the devil to get out of the marriage. So her deal is that she will never belong to anyone, but never belonging to anyone means that nobody will ever know her and nobody will ever remember her, and then she’ll also be immortal. So she’s lived for hundreds of years permanently in her 20s in a life where she is never known or remembered by anyone. Until one day she meets someone who actually remembers her. This was a top read for March 2022 and a top read for 2022.
13. The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher 336 pages. This one was super weird at first, I wasn’t sure what was going on. Looks like Juno is a homeless woman who managed to live in Winnie and Nigel’s house without them knowing. And then she starts to figure out that things in their house aren't what they seem. She overhears conversations about Winnie having stolen someone’s baby and Juno starts to wonder whether their son is actually their son. So then Juno tries to figure all of that out and re learn the truth.
14. Lucky by Alice Sebold 228 pages This one felt long but in terms of pages it was short. This is a memoir by novelist Alice Sebold. When she was a freshman in college she was brutally and violently raped on campus. She talks about how she ended up bringing her rapist to justice and how it impacted her.
15. Those Girls by Chevy Stevens 385 pages. This is the story of 3 sisters, Courtney, Jess and Dani. They live with their alcoholic and abusive father, and they kill him in self defense when he comes home drunk one night and gets violent. They skip town in his truck and try to get to Vancouver where they think they can get lost in a city and never get pinned down for the murder. On the way the three of them get mixed up with 2 guys who imprison them and repeatedly rape them until they manage to escape. They end up getting to Vancouver and live under assumed names and go on with their lives. But the problem is none of them are over what happened in that small town, and one of the sisters goes back to that small town to get revenge. Crazy story. Absolutely bonkers, but well done. This was a top read for March 2022.
16. Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena 363 pages Daniel, Catherine and Jenna are adult children of very wealthy parents. They visit their parents for Easter dinner, and the dinner goes badly—the dad is a complete jerk and the kids are still clamoring for his approval. Then the Tuesday following Easter the housekeeper comes into the house and finds out that the parents have been brutally murdered. You know that one of the kids has done it, so the story goes to figure out who actually did it. They all look guilty.
17. The Cellar by Natasha Preston 370 pages Whoah this one was crazy. Summer is 16 and she got kidnapped one night. Her kidnapper took her to his basement and started calling her Lily. There are three other girls in the basement already that he named Rose, Poppy and Violet. He kidnapped all these girls so he could create the prefect family. He comes into the basement for his meals with them and acts like this is a totally normal thing to do. But sometimes he snaps and brings a prostitute into the basement for the purpose of murdering her in front of his family. If any of the girls steps out of line he murders them too. Summer knows she needs to get out, but how? This was a top read for March 2022.
18. Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards 320 pages. I find it interesting that Amazon lists this as good for 14-18 years old when I thought it was a little too intense for that. Mira is flying home to Pittsburgh from California on Christmas Eve. Somehow she’s still in high school and living in California away from her family and making art and I am not sure how that happened, but whatever. So, her connecting flight gets cancelled and she manages to catch a ride with a college student she was sitting near on the plane. In the rental car there are Mira and 4 college kids. Mira gets a sketchy vibe pretty much from the beginning but figures it’s only an 8 hour drive and what could go wrong. Well it all went wrong in a horrible way. They get caught in the storm, one of the boys decides to steal gas from a station when they don’t have enough money to pay. Belongings go suspiciously missing, they decide to get to a different highway that causes them to be in the middle of nowhere, people get attacked and murdered.
And that’s it for March, 18 books and 5947 pages.
19. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 434 pages. This is one of my favorite books ever. I read it back in the 90s and every so often I pick it up again. This time I listened to it and it was great to get the correct pronunciation of things I’d read about so many times. I love love love this story. It’s the story of a girl who was sold to a geisha house in the 1930s and she trained to become a geisha. A very interesting insight into the life of a geisha—whose job is to entertain not exactly to be a prostitute. This was a standout read for April 2022 and a top read for 2022.
20. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell 349 pages. Another one I was totally obsessed with. The story goes back and forth from present to past. In the present Libby inherits a mansion and learns that her birth parents were involved in a suicide pact that occurred in the house and she was discovered in her crib by the police. We learn that there were young teenaged children also living in the house which had in effect become a cult in the late 80s-90s. In the present we learn about what’s become of the children as they are older and traumatized. We also learn what happened in that house and how it came to be that the children escaped and the adults were killed. Fascinating story. This was a standout read for April 2022.
21. Shine by Jodi Picoult 38 pages Meh. This was a short story about race in the 1970s when a black girl went to a predominately white school. The story didn’t really go anywhere.
22. Zeroes by Chuck Wendig 432 pages This one was a book club selection, and is a hacker fantasy book. Basically the story starts out introducing us to a few hackers on the occasion they all get caught. They get sent to a government facility out in the middle of nowhere called The Lodge. They are sentenced to a year at the Lodge at which they will hack for the US Government. They aren’t allowed to talk to each other about what they are hacking into, but eventually they do. They put the pieces together and figure out that there is something far more nefarious at play and now they have to prevent that from happening. But of course it happens and they have to shut down a massive super computer that is spreading through the internet like a virus.
23. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult 416 pages Trixie is a teenaged girl who accuses her ex-boyfriend of raping her. All she wanted to do was to get back together with the ex-boyfriend and then she accuses him of rape. The whole town is divided as the boy is a hockey star with a bright future. The boy commits suicide, but then we realize that he didn’t commit suicide but he was really pushed from the bridge and we’re trying to figure out who did it.
And that’s it for April. 23 books and 7,616 pages read.
24. What Remains by Carole Radziwill 416 pages. This is a heartbreaking memoir by Carole Radziwill, an Emmy winning journalist and formal Real Housewife of New York City. She married her husband Anthony, who was part of the Polish royal family and a cousin to the Kennedys. John Kennedy Jr. was her husband’s cousin and best friend, and she and Anthony were very close friends of John and his wife Carolyn Bessette. As she’s coping with her husband dying of cancer in the summer of 1999 she’s expecting a call from Carolyn—she and John were flying his plane from New Jersey to a wedding on Cape Cod. When another relative calls Carole in the middle of the night to tell her that he’s waiting for them at the airport and the plane never arrives Carole springs into action. It was her who reported their missing status to the Coast Guard and launched the search for the downed plane. Then a few weeks after her husband finally lost his 5 year long battle with cancer. In that summer she lost her husband and her two best friends. Very well written and incredibly sad and beautiful.
25. I Did It by The Goldman Family 323 pages This was written by the family of Ron Goldman, who was killed by OJ Simpson. It’s actually a reprint of OJ Simpson’s book If I Did It, but the book wasn’t ever published and the Goldman family secured rights to the book and published it on their own wrapping it in their own perspective of how Ron was killed by OJ. Insane book, like everyone knows he did it, and he pretty much wrote out word for word how it was all done.
26. Where There’s Smoke by Jodi Picoult 70 pages This was 2 short stories put together in a single book. I mean, they were well written of course, but I hate short stories. I feel like I don’t get enough of the story out of them.
27. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 608 pages. This is the story of a young girl who lived during WW2 Germany, told from the perspective of death. When she’s very young she is traveling with her mother and brother. Her brother dies on the train on the way and she is left with foster parents just outside of Munich. It’s her story of how she not only has to figure out how to cope with the loss of her own family, but she also has to figure out how to live in a time that is in complete upheaval. Then one day a stranger comes to the door, it is a Jewish man that her foster parents agree to house and hide in secret. It’s an interesting insight into what it was like to be a child in Germany during WW2 when the expectation was to shun the Jews and to join the Hitler youth. The story was a bit on the long side and felt to me more like a collection of vignettes that pulled together into the larger novel.
That’s it for May. 27 books read so far and 9033 pages.
28. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult 464 pages. This one was so so for me. I mean, of course it was very impeccably written, but the story was kind of meh. Paige took off from home at age 18, moved to the Boston area. She met and married her husband who is an up and coming star cardiac surgeon. They have a kid, but then she figures out she never really had a life before she married and had a child. She doesn’t feel she has a sense of being a mother because her own mother left when she was about 5. So she leaves her husband and sets off to find her own mother in an effort to get the complete picture of who she herself is. Honestly, this story didn’t really speak to me that much. Like if you were too young to have a kid then don’t get married and have a kid, you know?
29. Lucky by Marissa Stapley 256 pages. Lucky’s dad is a con artist. She spent her entire live living lie after lie with him so they could earn money stealing from others. Then she has to go on the run because the last con she and her boyfriend ran ended with a national manhunt for them. The problem is, though, she bought a lottery ticket and she won the big prize. But she can’t redeem the ticket because she’s a wanted fugitive. She goes on a quest to find her birth mother to see if she can trust her enough to cash in the ticket for her. Kind of a crazy story with lots of twists and turns that could only come from being a con artist your entire life. This one was a standout read for June 2022 and a top read for 2022.
30. That Night by Amy Giles 320 pages I started reading this one right after the mass shooting at the Uvalde Texas elementary school. Jess and Lucas are teenaged survivors of a mass shooting at a movie theater in their Queens New York neighborhood. Jess lost her brother Ethan and Lucas lost his brother Jason. This book takes us through how the both of them are coping with this extreme trauma and loss. Jess takes on managing her household while her mother spirals into severe depression while Lucas copes with wondering why Jason was killed and he was spared. An incredibly powerful story of how the aftermath of a shooting devastates the ones who have survived it. This was a standout read for June 2022.
31. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult 432 pages Katie is an Amish woman who gave birth to a child in a barn. Nobody in her community knew she was pregnant and nobody knew she’d had the baby. Then the baby randomly died and she is accused of murdering the baby. The story takes us through the trail and sheds a lot of light on life in the Amish community. A good story but too long.
32. That Night by Cyn Balog 320 pages. This was kind of a messed up story. Hailey, a teenage girl, is mourning the death of her boyfriend Declan. The story was told back and forth past and present. In the present she is grieving and trying to remember what happened to him, but in the past we lead up to what actually happened to him. Super weird story I got kind of annoyed after awhile when I realized she didn’t remember what happened.
33. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens 411 pages This one was crazy. Annie is a real estate agent running an open house. The last visitor to the open house came to see the house, supposedly, but put a gun to her back and got her into his van. He took her to an isolated cabin where she was locked in without windows and made to live there with him as his “wife.”She ended up living there for about a year when she finally managed to escape.She gets back to her old life and of course is incredibly traumatized by the experience and struggles to figure out how to get back to whatever normal she can muster. The problem is, though, that she still doesn’t exactly know why she was taken and she figures out who was behind her abduction. And it is crazy pants. Obsessed! This was a standout read for June 2022.
And that’s it for June. 33 books read, and 11,236 pages read.
34. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 512 pages Ruth is a very experienced labor and delivery nurse, and she’s black. The story starts when she’s doing a routine exam of a newborn when she gets a funny vibe off of the parents. Turns out they are white supremacists and are very angry that a black woman is handling their newborn son. She is told by her boss to stay away from that family, and a note is placed on the baby’s chart that no African American medical staff are to handle that baby. But when she’s in the nursery the baby is distressed and she tries to help and the baby died. So then they accuse her of killing their baby and she goes on trial. But we all know it’s bullshit, but she gets accused of murder. This was a super interesting look inside the white supremacist movement, I mean, you don’t feel sympathetic for them by any stretch, but still an interesting look. This was a standout read for July 2022 and a top read for 2022.
35. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult 478 pages Sage is a baker who is grieving the loss of her mother. She attends a grief support group where she meets Josef, an elderly German man. They become friends and then he asks her to kill him to help him finally escape the terrible things he’d done when he was younger. When she asks him what the terrible things were she learns that he was an SS officer during the war and worked at concentration camps and was personally responsible for the death of thousands of people. She doesn’t want to kill him, she wants him extradited to Germany, as her own grandmother survived Auschwitz, and she wants justice done. Super interesting look into the investigation of nazi war crimes and how that all works. Gut wrenching story. This was a standout read for July 2022.
36. The Lake by Natasha Preston 378 pages I found this one puzzling. Two girls go back to the summer camp where they went when they were 7 to be camp counselors. When they were campers they were involved in something traumatic, so they somehow decided that getting a job at the place where the traumatic thing happened was a good idea. It was a silly premise for the book from the get go. Who would go back to the place where the traumatic thing happened and spend the summer being terrorized by the person who knew the truth about the traumatic thing?
37. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult 417 pages Jenna’s a teenager and her mom went missing. When she was very young her Mom and Dad ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. The Dad started to go mad, Mom started an affair with one of the staffers and then there was a murder and Mom went missing. Jenna hires a psychic and a private investigator to help her find her mom, and then the story gets even weirder after that.
38. Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens 418 pages The story starts out with Lindsey leaving an abusive marriage with her young daughter. She makes a life for herself, and then her ex gets out of prison and ends up moving to the same town where she ended up settling down and starting her new life. Then weird things start to happen. She starts to notice things are getting moved in her house, the way he would have moved them and she fears that her ex is terrorizing her, while her daughter is meeting him behind her back. Then we figure out it's not actually her ex who is doing those things and then things blow up for her.
By July 38 books read and 13,439 pages read.
39. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 350 pages This is the story of two black twin sisters, but they are very light skinned. One decides to try to pass for white, and manages to succeed at it and leaves her twin and her life behind to go live as a white woman. The twin left behind is trying to find her sister without any luck, but then her daughter manages to find her. It’s a super interesting insight into what it means to pass as white when you’re black, and whether other people know or not. Made for very interesting discussion at my book club.
40. The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill 296 pages One night Claire starts to hear a very faint hum, and nobody else in her family can hear it. She wonders if she is going crazy hearing this hum when nobody else can. She can’t sleep, she can’t work, it’s destroying her home life because it is driving her absolutely nuts. Then one of her students can hear it too. And they set out on after school excursions to see if they can find the source of the hum, in secret of course because it would be inappropriate for a teacher to be running around like that with a student. Then the student finds more people who also can hear it and they form a support group. The support group is run by a disgraced Virginia Tech professor and the group kind of turns into a cult. The members turn away from their families and destroy their connections in favor of the group because they don’t feel understood anywhere else. As most cult stories, the cops come in to break things up because the families of the members are all freaked out. Fascinating story.
41. Verity by Colleen Hoover 333 pages It’s been a minute since I finished reading this and I am still in WTF mode over it. I am not sure if I liked the actual story, but yet I couldn’t put it down. Lowen is an author who gets an offer she can’t refuse. She enters a contract to ghost write the remaining books in a series by a famous author Verity Crawford. Verity was incapacitated by a terrible car accident and cannot resume her work. The public has no idea this has occurred so Lowen is hired to write the rest. So Lowen moves into the Crawford home in rural Vermont so she can camp out in Verity’s office and soak up all she can so she can write the remaining books when she stumbles upon Verity’s autobiography. What she’s reading is incredibly disturbing about her life as wife and mother in the Crawford family. The she starts to notice suspicious behavior around Verity, is she faking her injuries and can she actually walk and talk? The whole thing is so twisty turny tht I still don’t know what was true. Well done, but WTF.
42. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult 468 pages Josie and Peter are childhood friends until their moms have a falling out. Josie falls in with the popular kids and Peter is the one who was bullied at school from day one back in kindergarten. Then one day in high school Peter shows up to school with guns and shoots up the place and kills 10 kids and teachers. The whole story is about how his bullying went unchecked for his entire life at school and how they’re trying to uncover why 2 guns were present when he only used 1 gun. A multi perspective story of defending a kid who clearly shot up his school, the kid who did it and the girl who feels guilty that she was spared even though she wasn’t a friend to him anymore.
43. Going There by Katie Couric 529 pages. This is the memoir by TV anchor Katie Couric. I admit it’s been a zillion years since I watched the Today show and I didn’t watch CBS nightly news when she was the first woman to anchor nightly news. But I loved her story, she’s honest about her successes and even more honest about her failures. She is a fascinating yet approachable woman.
44. Trejo by Danny Trejio 287 pages I read this on my summer vacation, it’s the memoir of actor Danny Trejo. He was on a fast train to nowhere, drug addicted and a criminal. He served 10 years in the California prison system. Then when he got out he opened several clinics at which addicts could dry out. When an addict he knew was working on a movie set and called him, he went to assist then got cast as an extra on the spot. Then his career playing tough guys in movies took off. Interesting dude. I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022.
45. Reputation by Sara Shepard 383 pages This was written by the same author who wrote Pretty Little Liars. A university gets hacked and everyone’s emails get shared and it’s disastrous. When Kit’s husband is exposed as a cheater he gets murdered and there are so many people who have secrets with him who could have possibly murdered him. So we have to figure out who did it. I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022.
46. Don’t Call it a Cult by Sarah Berman 336 pages. I read this on my summer vacation, it was written by a reporter for Vice about the NXIVM cult. It was all about the women of the cult who made of the DOS women’s group and how it eventually ended up leading to Keith Rainiere getting brought down. Completely insane stuff. I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022. This was also a top read for 2022.
47. The Au Pair by Emma Rous 379 pages I read this on my summer vacation for my book club. Seraphine is a twin, but she kinda feels like she isn’t really a twin, something feels off about her family. After her father dies she starts going through old boxes and finds a weird family photo that starts her unraveling a mystery about her family. She tracks down the au pair who worked for her family when she was born and then things start to get weird and murder-y. Then they figure out the truth about her and her twin and it’s all twisted and crazy. I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022.
48. Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens 376 pages I read this one on my summer vacation and I was completely obsessed with it. Hailey is a teenage girl who lives in rural British Columbia in an area where there’s been a pattern of women getting abducted and killed along a stretch of highway near her town. Her dad just died in an accident. She goes to live with her aunt and uncle, but the uncle is a control freak cop. She learns that he’s involved in some sketchy shit so she decides to live out on her own in a cabin until she’s of age and then can sell her parents’ house and do her own thing. Her best friend helps her fake her death on the highway and she moves into the cabin. But then her new girlfriend gets killed, and now the girlfriend’s sister is trying to figure out who the killer is, all the while Hailey is trying to stay “dead.” I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022.
And that’s it for August. 48 books and 17,176 pages read
49. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf 337 pages. This is the last book I read on my summer vacation. Wylie is a true crime author and she moves into a house in Iowa where a horrific crime took place. Most of a family was killed, the mom and the dad, the daughter escaped and they didn’t know at first what happened to the sun. So the story is written in the braided technique in which there are 3 distinct stories building and you know that they are all going to eventually collide. In Wylie’s story she’s caught alone in this house in a terrible snowstorm when she goes outside and finds a child laying in the snow and she has to figure out who the heck this child is. In one of the other stories it’s told from Josie’s point of view, she was the daughter who survived the shooting. Then in the other there’s a woman and her young daughter who are living trapped in a basement. When the three stories eventually it’s pretty awesome. Great Read. I read this book on my summer vacation in August 2022. This was also a standout read for September 2022.
50. Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult 368 pages I kinda felt like this one dragged on too long. It’s about a prosecuting attorney who prosecutes child molesters, and her son ends up getting molested at church. So she knows what it’s like to have to have to put a child through a trial like that. On the day of the arraignment she whips out a gun and shoots the priest who was accused of the molestation. Then she has to go on trail for murder.
51. Picture Perfect by Jody Picoult 388 pages it starts out with a woman found in a cemetery. She can’t remember her name or anything about herself. A new in town cop takes her in and tries to help her to figure out who she is. Then she figures out she is the wife of a very famous Hollywood actor. Like imagine if Tom Cruise’s wife went missing like this, same kind of thing. She falls back into her life as a Hollywood life and professor of anthropology at UCLA, when she remembers why she ran away. Her husband, Mr. Perfect, is horribly abusive. Who on earth would believe that she is abused by him? Then she has to figure out what to do next when she realizes she’s pregnant. The only answer is to run away and have the baby in secret so he doesn’t know where she is, and he doesn’t hurt the baby while he’s hurting her.
52. Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry 222 pages This one was OK, I found the who dunnit aspect to be completely uneventful. Nora goes to her sister’s house to find she and her dog have been brutally murdered. So Nora of course wants to find out who did it. We get taken on a few rides down the path of this person or that person. But in the end it was kind of meh. Like, I had to rewind it to hear it again because I didn’t understand why the people even killed Rachel.
53. Mercy by Jodi Picoult 513 pages Jamie runs up to his long lost cousin, the chief of police in a small town in Massachusetts and tells him that he murdered his own wife. Then we learn that Jamie’s wife, Maggie, had terminal cancer and was in a lot of pain. She made him promise to end her life when the time came that she couldn’t handle the pain anymore. So this story addresses the issue of assisted suicide and whether Jamie actually murdered Maggie or whether it was helping her with her final wish.
And that’s it for September 53 books and 19,004 pages
54. Miranda Writes by Gail Ward Olmsted 249 pages Gail Olmsted has done it again. Miranda is a former prosecutor who was disgraced off of a high profile case and a rapist went free. Her key witness skipped town at the last minute. Now it’s years later and she has pulled her life back together. She started a legal advice blog and podcast and attracted attention and is on the verge of getting her own syndicated daytime TV talk show. But the rapist on that case is back on trial and the witness who skipped town is back and ready to testify again. She encounters some ugliness with the defense trying to silence her witness again and she learns why that witness took off back then. With all the drama will her producers drop her and not produce her talk show? This was a standout read for October 2022 and a top read for 2022.
55. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult 508 pages This one felt a bit long. A 7 year old girl in New Hampshire claims that she sees God. Then strange things start happening, people around her who are sick are suddenly not sick anymore. Her grandmother had flatlined and somehow was resurrected because this girl was nearby. She’s starting to get attention from it, but her mother, newly single, of course doesn’t want that attention. Of course a custody battle ensues because surely the mother is somehow orchestrating this, but she really isn’t. Very strange story.
56. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult 416 pages This one was about a couple who was dealing with infertility and they divorced. She took up with another woman and married this other woman and decided to use the embryos from her marriage to start a family with the new wife. In the mean time the husband has joined an ultra right wing church and thinks that being gay is a sin. So they end up going to court over the custody of the embryos. He wants to give them to his brother and his wife so they can start their family, while she wants them to start her own with her wife. Custody battle in court ensues. I listened to this as an audio book. They had songs at each chapter for which Jodi Picoult wrote the lyrics. I honestly hated the songs, the singer’s guitar was out of tune and the singer wasn’t so great so I fast forwarded through the songs.
57. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 448 pages This is a Jodi Picoult classic. The idea is that Anna, 13 years old, is suing her parents for medical emancipation. See, Anna is a perfect genetic match for her sister Kate, who has all the cancers and needs transfusions and marrow. Now Kate needs a kidney, but it’s unlikely that the kidney will save her… but what if it does. The thing is, Anna is getting a bit tired of not being able to make the decisions about her body parts for herself, which is why she’s suing her parents. Probably her best ever.
58. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult 464 pages Another legal drama by Jodi. In this one Jack just gets released from prison and decides to try and settle in Salem Falls. He went to prison for sexual contact with a minor, that he didn’t do, but took the plea deal to put it behind him. Then one night he’s drunk and he came across naked teenage girls partying in the woods. One of them accuses him of raping her and of course everyone in the small town believes her over him. The thing is he didn’t do this one either. The thing that kinda bugged me about this story is the unlikely event that Jack would get accused twice like this. I mean, is he so handsome that girls make up rape stories around him?
59. The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto 370 pages Lia gets into an exclusive private high school on a track scholarship. But there she learns about the massive divide between the haves and the have nots, she being a have not. On her first day she witnesses a student punching a teacher out of frustration. Then she learns that the teacher is sleazy and selling high grades to the highest bidder. Of course, being a stodgy institution, nobody believes her and she tries to find proof. That’s when she is physically attacked by the teacher, she defends herself and he dies. A lot is riding on this scholarship, her entire future, and she can’t possibly lose it and get kicked out, or go away for murder. Great book. This was a standout read for October 2022.
60. 14 Ways to Die by Vincent Ralph 361 Pages I was mildly obsessed with this one. Jess is a 17 year old girl who lost her mother to a serial killer, her mother was the first to be killed when Jess was 7. At 17 she gets accepted into a reality show on YouTube on which she can bring attention to the killer, who by that point had killed 13 women. She wants to use her platform in the same way as the Someone Knows Something podcast. She hopes that she can get viewers to examine the people around them and see if they think that the killer is in their midst so she can draw out the Magpie Murderer and catch him once and for all. I think this was a very original story, and very well done. Kept me interested the whole entire time. This was a standout read for October 2022.
And that’s a wrap for October. I’ve read 60 books and 21,820 pages
61. House Rules by Jodi Picoult 548 pages This is the story of Jacob, he’s a highly functioning autistic boy whose social skills tutor is killed. He ends up being a murder suspect. It’s a very in depth look at what it is to have autism, and how he reacts to everything that is happening around him was interesting.
62. Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult 352 pages Meh, I didn’t really like this one. I think I might just be getting burnt out on Jodi. I didn’t really feel like this one had a plot. Wife leaves abusive relationship with husband, they are basically abusing each other. So she leaves with the teenage daughter to go across country to stay with her brother on an apple farm in Massachusetts where she falls for the owner of the apple farm. The thing I didn’t really like about it was that the characters didn’t really change. The other thing I didn’t like about it was the repetitive nature of the story. The same scene would get told three times from the perspective of different characters. And I also didn’t like the time jumping on one scene they were already in Massachusetts and then in the next they were still crossing the country and somewhere in Montana.
63. Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult 438 pages This one was kind of weird. Cara was in a car accident with her dad. She came out of it with injuries but her dad had massive head injuries and was brain dead. Family drama ensues as her long lost brother comes home and wants to terminate Dad’s life because it is what he would have wanted, but Cara does not want to pull the plug. What was weird about this story was that it delved into the story of the Dad. He’s like Steve Irwin, but with wolves, and he spent most of his life with packs of wolves than with his family. Getting to learn about wolves was cool, but the concept of this dude going out into the woods to literally live with a pack of wolves for a year was super weird.
64. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 368 pages Mariana’s niece is going to a prestigious university in England, where one of her friends was murdered. So Mariana goes back to the university, where she also went, to help the niece through this trauma. She gets to investigating the murder on her own. She is absolutely convinced that there is a certain professor who has amassed a group of women students and is kind of a cult leader is the murderer. But she can’t prove it. Pretty interesting with the cult aspect of it. I did get a vibe of who did the murder early on, though I know it was supposed to be a twist. This was a standout read for November 2022.
65. Life on the Ramona Coaster by Ramona Singer 188 pages. Meh. I am kind of fascinated by people who appear on reality TV shows. Not necessarily the shows themselves, but the people who are on them. Why would they open their lives to so much scrutiny like this? So I’ve read a few books by the women who are on the Real Housewives shows. What I am looking for is what it’s like to be on a reality TV show. Not necessarily their life story before the show, but what is it actually like to do reality TV? This book wasn’t about what it’s like to do reality TV, it was about Ramona’s life and a lot about her divorce. I feel weird saying that someone’s life story is meh, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
66. Always Watching by Chevy Stevens 368 pages Nadine is a psychiatrist who works in a hospital. Her newest patient has attempted suicide, and she goes in to start working with her when this patient talks about how someone is always watching her. Turns out this patient was newly escaped from a cult (yay! Cults!) and Nadine is trying to help her figure things out. When the patient ends up committing suicide, Nadine starts having some memories of her own. Turns out when she was a kid herself her mom dragged her and her brother to this same cult. They ended up leaving it, but since then the cult has grown in power. She knows some very untoward things are happening on the cult’s campus, that lead to her patient committing suicide. When Nadine’s own daughter, a drug addict, gets sucked into the cult too she knows she needs to do something about it. Then she starts to remember things that happened while she was there. If she can prove that it happened she can bring down this cult once and for all. This was a standout read for November 2022 and a top read for 2022.
And that’s November. 66 books read and 24,082 pages read.
67. Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult 374 pages. This is the first pandemic related book I’ve read, and it was super interesting. Diana leaves for a dream vacation, without her boyfriend, to the Galapagos just as the pandemic is starting. Her boyfriend is a doctor at a local hospital in NYC and tells her to go on her own. Of course she gets stranded on one of the Galapagos islands as the world shut down. The hotel is closed. The stores are closed. A local woman allows her to stay in an apartment in her house. She starts to meet a few locals and tries to figure out how to do things like get food without any access to money. The internet connection is spotty and she can’t seem to get a connection to get word home. Little by little she falls in love with the place and a man named Gabriel. And then she wakes up and leans that she had contracted COVID and the whole trip was a big dream while she was unconscious. But it was SO REAL! She dreamt months of living in the Galapagos within five days. How is it possible that it never happened? Then she is struggling with whether she even likes her real life now that she’s had a taste of this other life in the Galapagos. A fascinating take on the pandemic for sure. This was a standout read for December 2022 and a top read for 2022.
68. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult 448 pages Delia grew up in New Hampshire with her single father and her two best friends Eric and Fitz. Now that she’s older, she’s engaged to Eric and they have a daughter. Life is normal until she has a strange memory of dancing around a lemon tree and someone called her “grilla.” She talks to Fitz about it, and he, a journalist, does some idle digging. This idle digging creates a crazy chain of events. Turns out Delia’s real name is Bethany and she was kidnapped by her father and taken across country. Her father, and older man by now, is extradited to Arizona and is on trial for kidnapping Delia. All this time she was told her mother was dead, when really she was taken. She learns the truth about her mother back then and why her father thought it best that she be taken away from her mother. A crazy story for sure.
69. The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto 320 pages. I am not sure how I feel about this one. Logan and Delilah go to a private school, and Logan instantly and obsessively falls in love with Delilah. Meanwhile at home Delilah lives with her mom and boyfriend. The boyfriend is physically abusive and all around a complete asshole. One day when he’s working on his muscle car, he tells her to get him a sandwich. When she comes back into the garage she kicked the jack on the car, the car fell on him and crushed him to death. So now she has to hide the fact that she murdered this jerk. But because Logan is obsessed with her he had a camera trained on her house and caught the whole thing. Then it became “if you are my girlfriend then I won’t rat you out.” So then she has to figure out how to get this crazy guy off her back. I am not sure I really liked the ending of this book. This was a standout read for December 2022.
70. Etched in the Sand by Regina Calcaterra 320 pages This is the memoir of Regina Calcaterra, the middle child of 5 children of an incredibly abusive single mother. Interesting story, I love a good phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes story. Though it does make you wonder why the mom was so hell bent on keeping her children when she clearly didn’t even want them. A messed up childhood for sure.
71. You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes 401 pages This is the third out of four books by Caroline Kepnes in the You series. Joe is a creep. He’s a stalker and he obsessively falls head over heels in love to the point where he really is an insane stalker. But the thing is the way she writes him you almost feel sympathetic toward him. He falls in love but he just goes about it the wrong way. In this part of the series he’s moved to Bainbridge Island, just outside of Seattle. He falls in love with a woman named Mary Kay who works at the library where he’s a volunteer. Of course he learns that the people in her life are crappy people, and he’s really really trying hard not to kill them. Ultimately he didn’t kill the two people in her life who died, but it kinda looks like he did. And he has a blackmailer who saw him getting rid of a body. He finally gets what he wants, he gets the girl, and of course there’s more drama because her teenage daughter is also going after him. Caroline Kepnes writes a messed up book.
72. Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens 417 pages Another great one by Chevy. In this one Sara is an older woman with a child of her own. She knows she was adopted by her parents, she’s always known that. But she’s never gone to look for her birth parents for fear of insulting her adoptive parents. She tracks down her birth mother who wants nothing to do with her and literally slams a door in her face. Then she hired a private investigator to track down her birth father. Turns out her mother, now living under an assumed name, was the only survivor of serial killer at large Campsite Murderer. Back in the day the Campsite murderer murdered birth mom’s parents and raped birth mom. Birth mom managed to escape before he could murder her too, but she got pregnant. News about Sara’s connection to the Campsite Murderer got out. Then the murderer contacted her. It got to the point where he would threaten to murder other women if she didn’t answer the phone and talk to him. Then the cops wanted her to keep talking to him so they could try and triangulate his position and catch him. He keeps upping the stakes of wanting to meet her and her daughter, which of course she doesn’t want to do because he’s a serial killer. So she’s in this massive conundrum where she has to always be available to him—without telling anyone else in her family—or he will murder other people. A very suspenseful story. This was a standout read for December 2022.
73. Family of Liars by E. Lockhart 294 pages This one was weird. It was the prequel to We Were Liars, which I’d also read years ago. It’s about the Sinclair family, a very wealthy family, that owns a private island where they spend their summer vacations. On this particular summer Carrie’s cousin brought some boys with her and they spent the summer palling around with these boys. When Carrie gets involved with one of the boys she learns that her sister is also involved with this boy and that’s when the ugly feelings come out. Carrie ends up murdering the boy and covering it up with the help of her sisters.
74. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult 625 pages June Nealon’s second husband and daughter were murdered by Shay Bourne. At the time of the murder she was pregnant with another child. Fast forward years later, Shay Bourne is on death row and the new daughter has major life threatening heart trouble and Shay Bourne is a match to be a heart donor. The story ends up being about whether this family can accept the heart from the man who murdered their family members. It also ends up being about how to execute Shay Bourne in such a way so the heart will be viable to transplant into the child—and whether he even has the right to make such a demand so he can donate his heart to try to make amends.
75. Hunting Charles Manson by Lis Wiehl and Caitlin Rother 334 pages The first half of this book is nothing new if you’ve read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. I thought it was interesting to learn about the descendants of Charles Manson. He had a son and a grandson. Being Charles Manson’s son was incredibly difficult for him. However the grandson reached out to try to get to know his grandfather and had some kind of relationship with him. The familial ripple effect of being related to such a notorious man was very interesting.
And that’s a wrap for 2022. 75 books and 27,615 pages read.
BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.
added on 01.10.23