2022 End of Year Book Survey #AMonthofFaves

December 31, 2022

Prompts, as always, by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 51
Number of Audiobooks: 5
Number of Rereads: 1
Number Unfinished/Abandoned: 1


Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read This Year?

I read a lot of awesome books this year, but I’m going to have to go with The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

The Secret Lives of Church LadiesThe Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is “I read it in one day” levels of amazing. If you’ve ever considered, confronted, or contended with the church and especially what it says about gender and sexuality, this book may be of interest to you. If you are looking for a book with next level writing, this book is definitely for you.

In my creative writing class, I usually give my students free rein to choose whichever short story collection they want to read, but this book is honestly making me want to reconsider that.

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2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Violin ConspiracyThe Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the beginning of this more than the end, though I loved the premise. I appreciated the look at the orchestra world, but there was so much I didn’t understand (why didn’t his mother like him? why didn’t he have a relationship with his younger siblings? just how much money does he make? etc). It honestly became distracting, especially because by himself he…wasn’t that interesting. I mean, the violin was the point, but…yeah.

I did figure out who did it but not exactly how, so that was good. And I was invested enough to finish it, so there is also that.

I will add that the audiobook was recommended to me, but I couldn’t rock with it because I didn’t like the way the narrator did the girlfriend’s voice. Do with that as you will.

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3. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I assigned three different books to my classes this year, two that I had read previously (Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway) and this one that I read for the first time this year.

be/troublebe/trouble by Bridgette Bianca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve never heard bridgette bianca perform her poetry, I highly recommend that you head to her website and check out some of her videos. She is phenomenal, and I was immediately obsessed the first time I saw her at a reading.

So, anyway, I read this book and loved it. I assigned it to my students, and they loved it. Their final projects based on the poems were phenomenal. One student even said it made her want to talk about her culture more because these poems are blackity black black, and that inspired my students to write about their own cultures. So! You may want to read it, too, is all I’m saying.

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4. Favorite cover of a book you read in this year?

Either book covers are getting better or…

 

5. Most memorable character?

  • Emily from The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Daisy Goodnight from Spirit & Dust and Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
  • the mom from August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
  • Ray from The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
  • Sophia from Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
  • Clare from Passing by Nella Larsen

 

6. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book?

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of FreedomTeaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Did you know that this is an available as an audiobook read by none other than Robin Miles? I did not either until I stumbled upon said audio when I looked to see if I had logged what page I stopped at the first time I tried to read this in 2020. I did not, but the library extension showed me there was an audiobook version, so I had to check it out.

Miles’s narration is flawless as usual, and hooks’s writing is accessible. What I liked the most is that even though the book was apparently first published in 1994 (!), it feels and reads very current. The issues hooks discusses are issues we still deal with in the classroom. I wish hooks had community college experience because I would have loved to see how she tackled a lot of these ideas when working at a school where teaching IS the priority.

I seriously cannot believe I waited so long to read/finish this, but I am so glad that I finally did.

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7. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL this year to finally read? 

Texas Gothic (Goodnight Family, #1)Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this one up for spooky season because I knew it would be about the right speed for me based on the Prom Dates from Hell and the other books in the series.

I loved the characters. I would read 100 books about the Goodnight girls/women–or two, since there’s a sequel, so I know what I’ll be reading next–because I was super fascinated by all of their different abilities and the world they inhabited.

The reason this is only three stars is that I found the resolution to the ghost and the mystery both kind of anticlimactic. I mean I like that there wasn’t a huge showdown/fight and I appreciate that it still felt very grounded in reality, but I also wanted a little more, especially as it related to Amy and her particular kind of magic.

There was a running joke about Nancy Drew in here that I found delightful, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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8. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read?

“What if it always is the end of the world?”

From Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

 

9. Shortest & Longest Book You Read?

Shortest:

The ABCs of Black HistoryThe ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is stellar. Not only does it introduce important names, dates, and concepts in the text, but the illustrations are chock-full of important names, dates, and concepts. For example, on the pages devoted to W (for writers, wisdom, words, and worlds), the bookshelf has the names of writers on the spines–and not just children’s book writers. There’s also the backmatter where the terms and figures listed with each respective letter are talked about in more detail, which makes this not just an ABC book but also an excellent reference book for children, caregivers, and educators. It can be used as a springboard for further research and discussion. This is a must for any bookshelf.

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Longest:

The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew this was a book about children with special powers that get kidnapped and “observed” in an institute that wants to exploit those powers. I knew this was a horror novel by Stephen King. Yet SOMEHOW I was shocked that children were tortured. Yeah, I don’t know either.

Anyway, the first third or so of this was rough because of said torture and the only thing keeping me going was knowing that the children would outsmart them somehow, but I almost didn’t push through. Part of that was that I found the children’s dialogue dated and hard to believe which took me out of the novel sometimes. I was rooting for them still, nonetheless.

I read the end pretty quickly, both because I wanted to see how it would end but also because I was ready to be done reading it. However, you all know I will walk away from a book if I don’t like it, so clearly there was something about this that kept me going.

Best quote: “It was so simple, but it was a revelation: what you did for yourself was what gave you the power.”

2.5 stars, rounding up

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10. Book That Shocked You The Most

The Meaning of Mariah CareyThe Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got an Audible account just to listen to this book since the library isn’t carrying it, and I knew I had to listen to Mariah tell it. Because of Jenifer Lewis’s excellent memoir The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir, I also expected that Mariah would probably do a little singing throughout (which she did).

I liked this overall because I learned a lot about Mariah that I didn’t know. The reason I’m giving it four stars is that she didn’t talk about her diagnosis with bipolar II disorder, nor did she say what ultimately made her fall out with her mother. The memoir also jumped around in time in ways that didn’t always follow for me. Also, I know that she loves fashion but some of the description of the clothes and stuff were too detailed when what I wanted was the hot goss.

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12. Favorite Book You Read From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Sea of TranquilitySea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this in a day.

I do not know whether or not the (view spoiler) reveal counts as a spoiler or not because I cannot remember at which point in the novel I read it since the whole thing read so quickly for me. I will say that when it did happen, it felt very satisfying as if it were something I knew all along that had been confirmed–much like the way all the plot threads came together in the end. I also was not annoyed by it, which is a big deal because–as a general rule–I do not like (view spoiler) stories.

I love that this book revisits other characters from St. John Mandel’s other books without playing a game of gotcha to explain that which was unexplained before. It was also fun to read a story that hints at what St. John Mandel must have experienced as a writer who wrote a book about a pandemic only to live through a pandemic. This is just such a lovely, thoughtful book that distills such a grandiose idea into intimate character detail.

Also, Zoey is clearly my favorite character because one thing about me is that I will stan a competent, intelligent woman.

There’s a suggested reading list at the back, which I also appreciated.

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13. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

XX by Ilyasah Shabazz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is stellar.

I have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and seen Spike Lee’s movie so was already familiar with a lot of the information in this story. What Shabazz and Magoon do so well in this book are (a) make such a larger than life figure accessible to teens, (b) do so without ever dumbing down or sanitizing his life, and (c) show the different small, daily decisions that led to him becoming a thief and a hustler and then turning his life around. This was also such a clear example of how one (or many) Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) can impact the mental and physical well-being of a child.

The final message of the book is powerful, and it makes me want to send one to every incarcerated individual I know. For teachers (and parents!), I would say it’s an important read for teen boys, especially “at risk” youth (and aren’t all teen boys at risk???) and should be made available in classroom libraries for independent reading.

The backmatter of the book is also stellar. There’s a note from Ilyasah Shabazz about why this is a novel and not a nonfiction account (instructors, please do not let your students call this a “nonfiction novel,” I beg of you) as well as an explanation of why she chose to tell the story of his life in this way. There’s a timeline of major societal events to provide historical context; a family tree; and a list of further reading about Malcolm X, about Black history, and of other historical fiction. The further reading list is for a mix of reading levels, which makes this an excellent reference book for teens, caregivers, and educators as it can be used as a springboard for further research and discussion.

Last but not least: Perfect cover is perfect. It matches the book so, so well.

Honestly, everything about this book is just so well done.

Some quotes:

The precious minutes I can write become a golden escape.

 

It’s no wonder I can’t win a fistfight. When I was six years old, I took the biggest punch of my life and I haven’t figured out how to get up yet.

 

It does not matter who you think you have been up until now.

 

“Read a book,” he tells me. “You’ll find all the words you ever wanted.”

 

Reading requires stillness.

 

There is nothing, nothing, to distract me…It’s the most maddening kind of nothing, the everything of my head.



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14. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

No Words (Little Bridge Island #3)No Words by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise of this is basically “What if Nicholas Sparks was hot?” and honestly I am here for it.

Anyway, you already know that the more ridiculous a Meg Cabot heroine is the more likely I am to love her, so Jo basically ticked all my boxes. Because whom amongst us has not held a completely justified grudge against someone and then had that filter every single encounter we had with the person?

I loved all the Easter eggs of Things That Have Actually Happened to Authors as well as Jo thinking in some of her character Kitty Katz’s catchphrases. The note at the back says none of the characters are based on real people, but I am choosing to believe that Stephen King and his wife are actually as cool and fun as the extremely popular horror writer and his supportive wife (supportive of all authors!) in the book are.

I will be forever sad that Meg Cabot has no plans to write a book about the teens of Little Bridge Island, but this book is probably the closest we’ll get, so I’ll take it. It’s my fave of the series so far.

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15. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Cassandra Curse (Muse Squad, #1)The Cassandra Curse by Chantel Acevedo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is practically perfect, and I am super bummed to see that it’s only the first of two books. This should be a whole series, nine books minimum (one for each of the muses [obvs]). Sigh.

My only complaint about this book (besides the whole duology thing) is that it follows the trend of the best friend dropping out of the picture once Callie learns about her powers. I can kind of understand why that’s the choice made–and it does play into the climax/resolution of the book–but if we’ve learned anything from Clueless, it’s that adding a third to your group doesn’t diminish the tight bond of the already established BFFs.

There is also a slight pacing issue, but honestly I didn’t even really notice until I had finished the book., and I don’t care (!!!) because Acevedo gets so many other things right.

I love the focus on family, friendship, and mythology. I love, love, LOVE that it’s about the muses and not just because the songs from Hercules kept running through my head. Love the diversity, love the body positivity (Callie is chubby and everyone–except the mean girl–is literally like WHO CARES?), love the glimpses of London, love the message about being cared for (“you are loved, and if you’re loved, you’ll be okay”). Love, love, love, love, love.

4.5 stars, rounding up

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16. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

cw: child rape

The narrator and main character of this book, Amir, witnesses a rape when he’s a child and, honestly, the whole thing upset me so much that I had to put the book aside and then I did something I never do and read spoilers to see if anything else like it would happen again.

So, anyway, I finished the book. And it does have a hopeful ending, so.

This book is well-written and compelling, but it is definitely written for a White/western audience. I don’t necessarily mind foreign words being italicized or even for them to be translated, but I wish it weren’t done so clunkily. There’s one scene where a character says “I love you” in Farsi, followed by the translation in English, and then the other character says IN ENGLISH “I love you, too.” So why did we need that translation? Do context clues mean nothing these days?

I was happy that a character pointed out (FINALLY) that Amir was a child when he witnessed the horrific act and needed to forgive himself for that, but I also wish someone–ANYONE–in the book had suggested therapy just one time. I understand why it wasn’t written that way, but still. I would have appreciated it.

A thing I did appreciate was that the gender double standard was addressed in the text.

Best quote:

The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white.



It’s hard for me to rate this book because I wish I had respected my instinct not to read it (it was a book club pick). However, read it, I did, so rate it, I shall.

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17. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to AmericaHigh on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As this is a history book, I think it’s important to point out that I found the writing in this very accessible. I liked the through line of history by food as it made me think of things I hadn’t considered and, of course, I learned things I didn’t know. The beginning was the hardest part of the book to get through because it includes (necessary) details about the Middle Passage and then slavery. Once those parts were over, the reading got easier, though this was never a book that I would just pick up to read for fun/leisure. Since this was a book club pick, I read about ten minutes per day throughout the course of the month, which was the right amount of time to spend with the book, I think.

My feelings on the information in the book can pretty much be summed up by something Harris quotes her mother saying in one of the opening chapters: “What artistry. What beauty they created for people who thought we were nothing but goods, not even human beings!”

Things I learned that I didn’t know before:
– Hunger strikes were common on slave ships
– Feeding time was also the most common time for revolts to happen
– Catering as a profession was invented by a Black man (no surprise, really, but I still didn’t know it)
– Robert Roberts wrote one of the first books by an African American to be issued by a commercial press
– The cook on cattle drives also often acted as doctor and dentist
– The first woman to have a cooking show was a Black woman named Lena Richard
– Chicago was founded by a Black man (I definitely should have known this already)

Also let’s not forget that Black people aren’t magic because we want to be but because we’ve had to be. To whit:

Thomas Ruffin, a former North Carolina slave who was interviewed by the Works Progress Administration, remembered “We used to dig up dirt in the smokehouse and boil it dry and sift it to get the salt to season our food with. We used to go out and get old bones that had been throwed away and crack them open and get the marrow and use them to season the greens with.”



Honestly, the whole book was just a reminder that the only thing we know for sure that white people of that time invented was chattel slavery and race.

This was an interesting way to learn history, and I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in food, culinary history, or Black history (aka American history).

I did find that there was a shift in the writing style near the end that didn’t sit well with me, which is why I’m giving it 4.5 stars, rounding down.

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