TOP PICKS: My Favorite Books and Audiobooks of 2022
This is my 11th list since starting Ana’s Attic, and 3 authors on this list have been on all of them: Tara Sivec, Colleen Hoover and Kristen Ashley.
This year I had four 5++++ Star books and six 5 star books. After that are seven books that were almost 5 stars but some small thing held me back. I had a number of 4.5 Star books you should absolutely check out as well.
I would love to see your favorites! Please let me know in the comments below.
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“Depression,” she goes on, “is a liar. If it will tell you no one loves you, that you’re not good enough, that you’re a burden or, in the most extreme cases, better off dead, then it can certainly convince you that you’re better off without the man you love, and that, ultimately, he’s better off without you.”
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan is mature, emotional, so sexy, and so raw. It deals with family, love, kids, divorce, loss, healing, therapy, friendship and so much more. I couldn’t stop reading, yet I wanted to slow down so it wouldn’t end. It’s been a really long time since a book made me feel like this. It made me think and reevaluate a lot in my life and convinced me to seek therapy for myself. But beyond that, Before I Let Go is an unputdownable story that you can’t help but love. This will not only top my best of 2022 list, but my all-time favorite list as well. As soon as the audible releases, I will be grabbing it for a re-read that way*.
*Update: I listened to the audiobook the day it came out. Wesleigh Siobhan, the female narrator, had a much younger, more immature voice than I had in my head. She just didn’t sound old enough to have lived as much as Yasmin. Jakobi Diem was perfect and exactly the voice I had in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the audible, but I recommend reading over listening for this title. I think it just hits harder.
Purchase Before I Let Go:
Narrated by Caitlin Kinnunen
*Published in 2021
“In the Cone family, there was no such thing as containment. Feelings were splattered around the household with the intensity of a spraying fire hose. I was terrified of what I might witness or hear tonight. But along with that terror, my fondness for the Cones only grew. To feel something was to feel alive. And to feel alive was starting to feel like love.”
Mary Jane a character-based coming-of-age story from the POV of 14-year-old Mary Jane in 1975. Make no mistake though, this is an adult book. I was 8 in 1975, but with two older sisters, I remember a lot of the pop culture of the times, and I loved all the references.
Caitlin Kinnunen was phenomenal in Mary Jane and her narration absolutely contributed to this 5+ star rating. Audiobook listeners even get a special treat of an original song at the end.
I don’t want to forget Mary Jane, though I will absolutely listen to it again, so my review is a little long. I am DYING to see what this young girl (and Izzy) grows up to be and I so hope that Jessica Anya Blau considers writing a sequel. Though I think any adult would enjoy Mary Jane, if you were alive in the 70s I would say it’s a must-read. I’ve been recommending it to my friends and family like crazy.
Purchase Mary Jane:
“When you see the darkness, it makes you appreciate the light.”
This is the last in the Tattered and Torn Series by Catherine Cowles, and though this is the one with 5++++ stars, the rest are all 5, 4.75 or 4.5 stars.
I cannot recommend Catherine Cowles enough, especially the Tattered and Torn Series. Not only are they the prettiest books on my shelves, but some of my favorites. Fractured Sky could not have been a more perfect end to the amazing series, and it’s a perfect example of what romantic suspense should be. There is not one thing I would change, it surpassed all my hopes and expectations. I can’t wait for the start of her new series in January, with Whispers of You.
Purchase Fractured Sky:
All the books in this series belong on this list, the full series released in 2022, and it’s my SERIES OF THE YEAR
The entire Summersweet Island Series by Tara Sivec is one of my favorites (all of Tara’s books are, that’s why she has been on every year’s list.) With This Fling is my favorite of the series because it’s about a sexy couple in their fifties! While this may be able to stand alone, I think a lot of the humor will go over your head if you don’t read in order.
“It’s called hot flashes, Dean. Don’t judge me.”
“Oh, I’ll give you hot flashes.”
Nobody else but Tara Sivec can make me literally laugh out loud and bawl my eyes out at the same time. The Summersweet Island family is all a little OTT, but I can’t tell you how happy this series makes me. I look for books with older couples, so I’ve read a good number of them, but this portrayal actually felt the most real of any to me. Dean and Laura have lived nice lives all along, but when they realize how much better it is together, magic happens. Tara did the impossible and took a normal people in their fifties and Summersweetened them.
Purchase With This Fling:
“Do you like fisting in the rain?”
Let me tell you, this book was funny, sweet, and silly, but it also brought the HEAT! I swear, I needed a cigarette after one scene. Ryan may be a nerd in the streets, but he’s a freak in the sheets! Lest you think Spare Me is all fun and games, there was definitely some angst that just about killed me.
Purchase Spare Me:
“She thinks this bar is the only reason I came back to Harvest Grove after that first year and repeated the process for the next five. She has no idea it’s all because of the girl with the Halloween headband, whose face shined like the sun when she talked about pumpkin lights.”
Stop Ghosting Me is another hysterical fall romance from my favorite romcom author, Tara Sivec. Harvest Grove is the perfect Halloween small town, and the friends-to-lovers slow-burn storyline made me laugh, swoon, and giggle some more. I loved every second of Stop Ghosting Me, it’s like Tara knows me and loves me and writes exactly what I love.
Narrated by Stacy Gonzalez and a Full Cast
Standalone with some crossovers from other TJR Novels
“No matter how good I was on the court, I was never good enough for the public. It wasn’t enough to play nearly perfect tennis. I had to do that and also be charming. And that charm had to appear effortless.”
OHMYGOD. The narration was FANTASTIC. Stacy Gonzalez was definitely a part of why I loved this book so much. You would totally think it’s a duet because her Javier was so good that I was able to picture him. All of the different sportscasts with intro music done by all different voices including some tennis greats just added to the already phenomenal listen. I highly recommend listening to this one. In this case I don’t think I would have loved it nearly as much reading it over listening, because the listen was such a big part of the experience.
The Down & Dirty:
I’ve never written a review so fast. This all poured out of me because I am still blown away by the fact that this non-tennis fan loved this all-tennis book so much. This was a great way to round out “The Famous Four” (Daisy Jones, Evelyn Hugo, Nina Riva from Malibu Rising & Carrie Soto), and though nothing can beat Daisy Jones for me, Carrie Soto comes close. I loved that Carrie Soto is Back tackled so many issues women in sports face, especially women of color. This powerful story really illustrated the costs of greatness, and the sacrifices one needs to make in order to make it to the top. Carrie Soto is Back is a book I shouldn’t have loved: I don’t like sports and I insist on loving the heroine. But I grew to love her and the tennis kept me on the edge of my seat.
Purchase Carrie Soto is Back:
Narrated by Brittany Pressley and Ryan West
“It was a stark realization that no matter how much you love someone, you can still do despicable things to them.”
Reminders of Him is about redemption, it’s about forgiving others and forgiving yourself. It’s about the consequences of one mistake. It’s about motherhood and family, both by blood and found. It’s about second chances. I loved every second of it.
My overall response after finishing Reminders of Him was to start telling everyone to buy this book right away. I jumped on Facebook and said it was a 5-star masterpiece. I texted my friends and I finished it the day it came out, I NEVER do that. Then when I sat down to write my review I began to notice a few little things that I didn’t love about the book. I never give 5 stars to a book that has anything in the dislikes column, but in this case, I think I should go with that initial gut reaction, and despite not loving every single thing, Reminders of Him is still another CoHo masterpiece that left me in awe.
Purchase Reminders of Him:
Seatmate is an audio-only standalone. The first two, Call Me Maybe and Sweet Talk were on last year’s list, and I loved this just as much, if not more.
The full cast narration and the production of this “audioplay” is what made Seatmate a 5-star read for me. The storyline was cute and I loved the characters, but it wasn’t a deep, epic romance, it was a sweet and fun novella. Listening to it with headphones made it a full experience, and Amanda Ronconi and Zachary Webber felt so natural. I really felt like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation, and it just made Seatmate by Cara Bastone another 5 star favorite.
“Yes, she was fantasizing about ripping both of her weapons through his heart while he was feeling things he’d only heard of before, but who said romance was perfect?”
The Other Half of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost was everything I could have dreamed of. I was nervous, because I’ve read a few other books that totally changed my opinion of the hero after reading their pov (and not in a good way). I was glad I went into this without a recent re-read of Halfway to the Grave (until after) because I wasn’t comparing the two, and The Other Half of the Grave felt fresh and new. I loved reading this almost as much as I loved reading the first book so many years ago, and that’s saying a lot, because I have read thousands of books since, and it still remains a favorite. If you are a fan of Cat and Bones, or you just want to start a new series, I 100% recommend The Other Half of the Grave.
Purchase The Other Half of the Grave:
Series Orders: There are spin-off series about other characters that intersect with the main series. Personally I would recommend reading the first two in the original Night Huntress Series before reading The Other Half of the Grave because there is a book 2 spoiler at the end.
“Nothing is permanent, Alex. Not peace. Not happiness. Not joy…”
Also not permanent?”
“Heartbreak. Or pain. Or fear.”
“Once you understand that everything comes and then it goes, you learn to take the leap.”
Taking the Leap by Kristen Ashley is my favorite book she has written in a while. It very much focuses on Alex and Rix and it didn’t feel like I had to remember a ton of other characters. I loved their chemistry and how perfect they are for each other. Their family interactions brought a lot of growth and depth to the narrative and we didn’t need any huge standout drama scenes like kidnapping to enjoy every second of this tale.
The story itself stands alone well, but you really need to read the ones before for the full picture. Even if you didn’t love them and were ready to bow out of this series, Taking the Leap will help you to rethink that, it is by far the best.
Purchase Taking The Leap:
See my Complete Guide to Kristen Ashley for all the reading orders and couple names
“HYPOTHESIS: Adam Carlsen and I have absolutely nothing in common, and having coffee with him will be twice as painful as a root canal. Without anesthesia.”
OK, I admit it. The Love Hypothesis lived up to all the hype. I absolutely loved the smart, slow-burn romance that subtly addressed a lot of issues without ever banging you over the head with them. This is one of those books you might be able to recommend to even the non-romance reader even though it’s very much a romance. It’s strange, if I pick The Love Hypothesis apart, I can find so many things for my dislike column; but this book just had that ‘something special’ that just made you feel good and fall right in love with the characters.
Purchase The Love Hypothesis:
Narrated by Julia Whelan and Robin Miles
*Published in 2017
**Soon to be a movie on Netflix
“I spent half my life loving her and the other half hiding how much I loved her.”
I waffle back and forth on this rating because I want to scream “FIVE STAR READ!” to anyone who will listen. But something is holding me back. It wasn’t an easy read, and I kind of had a love/hate relationship with Evelyn, but holy hell, did she earn my respect. She was ruthless and sacrificed so much on her way to the top. She used her body (or people’s reactions to it) to get what she wanted but was never able to stop hiding her true self enough to enjoy it.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is such a layered story, and it’s an important one. There are messages and themes running throughout to embrace all of yourself, and it shows what women have had to do throughout the years to get ahead. It’s filled with brilliant social commentary without ever hitting you over the head with it. It’s light at times, heavy at others, but engrossing the whole time. This is a book I am happy to recommend to anyone looking for a great book without asking any qualifying questions (like do you read smut?).
Purchase The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo:
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
I read Where The Crawdads Sing before I saw the movie. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, WOW. I loved the movie, but of course the book was better.
“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no else would.”
In my opinion, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens lives up to the hype. I can see though, why some people say the book wasn’t for them. Where the Crawdads Sing starts slow and there isn’t much dialog, but if you can get through that, the story becomes completely riveting and beautiful and is so worth pushing through. When I finished it, I just knew it was a book that would stick with me.
Purchase Where The Crawdads Sing:
Narrated by Miranda Raison and Pandora Sykes
“Sometimes I think,” she said slowly, “that if a man were to spend a day being a woman in America, he wouldn’t make it past noon.”
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is very much a feminist story and doesn’t try to hide it. Though it took me a little while to get into, I was soon sucked in and totally invested in Elizabeth Zott and her daughter and dog. You need to suspend belief for this book that takes place in the 50s and 60s, it’s an over-exaggerated chronicle of the times and women’s place in science, business and the home, but it certainly packs a punch! I loved this even more after I finished and looked at all my bookmarks. I’m so excited to see the AppleTV series based on Lessons in Chemistry and see Brie Larson bring Elizabeth Zott to life.
Purchase Lessons in Chemistry:
Despite all the misgivings listed in my review, I really loved reading Pen Pal. I am now going to look through JT Geissinger’s back catalog because I’d like to read more from her. Pen Pal is completely out-of-the-box and was a really fun surprise for me. I haven’t had a mindfuck like that in a long time. My initial thoughts after reading was 5 wild stars, but as I went back to my notes and reread parts for my review, I realized I had too many questions and little things that bugged me to give a full 5 stars. Still, I wholeheartedly recommend this for people who will keep an open mind.
Purchase Pen Pal:
Take a look at the 4.5 Star reads for more suggestions!
Check out these lists from the previous 10 years: