Books in 2022

How long will it take me to read this stack of books?

Reading in 2022 is going rather well. On January 10, I began reading my third book for the year. At this great start, I’ll need to double or triple my TBR pile. We shall see!

As I finish a book and publish each review, I’ll be updating this page. I hope you will enjoy these book pages, and possibly find a book which you’ll love reading as much as I have.

Please note: Full reviews are available online where the books are available for view (usually Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, and Goodreads).


January

FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOR US

J.F. Aguilar

Great; recommended.

Genre: Fiction; young adult.

My Review: A coming of age story with a twist…. “For You, For Me, For Us” is the first Youth/Young Adult genre I have read in years. From beginning to end, it is mind- and heart-capturing. Not many stories make me cry, but this one got me. It is a book not only of young love and hopes and dreams but of discipline and determination and integrity. Jason is an oldest, off to college, and on his own for the first time in his young life. He has a dream and sets his sights on accomplishing not only membership in a favorite fraternity, but also in winning the hand and honor of the girl of his dreams – the girl with the pretty eyes. Will he achieve his goals? Will their new love last? Or will a bad feeling on both their parts spell the end? You will want to read this short, but power-packed, story to learn the quirky way these two met, how they support one another, and if they get to share their love into the future.


WIDOWISH: A MEMOIR

Melissa Gould

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; grief.

My Review: Every person who has lost a partner should read this memoir…. Widowish was a fast-paced, gripping and compelling story of loss, love, and life after. I was amazed at how Melissa was able to come through the storm of her loss to a place of renewal and self-discovery. And being that I lost my daddy when he was 50 and I was 17 1/2, I could relate just a little bit to her daughter, Sophie. I kept waiting for her cool façade to crack, just as mine had about a year after my daddy’s passing. I was happy to read how they both, as wife and daughter, came to that place of realization that Joel would always be with them – in mind, heart, and spirit. It was an honor and privilege to share in reading and pseudo-experiencing Melissa’s story. It was good to finish out her memoir knowing that she was able to find a new love who felt comfortable with letting her continue to hold her first love close to her core – always.


ANNIE AND THE WOLVES

Andromeda Romano-Lax

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; historical.

My Review: A gripping and thought-provoking read….I was intrigued from the start of this book, even though I’m not much of a historical fiction fan. I have always enjoyed books written from the different characters’ viewpoints, and this one did not disappoint. I was also fascinated by the back and forth between the past with Annie and the present with Ruth. Not understanding the connection at first, but then grasping how the lives of these two were intertwined. A reminder of how events of the past affect the on-going future; and how we in the present, studying not just the past of other times but our own past, can affect not just our future but that of others by the choices we make every day – whether we act on our cues (or senses) or even in the turning of a blind eye. Reading this book, with all its complexity, will stay with me – as I’m sure it will with you should you decide to read it. Kudos to the author for achieving a book worth reading.


WHOLE: A Leg Up on Life

Kendra Herber

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; physical impairments.

My Review: Written with positivity and humor….Kendra’s story was a joy to read. Determined is the word that comes to mind when I think of Kendra and her desire to be accepted as an amputee and as a whole person. She brought so much down-to-earth feeling to her book, with her honesty and openness of what it’s like not to be like everyone else. I admired how she was always striving to be treated as an equal, going above and beyond not just in her competitiveness in sports but also in her upbeat attitude in general. I believe her book will go a long way in helping other amputees not feel so alone in their own journey, as well as helping those without the struggles of a missing limb to be more compassionate and empathetic.


February

Get Published in Literary Magazines

Allison K. Williams

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; writing.

My Review: Wonderful tips for any writer looking to improve their skills….This was such an easy book to read. Allison has a fun writing style which made turning each page and reading each chapter fly by. Interestingly, I have this same title as an eBook. Since I’m not familiar with highlighting and bookmarking pages in Kindle, I got myself a paperback so I could highlight, dog-ear, and make notations, as I went along. My plan is to work my way back through this book and apply as many of Allison’s amazing and shared writing experiences, ideas, and suggestions toward my further writing success. If you’re new to writing, or are having difficulty knowing how to get published, I highly recommend this book. Allison has a successful writing career, and even though we haven’t officially met, I consider her a mentor worth following – not just on social media but especially in writing skill.


AFTER PERFECT: A NOVEL

Maan Gabriel

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; city life.

My Review: A story of life after “perfect”…. I adored this book and didn’t want this story to end. The author did a wonderful job of capturing her characters’ vulnerabilities. Filled with hope, second chances, and possibilities, her story pulled me in and kept me turning its pages. My takeaway: When love finds you, as it did with Gabby and Colt, there is always a way back to each other, even in the worst of misunderstandings.


SHOOTING OUT THE LIGHTS

Kim Fairley

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; marriage.

My Review: A memoir that reads like fictions…. I was fascinated with the title of this book long before putting it on my TBR list and finally reading it. Not long into the book, I would double- and triple-check to see if it was really a memoir and not fiction. Kim wrote in a way that put me right there in the story with her, feeling her angst and rooting for her. I was so mesmerized by her head thoughts, as she talked about her life, being married to Vern, and the time that Stan came to live with them. I understood her need, as an oldest, to control certain situations. And I liked seeing her mature, as she began to let her husband handle their home life. I also loved that she included an epilogue on how she tried to understand Stan better, and then realized she no longer had a need to know.


KILLER CONTENT: A Brooklyn Murder Mystery

Olivia Blacke

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; mystery.

My Review: A mystery that kept me guessing to the end…. Shortly after finishing Killer Content, I realized I was smiling. It was great to read a book, just for fun, that wrapped up nicely without a whole lot of drama or any loose ends. The mystery genre has been a long-time favorite of mine dating back to Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, and Alfred Hitchcock. I loved how Odessa just wouldn’t give up on finding who did it. And I was pleased that the author did such a great job of keeping it a secret. I’m pretty good at solving mysteries. So, I was definitely surprised to find out who the culprit was and impressed to be so stumped by the author. And, yes, I’m still smiling.


March

LIVING IN HEAVEN’S EARTH: A Poet’s Ascent Through Sacred Spaces of the Soul

Mary Olivia Patiño

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; poetry.

My Review: Living on Heaven’s Earth!….Living In Heaven’s Earth is a wonderful collection of stirring poems, ideal for morning or evening reflection. If you are looking to be inspired, this book is it. The writer inspires you with beautiful descriptions of her love for God and Christ. Through her encouraging style, she guides you to a deeper sense of your own love and faith, as you live out life in God’s graces. Living In Heaven’s Earth will bring you to those sacred spaces in your soul that you may not even be aware of – yet.


GROUP: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

Christie Tate

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; mental health.

My Review: A memoir with vulnerability in every word….I commend Christie Tate for telling her story with such rawness and vulnerability and in such an engaging way. I admire anyone who has the courage to join group therapy; in Christie’s case, I could only think about how brave and how desperate she was to open herself up to a group of strangers like she did. And my heart ached for her to find her happy place. If you’re struggling with finding your way to yourself and your dreams, read this book. It does cover the author’s sexual encounters which show the extent of her low self-esteem and deep desire to be loved. But when you read her journey in its entirety, you’ll feel you can relate in your own search for true love, the love of a partner – and of yourself.


PRIDE AND PREMEDITATION: A Jane Austen Murder Mystery

Tirzah Price

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; historical mystery.

My Review: A “Murder She Wrote” at its finest….Tirzah Price did a wonderful job of keeping the plot of her book flowing and interesting. With this, she has won me over as a fan of period pieces, never before a favorite genre. Being a huge mystery buff since grade school though and fancying myself on being able to figure out the who, what, and why before being revealed, I was quite impressed with the author’s ability to make her story moderately difficult to figure out. The interaction between the main character, Lizzie, and the book’s supporting characters, including her parents, Jane, Charlotte and Collins, Wickham, and Darcy were a pleasure to follow along with. This book has me looking forward to the next two books in her series.”


BRAT: AN 80s STORY

Andrew McCarthy

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; actor biography.

Note: Book link is for signed copies at Books-A-Million (BAM!).


My Review: A look into the world of an 80s heartthrob….This book was enlightening. I found the actor’s journey similar to my own in that he didn’t really know what he wanted to be when he grew up, not being academic-minded or into sports. It was curious how he was drawn to acting and so determined to be good at it, more interested in the art of it rather than the income. The behind-the-scenes snippets he shared of the movies he starred in were amusing, encouraging me to watch those I hadn’t seen yet. Now that I’ve read his 80s story, I appreciate Andrew McCarthy much better as an actor, a director, and a person. I admire how he chose to pave his own path in the acting world, despite setbacks, struggles with alcohol and loneliness, and the search for true friendship. Whether you’re an 80s kid or not, you’ll enjoy this moving coming-of-age narrative written with honesty and compassion for his younger self trying to find his place in this world.”

Book Quote: “I can’t say that I prayed, but I’ve never forgotten standing in solidarity with a group of strangers that afforded me both the relief of anonymity and the intimacy of connection.” ~Andrew McCarthy, brat: an ’80s story (page 51)


THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY

Freya Sampson

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; contemporary women.

My Review: A book worth cozying up with….The author does a great job of showing us how libraries – and the possible lack thereof – impact our communities. Other than a little difficulty with a few English phrases, this book was absolutely cute and, at the same time, educating. Not only does it show its readers how libraries positively affect our lives, but it also gives us insight into how libraries help the homeless, those grieving, and those seeking higher education. This book shares with us how otherwise ordinary people are brought together for a common good. Through a desire to save the Chalcot Library, its patrons – and others from nearby communities – learn to communicate with each other and to support one another as they unite to save the fate of their beloved last chance library. Well done, Freya Sampson.”

Book Quote: “….Libraries aren’t just about books. They’re places where an eight-year-old boy can have his eyes opened up to the wonders of the world, and where a lonely eighty-year-old woman can come for some vital human contact. Where a teenager can find precious space to do her homework and a recently arrived immigrant can find a new community. Libraries are places where everyone, rich or poor, wherever they come from in the world, can feel safe. Where they can access information that will empower them.” ~Freya Sampson, (June), The Last Chance Library (page 270-271)


April

ALWAYS LOOKING UP: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

Michael J. Fox

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir.

My Review: A book as upbeat as its author….Everyone loves Michael J. Fox, or so I thought before reading this book. With honesty and brevity, Michael talks about how life for him changed with Parkinson’s Disease. Leaving his life as part of Spin City, not knowing what his future would hold. Then, finding himself in the world of politics as he fought for research and optimistically worked toward that goal, not just for himself but for every other person with Parkinson’s, and having to deal with insensitive people who don’t understand diseases and how they work to limit a life, often with excruciating and unexplainable pain or side effects of the medications used to treat the symptoms of the disease. You will enjoy this heart-warming memoir of a young man full of life, faith, love for his family, and an incurable optimism – even in the direst of situations.

Book Quote: “I’ve always dreamt big.” ~Michael J. Fox, Always Looking Up (page 276)


ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Jennifer Niven

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; young adult; mental health.

My Review: A book of loss, survival, and learning to cope….This book, as sad as it is in parts, is a feel-good and yet riveting story about finding oneself even in the face of deep loss and was engrossing from the start. Being a teenager once and experiencing the angst of trying to “find” myself, it was fascinating to read the viewpoints of Violet and Finch, both struggling with depression. The author did an outstanding job of depicting what it feels like to go through the grief of losing someone close and that of dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. Jennifer was sensitive and real in her telling of Violet’s and Finch’s stories, similar and yet different, as they struggled with trying to fit in, find a place in their world, and overcome their gripping feelings of insecurities and doubt, not knowing who to turn to for help in understanding these voluminous feelings without being treated with kid gloves. A story so powerful! I highly recommend taking time to read it.

Book Quote: “Your hope lies in accepting your life as it now lies before you, forever changed. If you can do that, the peace you seek will follow.” ~Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places; now a Netflix movie (page 248-249)


DEPRESSION HATES A MOVING TARGET: How Running With My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink

Nita Sweeney

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; running; mood disorders.

My Review: A book about running, depression, and achieving your goals….I’m in total agreement with Nita Sweeney on how depression hates a moving target. And I’m in total awe of her fortitude to keep running, despite a “wonky ankle” and a head thoughts which don’t always cooperate with our goals. As Nita mentions several times in her memoir, our minds can play tricks on us making us believe things which aren’t true and keeping us from succeeding at something we love doing. Just the fact that Nita keeps getting up and keeps putting one foot in front of the other, proves that fitness is good for our mental state and overall wellbeing. And every day that Nita runs is a day closer to reaching her short-term and her long-term running goals. Today, Nita encourages others to run, through continued running and her down-to-earth writing, and to kick depression to the curb. If you are on the edge about jogging, running, or any other form of fitness, this book will inspire you to “just do it.

Book Quote: “If I, an overweight fifty-year-old with chronic depression, manic episodes, anxiety, hypochondria, and a wonky ankle could do it, anyone [can].” ~Nita Sweeney, Depression Hates a Moving Target (page 244)


THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

Adam Silvera

Good; .

Genre: Fiction; young adult; death and dying; men’s relationships.

My Review: Futuristic, yet thought-provoking….I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. And once I was a fourth, a third, or halfway through, I wasn’t sure I’d finish reading it. The idea that a company could know our last day alive seemed too outlandish to me. I “get” the author’s philosophy about how nice it would be to have twenty-four hours to say I love you, seek reconciliation, and say goodbye. However, the odds that a person, instead of doing that or spending their time doing the one thing on their bucket list they always wanted to do, would more than likely fritter away their time wondering how they would die and not use their last few hours wisely. Once I was about two-thirds, three-fourths of the way in, I found the roles of the supporting characters intriguing and compelling. My final thought is how interesting that the one place Mateo felt the safest is the one place he should never have returned to. So, in the end, would it really matter to know when our last day is or not – if the one place we should be safest is the one place we end up dying.

Book Quote: “We all die at the end. Every single one of us. But…how we die, or the fact that we die isn’t the point at all. I can’t spoil the answer for this next question, but I hope it’s one we keep on our minds daily: How did we live?” ~Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End (page 379)


IF YOU ASK ME (AND OF COURSE YOU WON’T)

Betty White

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; actor biography.

My Review: Filled with Betty’s spirit and humor….Betty wrote like she speaks, and I love that she wrote this book by hand. Her book was such an easy read which I finished in less than two days but could have done so in a few short hours. Her humor and no-nonsense approach to life is wonderful and refreshing. I would highly recommend reading it, simply for its thought-provoking overall feel that life really is simpler than we make it.

Book Quote: “If you’ve ever lost a loved one, or witnessed it, you can’t help but see that the body is an envelope for the letter.” ~Betty White, If You Ask Me…But of Course You Won’t (page 258)

Please note: Betty White passed away on December 31, 2021. She was a wonderful entertainer; full of energy, humor, and insight. I encourage you to visit her IG account (still being maintained and updated in her memory). Wonderful photos!


DOUBLE STALK

Ann Snuggs

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; mystery; suspense.

My Review: A book that keeps you guessing to the end….A book that is wonderfully written with a character-driven plot, so lots of dialogue – which I love, and that keeps you guessing almost until the end. When one stalk begins, almost as a joke, it leads to the revealing of another, making a person wonder if things in real life actually do happen for a reason. If you love mysteries with suspense and some romance mixed in, you’ll love this quick read. I finished this book in three days but could easily have read it in less than one day. Best of all, it kept me interested from page one to the end.

Book Quote: “Writing is a solitary pursuit yet few, if any, writers live in total isolation.” ~Ann Snuggs, Double Stalk (Opening line, Acknowledgements)


REFLECTIONS ON MY JOURNEY OF FAITH: Moving Closer to My Destination

Belza Elia Ramos

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; Christian living.

My Review: “A memoir filled with life stories, poetry, and reflective questions….I found the writing of Belza Ramos to be descriptive, yet clear, open, and engaging. As she talks about life growing up, I could see how textbook smart she was. It was interesting to read how Belza excelled in her academics, and I was quite impressed with her desire to succeed at every job she applied for and held – including nursing positions and running a company with her husband. She became strong in all that she did work-wise, and she raised two wonderful smart children in the process. I especially enjoyed reading about her life growing up and the family values she learned. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, young and old alike. It was a joy to read.”

Book Quote: “Carry your own weight and a bit of somebody else’s.” ~Belza Elia Ramos, Reflections on My Journey of Faith (page 118-119)


LIVE LONG AND…What I Learned Along the Way

William Shatner with David Fisher

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; actor biography.

My Review: “A thought-provoking memoir of life’s lessons….I was quite pleased with this book. Although David Fisher is credited with helping Bill write it, I only “heard” William Shatner’s voice in my head as I read it. I was most impressed with Mr. Shatner’s work ethic, the idea that to be successful meant working every day at whatever type of job he could get. It was refreshing to get to know him as a down-to-earth person who believed in hard work for a day’s pay. It was also interesting to learn about many of the jobs he held, as an actor and non-actor. Given the time, I would read this book again. But maybe after I’ve read all of his other books. I encourage anyone, who is curious about William Shatner’s TV and movie star life, to read this memoir. It’s a fast-paced, easy-to-read, and even inspirationally entertaining biography of the lessons he has learned along his way. My favorite one being, always say yes.”

Book Quote: “…happiness comes from helping other people. There was a time in America when neighbors helped their neighbors, but the reality is that now too often we don’t even know our neighbors beyond a nodding recognition. Nobody has a barn-raising anymore. In a time when social media makes us readily available to almost anyone on earth, many of us are isolated.” ~William Shatner, Live Long and…What I Learned Along the Way (page 190)


May

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

Matt Haig

Great; recommended.

Genre: Fiction; time travel; literary; women’s.

My Review: “An interesting take on how life leads us home….This book was a slow start for me, and I almost decided not to finish it. But how could I not find out what all the hype about this book is, right? Well, it turned out wonderfully. And not because I love libraries either. The perspective I was able to glean from the idea that we can go back in our life, pick up at any regret, and see if we’d be any happier with a different path was mind-boggling. In the end, my takeaway was similar to the one I have learned after sixty years of living: every choice leads us to where we are meant to be. I loved best how this book inspired me to no longer wonder, occasionally, if I would’ve been happier had I made a different choice way back when. And now, more than ever, I can appreciate my current life just a little bit better than I did yesterday.”

Book Quotes: “You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.” ~Matt Haig, (Nora Seed), The Midnight Library (page 283)


BETWEEN TWO KINGDOMS

Suleika Jaouad

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Memoir; cancer; coming of age.

My Review: “An outpouring of a life interrupted by cancer and its ravaging effects….This book drew me to it. After reading Suleika’s journey, I understood so much I didn’t when my daddy succumbed to black melanoma cancer between my junior and senior year of high school. When she spoke of the clinical trials, I heard the hopes in her loved ones hearts just as I had in ours. When she spoke of depression which grasped hold of her, even as she was healing, I saw my momma consumed by it as well. Suleika’s journey through cancer and her road trip was heartfelt and raw with all the emotion she tried to suppress but soon came to learn must be traveled through to live a full life. As Suleika headed for home, I could see she also came to understand that to fully love and to reclaim that vital core part of herself, she must let go of those parts of herself that no longer fit.”

Book Quote: “Grief is a ghost that visits without warning. It comes in the night and rips you from your sleep. It fills your chest with shards of glass. It interrupts you mid-laugh when you’re at a party, chastising you that, just for a moment, you’ve forgotten. It haunts you until it becomes a part of you, shadowing you breath for breath.” ~Suleika Jaouad, Between Two Kingdoms (page 190)


WOMEN’S STORIES

The Next Chapter Writing Group

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; Carribbean & Latin American Literature.

My Review: “A delightful book filled with thought-provoking writings from the heart….Filled with essays and poetry of memories. Memories of family, friendship, and growing up. Memories from eight outstanding women authors. Part of the The Next Chapter Writing Group, these authors fill their book, Women’s Stories, with reminiscing, laughter, tears, and food for thought. If you like short reads, whether it’s poetry, essays, or even a short story, you’ll love this book. The essays of one author are translated from Spanish to English, and in my opinion, are especially powerful – giving me to wonder about if it is the writer or is it the translation. Each author is a strong writer in their own right and so having their stories all in one book is a real delight.”

Book Quote: “You have to rehearse the memory…you have to tell about the experience and in the telling, you remember it.” ~Sister Maria Eva Flores, Ph.D. (book’s epitaph)


June

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Maria Semple

Great; recommended.

Genre: Fiction; humorous.

My Review: “The story of a daughter’s love for and determination to find her mother….This story, a search for the disappearance of Bernadette through the trail of emails, school memos, and invoices, brings her daughter, Bee, to understand her mother – and her father – in a way she never had before. Bee’s determination to find her mother has you turning the pages of this comedic story faster with each chapter. If you enjoy coming of age, school settings, improbable plots that mimic real life, you’ll love this book. Every character is engaging in the most unexpected way.”

Book Quote: “Getting into fights with people makes my heart race. Not getting to fights with people makes my heart race.” Maria Semple (Bernadette Fox), Where’d You Go, Bernadette (page 132)


The Longest Way Home

Andrew McCarthy

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; travel essays.

Please Note: Review for this book will be posted by end of June. Thank you for your interest in my reviews.


Please note: As of April 28, I no longer post book reviews on my social media feeds for every book I read. However, I do continue to post every book review here on my website. I will also continue to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, BAM! (Books-A-Million), and anywhere else I can post reviews to help my fellow writers/authors, and their readers, in their writing and reading journeys.

Also, at the end of March, I started featuring a favorite book quote after each review. I’ll eventually add book quotes to the books I rated/reviewed earlier in the year.


My 2022 Current TBR Pile

Thank you for following along with me on this reading journey. I’m curious where it will take us.

I’m currently reading, “The Longest Way Home,” Andrew McCarthy’s first memoir, which I’m enjoying quite well. I’m hoping to read one more book before the end of June, but with a part-time (almost full-time) job now, I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted, as always.


Already, I have had to add more books to the bottom of my TBR pile!

As I am reading by alternating between memoir and fiction, I needed to invest in a few more memoir books. Once I received them, I interspersed them starting after Jennifer Niven’s “All the Bright Places” to the end of my original TBR pile which ended with Matt Haig’s, “The Midnight Library,” (see photo at top upper right of this webpage).

From that point on, I added more books alternating between new memoirs and fiction books – which I already have had on hand. If I continue reading at the rate I am, I’ll be updating this photo in no time, lol. As I mentioned above, I’m currently reading William Shatner’s actor biography. So I’m almost at the end of my original TBR pile, even after adding in three more books.

If the rest of my year progresses like April, I’ll need to add many more books to the 2022 TBR pile. But, as things ebb and flow, maybe not too many!

Stay tuned for more books and reviews as time in my life allows….

Imagine the possibilities!

RALPH MARSTON, AUTHOR