Monday, January 09, 2023

2022 Reading Year in Review

Two years in a row with a Reading Year in Review, crazy right? Well, since I resurrected the blog earlier in the year, I’ve been much more consistent with posting my reading wrap-ups so of course that calls for a year in review, right? As I’ve done every year I've posted a Reading Year in Review, here are the previous years I’ve put up a reading year in review, 2021, 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006).

As I've done every year for the past decade and a half, I've contributed to SFFWorld's Favorite of the Year lists: Fantasy/Horror, Science Fiction, and Film/TV. Where those book lists are focused only on 2022 releases, here at the reawakened old Blog o' Stuff, I don't limit the list to just 2022/current year releases because there are a lot of good books out there from previous years I haven’t read. A few stinkers, too, but I try to keep my focus on the positive here at the B.O.S. I'm still very actively reviewing for both SFFWorld.

For the first time that I can recall and since I’ve been tracking my reading trends over the last 20+ years, Fantasy was not the genre that featured the highest number of books read, in 2022 that distinction falls to horror and by a decent margin. Horror is in a great place right now, publishers are giving it serious attention, new imprints have been launched, and horror film is getting more attention than ever. That said, here are the full statistics of the 81 books I read in 2022, I finished #81 on 12/31:
  • 41 2022/current year releases plus 1 2023 release
  • 29 reviews posted to SFFWorld
  • 41 can be considered Horror
  • 34 can be considered Fantasy
  • 12 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 31 books by authors new to me 
  • 41 Books by women
  • 13 total debut
  • 17 audiobooks
  • 5 books I DNF'd
So, without further adieu, below are the books I enjoyed reading the most in 2022. I've listed the books alphabetically by author last name, outside of the first three on this post.  If I've reviewed the book, the title will link to the review either here at the blog or over at SFFWorld with an excerpt of that review below the cover image. If I haven't given the book a full review, then I've provided a brief summary/reaction to the book.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King
(My Favorite Overall Novel Published in 2022)


Fairy Tale is a book I’ve been anticipating since I heard about it in January of 2022. I immediately thought of The Eyes of the Dragon and The Talisman when the title was announced and there are some parallels to those King classics, but this one is its own story. Charlie Reade lives with his father, a recovering alcoholic because his mother was killed in a freak car accident when he was younger. Charlie managed to push through his challenges, becoming a star athlete. When he befriends a mysterious man who lives in the oldest house in the neighborhood, Charlie learns of another world filled with magic, strange creatures, and evil. He also befriends the neighbor’s dog, Radar. 

There are little shout outs to past King works, it is a novel that blends so many things King is good at doing; youthful protagonist, monsters, character, friendship between an older and younger character, and dogs. I suspect Molly, AKA the Thing of Evil may have helped in shaping who Radar was as a character. I suspect some Constant Readers will end up naming their dogs “Radar” in the future. 

As I finished the book and as I write this a few months since reading the book, I’d say that Fairy Tale is maybe top 10 King novel for me, out of the near 50 or so books I’ve read by Sai King. 

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson
(My Favorite Horror Novel Published in 2022)
I’ve been enjoying Delilah Dawson’s writing for a few years now, she’s incredibly consistent, incredibly efficient, and an incredibly smart writer. This book is her best book, hands down and one that I think will stand the test of time.

Sometimes when you are reading a book, you know you’re getting into something special. This feeling usually happens in the early chapters, a growing sense that the book is the writer’s Opus. Recently, I felt that way when I read Chuck Wendig’s The Book of Accidents and Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. I also felt that way while I was reading Delilah S. Dawson’s The Violence.
A few elements can truly make a novel like this feel so grounded and believable. First are the characters, all of whom are genuinely real, living and breathing people as I’ve noted. Other little details are “landmarks” I’ll call them, tiny details that add a layer of grit and realism to the world. Enter Big Fred’s Floors, a store that Chelsea and the other characters pass numerous times, with an outdated, misogynistic slogan.
But it almost seems like everything she’s written (at least those novels I’ve read) have prepared her for this outstanding gem. The Violence is a novel that will stand out for its intelligence, for its compassion, for its “un-put-down-able-ness,”
Engines of Empire by RS Ford
(My Favorite Fantasy Novel Published in 2022)

When matriarch and Guildmaster Rosamon sends her children, youngest son Fulren, daughter Tyreta, and eldest son Conall far away, the action R.S. Ford’s Engines of Empire begins. … Ford does many, many things very well in this novel, which launches The Age of Uprising trilogy. He’s nailed the character portion of the novel, each of the Hawkspur family members came across as believable and empathetic. One of Fulren’s driving forces was to see revenge against Lancelin Jagdor, the man he sees as murderer of his father. To be fair, Fulren’s father challenged Lancelin to a duel and lost, but the outcome was the same – Fulren’s father was killed. The death of their father also weighs on Connall, but he’s caught between devotion to his family and the duty placed upon him as military man. Tyretta finds herself embroiled in a conflict far from the borders of her home, but affected a great deal by her homeland.
Perhaps my favorite element of this novel is the world-building. The way the magic of the pyerstones powers the technology, like airships and engines, is borderline steampunk. In fact, I’ve seen the setting described as “aetherpunk,” a term I surprisingly (having been reading this stuff for a few decades) wasn’t aware of before reading this book, even if I was familiar with the definition. Anyway, it is a fun setting and “-punk” varietal. Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass comes to mind, as does Tad Williams’s War of the Flowers as standout novels that sort of fit in this descriptor.

For the remaining favorites, some of these books were published prior 2022

Senlin Ascends (Tower of Babel #1) by Josiah Bancroft 

What makes this novel so enchanting is how it is everything an Epic Fantasy novel should be, but has similarities to so very few Epic Fantasy novels I’ve read. The closest two novels that come to mind for me are Alastair Reynolds’s Terminal World and Gregory Frost’s Shadowbridge… Title character Thomas Senlin takes his wife Marya to the Tower of Babel for their honeymoon. The tower is an enormous, continuously growing structure with each vast level, or "ringdom," essentially a world unto itself… Bancroft’s prose is elegant, it lulls you in like a comforting blanket, but the stories it reveals over the course of Senlin’s journeys through four of the forty "ringdoms" are harrowing, enchanting, and often dark. The fourth and final novel published November 2021, so I may have to binge the three remaining books I’ve yet to read.


The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
This happens to snag the “Best Debut” of 2022 spot for me.


… expound upon the pleasures of Cañas’s writing and storytelling. I immediately felt as if I was inside Beatriz’s head, I was drawn to her character and her plight. The way Cañas conveys the hacienda through Beatriz’s eyes is a delight, I was transported me to the grounds of the estate alongside Beatriz. Cañas also flavors the atmosphere with a lingering paranoia that grows into a mounting sense of dread that made it difficult for me not “just read one more chapter.” … What impresses me most is that The Hacienda is Cañas’s first published novel. She has an enchanted pen when it comes to the prose, telling the story from Beatriz and Andrés points of view that was extremely inviting. Every story element meshed together wonderfully…


Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman

This is the third novel I’ve read by Chapman and he’s a must buy at this point. The story of Ghost Eaters focus on Erin and her toxic ex-boyfriend Silas. She keeps trying to get away from him and his addictions, but she finds it difficult. He eventually turns up dead of an overdose. Erin can’t hold on, she always feared he may wind up dead, but it actually happened and she has difficulty dealing with it. Then she learns about the aforementioned drug called Ghost. There’s an escalating creep factor that sets it apart. Chapman’s characters seem genuine and are empathetic and not since Jeff VanderMeer have mushrooms been so very creepy.

Come Closer by Sara Gran

Possession. One of the more rife subjects explored in horror novels. Sara Gran’s Come Closer takes a powerful approach to examine how easily such a possession can destroy a person. … Gran tells the story in Amanda’s matter-of-fact first person voice. That, for me, might be the most terrifying element of the story, just how “normal” some of the deplorable behavior and events are delivered. I had to re-read some passages with an unspoken “WAIT WHAT?” in my brain. This was an utterly addictive read that I managed to plow through in a Sunday afternoon


Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison

Harrison – I read Harrison’s debut novel The Return earlier in the year and I was very impressed so I was excited to try her new (in 2022) novel which was about werewolves. Well, one werewolf in particular. Harrison tells the tale of Rory (short for Aurora) Morris, who returns to her hometown to be by the side of her twin sister Scarlett during the last weeks of her pregnancy. On the way there, Rory is bitten by a creature and she finds her body going through changes. She’s stronger and transforms during the full moon. Harrison does a fantastic job of paralleling the experiences of the twin sisters, and telling a compelling, addictive story. I read it over the course of two days.

With Such Sharp Teeth, Rachel Harrison has written an instant/modern classic werewolf novel.

The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz

When his old friend Chris suggests he spend some time at Alexander House, allegedly the “Most Haunted House in Virginia” for his next book project, David acquiesces. Dave becomes friendly with his neighbor, Ralph Hooper and much to his chagrin, kids whose parents are absentee parents, all of whom reside on the banks of the Rappahannock River. He also hears and sees things in the house and the area surrounding it. …and like many haunted house stories, David is haunted by his past and brings ghosts of his own when he arrives at Alexander House. …. A couple of days into reading the book I had a nightmare. I’m not saying reading The Siren and The Specter caused the nightmare, but I’m not saying the book didn’t cause the nightmare. Correlation…the only two books I can directly say gave me nightmares are Stephen King’s The Shining and Dan Simmons Summer of Night and what caused those nightmare were what I previously called the “edge of your senses” creepiness. Janz, in The Siren and the Specter, excels at the “edge of your senses” horror, as I said.

Kagen the Damned
by Jonathan Maberry

I’m a fan of Maberry’s Joe Ledger Military SF/Horror thrillers and was excited to see him turn his pen to Epic Fantasy. This has some nice horror flourishes; too, with a Cthuhlu/Lovecraftian vibe lurking in the background. From my review: “I realize the plot seems fairly straight-forward, revenge, quest, evil king and all that, but damn if Maberry doesn’t make it feel fresh and exciting. A large part of what makes this novel, and the world, feel so fresh is how much horror, specifically cosmic horror, informs the world-building. Elder Ones like Hastur and Cthulhu are major elements of the world’s mythology with the R’lyehian language appearing in the text. There are some decidedly dark and horrific passages and allusions throughout the majority of the novel and the Lovecraftian flavor is very welcome in an Epic Fantasy setting. It is a seamless infusion, and an elegant one that simply works to the point that I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. I love that element of this novel and world because the delight in which Maberry reveled during the world-building emanates off the pages.

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

This one’s description grabbed me for its very superficial similarity to books like King’s IT and Dan Simmons’s Summer of Night - friends reunite in their hometown to take down a monster they thought was gone. Those similarities, as I noted, are just superficial. Malfi’s tale is a little more confined, in that there are fewer characters and much more despair surrounds the characters; protagonist Jamie Warren is an alcoholic struggling with his addiction; his mother is a junkie who killed herself, thus brining Jamie back to Sutton’s Quay, VA. His disabled brother was found wandering. Dennis’s other friends Mia and Clay have their own demons, but they were very close friends when they were kids, but haven’t seen each other in years, since an eerie man known only as the Magician touched their lives. Malfi excels with his characters and building a sense of creepiness, between the Magician and the haunted region of Black Mouth itself. … He tells the tale in intertwining chapters that focus on the present and past when Jamie and his crew initially encounter the Magician. Malfi has a very deliberate pace and that pace works perfectly in Black Mouth to build up empathy for all the characters, the horrific nature of the Magician, the unsettling nature of Black Mouth itself, and how the tension builds towards the conclusion.

Take Your Turn, Teddy by Haley Newlin and narrated/performed by Thomas Gloom

Newlin played with the “Creepy Kid” trope just about as good as any horror novel I’ve read. I thought Gloom’s narration of the story enhanced the novel a great deal, too.

This is a book I’ve seen good things about on the various horror blogs and instagrammers I follow. This book starts out as a sad tale of a young boy named Teddy whose father is extremely abusive to his mother and becomes a horror novel mixed with a serial killer police procedural. Some creepy scenes, nice character development with the cast of characters, and nods to the Stephen King. Newlin drove the story around some bendy turns that weren’t expected, but worked very nicely. Haley also reviews for Cemetery Dance magazine online.

Lamentation (Psalms of Isaak #1) by Ken Scholes

Lamentation is Ken’s debut and the launch of the Psalms of Isaak five book saga. Set in a world that has survived a few apocalyptic events, magic and science coexist, though not always quite comfortably. The inciting incident – the city of Windwir being destroyed, particularly its legendary library – was because a robot cast a spell. From there, the novel winds through a wonderful path of alliances, manipulation, romance, politics, and redemption. … The novel is more concerned with how the characters react to the destruction of Windwir than anything else, so there isn’t too much world-building on display but the hints (robots and magic coexisting, essentially) are quite intriguing. There are also hints of a deep history to the world, so I'm hoping subsequent volumes will reveal more…. I’m quite excited to see where this series goes over the course of those next four novels.

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

The Book of Cold Cases is the second book I’ve read by St. James and it is just as good as the first one, The Sun Down Motel. In this book, Shea Collins, a young divorced woman has a hobby looking into open murder cases and runs the Website “The Book of Cold Cases.” Her latest obsession is the socialite Beth Greer, who was suspected killing two men in 1977, shortly after her parents died. Shea, in 2017, is able to convince Beth to tell her the full story of the murders and her life. It is fascinating story, that has hints of a ghost story, murder, and great character development. St. James excels at telling parallel stories as we learn about Beth’s from Beth as Shea listens intently.

Wayward by Chuck Wendig

Wayward, the sequel to his epic apocalyptic Wanderers. Chuck picks up those threads and weaves a powerful, gripping story of how the survivors of a plague-apocalypse (White Mask) try to survive as humanity with the “help” of an extremely powerful and convincing AI (Black Swan) who helped to “hand pick” a select group of people and protect them from the plague as a last hope for humaity. Picking up about five years after the events of Wanderers, Chuck keeps the pace addictive over the course of the novels lengthy 800 pages. There’s a sense of anger in this novel that is completely believable, especially with the returning characters like Shana Stewart and “President” Ed Creel, though scientist Benji Ray and rocker Pete Corley balance out that anger with signs of hope

Wayward was a fantastic novel, I was consumed by it for the week-and-a-half I was reading it. Never did I want to leave, never did the novel drag, never did things happen in the novel that didn’t make sense even if what unfolded over the course of the novel was not what I expected. I was surprised by where the story went, and at times even scared by a lot of what the characters had to confront. Put simply, a fantastic novel.

Into the Narrowdark (The Last King of Osten Ard) by Tad Williams

This is the penultimate volume in the series that is a sequel to his landmark Memory, Sorrow and Thorn four-book trilogy, which holds the top #1 of #2 spot as my favorite fantasy trilogy. In this novel, Tad deftly balances multiple points of view as the world is on the precipice of another momentous change. He does a fantastic job of balancing the weigh of each character’s storylines and weaving in plot threads dangling from 30 years ago. As it turns out, there’s been about 30 years since Memory, Sorrow and Thorn concluded and that’s about the same time that has elapsed in Osten Ard. … The conclusion/finale of this novel…just…damn you Tad! It was so well executed and is as much of a cliff-hanger ending as you’d want but also hate to read. I can’t wait for The Navigator’s Children. My only real slight on the book – and this is no fault of Tad Williams – is that DAW books decided to drastically change the look/cover art of the book. The legendary, iconic Michael Whelan painted all the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn covers and the two earlier volumes in this series (as well as many of the covers for Tad’s novels).

That's a wrap on my 2022 reading. Like I said, some names are familiar to those of you who know me or the reviews I've written over the years while others are new to me.  

Hope you all have a great 2023, happy reading!

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