Last year I wrote a post about all the fiction I had read in 2021 and how much escaping into the worlds of those books meant to me. I decided I would like to make this an annual tradition, a chance to look back on the year and how the books had shaped my year.
I started off 2022 with high hopes of reading lots of books this year, but unfortunately my body had other plans. I struggled with severe fatigue and brain fog for almost the first half of the year, and so went several months barely reading a thing. So my total tally for the year is quite low, unless you count the audiobooks I listened to on repeat, which I’m going to do. Why? Because comfort reading old favourites, when you simply don’t have the energy or brain power to concentrate on a new storyline is entirely valid and I feel like we should talk about it more often!
So this post is split into 3 parts – new audiobooks I’ve listened to, new physical or ebooks I have read, and then my old trusty favourites. I’ll end the post with my hopes for 2023.
As with last year, my commentary on each book will be less of a review and more how the book made me feel. Because I cannot possibly do each book justice by trying to review them all in one go. I have, however, finally got around to setting up my Goodreads account, so alongside my more detailed book reviews here, feel free to follow me over on Goodreads. It’s going to take me some time to rate and review all the books I have read over the years, but I’ll get there, slowly.
New Audiobooks I’ve listened to in 2023
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
I knew I had to read this, because my good friend Lou raved about it (and bought it for me last year as part of a Secret Santa exchange!) But with my brain fog and fatigue being so bad, I just could not find the energy to sit and read the physical book. Thank goodness for audiobooks, hey?
In many ways this is a fairly typical teen romance – you’ve got the complicated emotions, characters not feeling able to be themselves, first loves etc. But it is so much more than that! Ollie is dealing with a family member’s terminal illness, trying to balance everything that brings up along with a new school and not knowing where he stands with Will. This book goes deep, and it is one I think I’ll read again one day to fully appreciate it.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
I picked this one up because the book cover and blurb intrigued me. It took me a while to get into it, but once I got to know the characters I was hooked.
Jane is immediately engaging as a character, and August’s connection with her and determination to figure out what happened to her is captivating. And the supporting cast are pretty wonderful too.
There’s some brilliant queer rep in here, and I loved how the book was based very much in the real, non-magical world, yet had so much mystery surrounding Jane and how she got stuck on the Q train.
Warning for my fellow aces – there’s some fairly graphic public sex scenes!
Sistersong by Lucy Holland
I’m going to level with you here and say I was really quite disappointed in this book. The premise sounded so amazing – a retelling of The Twa Sisters with a trans main character? It was bound to be good, right?
Well, I found it really hard going. There was so much trauma in it, that it began to feel more like trauma porn than necessary to the story. This may well be personal to me, because the book has many glowing reviews. But having spoken to a friend about it, they encouraged me to write a review explaining why I struggled with it, which you can find here.
Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson
I received a free copy of this audiobook via NetGalley, and enjoyed delving into a world in which a secret governmental department of witches – Her Majesty’s Royal Coven or HMRC for short (get it?) – existed. Magic within our world is always a fun thing to explore.
This story had some real highs and lows, and although it took me a while to get each of the main characters clear in my head it was a really good read. It ended on quite the cliffhanger though, so I cannot wait to find out what happens next.
You can find my full review here.
Daylight Chasers by Rue Sparks
I absolutely loved this book, from the very first sentence to the very last! It is so beautifully written, and the narration is perfect too.
It isn’t a very long book, so perfect for people like me who are struggling to concentrate on longer texts. But despite being short, it packs so much into its pages.
Following Keenan as he guides Isabella on a day that almost never ends, I found myself wondering what it was that sparked Isabella’s wish and why her journey was affecting Keenan so much. I couldn’t help but be drawn along with them.
All That’s Left In The World by Erik J Brown
This is not the type of book I would normally pick up. Anything post-apocalyptic is bound to make me anxious! But there was just something about the cover of this book and the premise that made me desperate to read it.
As it turned out, I was right in thinking it would make me incredibly nervous at times. I had to keep stopping for breaks, and definitely couldn’t listen to it before bed. However, Jamie and Andrew’s unlikely friendship grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let me go. It was gentle and supportive, yet challenging and sometimes suspicious. I couldn’t wait to find out where they ended up.
This actually turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year – go figure!
Lesser Known Monsters by Rory Michaelson
Having survived reading All That’s Left In The World, I finally decided I was brave enough to attempt this. I know, I know, I’m such a scaredy cat! But my dear friend Jayme has been raving about this series for as long as I’ve known them, and I knew it was time. Especially as it was now available as an audiobook.
Did I find it tough going? Um, yeah, in places. I mean the bit with the monster in the Thames? Terrifying! But overall the story drew me in, especially the dynamics between Oscar and Dmitri. And as for Zara’s surprising background? Let’s just say, this book just kept on giving.
I cannot wait to listen to the rest of the series once they’re available on Audible – I have them all in paperback, but the narration is so good I don’t want to miss that!
Solitaire by Alice Oseman
I got this book as part of an amazing 3 books for 1 credit deal on Audible. I have yet to listen to the other two, but knew I needed to read this one before Christmas so I could read the companion novella, This Winter.
There were so many times within this book that I related so hard to Tori, it’s a bit unreal. The not-quite-fitting-in, not understanding the dynamics everyone else seems to just get, the feeling betrayed by friends (and then realising that maybe your idea of what a friend should be is different to others’), the feeling of overwhelm, disinterest in work, and guilt at not being “better” somehow. OMG, there was just so much.
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t quite fit in this world, give this book a try. Seriously.
Audiobooks I’ve started but not yet finished…
Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds
I started this just before Christmas, and if I hadn’t been struck down by a nasty virus and severe fatigue I’m sure I would have finished it by now. Because the story drew me in pretty quickly, and I want to see where this one goes.
Again, it’s pretty typical for the idea of two people who really don’t get along, coming together to try and help each other and along the way discovering feelings. I mean, what’s not to love? And I’m definitely enjoying the Jewish rep, because I haven’t really read any books with a Jewish main character before.
I originally found out about this book because of Jaysen’s post on instagram. If you aren’t already following him, you should be!
Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell
I bought this book solely for the Simon and Baz Christmas short story everyone was raving about. If you don’t already know this about me, I am a HUGE Simon and Baz (or Snowbaz) fan, as you’ll find out in my re-reads section!
Which is why that’s the only story from this book I have managed to listen to so far. Twice. But I am planning on going back to the others at a later date, because I’m intrigued to find out what else Rainbow Rowell has written about.
New Physical or Ebooks I’ve read in 2023
Early Bird Special by Priscilla Goins
I actually got to beta read an early version of this delightful novella, and I loved it!
Set in a retirement village in Florida, the story follows the hilariously sneaky Delores and her grandson Dylan who is not looking for romance (Delores has other plans!)
I really enjoyed reading a story that had older characters in, and one which never once felt contrived. You can read my full review here.
You can get Early Bird Special at Amazon.
Perception Check by Astrid Knight
What can I possibly say in just a few short words that will do this book justice? Maybe that I read the second half in just one afternoon, which is unheard of these days with my fatigue and brain fog. But I simply couldn’t put it down!
Set part in our world and part in the world of Velmyra, we follow the characters as they discover that the world of their favourite role-playing game is actually real. They set out to rescue Violet’s childhood best friend who has been trapped there for years. Will they find her?
This book has some incredible rep – mental health and trauma, transgender, non binary, asexual, and platonic relationships. I’ve written a much more detailed review which you can read here.
You can get Perception Check at Amazon.
Heartstopper – Volumes 1-4 by Alice Oseman
You’d be hard pressed not to have come across Heartstopper at some point this year, so I don’t really know how much I need to say about this…
I’d heard about it before, as several friends loved it, but I hadn’t got around to reading the books before the Netflix series came out. I immediately fell in love with both Nick and Charlie, and watched the series twice – once on my own, and once with Thea. So then, of course, I just had to read the books.
My friend Jayme found out I was saving up to buy these books and sent them too me – I am so lucky! And I sped my way through them. They are just amazing. Seriously, if you haven’t read them you must.
You can get the whole Heartstopper collection at Queer Lit.
Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones
When I saw this come up on NetGalley for review, I just had to request a copy, and was delighted when it was approved.
I love a good festive read, but have found over recent years that I just can’t get into a lot of them. Too many stories feel too tired and samey, or the situations people get themselves in feel too forced for the story. Not so with this book…
Not only is it laugh out loud funny in places (the scene with the reindeer cracked me up), it has some wonderful bisexual and disabled rep. I mean, this is my kind of book.
You can read my full review here.
Marshmallows by Louise Willingham
You should all know by now just how much I love Not Quite Out by Lou. It is one of my favourite books and naturally makes an appearance in my “old favourites” later in this post. So when the companion novella came out I was over the moon.
I actually got to beta read this, and had read that early copy twice before the end product was released. That’s how much I love this cosy, slightly festive (thanks to Russian Christmas celebrations) read.
It’s less intense than Not Quite Out, but still doesn’t shy away from the difficult stuff. I cannot do it justice here, so just go and check out my full review.
You can get Marshmallows at Queer Lit.
The Heartstopper Yearbook by Alice Oseman
How could I resist grabbing a copy of this when it came out? More chance to spend time with the characters of Heartstopper? Yes please!
I really enjoyed reading this, as it gave me a chance to get to know the characters’ backgrounds a bit more, and see how Alice’s art style has developed over the years.
You can read it in just a short amount of time, but return to it over and over again to enjoy the content.
You can get the Heartstopper Yearbook at Queer Lit.
This Winter by Alice Oseman
As you can probably tell, I am thoroughly throwing myself into the Osemanverse! I got this book, along with Nick and Charlie, during our trip up to Manchester to visit Queer Lit and meet Lou for the launch of Marshmallows in November. And I put it away for Christmas along with all the other books I bought that weekend.
It was actually the perfect read for me to pick up a couple of days after Christmas, as I was feeling pretty darn down about everything as severe fatigue and a virus hit me. This is the 8th Christmas I’ve had since being sick, but the 9th in a row that has been challenging, so it was really good to read a book set at Christmas where the characters are struggling.
I also really enjoyed getting to see some more of the dynamic between Tori and Charlie.
You can get This Winter at Queer Lit.
Physical Books I’ve started but not yet finished…
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
I started reading this at the beginning of the year when my fatigue and brain fog was at its worst, and I never managed to finish before forgetting about it. I’m going to rectify this promptly!
Hani and Ishu is a delightful fake dating story – who doesn’t love one of those? It’s also got the typical grumpy x sunshine combination of characters. Even better, right?
What’s really great about this book, however, is the very real portrayal of toxic friendships, biphobia, islamophobia, and just generally feeling like you can’t be who you truly are. Not because these are good things – obviously they’re very bad things. But I love a book that doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff.
Salmonweird by MG Mason
This is a delightfully quirky story, which is an easy read. The only reason I haven’t finished it yet is because I started it in November and then my life got super busy as we headed into the festive season and I didn’t have the energy to keep reading a new storyline.
Set in a town filled with ghosts and just one single living human, and where the ghosts all come from different eras and social situations, means there is quite a lot of fun to be had. I can’t wait to find out what happens next…
You can get Salmonweird at Amazon.
My Old Favourites I’ve enjoyed again this year
Not Quite Out by Louise Willingham
This is another book I cannot do justice to in a short blurb, so just know I absolutely love Will and Dan, especially as I relate to Will in so many ways. This is a rainy day book – it covers quite a few deeply challenging issues, and you need to be aware of the trigger warnings. But I love it.
You can read my full review here. (Incidentally, this is the first book I reviewed here on the blog, and is what kicked off this whole series of book related posts).
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This is the first book of Rainbow Rowell’s I ever read, picking it up in an Audible 2 for 1 sale based on the title alone.
It took me a while to get into it the first time, so I decided to give it another go this year, especially given that it was this book that first introduced me to the world of Simon and Baz (see next entry).
I enjoyed it well enough, but can’t say it has the same impact on me as the Simon Snow books do. I think I just find Cath too relatable in too many ways, reminding me of my awkward first few weeks at uni.
Carry On, Wayward Son, and Any Way The Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell
Simon and Baz are the perfect “enemies to lovers”, and their other friends – Penny, Agatha, and Shepherd – are just as intriguing. I also love the idea of “The Chosen One” losing what made them “special” in defeating the threat, and then struggling to figure out who they are afterwards. We rarely get to see the aftermath of such stories.
These audiobooks have become my go-to for listening to when I’m struggling to sleep – because I know the story well enough not to have to concentrate too hard, but the narration is so perfect that it’s like welcoming old friends again. I’ve listened to the 1st and 3rd books at least twice this year, and the 2nd (my least favourite) once.
The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce
This is another one of those series that I listen to at night time when I am struggling to sleep. I first discovered this series as a teenager by randomly picking the first book off my sister’s bookcase. And I have been hooked ever since.
This series is the one that kicked off my love of fantasy, and I absolutely love the idea of a Wild Mage, half human, half divine, who can talk to animals and raises an orphaned baby dragon. Add in the immortal creatures of long past, and it’s just such a great series.
Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce
Are you seeing a pattern? I have old favourites that I have read time and time again over the years, and now listen to over and over again as “comfort reads”.
The Protector of the Small quartet is my second favourite of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series. Set after The Immortals quartet, this follows the first female page since the rules were changed to allow girls to train as knights.
Kel is a stubborn, strong-willed protagonist, with the biggest of hearts. It’s a delight seeing her go from ridicule to a position of power.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
I first listened to this during my 2020 relapse from hell, and it’s actually the first “new” story I listened to that year. So I was really grateful that it was a fun, easy read, as it showed me I could branch out a bit more with my reading.
It’s a cute fairytale retelling set in the world of fandoms and comic cons. I mean what’s not to love? Well, actually, in the audiobook version the editing, sadly. Twice the male narrator calls daleks “dayleks” *wince* and several times a sentence repeated itself. It was pretty jarring. But still, a fun read.
Bookish and The Beast by Ashley Poston
This is actually the third book in the Once Upon a Con series, but I skipped a relisten of the second one because I just don’t like the storyline as much, and this third one is actually my favourite in the series.
Rosie is such a delightful character – in love with books, clumsy, refuses to be treated like shit – I love her. And the people in her life are great too – her best friends and her dad make brilliant appearances. So she’s the perfect sunshine to Vance’s grump.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I do not know where to even begin with this book. When I first listened to it in 2020 I fell in love so much that I listened to it a second time within the same month.
The world building is exquisite, the characters are delightfully developed, the prose is meltingly beautiful, and the story itself carries you along effortlessly. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that just sounds so evocative.
As for Silas’ arc? Oh my goodness, you will not be prepared for those final lines!
My Reading Goals for 2023
I decided that I wanted to focus on getting through some of the many indie books on my TBR next year, and have chosen one per month to try and get through. I’ve managed to read over 30 books this year, despite my major fatigue and brain fog at the beginning of the year, so it should be possible. But I also have to remember that many of those were audiobooks, which are easier for me when I’m fatigued, and most indie books don’t have audio versions. And some of them were re-reads or graphic novels, which are obviously easier for my brain to comprehend too. So we’ll see how it goes.
The books are as follows:
January – One Of Us Has To Go by Katja Schulz
February – Olympic Enemies by Rebecca Caffery
March – Gloria by Katherine Shaw
April – Labours of Stone by EM Harding
May – Each Little Universe by Christ Durston
June – Heroes and Harbingers by ARK Horton
July – L.I.F.E by Felyx Lawson
August – Don’t Want To Be Your Monster by Deke Moulton
September – Twisted Roots by A G Parker
October – JUDD by J.D Toombs and Erika Schulze
November – The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell
December – Ace of Hearts by Lucy Mason
I also want to finish reading the books I’ve already started, and read the sequel to Sorcery of Thorns – Mysteries of Thorn Manor – which comes out next month! And I want to continue working my way through the Osemanverse. If I manage all of that and still have energy and time to spare, I’ll continue working through some of the other books on my ever-increasing TBR pile, especially those with disability rep. Seriously, there are too many books and not enough time/energy!
Tell me, what are your reading goals for next year?
If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, here are some ways you can support A Spiral Dance.