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My Favorite Books of 2022 (So Far)

Cindy Burnett
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The Unsinkable Greta James

The Unsinkable Greta James is one of Cindy Burnett's favorite reads so far of 2022.

A couple of years ago I started forming my best books of the year list from the beginning of the year forward. A year is a long time, and I have found it is so much easier for me to keep up with what I have loved if I do it as I go along.

So now, I continually update my list as I read books that I love which helps keep the books I read early in the year fresh in my mind. Next week, one of my favorite bookstagrammers Kelly Hooker of @kellyhook.readsbooks joins me on my podcast for a discussion about our top ten reads so keep an eye for that episode if you want to learn more about these or you can find interviews for 8 of the 10 on my website.

Here are my top 10 reads for the first quarter of 2022 in the order they published:

  1. The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis - Fiona Davis sets each of her historical fiction novels in an iconic New York City building, and her latest takes place at the Gilded Age home of industrialist Henry Frick. Using a dual timeline format, Davis toggles between 1919, when the Frick family still lives there, and 1966, when the home has become the magnificent Frick Collection, a museum still in operation today. In the later timeline, a Vogue photo shoot is occurring, and when one of the models is fired along with a museum curator, they stumble across a hidden message that leads them on a hunt that uncovers the truth about a murder that occurred at the Frick years earlier. The Magnolia Palace starts slowly but then gains momentum as Davis weaves the Frick family members into the story and provides interesting details and stories about the odd family who created one of New York City’s finest museums.
  2. The High House by Jesse Greengrass - This book is a new addition to the expanding genre of climate fiction and is an unsettling, character-driven story.  Francesca, a famous environmental scientist and activist, is preparing for the widespread disaster that will be coming due to climate change. Frustrated by a world that refuses to act, she begins to secretly prepare a house she inherited in the country for her son Pauly and stepdaughter Caro to retreat to once the rising tides arrive. When a cataclysmic disaster wipes out portions of the country, Pauly and Caro head to the High House to escape and meet the two caretakers, Sally and Grandy, individuals Francesca hired to look out for her children. The two pairs learn to live together in the wake of tragedy, dwindling supplies and an uncertain future. I found The High House to be a quietly powerful novel that I won’t soon forget. It is definitely a character-driven story that is not fast paced but it is incredibly thought provoking.
  3. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf – The premise of this thriller hooked me from the beginning. While staying at a remote farmhouse, true crime writer Wylie Lark ends up snowed in as she is trying to write her latest book. The location would be ideal, except that decades earlier, at this same house, two people were brutally murdered and a girl disappeared and has not been seen since. As the storm settles in, Wylie finds herself stuck in the house, haunted by its secrets and her own secrets. Then she finds a small child in the snow right outside the house where she is staying. She brings the child inside for warmth and safety and then begins to hunt for the child’s parents. The twists and turns were a lot of fun in this one and while I figured a few things out, there were enough surprises to keep me madly reading until I got to the end. I thought It was a page turner with a highly satisfying resolution.
  4. The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull – I loved Bryn’s first book The Woman Before Wallis so I was very excited to dive into this one. Grand Duchess Olga Romanov was the oldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and this historical fiction novel tells her lesser-known story. I have always been completely intrigued by Anastasia’s story but had not really thought much about her sisters. Brought up at the glittering Alexander Palace, Olga and her sisters are sheltered from the world around them. When war breaks out, the sisters work as nurses tending to Russian officers; but tensions in Russia begin to build as the threat of revolution looms over them. The Last Grand Duchess delves into the buildup to the Romanovs' demise, the numerous factors that contributed, and what life was like for them as their world closed in around them, while breathing life into the family, particularly the children who were punished for the behavior of their very out-of-touch parents. I learned so much as I read this gripping account of the buildup to the Romanovs' execution; this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys history.
  5. Love & Saffron by Kim Fay – I just loved this book so much. Written in epistolary format and set in the 1960s, this beautiful book tracks the friendship between two women, Imogen and Joan, as they get to know each other through letters. Imogen Fortier is a longtime columnist for a magazine and lives on Camano Island near Seattle. Joan, who is younger, is a new food columnist in Los Angeles. When Joan writes Imogen a fan letter and encloses a recipe and some saffron, the women begin a correspondence that develops into a wonderful relationship. Incorporating the history of the era, food, and personal tidbits, the women bond and become close friends as they correspond about their lives. This novel is filled to the brim with humor and heart and is a joy from start to finish. 
  6. The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd – My Patreon group was able to read this one early and meet with the author on Zoom which was such a treat. When Nell Young’s estranged father, a renowned cartographer, is found dead in the New York Public Library where he works, she discovers that he was clutching the very same basic gas station map that caused their falling out years before. Curious about the importance of the map and its potential link to her father’s death, Nell conducts research and discovers that the map is exceedingly rare, in fact it is the only one left of its kind because an unknown collector has destroyed every one but the one her father owned. Baffled by this bizarre discovery, Nell sets out to uncover the secrets behind the map. I loved the New York Public Library setting, the deep dive into maps, and the little bit of magical realism that is present in this one. I found it to be a unique and creative tale with an intelligent and engaging plot; I highly recommend it. 
  7. I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys – Oh my gosh this book.  I have literary been recommending it to everyone I know. And in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia – the book’s premise is even more relevant. This historical thriller is set during the time period leading up to Romania’s 1989 revolution and the ousting of its charismatic but brutal leader, Nicolae Ceausescu. Insulated and living in constant fear, Romanians must survive under the oppressive regime that governs their country. There is little food, the electricity is randomly turned off and on, no outside media is allowed, and everyone worries about who they can trust and who they cannot, even family members are suspect. Sepetys vividly depicts life there during this time period, a period many will be unfamiliar with, and how one man managed to fool the world for far too long. I have not stopped thinking about this book since I finished it, and it will definitely be one of my top reads of the year; it is truly stunning.
  8. The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E Smith – This is another fabulous read. I love books about musicians and the setting of an Alaskan cruise made this a must read for me. Following a public breakdown brought on by the sudden death of her mother, indie musician Greta James agrees to accompany her father on a cruise to Alaska. They have always had a tense relationship, and while she was alive, Greta’s mother, her biggest fan, had helped Greta and her father Conrad communicate with each other. With her gone, the pair struggles to bridge the divide between them especially in the face of their shared grief. Both hope the cruise to Alaska will help them learn to understand each other. In addition to trying to repair her relationship with her father, Greta is working on her sophomore album, dealing with fans on the cruise ship, re-evaluating her current relationship, and trying to recover from her public meltdown. This beautiful novel is a story about repairing relationships, finding your joy, and living life to the fullest. I absolutely loved this one and highly, highly recommend it.
  9. Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr – This thriller is such a gem especially with its focus on the art world. After fledgling reporter Jules Roth talks her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, Chicago’s preeminent investigative reporter, he assigns her to a top-secret story, locating “Woman on Fire,” a very valuable painting stolen by the Nazis during World War 2. But Jules doesn’t have much time because the man Dan is helping find the painting is dying. In Europe, heiress and art collector Margaux de Laurent hunts for the same painting and will stop at nothing to find it. As Jules gets drawn into the dangerous and seductive art world of the uber-wealthy, she uncovers secrets and betrayals while becoming intrigued with the painting at the center of the drama. There are some fabulous twists and turns combined with a stellar plot and an intriguing cast of characters. This thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it.
  10. The White Girl by Tony Birch – I do not even have the words to convey how much I loved this book. It is set in the 1960s Australian town of Deane, a fictional town representative of every small town in Australia. Odette Brown and her fair-skinned granddaughter Sissy live in the Aboriginal section of the town, Quarrytown, and are subject to the restrictions placed on them by the welfare authorities. When a new policeman arrives, Odette realizes that Sissy is in danger of being taken from her with absolutely no recourse on Odette’s part because during this time period Aboriginal people could not be Australian citizens nor make basic decisions for themselves such as when and where to travel or what job they will hold. Birch vividly describes what it was like to live as an Aboriginal person then and the countless hardships they endured while also weaving in a beautiful tale of family and the lengths people will go to in order to protect each other. I loved Odette, and her strength and perseverance against all odds will stay with me for a very long time. I truly loved this one.

I would love to hear your favorites so far of 2022. Feel free to drop them in the comments below.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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