A run-down of the best books I’ve read in the last year.
There are two things these books all have in common. One is fantastic world-building. If you need an escape from reality at any time, I can recommend reading any of these stories.
The other common thread is they have all changed my perspective. From thought-provoking themes to literary devices used in a fresh way, there’s something new and exciting in each of these books.
Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan
Part epic quest, part modern fairytale, this story spans the best and worst of humanity but in a very accessible way. Culture and faith are woven into this beautiful children’s story bringing the varied setting of India to life.
Seeds of Discontent by S. A. Asthana
This is a police procedural story set on a multi-generational spaceship. It’s basically a city – with all the problems you would expect from that – but in space. I’m not usually a fan of gritty tales or action scenes but this book pulls you right into the fray in an intelligent and stylistic way.
Murder in La Jolla by P. Austin Heaton
This is both a historical mystery and a redemption story. If you like novels with historical detail, this will transport you to a different time. I’ve read books where flashbacks have been used to dump information on the reader without any action or dialogue to draw it out. But this book uses flashbacks as an integral part of the story. And it works brilliantly.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
This is a really unusual sci-fi story in that there’s only one character conscious on the spacecraft where most of the story is set. Which explains the title. The main character has some emotional issues she isn’t ready to face. So there are some things that we, as readers, don’t find out until later in the story. This adds unexpected layers of realism and emotional depth to what is essentially the story of a teenage girl alone in space.
Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate
This is another young adult scifi story but it’s very different from The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. In fact, there are a huge number of characters who are all teenagers in the same programme. And that’s what this author does well. Despite their common traits, every character is a unique individual and there are no stereotypes in sight.
This book isn’t without its faults – the author withholds a key piece of information to make the climax more surprising. The many characters in this book just don’t notice something really important. So all their decisions are based on incorrect assumptions. Which is really annoying to an analytical reader like me! But if you’re less analytical, and love a character-driven story, this is definitely worth reading.
The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict
This is a proper Christmas mystery. It’s set at a Christmas gathering with lots of festive activities. There are also anagrams of Christmas mysteries hidden throughout the text. So if you’re deterred by the occasional odd turn of phrase this might not be for you. And yet, this story isn’t frivolous or light-hearted at all. It’s dark, suspenseful, and filled with murder and deception.
It manages to be all that – and still leave you in a festive mood. That’s quite a feat!
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
I’ve saved this one til last because it’s one of my favourite books ever. Badly marketed to appeal to existing fans of the author’s more fantastical work, it does have some negative reviews. But for anyone not going in with those expectations, it’s actually a brilliant book for older kids.
The setting is a very believable near-future dystopian city, much like Gotham. The story features a protection trope but in this case, it’s turned on its head. The main character is a child, protecting his mother from the dangerous world he’s become part of.
If any parents are thinking of reading this, be warned – it will wrench your heart out. But keep reading. Trust me, you’ll want to know how it ends.
How about you? What was your favourite read of 2022, and why?
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