My Girlish Whims Book Club #50 & Favorite Reads of 2022

How fitting that my 50th book review post (!!!) will include a round up of my favorite books I read in 2022! I read 35 books this past year and considering the year started with welcoming preemie twin boys into the world, I think that is quite an accomplishment! 2022 was certainly an amazing year - dare I say my best one yet :)

I have three final books that I read in December to review in this post first, but keep scrolling after these are done for my top books I read this year. Here's what I finished up the year reading:

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A Merry Little Meet Cute

By Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. Synopsis from Amazon:

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhilewhen she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor.

Well this was a cutesy holiday Rom-Com like no other I have read before! If you are looking for a Hallmark style Christmas novel with (there is really no other way to put this) a side of porn - this is the book for you. Whew! I picked four different Christmas themed Rom-Com to put up for a vote for my December book club holiday party and this steamy novel was the winner.  You have to know going into the book that there will be some heat involved since the main character is literally an adult film star, but just beware that it really doesn't shy away from any of the details.  Steam/sex/etc aside, I did think this was a pretty cute and funny book.  The original conflict in the story begins with a last minute accident at a festival which takes out most of the "regular" movie production team and the producer of the film (who is also an adult film star producer, unbeknownst to the squeaky clean Hope Channel team) has to fill in the cast with Bee as the lead star and some of the crew with his adult film crew.  Since no one is supposed to know about the X rated side gig most of the team is involved with, it leads to a lot of amusing interactions between the wardrobe manager who is used to dressing a cast in much less clothing, a lighting tech crew used to lighting a lot more flesh and a lot less horseback riding scenes, etc.  I enjoyed the female empowerment portion of this book and that the lead character was unashamedly plus size and how that was celebrated in the novel. Plot wise it delivered on a typical Rom-Com storyline - nothing earth shattering but enough to give you some fuzzy feel good vibes and some laughs along the way. 

By Chandler Baker. Synopsis from Amazon: 

Nora Spangler is a successful attorney but when it comes to domestic life, she packs the lunches, schedules the doctor appointments, knows where the extra paper towel rolls are, and designs and orders the holiday cards. Her husband works hard, too… but why does it seem like she is always working so much harder?

When the Spanglers go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women―a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author―with enviably supportive husbands. When she agrees to help with a resident’s wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of the women there. She finds the air is different in Dynasty Ranch. The women aren’t hanging on by a thread.

But as the case unravels, Nora uncovers a plot that may explain the secret to having-it-all. One that’s worth killing for. Calling to mind a Stepford Wives gender-swap, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Network Chandler Baker's The Husbands imagines a world where the burden of the “second shift” is equally shared―and what it may take to get there.

I ADORED this book! I feel like I should clarify that I adored it not because I am frustrated with lack of help around the house from my husband, though, lol. I am very very blessed to have a partner who goes above and beyond to help with the kids and housework and I rarely have to ask him for assistance, he takes it upon himself to get things done.  With that personal caveat aside (hah) I do think that mothers these days are under immense pressure to get everything done with often very unrealistic expectations and support and I loved the subject matter this book explored.  I thought it was extremely relevant and relatable and loved Nora as a main character.  She was hardworking at her job, a loving mom, and even when frustrated with her husband she admitted he really was the love of her life. I think Chandler Baker did a great job giving a voice, albeit through fictional form, of the real struggles working moms go through.  Dynasty Ranch was a great plot point in this book and took the novel into a realm I was not expecting.  A certain part of the "twist" I should say took the book into a much more fictional genre than something that strictly parallels real life, but I actually really enjoyed it as a "what-if" scenario. I would totally recommend this, it was a pleasure to read.


By Maggie O'Farrell. Synopsis from Amazon:

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. 

A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever. 

I heard a lot of buzz this year over O'Farrell's newest novel, The Marriage Portrait, that was released in 2022 but decided I should start with Hamnet for my first book from this author. The very basic premise of this story is a fictional account of William Shakespeare and his son, Hamnet, who passes away as a boy.  In reality the book focuses much more on William's wife Agnes and the love and grief she endures.  The characters are extremely heartfelt and you can empathize with nearly all of them.  The writing is simply beautiful - descriptive and heartfelt throughout. I must confess I am not well studied or all that interested in the works of William Shakespeare, but that is not at all needed to enjoy this book.  While I did really like the book, I tend to enjoy historical fiction books with a bit more of a moving plot.  This novel focused much more on the inner thoughts of the characters and their relationships than moving plot points which, while not a negative, just didn't draw me into the book quite as much as I would have expected based on the amazing reviews it received. I still enjoyed the writing and overall subject matter though - so I do officially have The Marriage Portrait on my TBR list as well!

2022 Reading Round-Up

If you missed any of my book review posts from this year, here are some quick links that list everything I read this year:

Book Club #42The Golden Couple, Reckless Girls, The Maid, The Lost Apothecary 
Book Club #43: The Club, Death on The Nile, The Paris Apartment, The Arc
Book Club #44: One Italian Summer, The Latecomer, People Like Her, Book Lovers
Book Club #45: The Hotel Nantucket, The Lifestyle, The Christie Affair, The Perfect Mother
Book Club #46: Lessons in Chemistry, Barefoot, Upgrade, This Time Tomorrow
Book Club #47: A Hundred Summers, A Flicker in the Dark, Carrie Soto is Back, The Vacationers
Book Club #48: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Every Summer After, The Lioness, The Lion's Den
Book Club #49: The House Across the Lake, Pieces of Her, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six, Killers of a Certain Age
Book Club #50 (This Post!): A Merry Little Met Cute, The Husbands, Hamnet

Honorable Mentions:

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Even though this was not my favorite TJR book to date, her writing is just so good and she writes damn good stories!  The characters, the details of the sport, the way you become so invested in Carrie's life and will for her so hard to succeed in her sport, find love and have it all is just captivating.  This was fabulous!

The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

I didn't hear a ton of buzz about this book when it was released, but when I look back on everything I read this year this story still sticks with me. I really enjoy books by Agatha Christie so that intrigued me enough to read this book, but really the story wasn't about Agatha at all, but rather about her husband's mistress Nan.  This book had so much more depth and heartache/back story behind it than I was expecting, so for the surprise romance and story that drew me into it I think it's worth an honorable mention for sure!

2022 Number Three Favorite:

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

This was not a new release for 2022 but a backlist read from a fave author of mine and it solidified the fact that I just want to read every book that Beatriz Williams has ever/will ever write. I loved everything about this book.  The seaside town backdrop, how the story alternated being told in present vs. past day and how they met and collided to explain everything, the love affairs, the heartache, how much I emoted for and with the characters and the crazy storm that climaxed with the plot of the novel. I missed reading this book when it was over and just adored every part of it!

2022 Number Two Favorite:

The Maid by Nita Prose

This was one of the first books I read in 2022 and I still remember how much I enjoyed reading it. Molly the Maid made this book so fabulous because of how genuine and likable she was.  She was very quirky and was constantly getting a bad hand dealt to her - you truly became enraged as the book goes on over how unfair she is treated when a murder is blamed on her. I loved Molly's obsessive love of cleaning and the orderly details included in the book of her cleaning techniques, etiquette intricacies, the mystery that needed to be solved and the characters that show up to help her when needed most.  This was a heartwarming novel that I truly enjoyed.

2022 Number One Favorite:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

What a book this was! It was a very simple decision to pick this as my favorite book from 2022 because I just adored every part of it. It was so easy to become wrapped up in the story: you were so frustrated right along with Elizabeth Zott over how poorly she was treated as a woman in the 60s, but also so empowered to watch her overcome and take charge of her life.  The characters were absolutely the best part of this book and I still attest that six thirty the dog was one of the best written characters out there (yes, even as a dog!).  This book had immense humor and heart, a love story, and lots of surprises along the way.  I don't ever re-read books but I know I will keep my copy of this one handy to pick up again in the future because that's how amazing it was.  A well deserved number one best book of the year!

That's a wrap on reading in 2022 - here's to all the amazing novels just waiting to be read in 2023 :)

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