Updated: Mar 2
in true "2023 is starting in february fashion", i've decided that instead of frantically trying to write long winded reviews or record a big aesthetic book review video, i'm just going to dump all my reviews for the rest of 2022 here. symmetry i guess for how the year started?
this year i focused on trying to be more intentional about what i was reading and how i was reading. in 2021, i really wanted to fly through to get to as many books as i possibly could. while i was able to read 104 books that year, i found i wasn't always intentionally reading and i often couldn't remember some of the books i read; even after i finished reading it. because of this, i wanted to set some ground rules for myself for 2022.
i think the rules helped me get through books so i could write my reviews for this blog but i think it also put some self-inflicted pressure. i wanted to make sure everything for this site, for my youtube channel, for all of my social media [personal, amandamariereads, amandavscancer, and the pups] were all perfect.
so i overwhelmed myself.
i overwhelmed myself into a creative paralysis.
and here we are. almost five months after the last review i posted.
initially, i intended to read 104 books again last year and eventually, i had to concede that i would likely only be able to get to half. it took a while to fight my pride and in the end i allowed myself to get to whatever i got to and not feel bad. in the end, i read 37 books out of 52.
here's what i learned since starting these reviews
i enjoy reading outside my comfort zone: i'm always sticking to the genres i'm comfortable in (mystery, thriller, suspense, and horror) and i stay within the comforts of them for the most part (occasionally dipping into historical fiction. this year i really spread out into contemporary fiction, more graphic novels, romance, smut, and fantasy.
i really like retellings i really went through a phase here. i'll likely get more into the details when I get into my review for A Ruin of Roses below but i feel like i've been chasing a good retelling for a while. i'm not sure if i've found it yet, but i think i'm getting closer.
when done right, i really enjoy a good romance/smutty book when i started this year, i challenged myself to get into the lighter side of things; literally (reading the "pastel covered" contemporary fiction). i made a point to get into some really ridiculous and really weird romance books (Shadow Rider and the Perfect Poo) and some incredible romance as well (Seven Days in June).
i cannot read on a deadline i have had netgalley and other similar accounts for a really long time but have never really been active on them until i started this review blog last year. my toxic trait: requesting as many advance review copies as possible and then completely forgetting about it. i have requested and received so many books and i end up checking way too late only to find the download/review window is way past and i've lost my shot. additionally, your status on these accounts are determined by your "feedback ratio", so it also affects your ability to request books in the future. to add insult to injury here, once i do download the book, i completely forget when the archive date for the book is and i end up not finishing the book in time.
i'm making the rules here i don't have to worry about making everything exact or perfect. I can change it however often i need to because i'm the one making this up as i go :)
it's really hard for me to be kind to myself but i think if this were something a friend were saying to me, i'd have so much more grace for them than i would myself and i have to remind myself of that too.
so, okay... here we go!
Book 27: A Ruin of Roses by K. F. Breene
[ Deliciously Dark Fairy Tales #1 ]
About the Book
A spicy new twist on an old classic - a deliciously dark Beauty and the Beast reimagining.
I could save him, but he would ruin me.
The creature that stalks the forbidden wood.
The dragon prince.
He has suffered a fate worse than death. We all have. A curse put upon us by the mad king. We are a kingdom locked in time. Shifters unable to feel our animals. Stuck here by a deal between the late king and a demon who seeks our destruction. The only one keeping this kingdom alive is Nyfain, the golden prince to a stolen throne. The last dragon shifter.
He’s our hope.
He’s my nightmare.
When he catches me trespassing in the forbidden wood, he doesn’t punish me with death, as he’s entitled. He takes me, instead. Forces me back to the castle as his prisoner. Seeks to use me. Apparently, I can save him. I can save the whole forgotten kingdom, locked away by the demon king’s power. But it would mean taming the monster beneath his skin. It would mean giving myself to him.
It would mean my ruin.
i think the best way to start off this review is with a confession -- i could NOT stand A Court of Thorns and Roses. i had tried to get into it during my one hundred [ books ] of solitude in 2021 and i barely got halfway through it before i decided i had to mark it DNF (do not finish) and i really think this is what got me on my intensive quest to find a fairy tale retelling series i liked that was romance but also smutty and woof did i find something.
this book was WILD. it was almost comedic how over the top raunchy the scenes were at times and, while it did have some good spice, the absurdity really took me out of the mood. plot-wise, the book really reminded me of For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, a book i read in the beginning of 2021 and really enjoyed but the writing style and the frequent breaking of the fourth wall in pivotal scenes of this book, really took away from it for me.
i think, eventually, i'll get to the next book in the series. but, im not rushing into it.
Book 28: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
About the Book
After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.
The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.
Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?
i really wanted to like this book but i ended up being really really disappointed. in the middle of 2022, Book of the Month announced they'd be beta testing book club options and my group of friends in the amanda marie reads book club discord server [click here to join!] decided to pick this to start off.
as a true crime podcast fan, i was immediately drawn to this book and what really attracted me even more was finding out the author, Megan Goldin, is a journalist.
the book falls in three POVs
rachel's point of view (main narrative)
the rachel's podcast episodes
the letters written by jenny's younger sister, hannah
i really loved when the book switched to the podcast and letters because that's where Megan's journalistic talents really shined; but when it switched to rachel's main narrative, it felt lost and disjointed.
warning: spoilers ahead!
what really made this a near miss for me was the case at the very core of the book that rachel is reporting on for her podcast is very obviously based on the the people v. brock turner case. while the book did a good job to push the conversation forward, having read Chanel Miller's book Know My Name, i could not separate myself from this fictionalized account and what i knew about the case. additionally, i felt there were so many opportunities for the book to branch out. i saw the potential for a series here but this book comes in after rachel's success with the first season of her podcast and, while its alluded to, it isn't really explained. it felt like i dropped in to the middle of a series that doesn't exist. a direction i wanted the book to go: it would have been so interesting if rachel ended up being jenny's sister. there was space for it to happen and, i think it would have been a good reveal to explain some of the plot holes in the story. some things i found funny:
the producer of the podcast (whose name eludes me) in the book is really just a plot device for the end of the book. i think he must have been edited down into a lesser role to give more space for plot but i will say, it was nice to have a man be a plot device for once!
THERE WERE SO MANY TIMES WHERE RACHEL RANDOMLY GOES TO SOMEONE'S HOUSE AND NO ONE QUESTIONS WHY SOME STRANGER IS THERE. i mean, i understand it's a small town vibe. but there is a whole chapter where she goes to interview someone and just WALKS INTO THE HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARTY and NOT A SINGLE PERSON questions who she is or why she's there. additionally, she was not given any directions of how to find this place nor descriptors of who she's supposed to be talking to, so how did she know which person to speak with?!
in the end, the book felt slightly disjointed but if this became a series, i think i would read the next one.
Book 29: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales
About this Book
When their now famous ex-boyfriend asks them to participate in a teen reality show, two eighteen year old girls—one bent on revenge, the other open to rekindling romance—get tangled up in an unexpected twist when they fall for each other instead in Never Ever Getting Back Together by nationally and internationally-bestselling and Indie Next Pick author Sophie Gonzales.
It’s been two years since Maya's ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.
Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.
When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes— to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.
i found this book scrolling through netgalley and the title grabbed me. i'm no swifty, but who doesn't catch themselves singing along when one of her songs pops up?!
anyway, while the title and the cover piqued my interest, the synopsis grabbed me. i've never been a big fan of shows like the bachelor or any other reality competition series (they always stress me out) but this concept for this show was hilarious to me. i thought back through my roster of guys i've dated before and really imagined what it would be like if one of them called me on to a show like this and what i would do if i were a contestant.
i also loved that it was a layered love triangle in a way. very enemies to lovers between maya and skye and i really liked their dynamic and i loved having an honest LGBTQIA+ representation that did not feel forced or as if it were only a diversity plug. their connection felt genuine and i could feel myself getting sucked into their story.
what made me rate this book less than a champ were a couple of things. the writing felt a bit aged down in some portions. it really felt YA and i'm not sure if that is the demographic for the title and it became confusing at times because i couldn't figure out what ages maya and skye were supposed to be. the other part was, while i appreciated that the author did not fall into pitting all the women against each other, it felt like there was a need for one more villain other than their shared (asshole) ex-boyfriend. it was a very near miss for me but i will definitely be searching for other books from this author.
Book 30: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
About this Book:
In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
before I start my review, i'm going to call back to earlier in this post where i explained how awful i am with netgalley requests. i requested and received this egalley and did not realize until i was WAY too late to download it and, honestly, it broke my heart. so when i saw it was an option to get with my book of the month subscription, i added it to my box.
there were two things that drew me to this book:
that gorgeous cover
a tag line i read somewhere: "two friends often in love but never lovers"
i must admit, i was very intimidated by this book. i had always wanted to get into video games growing up but i always felt they were too expensive and, since i was an only child, i never really had anyone to play with me or share in the fun and so i defaulted to reading more. i had an n64 that i loved but i never wanted to ask for games because i knew they were expensive. but i always felt like all my cool friends had the cool games. so going into a book heavy on game culture, i was worried i'd feel isolated by the references. this book was so beautifully written and so thorough that i often forgot that i had barely any experience playing games to the extent the characters did.
i think what really engulfed me was the love in this book. i had been talking to a friend a couple months ago about the different types of love and how i believe that there are so many layers to loving people and there is no better way to explain that than reading this book.
warning: spoilers ahead!
ultimately, this book had the best written death of a character i have read in a long time. quite possibly ever. the set up for building marx up throughout the book as a central but secondary figure who carries the weight of the company that sam and sadie create and the entire section where he dies...
i always pride myself in trying to guess what happens next in books and i did not see this coming and certainly not in the way it happened. and it made so much sense for his character to die the way he did. it also made so much sense for the plot to turn how it did.
that part of the book destroyed me and i have half a mind to stop typing and reread it right now. (but if i do i'll never finish writing this post so i wont lol)
overall, this book really hit one of my top three favorite books of the year and definitely an all time favorite. a certified champ for sure.
Book 31: Book Lovers by Emily Henry
About this Book
One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn't see coming....
Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.
Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.
If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.
it took a while for me to get into this book, not at all because of the plot, but because i think it was kinda burning me out. i've worked in publishing for ten years and i think it was a little too much at times to finish working and then sit down and read a book about people working in publishing.
overall, i did end up really liking the story. this book was like a warm hallmark-esque movie. very cozy and very funny. i often found myself wondering... where is my charlie?!
the book delivered what i needed after reading Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, it was something light and fun. i definitely see why people love Emily Henry. I did get another of her books (Beach Reads) so i think i would definitely try reading more of her stuff. but i think i'll have to read it when work isn't as busy so as not to burn myself out again.
Book 32: Malice House by Megan Shephard
About the Book
Of all the things aspiring artist Haven Marbury expected to find while clearing out her late father’s remote seaside house, Bedtime Stories for Monsters was not on the list. This secret handwritten manuscript is disturbingly different from his Pulitzer-winning works: its interweaving short stories crawl with horrific monsters and enigmatic humans that exist somewhere between this world and the next. The stories unsettle but also entice Haven, practically compelling her to illustrate them while she stays in the house that her father warned her was haunted. Clearly just dementia whispering in his ear . . . right?
Reeling from a failed marriage, Haven hopes an illustrated Bedtime Stories can be the lucrative posthumous father-daughter collaboration she desperately needs to jump-start her art career. However, everyone in the nearby vacation town wants a piece of the manuscript: her father’s obsessive literary salon members, the Ink Drinkers; her mysterious yet charming neighbor, who has a tendency toward three a.m. bonfires; a young barista with a literary forgery business; and of course, whoever keeps trying to break into her house. But when a monstrous creature appears under Haven’s bed right as grisly deaths are reported in the nearby woods, she must race to uncover dark, otherworldly family secrets―completely rewriting everything she ever knew about herself in the process.
a note from me, Amanda Marie:
I will not be reviewing this book nor will I be providing links for this title.
Not to go in too much depth, but I currently work for Disney Publishing Group as a sales manager and this book is published by Hyperion Avenue, an imprint of DPG. So, while i really liked the book and i'm sure i could provide a review, i do not feel it ethical to do so considering the nature of my job.
Book 33: When We Had Wings
by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, Susan Meissner
About this Book:
From three bestselling authors comes an interwoven tale about a trio of World War II nurses stationed in the South Pacific who wage their own battle for freedom and survival.
The Philippines, 1941. When U.S. Navy nurse Eleanor Lindstrom, U.S. Army nurse Penny Franklin, and Filipina nurse Lita Capel forge a friendship at the Army Navy Club in Manila, they believe they’re living a paradise assignment. All three are seeking a way to escape their pasts, but soon the beauty and promise of their surroundings give way to the heavy mantle of war.
Caught in the crosshairs of a fight between the U.S. military and the Imperial Japanese Army for control of the Philippine Islands, the nurses are forced to serve under combat conditions and, ultimately, endure captivity as the first female prisoners of the Second World War. As their resiliency is tested in the face of squalid living arrangements, food shortages, and the enemy’s blatant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention, the women strive to keep their hope— and their fellow inmates—alive, though not without great cost.
In this sweeping story based on the true experiences of nurses dubbed “the Angels of Bataan,” three women shift in and out of each other’s lives through the darkest days of the war, buoyed by their unwavering friendship and distant dreams of liberation.
“Three of the biggest powerhouses in historical fiction come together to pen this breathtaking story of three nurses serving in the Philippines during the Second World War.” —PAM JENOFF, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman with the Blue Star
a note from me, Amanda Marie:
this book was a DNF for me for a couple reasons but in support of the ongoing HarperCollins Union Strike, i will not be reviewing this book nor will i be providing links for this title.
to learn about this book: visit GoodReads page
to learn more about the HCPU Strike and how you can support: visit their linktr.ee
Book 34: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
About this Book
A phantom has haunted the Paris Opera House for years. Now he is infatuated with singer Christine Daaé. Despite an astonishing debut performance, Christine fails to win the lead in Faust, and the Phantom’s cursed retaliation on the opera house is spectacularly fatal. As the chandelier falls, he kidnaps Christine, and through hidden passages and behind trapdoors, shares his life story with her. To secure her escape, Christine promises to stay true to him forever. But when the Phantom learns of the prima donna’s intention to flee, his passion turns terrifying.
With its complex and victimized antihero, a man at once evil and misjudged, Gaston Leroux’s Grand Guignol has become a fixture of romantic popular culture and the dark absolute of obsessive love.
when i was younger, i was enrolled in a gifted and talented program. in either fourth or fifth grade we had to pick a classic novel. my lil spooky ass decided to pick this book and i loved it so much. i think, including this reread, i have read this book six or seven times total in my life. after the project, my mom took me to see the show and i grew to love the story even more.
so with the show announcing it would finally close, i decided to finally revisit the book and see if it still held up for me.
let me tell you, rereading this REALLY made me cringe. every character was so much whinier than i remembered and it really made me step back and analyze how the story paralleled what i thought relationships should be in the past.
big yikes. it seems silly to admit, but it really took a lot for me to change my five star goodreads rating down. overall, i think i will always love what this book meant to me, even though i no longer align with it. [omg yall im growing]
Ugly Love by Coleen Hoover
About this Book
When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.
Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.
They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.
Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.
it would be ridiculous of me to not acknowledge that colleen hoover is completely crushing the industry right now so i had to give her another shot. i had read Verity a little while ago but i found myself comparing it to similar books within that trope before and it didn't really impress me. so i decided to read November 9 on november ninth. but when i mentioned my plan to some of my friends and posted about it on tiktok, a handful of people suggested i read this book first because they have parallel characters.
i think i'm going to start off with a simple statement: i didn't really like this book. at the same time, i couldn't freaking put it down. i finished the book in one sitting.
after reading this book, i completely understand why so many people have been so hooked to CoHo. she writes men so well; the ultimate response to the male gaze.
there were several red flags in this book that had me questioning a few directions she took with the plot but in the end, i had to hand it to her. i hadnt read a book that fast in a long time. so for that, it wasnt a complete snoozle.
November 9 by Colleen Hoover
About this book:
Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.
Can Ben’s relationship with Fallon—and simultaneously his novel—be considered a love story if it ends in heartbreak?
Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.
well, i wanted to read this on november ninth so i did; and just like Ugly Love, i read it in one sitting.
admittedly, i liked this book a lot better than Ugly Love and i'm glad i listened and opted to read in the order i did. overall, i have similar comments about this book that i had with Ugly Love and it makes me wonder if all of her books are mildly concerning like this? am i the only one finding it concerning!? is this growth? because i can definitely see younger me falling for these very hot semi-toxic guys. but maybe that's part of the appeal? the "i can fix him" becomes possible and the toxic bad boy is redeemable. he is fixed by the power of LOVE.
i dont know if i'll try another hoover book any time soon.
The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent
About the Book:
She's an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut of literary suspense following a clique of dangerously ambitious students at the University of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the dark secrets in her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?
When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she's destined to be friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel; shrewd Ava; and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.
And then Tabitha reveals a little project she's been working on, one that she needs Clare's help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it's already too late. Because they've taken the plunge. They're so close to attaining the things they want. And there's no going back.
What is the cost of an extraordinary life if others have to pay? Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and striving with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have, and those who covet--between the desire to truly belong, and the danger of being truly known.
right off the bat: this book was freaking insane. reading it felt like a fever dream and i consistently felt like i had to reread passages to figure out what the f*ck was going on.
this book felt like a lot of combinations of other stories; the two that come to mind were The Likeness by Tana French (the suspicious communal living situation) and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (the unreliable narrator). ultimately, it felt like there was a lot of lead up before getting to any semblance of a main plot.
the book was creepy; mostly unsettling. it also made me feel frantic. i really wanted to like it but i think there was too much going on and, despite how much i wanted to quit reading the book, i still wanted to figure out what the relevance of the harrowing first scene was. the second half of the book felt disjointed and it is probably why this wasnt a total "certified snoozle". it was also mildly satisfactory.