I finished this past year off having read a grand total of 66 books. My original goal was fifty, which I later changed to sixty, so I was pretty impressed with how many I actually managed to get through. Out of all of the books on that list, there were quite a few 5 star books that I absolutely loved. And, let me be clear, I am VERY stingy with my 5 star ratings. But, I awarded 12 of those 66 books the official 5 star rating and below are the books that I think are worth the read.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
It’s not often that a book makes me cry–in fact, I’m not sure a book has ever made me as emotional as this one. But, In Five Years totally captured something that no other book has for me. This book is all about love, but not in the way you’d expect.
In this book, the main character, Dannie, thinks she pretty much has her life on track. She goes into an important interview and she’s asked the age old question, Where do you see yourself in five years? Later that night, she falls asleep and dreams that she is five years into the future–except nothing turns out the way she thought it would, and when she wakes back up, she is determined to change the outcome.
This book didn’t have the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read, but it was short and the plot has stuck with me even all these months after I’ve read it. If you want to read my full review of this book, you can check it out here.
Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic
This book didn’t initially end up being one of my 5 star books (you know, as you’re reading when you know it’s going to be your favorite book ever?) but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that Dark Horses needed a 5 star rating.
Susan Michalic’s debut novel is about a fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy who is set to go to the Olympics. Her dad is her coach and he’s a pretty strict man with rules that would terrify most teenagers. Our main character, Roan, tries to keep her dark relationship with her father under wraps so that she can reach her goals because she loves her career, but things quickly get out of hand. Be warned, this story has some very graphic scenes and it is a very real, very raw story of a survivor of abuse.
If you’d like to read my full review for Dark Horses, you can check that one out here.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Oh, Circe. You can’t really go wrong with Circe, can you? This book was so clearly a 5 star book for me….I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time to come.
In this modern day classic fantasy re-telling, Madeline Miller brings to life the story of Circe, the daughter of the Sun God, Helios. She’s not special like her father, or alluring, like her mother, so she spends many of her days alone–until she turns to the mortal world for companionship. She quickly finds her way into witchcraft, learning that she has special skills that the gods themselves are terrified of. When Circe’s emotion gets the better of her and she catches the gods attention, she is banished to an island, where she is forced to live the rest of her days alone–Except, she’s determined to make a life for herself there, ensuring that her story isn’t over quite yet.
This book is an incredibly journey of motherhood, femineity, and autonomy and I highly HIGHLY recommend it. Check it out.
When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown
I thought In Five Years made me cry..,until I read this book.
I picked up When Stars Rain Down not only because it has a gorgeous cover, but because I was determined to read more diverse books last year. I thought this book would be a really good option because of it’s content, and I was right.
Angela Jackson-Brown does an incredible job conveying emotion and connecting the reader to her characters in this debut novel about a young woman approaching her eighteenth birthday. Opal works hard to support her family, but when the Ku Klux Klan descends on her neighborhood, the tight-knit community is shaken in a big way. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot in this one, but I’ve never read a book where I’ve been so emotionally attached to the characters.
*chefs kiss* this book was amazing and it deserves so much more hype than the 300 reviews it has on goodreads. Give it a read and then review it! You can see my full review for it here.
Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette
You can totally start to see where my reading goals take a turn here.
Anywho, Agatha of Little Neon was another of my 5 star books for this year and another one of my absolute favorites. Seriously, this one was in my top five, and not just because of the bright cover.
I think this is one of the better written debut novels I’ve read. The prose is outstanding, and the plotline was really well-established and it was hilarious, deadpan humor that I loved. In this novel, Agatha and her three other sisters are essentially nuns and their parish goes under, so they are forced to move. With nowhere to go, they are sent to a halfway house to help recovering addicts–except they know absolutely nothing about addiction. Agatha is tasked with helping at a local school and for the first time, she is allowed to leave her sisters and think for herself. The change in scenery gives her a chance to break free, and she realizes that maybe she’s been hiding behind her habit.
This is another read that isn’t too long and has shorter chapters. I had some trouble initially getting into this one, but if you read my review, you’ll see why I still rated this book 5 stars.
The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
I don’t usually love family-drama-type literary fiction, but Amy Meyerson’s The Bookshop of Yesterdays totally blew me away. I read it early last year and this book had be SO hooked that I read the entire thing in nearly one sitting.
The premise of The Bookshop of Yesterdays is the main character, Miranda, grows up spending time with her Uncle Billy, who owns a bookstore. But, on her twelfth birthday, her mom and her uncle have a falling out and Miranda never hears from Billy again–that is, until sixteen years later, when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, informing her of her uncle’s death and that he’s left his failing bookshop in her capable hands. The premise of the story follows a scavenger hunt to find out what really happened the night of Miranda’s twelfth birthday, revealing family secrets that the entire family has been hiding for many years.
This book was SO addicting and I loved every second of it. Meyerson did come out with another book, so I have that one on my TBR shelf and will hopefully get to it this year.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valez
Take My Hand is another book that I was drawn to because the synopsis just sounded so incredibly moving and inspirational. I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did, but it quickly became clear that this was going to be one of my 5 star books for 2022.
The premise of Take My Hand is not for the faint of heart. In Montgomery, Alabama, in the ’70s, a young black nurse, Civil, has just started working for a family planning clinic in her city, hoping to make a difference in the poor areas of her community. She quickly learns that the family planning clinic isn’t targeting the women she was expecting to be helping, but instead is enrolling patients as early as 11 and 13, putting them on birth control, regardless of the fact that the girls haven’t even kissed a boy yet. Civil quickly becomes close with two of her patients and works to change the system after a tragic event, but it’s not until much later that she tells the reader all of the details of this profoundly moving story.
This is one of those books that words just cannot describe how deeply it affected me. Be sure to check out my review on this one if you’d like to read all of my thoughts, but I highly recommend reading this one. It’s very educational, eye-opening, and a truly meaningful story based on a very real account.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Guys. Guys. I know this book isn’t near as well rated as Michaelides’ debut, The Silent Patient, but you HAVE to get your hands on this book. After reading both books, I think The Maidens is far superior as his second book and it totally shows.
Like his first book, this book is written entirely from the perspective of a mental health advocate (a therapist). Mariana Andros is a group therapist who travels to Cambridge, where she was once a student herself, when she learns that her niece’s best friend (also students) has been murdered. Mariana is convinced that their professor is the murderer. Yet, despite her constant intervention in the case, no one seems to hear her pleas.
This book was such a wild ride and I absolutely LOVED all of the literary references that Michaelides used to tell this story. I would give this book six stars if I could. It was that good. You can read my full review here, but beware of spoilers on this one!
The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
If there’s one romance that makes it to my five star books list, it’s Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard. This was my first ever Katherine Center book and honestly? I’m going to need to read her other books ASAP.
The Bodyguard is a fun enemies to lovers romance that reminds me of a Netflix rom-com (and let’s hope maybe it becomes one?). Hannah Brooks kind of looks like a kindergarten teacher, but she’s actually an undercover bodyguard. When she’s hired to protect a super-star actor, Jack, she’s less than thrilled. She’d rather be off on a jet plane to literally anywhere after her recent breakup. But, the world has different plans for her. When Jack has to go home to visit his mom, who is sick, he doesn’t want his family to know he has a bodyguard by his side—so Hannah turns into his bodyguard turned into fake girlfriend. Except, when fake feelings start to turn a little too real, Hannah and Jack will have to come to terms with their contract and figure out who’s really protecting who.
This book was such a fun read and I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with it. I was a picture perfect romance in my book. Here’s the review if you want to read it!
The Sign For Home by Blair Fell
The Sign For Home might be my all time favorite book I’ve read this year. Maybe ever, honestly. Let me tell you how much I loved this book: I actually rented the book from my library, read it, returned it, and bought my own copy. It was that good.
This book follows the story of a young Deafblind man, Arlo Dilly. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness and under very strict guardianship of his uncle (also JW), who is SUPER controlling. Arlo convinces his uncle to let him sign up for a writing class at a community college so he can learn how to write before leaving on a mission trip. Yet, the writing class means that he’ll need more than one interpreter. This brings Cyril into Arlo’s life. Cyril is a gay man who’s never interpreted for someone who’s Deafblind before, and Arlo is very different than anyone he’s ever met. As Arlo and Cyril learn from each other, they begin an adventure that helps Arlo connect with his old school friends and his long-lost love, and also helping Cyril along the way, too (but you’ll have to read about that yourself).
If you have any doubts about this book, ignore them. This is your “sign.” pun intended.
The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne
The Book of Gothel is another debut novel that totally blew me away this past year. I’ve never really read anything like it–it almost read like a storybook, but for adults. It hooked me from the very first page, and I couldn’t stop reading after that. I finished the whole thing in two sittings (seriously, I didn’t get anything done that weekend).
This book is kind of historical fiction meets fantasy meets retelling. Mary McMyne tells the untold story of Gothel, Rapunzel’s mother (known to us in this story as Haelwise). The plot follows Haelwise’s childhood as she loses her mother, and is left with nothing. Seeking refuge, she looks for the old witch’s tower her mother tells her about, finding “Gothel” to be a place, not a woman.
This story is filled with adventure, magic, and feminism. A 5 star book, for sure. I recommend it to anyone and everyone I can.
The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
The School For Good Mothers was definitely one of the books I wanted to read most this year. When this book came out in January of 2022, I almost bought it—but it was only available in hardcover and it was pricey. So, I held out and waited until it became available at my library (which honestly, I kind of forgot about it and then was super excited when I saw it).
I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that is as psychologically disturbing as The School For Good Mothers. Chan’s story takes place in a dystopian world where women’s actions are very closely watched. When Frida Liu, a new mother, makes a mistake on her “very bad day” and leaves her young child alone for a few hours in her home, she’s quickly flagged by the state. Her child is taken from her and Frida is given a choice–if she ever wants to see her daughter again, she can give up her life for one year and attend a school that will teach her how to be a good mother, or she can give up custody and never see her child again. Frida attends the school, but it’s nothing like she expected, and she has to work to gain the state’s trust to show that she can be good.
To be honest, this might be one of my favorites that I’ve ever read and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those rare books that ended perfectly and I loved that about it, but the story was also just so haunting and disturbing–it made me so angry. I felt so connected to Frida, even knowing that she made the mistakes she did. You can read my full thoughts here, but I definitely recommend checking this one out.
Have you read any of these books? If so, I want to hear your thoughts about them! Leave me a comment below and tell me which ones you read and if you rated them the same way that I did.
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