It’s the end of the year, so here’s another end of year wrap up! This year I read a bit less than I usually do, having a baby and all. At this point, I’ve read 131 books this year, and though there’s always time to finish one more, I’ll just count that towards next year if it happens.
My favorite genres are always fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and memoirs. I read almost any genre but those usually top the list. This year was definitely a romance-heavy year for me. This is a bit unusual because fantasy usually dominates my reading, and although I still read plenty of fantasy, with the aforementioned baby birthing, I found that the complexity of fantasy books didn’t always jive well with the cotton-candy-mom-brain I had going on. Now that the fog is clearing, I expect I’ll be able to dive more fully back into my fantasy reading and give those storylines the full attention they deserve. That being said, I sure did enjoy my rom-com reads this year. I finally dipped my toes into Abby Jimenez’s books and was an instant goner. 5 stars for all of them besides The Happily Ever Playlist, that one was my least favorite.
As always, I don’t number my favorites, I just list them by genre. So many books are genre-bending these days, so I pick the category I associate them most with. I enjoyed MANY more books than the ones listed here, almost every single one I list will be my five-star reads, though. There’s an exception here or there for super memorable reads that I didn’t give five stars to for one reason or another, but that will be rare. Now, enough rambling. I read some gorgeous books this year, let’s get to them.
To all of the authors writing these little slices of heaven, may this year bring you an abundance of creativity and prosperity. We appreciate you!
BEST OF FANTASY
Best of Epic/High Fantasy
•Of Blood and Fire (The Bound and the Broken #1) by Ryan Cahill
This was my favorite traditional fantasy book of the year and probably the best self-published fantasy book I’ve read in a long time.
•The First Binding (Tales of Tremaine #1) by R.R. Virdi
South Asian inspired fantasy that, yes, feels a lot like Name of the Wind, but also carries on plenty of its own elements. Plenty of mythological aspects to it, as well.
Best of Mythological/Folk Tale/Retellings
•A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence #1) by Rebecca Ross
Scottish folk tale inspired fantasy with dark, romantic elements.
•Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
One of my absolute favorite books all year. A retelling and reclaiming of Kaikeyi’s story, a queen from the Hindu epic Ramayana.
•The Stardust Thief (The Sandsea Trilogy #1) by Chelsea Abdullah
Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, this is atmospheric Arabian fantasy that combines adventure fantasy and a heist storyline.
Best of Fantasy Romance:
•Ledge (The Glacian Trilogy #1) by Stacey McEwan
There’s more than just romance to this novel, but the enemies-to-lovers plotline is just too good to resist putting it here.
•The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
Again, one of my absolute favorite book this year overall. Cozy, adorable, and just perfect. Grumpy-sunshine trope and would be good for lovers of The House in the Cerulean Sea.
•Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater
Historical fantasy set in British society with romance elements and a fairytale quality to it. Quite the genre bender.
Best of Magical Realism
*Note: These are books that I hesitated to even put in the fantasy section. They are heavily rooted in reality but have magical elements to them that are important to the storyline.
•The Change by Kirsten Miller
ONE. OF. THE. BEST. BOOKS. ALL. YEAR. How do I even describe this? I think the blurb I read somewhere says it best: feminist revenge fantasy. All about women helping other women, harnessing our innate power and femininity.
•In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker
Practical Magic lovers will enjoy this, but it is a story entirely its own. The magic comes from gardening and bourbon, but this is mostly a contemporary small-town drama with murder mystery and romance elements.
Best of Horror/Dark Fantasy
•Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham
This one definitely falls into the horror genre. Your favorite childhood book characters coming to life and hunting you? A gory thing of nightmares.
•One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig
This is darkly written fantasy, not horror (just wanted to make that clear for those not into the horror genre). Tarot card inspired magic system, an ancient being controlling minds, and romance elements come together to make a unique and compelling novel.
Best of Fantasy Novellas:
•The Fall (The Bound and the Broken #.5) by Ryan Cahill
This is probably the single best novella I’ve ever read. It provides so much insight into the rest of the series and is non-stop action.
BEST OF ROMANCE/ROM-COMS
•The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Tropes: impossible love, forced proximity, paranormal. An author helps the dead cross over and her recent crush is her newest ghost after he was hit by a car.
•The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Tropes: enemies to lovers, grumpy vs sunshine. Super charming with witchy elements. Good for fans of The House in the Cerulean Sea.
•Holiday Romance by Catherine Walsh
Tropes: meet-cute, Christmas romance, friends to lovers. Super cute story about two friends who travel together every year on the same flight home to visit their families separately until one year when all of their plans go awry.
•The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Tropes: grumpy vs sunshine, fake dating. Women in STEM and romance, say no more!
•The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Tropes: fake dating, celebrity/normal person, just one bed. A book that can be cheesy while diving into serious topics, like grief and abandonment.
•Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Tropes: small-town/big city romance, rivals to lovers, much more. This one is hard to define with tropes because Henry takes them all and spins them on their heads. Two people who work in publishing, exploring grief and heartache away from the big city they’ve both grown accustomed to.
•Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman
Tropes: celebrity crush, second chance romance, slow-burn, reunion after first unforgettable meeting. This novel has a more serious tone and is more of a contemporary romance than romantic comedy like most of the books above. Journalist meets celebrity, they fall in love but cannot be together and don’t see each other for years.
•Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez
Tropes: second chances, fake dating, workplace romance. This is my favorite of all the Jimenez books I read this year. A male love interest with obvious neurodivergent tendencies, a strong female doctor. There’s a bit of miscommunication, which I normally hate, but I loved these characters so much that I can gloss over it.
•Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
Tropes: meet-cute, age gap, opposites attract, social disparity, small town. This was my first Abby Jimenez book and is a serious contender for favorite. I loved the town, the baby goats, and the dynamic between our two main characters.
•Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
Tropes: seize-the-moment vs workaholic, grumpy vs sunshine, opposites attract, friends to lovers. Brings awareness to ALS, which the main character suspects she might have because it runs in her family. She’s in charge of her newborn niece, who her sister abandoned, when her neighbor steps in and helps her on this journey.
•The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Tropes: meet-cute, friends to lovers, work/forced proximity. Infertility representation, OCD representation. Two people who meet through their friends’ wedding, fall in love, but one wants a big family and the other struggles with infertility.
NOTE ABOUT ABBY JIMENEZ BOOKS: Her books are best read in the order written. The Friend Zone, Happily Ever Playlist, Life’s Too Short, Part of Your World, Yours Truly (which isn’t out yet). Characters appear from previous books and can spoil plotlines for the books that were written after them. I LOVE her books because they cover serious topics in each one, most have some steamy romance, and they’re somehow lighthearted and serious at the same time. It’s very possible Happily Ever Playlist was a three star for me because I read them out of order, though I do think overall it is the weakest regardless.
BEST OF HISTORICAL FICTION
•Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
A woman chemist breaking down barriers in the 1960’s as a single mother. Funny, romantic, smart, observant. One of my absolute favorites all year.
•The Wolf Den and The House with the Golden Door (Wolf Den trilogy #1 & #2) by Elodie Harper.
An enslaved sex worker in the ancient city of Pompeii who uses her smarts and sexuality to take charge of her own life.
BEST OF LITERARY FICTION
•How to Fall Out of Love Madly by Jana Casale
A wonderfully profound, woman-positive novel. The writing style is like a warmer Sally Rooney. Intelligent, raw, powerful writing.
•Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy.
Set in the Scottish Highlands and follows a biologist tasked with reintroducing wolves to the region. This riles up the local farmers, fueled even more with rage when one of their own turns up dead.
BEST OF NONFICTION
•I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy
Heartbreaking, funny, and revelatory writing from the start of iCarly and Sam & Cat child star.
•Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings by Christa Bilton.
The title explains a lot, but Christa Bilton was the daughter a lesbian mother with a string of partners who procured sperm from a handsome man who never intended on being a parent. He also fathered up to HUNDREDS of other children to pay for his addiction. Cycles of abuse, mental illness, forgiveness, and more.
•Your Table is Ready: Tales of a New York Maître D by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina.
This was a love story to the service industry. It was a condemning of some of the behavior of the patrons and bosses. It tells the secrets of the staff and of the celebrities that frequented the restaurants he worked at. I take some of experiences with celebrities with a grain of salt, but having spent many years in the service industry, I loved this.
•Into Every Generation, A Slayer is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts by Evan Ross Katz
I’m a huge Buffy fan and this is a book any Buffy fan should read. Evan discusses how this show was such a major part of the LGBTQ experience at the time. He dives deep into all the harm that Joss Whedon caused while still paying homage to all the work that these actors, especially the women, put into this show. Just an absolute must for Buffy watchers.
BEST OF POETRY
•I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer
Baer takes emails, social media, and other forms of communication and uses the words within them to create poetry. She takes hateful words and turns them into beauty. She exposes the meaning behind these communications. So innovative and refreshing.
And that’s all friends! I have so many more books I enjoyed and also in depth reviews for most of the books listed here, so feel free to head to my Goodreads profile by clicking *here* to check out more of my thoughts and My 2022 Year in Books. You can also click my name on this blog to see any review I’ve posted here, mostly fantasy reviews. Or you can check out my Book IG by clicking *here* and see the reviews and content I’ve posted there. Lastly, I also have a bookish TikTok that gets posted to less often, but I post partnerships there and content under the name Cassidee.Omnilegent.