Anticipated Reads for Winter 2022

Wow, there are a lot of great books coming out this year! I don’t know if it’s just that I’m in a good reading place right now, but I feel like there’s a lot more new releases coming out than normal! I’d love to make a list for all of 2022, but it’s too hard to narrow it down and I’m sure there will be so many more great books in the latter part of the year as well, so here’s a few of my anticipated reads for January, February, and March!

Fiction

Olga Dies Dreaming

Author: Xochitl Gonzalez

Pub. Date: January 4

“A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria.”

Fiona and Jane

Author: Jean Chen Ho

Pub. Date: January 4

“A witty, warm, and irreverent book that traces the lives of two young Taiwanese American women as they navigate friendship, sexuality, identity, and heartbreak over two decades.”

Brown Girls

Author: Daphne Palasi Andreades

Pub. Date: January 4

“A blazingly original debut novel about a group of friends and their immigrant families from Queens, New York–a tenderly observed, fiercely poetic love letter to a modern generation of brown girls.”

Wahala

Author: Nikki May

Pub. Date: January 11

“An incisive and exhilarating debut novel of female friendship following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.”

Black Girls Must Be Magic

Author: Jayne Allen

Pub. Date: February 1

“In this highly anticipated second installment in the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series, Tabitha Walker copes with more of life’s challenges and a happy surprise–a baby–with a little help and lots of love from friends old and new.”

Black Cake

Author: Charmaine Wilkerson

Pub. Date: February 1

“In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past–a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake.”

Mystery/Thriller

The Maid

Author: Nita Prose

Pub. Date: January 4

“A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.”

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead

Author: Elle Cosimano

Pub. Date: February 1

“Finlay Donovan is—once again—struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on. With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…”

Girl In Ice

Author: Erica Ferencik

Pub. Date: March 1

“From the author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle comes a harrowing new thriller set in the unforgiving landscape of the Arctic Circle, as a brilliant linguist struggling to understand the apparent suicide of her twin brother ventures hundreds of miles north to try to communicate with a young girl who has thawed from the ice alive.”

Historical Fiction

To Paradise

Author: Hanya Yangihara

Pub. Date: January 11

“From the author of the classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.”

An Impossible Impostor

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Pub. Date: February 15

“While investigating a man claiming to be the long-lost heir to a noble family, Veronica Speedwell gets the surprise of her life in this new adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.”

The Diamond Eye

Author: Kate Quinn

Pub. Date: March 29

“The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.”

Romance

Yinka, Where Is Your Husband?

Author: Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Pub. Date: January 18

“Meet Yinka: a thirty-something, Oxford-educated, British Nigerian woman with a well-paid job, good friends, and a mother whose constant refrain is ‘Yinka, where is your huzband?'”

Running Wild

Author: K.A. Tucker

Pub. Date: January 25

“From the internationally bestselling author of The Simple Wild comes the story of a woman at a crossroads in her life, struggling between the safe route and the one that will only lead to more heartbreak.”

Science Fiction

The School for Good Mothers

Author: Jessamine Chan

Pub. Date: January 4

“In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.”

Non-Fiction

An Abolitionist’s Handbook

Author: Patrisse Cullors

Pub. Date: January 25

“In An Abolitionist’s Handbook, Cullors charts a framework for how everyday activists can effectively fight for an abolitionist present and future. Filled with relatable pedagogy on the history of abolition, a reimagining of what reparations look like for Black lives and real-life anecdotes from Cullors.”

Fight Night

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Miriam Toews
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Aug. 2021 (read Oct. 2021)

My attempt to read a bunch of the Giller Prize longlist has been going so well this year! As a Canadian I always get excited about this list, but I’ve never dedicated so much time to working through the nominees before. I usually get more into Canada Reads in March, but I have to say, reading through the Giller nominees was a much more satisfying experience than I’ve ever had participating in Canada Reads. This just seemed to be a much more quality selection for me and I can say that I really liked everything I read!

In total I read 4 of the 12 nominees on the long list, but Fight Night was the only one I read that made it to the short list. I’ve been aware of Miriam Toews for a long time, but the only book of hers I’ve read is Women Talking, which I absolutely loved. I didn’t like Fight Night as much as that one, but I was so pleasantly surprised with this book! Because Women Talking tackles such a heavy topic, I think I was expecting something a little darker from this book – it was so lovely to read this humourous take on a multi-generational family instead.

Fight Night is told from the point of view of 9 year old Swiv. She has been expelled from school and as a result is living at home full time and being (somewhat) tutored by her grandmother. Her mother is pregnant and her father is missing; to help her process her circumstances and surroundings, her grandmother has her write letters to her unborn sibling “Gord”.

I’ll say upfront that I struggled a bit with Swiv’s voice – not that I found it hard to read or that I didn’t enjoy it – just that I struggled to believe she was actually 9 years old. She read a bit more mature to me and kept picturing her as a 12 year old rather than 9, but otherwise, this was such a sweet and fun book to read.

We get to spend time with Swiv, her mother, and her grandmother and I came to love each of them very dearly. Grandma has an incredible zest for like that immediately endears everyone around her, while her mother struggles with her mental health and missing husband. She loves Swiv fiercely and fights to stay strong for both her and Gord. It is an entirely character driven novel that captures a truly beautiful relationship between 3 generations of women.

I don’t have too much else to say about the novel except that it’s a great read if you’re ever feeling down and the humour is really what carried the book for me. I did think there were some structural weaknesses – one of my favourite parts was when Grandma recounts Swiv’s mother’s history for her while they’re on the plane to California, but I found the timing and delivery to be a bit awkward, like Toews knew what she wanted to include, but couldn’t find a graceful way to do it. Overall I could have done without the trip to California entirely and found it a bit distracting to the greater themes of the novel. I don’t think it’s the strongest of the nominees I read (I really would have liked to see The Strangers make it to the shortlist), but I would definitely still recommend Fight Night. Overall it was a joy to read!

Of Women and Salt

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Gabriela Garcia
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: Mar. 2021 (read May 2021)

I have read some really good books this month and Of Women and Salt is definitely one of them. I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz about it over the past few months but I couldn’t quite pin down what the plot was. I gathered it was a multi-generational immigrant story and honestly, I didn’t need to hear any more, I was sold. 

We put this on our book club voting list and it lost to The Lost Apothecary, which is really too bad because I think my book club would have enjoyed this a lot more than they enjoyed The Lost Apothecary. This book is centered around women, primarily the relationships between mothers and daughters. It’s another story that is told non-linearly (seriously, I’ve read so many of these this year), but this is one of the books where I didn’t mind the non-linear telling. Overall the plot is pretty simple, so I didn’t find it difficult to jump around as the novel focuses more on the character relationships than anything else. 

The novel kicks off in 19th century Cuba and then jumps around from there. Though someone from almost every generation of this Cuban immigrant family are featured throughout the novel, most of our time is spent close to present day with the youngest woman in the family, Jeanette. When she witnesses her neighbour being taken away by ICE in the middle of the night, she inadvertently becomes guardian to her neighbour’s daughter for a short period of time. Though they only know each other for a few days, the experience has a profound impact on both Jeanette and the young girl, Ana. 

I’m glad the novel focused on these two individuals because I did find their stories to be some of the most memorable and meaningful of the book. Though I did love the development of both Jeanette’s relationship with her mom (Carmen), and her Mom’s relationship with Jeanette’s grandmother (Delores). Beyond Delores, I don’t think going further back in the family tree really added that much to the story. The inclusion of the family tree at the start was definitely a good idea, I could see this being really confusing otherwise.

Some might question how much Ana and her mother’s story really belonged in this book, but I loved the comparison of two different immigration stories and though they are only loosely linked to one another, I thought the inclusion of both really made this a more well rounded story. 

Honestly, my only complaint about this book is that it could have been longer. It’s only about 200 pages and I really would have loved to spend more time with each of the women in this family, particularly Carmen. I felt like I had good insight into Dolores’ perspective, but I would have loved to hear more about Carmen’s experience immigrating to America and what it was like growing up under the shadow of her childhood trauma. Abuse was passed down from generation to generation in this family and I think that Garcia could have really developed this theme more to make her narrative even more impactful. I just wanted a little bit more from each of the characters, but the writing was so beautiful I’m definitely excited to see what the author will write next. An excellent debut!

Detransition, Baby

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Torrey Peters
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Jan. 2021 (read May 2021)

This is going to be a hard review to write. It took me a long time to read Detransition, Baby; not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s a heavy book in scope. As a character study, this book is incredible. Peters really gets into the psyche of her main characters and I was frankly astonished at the emotional depth to which she takes Reese and Ames. These are not hastily created characters, they are well developed individuals and Peters brings to life every aspect of their character, from their most trivial thoughts, to their deepest secrets. Don’t come to this book if you are looking for a fast-paced plot, but rather if you want to get down into the nitty gritty of what it means to be trans and the exploration of both womanhood and motherhood as a trans-woman, this is the book for you.

It’s what made it so hard to read. The plot is not told linearly and the book is chaotic in its exploration of the themes and who these people are. Peters goes to some dark places and this is not a lightweight book. For those not aware of the plot, Detransition, Baby is primarily about two characters, Ames and Reese, though Katrina also plays a central role in the story. Reese and Ames were in a relationship for many years, but Ames eventually decides to detransition back to male and accidentally impregnates his boss, Katrina. The novel explores the idea of these 3 individuals raising the baby together because Ames fears that Katrina will not understand why the idea of ‘fatherhood’ is so scary to him and because Reese is a trans-woman that has always wanted a baby.

It’s a messy book and I can see it being very polarizing. But the fact that it’s been creating so much buzz and making bestseller lists from its release is in itself an achievement. The danger I think may be that this is held up as the only example of what it means to be trans, so I hope to see many more books like this get published to both broaden the narrative, and of course, for representation. Although shoutout to the YA genre which I think has been ahead of literary fiction genre on this topic. 

There are so many ideas presented in this book that I did find myself finishing it and not knowing quite what to think. I’m still not sure if I loved it, but I can’t deny its power because I really can’t stop thinking about it and I appreciate Peters’ unapologetic telling of these individuals. This is ultimately a book about womanhood and motherhood and what it means to navigate those worlds as a trans-woman. Peters explores so much within a limited number of pages and I definitely commend her on her honesty.

My only complaint is that I wish this story had been told linearly. I’ve read a lot of non-linear stories lately and for the most part, it doesn’t bother me – but I’m not sure what this style achieved in this book. The chapters are very long and every time I finished one, I knew I would be jumping to an entirely different part of the story, so it made it hard to pick the book up again every time I put it down. I felt like I had to get re-invested in the story after every chapter because the storytelling itself was quite chaotic. 

But one thing is for sure – whether you loved it or hated it, Torrey Peters is definitely one to watch!

The Lost Apothecary

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Sarah Penner
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: Mar. 2021 (read May 2021)

Sadly, this was one of my most disappointing reads so far this year. Not that it was a particularly bad book or anything, I just thought the plot held so much promise and it was one of most anticipated books. So when it didn’t live up to my expectations, it was definitely disappointing. 

The Lost Apothecary is set in the late 1700’s and tells the story of an apothecary, Nella, who dispenses both remedies and poisons to her solely female clientele. The goal of her apothecary has always been to help women, but after the death of her mother, Nella decides to branch out to offer women a different kind of help, that of murder. Her one rule is that her poisons are never to be used against women, only against men. 

At the same time, we have a modern day story of Caroline Parcewell, a young housewife who has just discovered an upsetting secret about her husband and decides to travel to London on their 10 year anniversary, alone. While there, she discovers about the existence of the old apothecary and sets out to learn more about it.

The plot sounds intriguing right? So why didn’t I like it? Honestly… I didn’t see the point. I thought I was going to get a nuanced story about women in tight places who seek help to improve their difficult situations. I wanted a morally ambiguous story about women and sisterhood, but instead I got a lightweight drama about a blackmail scenario that I struggled to believe wouldn’t have already happened to Nella at some point during her career as a dispenser of poisons.

There is one interesting story in the beginning when we are introduced to Eliza, but after that, I felt the author didn’t do anything new or interesting with the plot. I struggled to relate with any of the characters because I don’t think any of them were given the depth they deserved. We’re given a surface level story about Nella that I think is intended to be shocking and sad, but Penner never manages to quite connect you with her characters in a meaningful way. It’s a debut novel and she falls into the classic trap of “show don’t tell”.

I feel like I make this complaint about a lot of books, yet authors keep making the same mistake. Penner had a great idea for the book, but the execution and character development just weren’t enough to really give this story wings. It’s a great idea, but I don’t really know what Penner was trying to say, what was the point? I felt like I was getting so many conflicting messages. One of Nella’s key motivations is that she wants to keep her register alive to give voices to women instead of silencing them, but if that puts the women at risk of DEATH, then that is the strongest way of ensuring you do actually silence them. Then Caroline further silences women by keeping what she discovers about Eliza at the end a secret as well. The messages were contradictory and it really made me question what point the author was trying to make.

So let’s talk about Caroline. Why do so many historical fiction books insist on having the modern day timeline. No one cares about it! People are almost always more interested in the historical timeline as learning about the past is generally what inspires someone to pick up historical fiction in the first place, so why do so many books have modern day timelines. I was initially intrigued with how the apothecary was going to link to Caroline, but it ended up just being a fluke and I thought the scenario of events that occurred in her timeline were so outlandish and unlikely that it was hard to take her story seriously at all. 

Anyways, at the end of the day, it wasn’t a totally bad book, but it also wasn’t a great book. I’m somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. I read it with my book club and we were all disappointed, so despite the intriguing-sounding plot, I wouldn’t recommend this one.