The Best Books We Read This Year (2022)

Original post by IndieBookReview

#1. Stamp Mill Murder

by Sherilyn Decter

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Released: January 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Historical Mystery

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

Despite being an escapist novel, this novel doesn’t sugarcoat the darker parts of the era.

The Moonshiner Mysteries series steps up its game with this second installment. The first book, Big Sky Murder, is a great set-up: it introduces the characters and shows readers around a fascinating historical small world. 

This second book, Stamp Mill Murder, expands all the horizons: Characters who were already thoroughly enjoyable gain more nuance; we explore the town of Pony Gulch and its surrounding mines and forests deeper; and all the great historical aspects are developed even further too.

Light and fun with enough historical clout to hold its own, this series has been a fantastic escape from reality so far.

#2. Balsamic Moon

by Alan Gartenhaus

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Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: October 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Disaster Fiction

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

Most disaster novels I’ve read follow similar conventions to disaster movies: more action than reality. Balsamic Moon breaks that mold. It’s a thoughtful, nuanced, and authentic exploration of the occurrence and direct aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The long days of waiting, the stifling anxiety about whether they’ll be rescued, and the dwindling of already meager rations are all drawn with stark clarity. 

Something about the way Balsamic Moon is written pulls readers so smoothly across its pages. It’s easy to empathize with the characters through the struggle for survival. The heat of the long days is palpable, the stench of the floodwater equally so.

While Balsamic Moon uses Hurricane Katrina as a vehicle for its story, the story isn’t really about the storm. There are so many different things that this novel explores, but, at its heart, I think it is about the people that society accepts and the people it rejects.

Reading Balsamic Moon is somehow both wonderful and heartrending. I could easily have spent more time with these characters. There seems to be so much of both of them left unexplored. It feels fitting, though, that in the wake of this disaster, things are left messy and incomplete. It leaves an air of disturbance around the novel. A feeling of disquiet that somehow mirrors the ultimate atmosphere of the book.

#3. Life, Travel, and the People In Between

by Mike Nixon

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Publisher: Palmetto Publishing

Released: September 2022

Genre: Memoir / Travel

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

An insightful, feel-good travel memoir that shows how following your passion can change your life

Life, Travel, and the People in Between is like an interesting discussion with someone talking about the life they love. It’s accessible, relatable, sometimes funny, and sometimes painful. It’s also one of those books that inspires you just by existing. 

For someone without a lot of means, either social, professional, or economic, it’s amazing how Nixon manages to build such a fulfilling, enriching life while following his heart.

Book Review: Life, Travel, and the People in Between

#4. So Far From Home

by Robert Wilhelm

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Released: December 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime / Historical

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

A vivid true crime story that dives into the social and political climate behind a gruesome murder

So Far From Home is a fascinating historical tale. While the crime is at the forefront, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Wilhelm paints a full picture of the stakes that pertain to all parties through the trial. Pressure is on the prosecution to return a guilty vote. 

Author Robert Wilhelm maintains the perfect balance in giving all parties involved a voice, but also in making each of their perspectives persuasive. He takes the time to humanize the people involved in this story. For a book gleaned from old newspapers, it does so well in delving into personalities.

Book Review: So Far from Home

#5. Laugh Cry Rewind

by Judy Haveson

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Released: July 2022

Genre: Memoir / Women

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

A poignant memoir that shows how love perseveres beyond death

Laugh Cry Rewind could easily fall into pity memoir territory, but the often funny, irreverent tone puts it onto another level. While the central most devastating event in Judy’s life might have been losing her sister, Celia’s life dominates the page more than her death. This isn’t the story of a person fixed on one terrible moment, but of a person whose moments, both bad and good, all add up to an incredible life. 

Funny, awkward, and sad by turns, it explores the ins and outs of navigating all the complexities of the world from adolescence to relationships to careers.