I can’t count how many times this year I wanted the conductor to stop the bus so I could get off. It’s been… a year. Probably one of the most difficult I’ve faced in quite some time. And yet it has also been a year of triumph in many ways. Situations that could have become worse did not, and nearly all of us who faced adversity have rallied. There is truth to that old adage, after all, that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But, my goodness, it can wear you out. So here’s to a 2023 that’s a little bit more kind.
Despite its challenges, 2022 served up some superb entertainment and I found many moments of simple joy within the pages of a book, on the screen, and on the campus of my local community college. So, here they are, my favourite things of 2022.
I did not track the number of books I read this year. Around April, I stopped using my reading diary because it just felt like one more task I couldn’t keep up with. I had a lot else on my mind. But I did read some amazing books and I didn’t need a diary to keep track of the best of the best.
Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff (Book of the Year)
You know when you say you savored a book? I savored every delicious word of this one—all the more because it’s illustrated and, in my opinion, all fantasy novels, regardless of the age of their target audience, should be illustrated. I would have the image of a character or a situation in my head, and after flipping a page, there they’d be, pretty much as I had imagined them. And every illustration just added something to a book that really didn’t need anything. So it ended up feeling like a sumptuous experience. More than I could have asked for.
Empire of the Vampire is rich in detail. It’s complicated and dense and chewy, but not at all hard to digest (yes, we’re on a theme here). It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and in a year where I DNFed a record number of books, it felt wonderful to be so immersed in an author’s world. I loved the characters and I can not wait to continue the story.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Fantasy)
I collect beautiful editions of books I’ve loved through Subterranean Press. Every now and then, however, they offer a book I know about but haven’t read yet. Attracted by the cover art commissioned for their edition of The Goblin Emperor, I grabbed a copy from the library and attempted to read it in three days so that if I liked it, I could try for a copy during the preorder window—which for popular books can be only minutes long.
The Goblin Emperor took more than a weekend to read because it was another book where I wanted to savor every word. But I preordered a copy for the keeper shelf anyway, because it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Again, so rich in detail, and with characters I enjoyed living with for the length of the book. A truly gorgeous story and a world I look forward to visiting again.
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Science Fiction)
Continuing the theme of books rich in detail is Rosewater. This book had been on my radar forever, but I had put off reading it because I hadn’t had a lot of luck with speculative novels grounded in cultures I don’t have a lot of experience of. I want to like these books—to support diversity in publishing—but I primarily read for enjoyment and if I don’t connect with a book or the characters, I find it difficult to enjoy the story.
Tade Thompson has created a story and a world that reminded me a lot of China Mieville—whom I’ve always had a difficult time reading but stick with because OMG the concepts. Thompson is a lot easier to understand, though. He’s a lyrical writer and I loved his characters and the lore surrounding his world. I got it, even though it wasn’t my experience, and his book gave me hope that I might find more non-white-centric science fiction and fantasy that I can really get into.
Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Science Fiction)
Another book to savor. Everything I’ve read by this author is somehow different. He doesn’t write the same book over and over—though he does explore similar themes and character tropes, and there’s always some sort of insectoid race or character or science going on. 😀
Shards of Earth is fun at times, despite the overall ominous tone. It reminded me a lot of Chaos Station in that there’s a small, dilapidated ship and a rag-tag crew. There was a huge war in the past, and the two main characters lost touch afterward. They’ve been reunited by a new threat and end up becoming some of the most important people in the galaxy.
I loved all the characters in this story and the aliens were just so alien and unknown. Definitely the kind of book I wish I’d written, except the story is so much bigger than I might ever have imagined. It’s also the first of another series I look forward to continuing.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (Science Fiction)
Yep, this is the third sci-fi book on this year’s list. No, I couldn’t pick just one.
Seveneves is probably one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. The story is huge in every way and there is a lot of science in this science fiction. So much theory. So much EVERYTHING. It took me about three weeks to read it but I enjoyed every minute of this massive story because of how it made me feel. I laughed, I cried, and I sat back in blank amazement from time to time. The arc. The ambition. It often felt overwhelming.
Also, this will be a book I think about for years to come because up until I read Seveneves, I always liked the idea of going into space. I loved the idea of humanity exploring the solar system and extending our reach beyond. Now I’m not sure we’re ready, or if we even should. This planet is our home. We’re designed to fit this one place and trying to go elsewhere is… It’s a lot of work and a lot of people are going to die. Horribly. Space is not kind.
Okay, let’s talk about some lighter books!
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune (Fantasy romance)
I liked The House in the Cerulean Sea enough to pick this one up. I loved this book enough to preorder the next one in hardcover.
Under the Whispering Door, to me, feels like peak T.J. Klune. It’s what he’s best at. Characters who are neither too young nor too old, neither too jaded nor too naïve. There’s this middle ground that he hits every now and then where he finds the space between ridiculous and sublime and the story hits home in a very real place, despite the setting.
It’s a beautiful story, one that I can imagine rereading when I want moments of lightness. But there is a deeper message and so many moving scenes that I had to start reading with a box of tissues by my side, especially at the end. It’s one of the sweetest love stories I’ve ever read.
Riven by Roan Parrish (Romance)
Every now and then I want to read a rockstar romance. One with deep feelings and deep desires, woven through the overwhelming beat of a musician’s life. With Riven, Roan Parrish delivers. And, as with her other books, alongside the romance, there is baking and cooking, some gardening, lots of talking, and many deep thoughts. A satisfying read with a wonderful HEA.
Okay, just two books to go:
Carbon and Silicon by Mathieu Bablet (Graphic Novel)
Dark. Will make you cry. Also an excellent example of why science fiction often delivers the most human of stories, even when the main characters are not.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (non-fiction/memoir)
John Green reviews us. Earth, humanity, and the sometimes mundane experiences that make life worth living. Read by the author and is worth getting in audio if you can.
I watched a lot of mediocre movies this year, which makes me sad as watching movies is one of my favourite things to do. But time and again, I’d queue up something billed as the next greatest whatever—and find myself reaching for my phone about forty minutes in. Thankfully, I did find a few gems.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Movie of the Year)
What can I say about this movie? It’s… weird. And it sometimes moves faster than really makes sense. But then you get it and it’s beautiful and… just everything.
Probably one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen. Also incredibly moving because, despite all the weirdness, the message is quite simple. It’s about love. About marriage and about being a parent. And there is this one moment that spoke so loudly and so profoundly… if you’ve seen the movie, it was the rocks. When one follows the other off that cliff, even when it knew it shouldn’t. That’s being a parent, right there, and why I loved this movie so very much. Why I will recommend it to everyone I ever meet.
I could have watched this for twice as long. I loved the colors, the music, the animation, and the characters. I loved the realness of the story and the genuine emotions explored. Just an all-over enjoyable experience.
Top Gun: Maverick
I don’t know why I was determined not to like this? I loved Top Gun! I think I got caught up in the why are they making a sequel NOW thing. But you know what? It’s a good movie. It might even be better than the first one. And as a sequel, it’s got everything you could wish for and not an ounce of anything you wouldn’t. I could happily watch this one over and over.
What? Another Batman movie and starring… Richard Pattinson? It took some pretty good reviews to make me cue this one up. But believe me when I say I’m so glad I did. Aside from being a very entertaining movie, I loved the style. The music. The moodiness. Batman being a detective! I hope this team makes more movies because I am here for them.
Never Have I Ever (TV Show of the Year)
Never Have I Ever pops up on my Netflix home screen every new season but for some reason, I ignored it until I was in the mood for something different—meaning something not speculative or murdery or both.
Why did I wait so long! I buzzed through all three seasons in about two weeks. Yes, it bothered me that Devi’s love interest for most of the series was played by a 30-year-old, but he’s adorable and they’re all adorable and the show is just absolutely and completely adorable. I loved every minute.
Station Eleven is a wonderful example of an old trend made new again, where a book adaption isn’t squashed into a movie or teased out over an entire season of TV, but told in eight to ten robust episodes that each feel like a mini-event.
This is another show I put off watching for a while because I’m just not that into live theatre and I thought it might be too geeky for me. In the end, the post-apocalyptic premise won me over and I loved the way the story was told, even if it did get a little thespian for me at times. Mostly, I loved how each episode felt like a vignette of a sort, so maybe I’m a little bit more into theatre than I thought.
The Very Pulse of the Machine (Love Death + Robots) was probably the most gorgeous and emotional ten minutes of TV I watched this year. It’s hard to tell a complete story in such a small space, but this episode managed that and so much more. The visual aspect, the music, the tone, and the message. I have rarely felt so moved. It came as absolutely no surprise that it was based on a short story by Michael Swanwick.
As an aside, I very much enjoyed the entire third season of Love Death + Robots.
Despite playing Valheim for another two hundred hours (+) this year, it’s not game of the year… again. It’s definitely earned a place in my all-time faves, though.
Days Gone (Game of the Year)
I wrote an entire blog post about Days Gone, so I’ll be brief here: It’s not just another zombie game. I mean… it is? But Days Gone definitely has its own feel and I loved that about it. I also loved the arc of the main character, Deacon St. John. Yes, he’s a biker dude and if you’re not into that, you might have some issues with the game. But he’s not entirely what you expect him to be. His character is dimensional and plastic. He grows and stretches so much throughout the game.
Another favourite aspect was the diversity and inclusivity that did not feel shoe-horned in for the sake of checking a few boxes. Then there’s the story. It’s not perfect but I liked it a lot—especially the friendship between Deacon and Boozer, with many laugh-out-loud and meaningful moments.
Other games I enjoyed this year were God of War and Deathloop, both of which I played on the PS5 when I was laid up after surgery. Excellent use of my time in both instances.
I made my own granola! People have been telling me to do it for years (after listening to me complain, over and over, about how my favourite brand has changed its formula).
I’ve been using the recipe from one of my favourite food blogs, Cookie + Kate, with just a couple of tiny tweaks, and I love it. I’ll never buy store-bought again—though, in a pinch, the one from a local farmstand is pretty good. 😉
I went back to school this year and despite getting Covid, breaking my foot, and having surgery, I had a blast. I took three classes at my local community college and I loved learning, connecting with the other students and my professors, and the feeling of doing well at something.
I don’t know why it took me so long to go back—I’ve wanted to for years. But sometimes we end up doing something at exactly the right time and this year was exactly when I needed to take up learning again.
Well, that’s another year in the bag! Despite the ups and downs (so. many. downs.) there were moments I wouldn’t have missed for all the world—the most important being the month I spent in Australia with my father. We didn’t do much, but it’s so often the small, seemingly insignificant moments that we enjoy the most. That we’d miss if we didn’t have them… and if this year has taught me anything, it’s to hold on to those.
I hope you all had a great year and that 2023 brings much happiness to us all.