What to Read in 2022

I jinxed myself last month when I said Reese’s Book Club continues to pick great books. I read two this month and didn’t enjoy either. The first one was June 2022 pick and the second one was on the YA list for Winter 2022.

It could be that the books weren’t my taste. Maybe I’m in a reading slump. Or I’m just cranky from sweating through the hot and humid summer. I don’t know. You may like these. I wanted to like them. I know from experience how hard it is to write a book and I give authors as much support as I can. But sometimes, the books don’t land like they were intended.

On to the analysis. 

Book number one

Counterfeit, by Kirstin Chen, the June 2022 pick

Description from Kobo.com

Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy a decent fake.

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home—she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Swift, surprising, and sharply comic,Counterfeit is a stylish and feminist caper with a strong point of view and an axe to grind. Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.

My Take:

Money can’t buy happiness … nor can it always buy a good book.

This book failed to impress me. It had potential. But it let me down in the first few pages.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is from Ava’s perspective and the second from Winnie’s. Neither character appealed to me. They both seemed flat with no redeeming qualities. Part one was so slow, I put the book down several times.

But I like to finish what I started so I kept reading, only to discover that part one of the book was subterfuge. Ava is telling a police detective her side of the story, explaining how Winnie engineered the entire scheme. Part two gives a different perspective to the same story and is a much easier and faster read. But not any more interesting.

From my standpoint, this book makes women in general and immigrant women specifically look narcissistic and self-centered. Ava and Winnie may be the two main characters but, in my opinion, are also the villains of the story. The entire book is a set up for the reader to root for the women. While rooting for the villain works in some instances, but it didn’t here.

There was no reason for me to like either of these women. Yes, they had some tough times. Ava lost her mother, her husband was absent and her son cried all the time. Winnie got caught in an unfortunate situation and her parents disowned her. But that wasn’t enough for me to excuse their decision to break the law. Multiple times. If I had any empathy for either woman, maybe I would have understood their actions. But as it stood, the ending irritated me more than anything. The women manipulated the police and felt no remorse whatsoever.

Book number two:

Anatomy of a Love Story by Dana Schwartz, YA list for Winter 2022

Description from Kobo.com 

Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.

Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.

When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, Beecham will allow her to continue her medical career. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books—she’ll need corpses to study.

Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living.

But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets, and the dreaded Roman Fever, which wiped out thousands a few years ago, is back with a vengeance. Nobody important cares—until Hazel.

Now, Hazel and Jack must work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

My Take:

Hazel’s living in tough times. While she is part of the moneyed elite, her aspirations to be a surgeon are looked down upon. Her mother is unsupportive (to be honest, her mother is absent even when she is sitting next to Hazel). Hazel’s fiancé placates her, telling her that she will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that she is just a woman. Hazel has to figure out things on her own, which she does brilliantly in the first part of the book. 

She is helped by Jack, a poor orphan who understands that the world doesn’t owe him anything. He does what he needs to do, whether he likes it or not. How else is a guy going to eat?

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s historical fiction, and per its book description, a gothic tale full of mystery and romance. The book delivered on those promises, flowed well and kept me wondering what would happen next. It’s the ending that bothered me. 

I won’t spoil the ending, but the deus ex machina, where Hazel and Jack’s problem is solved with an impossible solution, left me shaking my head. Shakespeare used deus ex machina in many of his plays, but it didn’t work here. Looking back on the story, the author dropped some hints about the book’s finale, but the clues weren’t clear enough for me to anticipate the actual resolution. Because it was so far from what I expected, it left me feeling dissatisfied. 

Up next month is Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola. I’m hoping this is a book that appeals to me. It hurts my heart to not like a book, but sometimes, it happens. 

If there is a book you think I should read, drop me an email at carole@carolewolfe.com. 

Until next time…

Photo by Vadymvdrobot from Deposit Photos.