Feature image @mpmarquesus
Throughout 2022, BookSparks’ founder Crystal Patriarche raved about the books (shows and movies, too) that she loved in her monthly column, Books On Your Radar. Now at year’s end, she combed through her lists, starting with January 2022, and selected her absolute favorites and personal best books of the year. As an ultimate bookworm who reads across all genres, and devours all kinds of content across platforms, Crystal definitely knows how to spot a great story—so we recommend checking out the Books On Your Radar collection.
Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
No one knows love better than Nora Hamilton—it’s literally her job! As a screenwriter for a romance channel, Nora is familiar with the formula for love. That is until her life gets a total rewrite. Now a single mother of two, Nora gets creative with her career, writing a screenplay inspired by her recent divorce. When her new screenplay gets the attention of Hollywood filmmakers, she is also introduced to Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, cast as none other than her ex-husband. With a proposition from a man that is hard to turn down, Nora is left reconsidering love and what can happen in just 7 days.
Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Ever since the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, city girl Persephone Fraser knows how to keep people at a distance. But when she gets a call from a former love, Sam Florek, a tragedy pulls her back to the past. Persephone finds herself returning to Barry’s Bay, the lakeshore from her childhood, where she must come face to face with the decisions she’s made and the years she’s spent running from them. Over six summers and one weekend, we get to relive the nostalgic story of Percy and Sam’s friendship that turned into something much more, and the mistakes that pushed them apart.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Literary agent Nora Stephens is not like the heroines in the books she reads, and she reads a lot. When well-meaning little sister Libby convinces Nora to go to Sunshine Falls for some sister time, she hopes she’ll experience some self-development—but running into brooding editor Charlie Lastra is not the small town vision she had in mind. Having met many times before, the run-ins with Charlie are far from meet-cute. Thrown together in Sunshine Falls, Charlie and Nora just might learn more about themselves than any book they’ve read before.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
It’s the 1960s and Elizabeth Zott is a female chemist working in an all-male research institute that has an unscientific view on equality. All but Calvin Evans, who falls in love with her mind, as chemistry would have it. But as science goes, Elizabeth sees how life is unpredictable. Finding herself a single mother, she becomes the star of a cooking show, where she mixes science and baking to challenge the status quo.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A love story unlike any others you’ve read before, this story is about Sam and Sadie, a legendary collaboration. The world is theirs after they create a blockbuster before they even graduate college. They are young, creative, brilliant and rich. But none of those things spare them from the heartaches, failures and surprises of life. Over 30 years, from Massachusetts to California and everywhere in between, these two will learn what’s most important of all: to love and be loved.
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
In a spell-binding work of historical fiction, Zhang tells the story of Daiyu, a young girl that is desperate to outrun the tragedy that chases her. After being kidnapped and smuggled from China to America, Daiyu is forced to reinvent herself over and over again to survive. When anti-Chinese sentiment creates violence that sweeps the nation, Daiyu must draw upon these versions of herself as she faces the unthinkable.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Ansel Packer has 12 hours to live. With a scheduled execution just hours away, all Ansel wants is to be understood. Through the eyes of his mother, Lavender, just seventeen years old; his wife’s twin sister, who watches the relationship unfold; and the detective that wants to take Ansel down, we see the stones thrown into the lake that is Ansel’s life, and the ripples they caused. A compelling story of tragedy and womanhood, Notes on an Execution challenges our thoughts on empathy and what it means to be human in our darkest moments.
Flight by Lynn Steger Strong
It’s the first Christmas that siblings Kate, Martin and Henry are spending without their mother. It’s also the first Christmas they’ll be spending in upstate New York, with their children in tow, instead of their mothers home in Florida, which happens to be the sole inheritance. As the group tries to honor traditions, tensions rise, as well as sentiment, as they come together unexpectedly to help a local family.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
A story of two best friends, Edith and Ashley, who have shared everything together. From hickeys to heartbreak, trick-or-treating to binge-drinking, they’ve lived through the mundane and the momentous together. But now, the unimaginable has happened, and Edi is dying. On the brink of tragedy, Ash will come together with a host of beautiful hospice workers, her daughters, past and present lovers, and close friends as she prepares to say goodbye to Edi. Grab the tissues and prepare to laugh, cry, and laugh until you cry.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is about a young boy, born to a teenage mother and a dead father who left him nothing but his good looks. Navigating foster care, child labor, addiction, athletic success, and crushing losses, this book is reminiscent of Dickens David Copperfield in the way it highlights institutional poverty and how that affects children—and how generations later, we have done little to change that reality.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
At just nine years old, Bird Gardner lost his mother, a Chinese-American poet, without a trace. Now at age twelve, he lives with his father, the former linguist, who works in a university library. For ten years, Bird has learned not to ask questions, not to stray too far. With authorities attempting to restore peace and prosperity, looking to relocate children of Asian origin, Bird knows not to wonder about his mother and her poems, let alone her whereabouts. But when a mysterious letter arrives with a cryptic drawing, he begins a quest to find her that involves folklore and the lives of the children that have gone missing. It all leads him to New York City, where he learns the power of art and legacy on both children and civilization, and how many can survive with a broken heart.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Olivia McAfee never imagined she’d end up back in her hometown in New Hampshire, taking over her father’s beekeeping business. But that’s exactly where she goes to start over with her son, Asher, after her husband reveals a darker side. Lily Campanello knows a thing or two about do-overs, too, and a fresh start is what she is hoping for when her and her mother relocate to Adams, New Hampshire. Olivia and Lily’s paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl, and Lily with him. Until Lily is found dead, and suddenly Olivia is left to uncover all that her son may have been hiding from her.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Olga and Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo have managed to make a name for themselves, despite their mother, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoning them to be raised by their grandmother in order to advance a militant political cause. But their alluring public lives in New York City—Pietro as a popular congressman and Olga a wedding planner for the 1%—aren’t as perfect as they seem. Olga plays a part in other peoples’ love stories, but has a hard time crafting her own. When she meets Matteo, she begins to confront the effects of long-held secrets. Puerto Rico has been hit with a devastating hurricane, and when their mother Blanca returns, they navigate tricky relationships and the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Signal Fires Dani Shapiro
It’s summer of 1985 and three teenagers decide to get behind the wheel after a night of drinking. In an instant, everything on Division Street changes. The lives of all three are shattered, as well as the young doctor who arrived on the scene, Ben Wilf; it’s a tragedy with circumstances that also bring dangerous secrets for the Wilf family. As time goes by on Division Street, it’s as if the accident never occurred. But when the Shenkmans arrive with their intuitive and lonely son, Waldo, secrets from the past begin to resurface.
Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier
Paris Peralta knows she’ll be charged with murder when she is found in her bathroom, covered in blood, holding a razor while her famous husband lies dead in the bathtub. Oddly, this isn’t what worries her most. It’s the secrets that are lurking from her past she worries will come to destroy everything she’s built, along with her future. But when the Ice Queen, a convicted murderer from 25 years earlier, threatens to expose Paris for who she really is, Paris is left with no choice but to confront her dark past.
TV & Movies
Looking for something to watch? This binge-worthy thriller is the dark comedy you’ve been looking for. Since their parents’ premature death, the Garvey sisters have always looked out for each other. When their brother-in-law dies, insurers are looking for malicious intent, and their sights are set on the tight-knit sisters.
In season 2 of the dark comedy The White Lotus, families travel to Sicily where they, along with the employees, enjoy the perks of the luxurious hotel. Adultery, elitism, and a potential crime scene come together over the course of a week, as we begin to see the darker side of these picture-perfect travelers.