One of the things I’ve been frustrated and feeling a bit stuck about is how to share backlist titles that I’ve been reading lately. A lot of my lists feature books from the upcoming season or the season just passed, and I’m never sure what to do to feature backlist books more regularly.
For one thing, I read backlist titles kind of sporadically. And because my review calendar has been so full the last couple of years, sometimes I’ll read a book but not post the review for months. Which means I’m waiting months to talk about some truly incredible books.
At first, I experimented with a weekly wrap-up post. I love the idea of those posts, but the sad truth is that I’m often too busy to keep up with them. I don’t have a good rhythm to a set time to create them yet.
So, meet my newest idea! A Seasonal Backlist Check-in! This will include all the backlist titles I’ve read this past summer (which is actually a little more than I thought). I’m being pretty liberal with my definition of backlist. Basically, if it came out before this summer and I read it too late to include it in my seasonal favorites list for the season it was released, I’ll include it here.
Thanks for checking out the books I read in my summer 2023 backlist reading.
Money Out Loud: All the Financial Stuff No One Taught Us Berna Anat
What you need to know: Practical money advice presented in a clear, super fun way. This was a lot of fun to read, actually. A must-read for anyone entering the workforce or still struggling to figure out their finances.
What you need to know: J.R. discovers the things she writes in her school essays come true, but they have consequences. A story about changing friendships and a budding writer. I loved this one. Perfect for fans of Gillian McDunn.
What you need to know: When rumors of a vampire reach Garlic and her friends, they nominate her to deal with him. After all, vampires can’t tolerate garlic, right? Such a cute book! I loved all the veggie characters and the warm conclusion.
What you need to know: A group of young dinosaurs exiled from their tribes team up to expose a hidden threat to their former tribes’ survival. This one completely took me by surprise. I loved the characters and the prehistoric adventure. It’s very LAND BEFORE TIME meets WARRIORS.
Published: April 4, 2023 | Review to Come
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Dragoon, and Kit Seaton
What you need to know: A wizard and a weaver journey to the capital with information that could stop a war, their enemies following closely behind them. I enjoyed this adaptation of the young adult novel. Now I want to read the original.
What you need to know: After her brother (and best friend) moves away to college, Riley finds new friends and independence through playing Dungeons and Dragons. This charming story has nuanced relationships and a fun celebration of a beloved game. I loved it!
What you need to know: Annaleigh mourns the loss of another sister as rumors of a curse swell around her family. Desperate to find a marriage match, Annaleigh and her sisters sneak away to dance through the night at ball after ball, leaving their father puzzled at their worn slippers. A haunting, sea-bound retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses. I enjoyed the romance, though I think I like the second book in this series better.
What you need to know: Sorceline joins a school on a magical island, learning to identify and help magical animals. A mysterious threat begins turning students to stone, and Sorceline may be the only one who can stop them. I loved the lush, fantastical illustrations in this book.
What you need to know: The author compares the caste system of India to Nazi Germany and slavery and race relations in the United States. It’s definitely the kind of thing you can’t unsee afterward, if that makes sense. Definitely worth reading.
Published: August 4, 2020 | Review to Come
Have you read any of my summer 2023 backlist titles?
Which book sounds like the one you’d enjoy most? Have you read any of the books on my list? Will you be adding any of these titles to your backlist reading list?
It’s Top Ten Tuesday again! This week’s theme is best books for summer, which is a perfect chance to talk about beach reads… but I’m not much of a beach girl? I burn way too easily. So, instead, let’s talk about another favorite summer activity: summer camp!
Whether it’s the story of a first-time camp experience or simply the tale of camp attendance as a means to an end, excellent summer camp books capture the immersive experience of being away from home. They spin stories of unexpected friendships and wacky inside jokes. They remind us to celebrate being in nature and being part of a team or group.
I’ve included six middle-grade books and twelve young adult books in this list, so technically it’s my top eighteen, but I couldn’t help it. They’re all great books that made me feel big summer camp vibes.
Note: Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl in which bloggers share their top ten favorites in the week’s theme. Check out this week’s list of posts about summer reading!
Also: This post contains affiliate links that don’t cost anything for you to use but help support this blog. Thank you for shopping with them!
Super-Fun Summer Camp Books: Middle Grade
Here are six middle-grade books featuring summer camp adventures. From LARPing to twins swapping places to discovering a hidden world of magic, all these books immersed me in summer camp feelings and celebrated the unexpected friendships and adventures that a few weeks away from home inevitably bring.
What you need to know: A girl signs up for what she thinks is a LARPing (live-action roleplaying) camp only to discover the other campers are actually monsters. Totally fun. The camp setting makes this a perfect summer read, but the monster elements would make this a good fall/Halloween season read, too.
What you need to know: A richly written novel in verse about twin girls who’ve grown apart and dare one another to switch places at summer camp. One twin has undiagnosed anxiety. I loved the relationship between the sisters in this one.
Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) B. B. Alston
What you need to know: Men In Black meets Percy Jackson, but better. Amari learns her missing brother was part of a supernatural organization (think FBI plus magic) which she joins after learning it can help her discover what happened to him.
What you need to know: Four girls meet for the first time when they’re assigned to Firefly Cabin. Will secrets, competition, and other classic summer camp adventures bind them together as friends or tear their cabin apart? Perfectly captures and celebrates summer camp experiences.
What you need to know: Not all summer camps are sleep-away– here’s one celebrating day camp for a girl whose family has just moved to a new town. Discusses grooming and consent in a clear, age-appropriate way. Great family elements.
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Ways to Grow Love (A Ryan Hart Story) by Renée Watson
What you need to know: The second book in the Ryan Hart series. Ryan braves her nerves about summer camp and changing friendships. A perfect blend of the power of resilience, friendship, and summertime fun.
What you need to know: An elite writing summer intensive challenges Julieta to post her writing publicly. A mysterious collaborator begins contributing to the story. She’s determined to figure out which of the three boys she’s maybe interested in could be her online partner. Perfect for fans of Kasie West or Jennifer E. Smith.
What you need to know: Soccer camp! Rivals to lovers! A layered story exploring romance, pride, and perfectionism. I loved the relationships between characters, and the descriptions of the soccer practices and games made me feel like I was right there on the sidelines.
What you need to know: Summer camp… horror! A research trip to Antarctica turns deadly when an unidentified something tries to kill the retreat members. One of the best books I read last year, and I’m not a big horror girl. Check my review for content warnings.
What you need to know: A homeschooled girl whose parents decide she needs more experience with peers attends the Connecticut Shakespearean Summer Academy in exchange for their permission for her early admission to Oxford. Competitive antics and rivals-to-lovers romance ensue. Great for fans of Lily Anderson.
What you need to know: An intense summer program for aspiring web developers. A suitor in a potential arranged marriage. A girl who couldn’t be less interested in romance. All the fun of Sandhya Menon’s fluffy romance… at summer camp!
What you need to know: When a DNA service reveals a younger sister, Abby signs up for summer camp to meet her unknown sibling. Packed with secrets about to burst and an adorable friends-to-lovers romance. My favorite of Emma Lord’s books so far.
What you need to know: It’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but I remember it being a fun read packed with references to camp songs and the emotional highs and lows of being in close quarters with strangers for weeks. It’s a Christian book and has a faith-positive message.
What you need to know: This is one from my current summer reading list! When his twin sister dies after running all the way home from her summer camp experience, he vows to go to the camp himself and find out what happened to her. Looks creepy and intense. I’m excited about it.
What you need to know: Another one that just came out! A bookish girl forced into summer leadership camp. Girl friendships and an unexpected summer romance that may demand she learn to stand up for herself and, well, lead.
Release Date: May 16, 2023
What are your favorite summer camp stories?
Do you have favorite stories about summer camp? What books feel like summertime to you? Leave a comment and let me know! I would love to chat about them.
Here we are, at the end of another year. A lot has happened this year, and more than ever, I’ve found myself grateful for the opportunity to read and talk about so many great books. In my 2022 Reading Wrap-Up post, I’ll focus on some overall stats and list a few favorite books I read this year.
I discovered that I enjoy finding out reading stats of other bookish people and reviewers. Mara at Books Like Whoa on YouTube is probably my favorite for this. I love the way she breaks down and shares her reading stats. I’d like to work reading stats into my wrap-up posts. Not an overwhelming amount, just a few key things.
With all that in mind, let me share some of the high notes from this past year, including a breakdown of what I read, what I loved best, and what my faithful readers love best. Here’s my 2022 Reading Wrap-Up.
205 Books Read
That’s a lot of books. In 2021, I read 139 books, obviously I read a lot more than that this year. In fact, that’s the highest amount I’ve read since I’ve been tracking my reading habits on Goodreads. I made a few changes to my reading habits that I think contributed to me reading more. Here are the big ones:
I read more e-books on my phone. Sometimes it was just a page or two at a time while I waited in a parking lot. Those minutes added up.
I read more than one book at a time. This is tricky for me, but I can do it successfully if I’m reading different genres and/or age groups in different formats. For example, a nonfiction audiobook, a paperback middle grade historical, and an ebook young adult fantasy. Usually I only read two books at a time.
I take more breaks from reading. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it has really worked for me. I’ve given myself a lot more permission this year to spend evenings in other ways besides reading. Sometimes I chat on the phone. Sometimes I watch TV or play a video game. I thought taking time away would leave me running way behind on reviews and super stressed, but I’ve found it to be the opposite. (Thanks due to THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION by Brené Brown.)
So I read 205 books. What kinds of books were they?
Breaking Down the Books By Age Range
Middle Grade: 67
Young Adult: 131
Other – mainly adult crossover or nonfiction: 7
2022 Reading Wrap-Up: My Favorites
Now, the good part: my favorites! Every time I read an amazing book, I try to decide if I think it’s the one that will top my list for the year. This year, I read my favorite young adult book really early. Despite lots of incredible books that came later in the year, this one remained my top favorite all year long. Other books were late arrivals to my reading list and immediately topped my list.
I’m including a favorite from middle grade, young adult, nonfiction, and backlist plus some other categories with standout books.
Favorite Middle Grade Book I Read in 2022
Ravenfall Kalyn Josephson Delacorte Press Published September 6, 2022
How I acquired the book: Review request from the author. ARC on NetGalley.
This book took me completely by surprise in all the best ways. I loved the sentient hotel. The cat-who-is-not-a-cat. The unpredictable magic. And the friendship between Annabella and Colin. It’s perfect and amazing, and I can’t wait to read more by Kalyn Josephson– I’ve already purchased her YA duology. Super excited about that!
Favorite Young Adult Book I Read in 2022
The Bone Spindle Leslie Veddar Razorbill Published January 11, 2022
How I acquired the book: ARC on NetGalley (I purchased a finished copy later.)
THE BONE SPINDLE is also one of my favorite books of 2022. It’s a gender-flipped retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and I’m so hooked on the story and characters. You’ve got Fi, the treasure hunter who accidentally forged a magical connection with a sleeping prince; Shane, the mercenary who carries a battle axe– don’t mess with her! And Briar Rose, the prince under a sleeping curse who hopes his magic combined with Fi’s wits can break the curse that’s kept him asleep for one hundred years. I cannot wait for the sequel, THE SEVERED THREAD, which comes out in February 2023.
Favorite Nonfiction Title I Read in 2022
Pirate Queens Leigh Lewis Illustrated by Sara Gomez Woolley National Geographic Kids Published January 11, 2022
How I acquired the book: received a finished copy from the publisher.
I kept seeing this book all over Twitter, so I was super excited when a publicist offered me a review copy. Before reading this book, I had NO IDEA there were so many powerful pirate ladies. I loved the exploration of history surrounding each pirate leader and the context which allowed me to compare what they’d done to other pirate leaders of their time (or any time). Another great thing about the book is that it doesn’t glorify the pirate life. Many times the book calls attention to how these pirate fleets treated others and the harm they did.
Favorite Backlist Title I Read in 2022
Cattywampus Ash Van Otterloo Scholastic Press Published August 4, 2020 (PB February 1, 2022)
How I acquired the book: pre-ordered the paperback version.
CATTYWAMPUS was another book that I felt like I saw everywhere when it came out in 2021, but I hadn’t had a chance to read it until this year. I picked up a paperback copy in one of Barnes & Noble’s pre-order sales, and loved every single page. It’s a wild, fun story packed with magic, mayhem, and heart. A total must-read.
Favorite Novel in Verse I Read in 2022
The Ghosts of Rose Hill R. M. Romero Peachtree Teen Published May 10, 2022
How I acquired the book: received a finished copy from publisher.
THE GHOSTS OF ROSE HILL is a novel in verse about a biracial girl (Latine and Jewish) who meets a ghost boy in a graveyard in Prague. She vows to break the curse that holds him, though doing so may mean losing him forever. It’s haunting, romantic, and unforgettable. I love the writing. In fact, there’s currently a quote from the book on my fridge.
Favorite Graphic Novel I Read in 2022
The Legend of Brightblade Ethan M. Aldridge Quill Tree Books Published March 1, 2022
How I acquired the book: purchased. Ethan Aldridge is an auto-buy author for me.
I’ve been a fan of Ethan Aldridge since I read THE CHANGELING KING, and this book only further cemented my admiration for his work. His worldbuilding is fantastic. I love the expressions on his characters’ faces. While this color palette is a lot different than his other work, I loved the way the colors worked in support of the story. Also, a band of bards fighting with magical music?! YES. As soon as I saw that premise, I knew I had to have this book. It’s so much fun.
Favorite Book Outside My Comfort Zone
It Looks Like Us Alison Ames Page Street Press Published September 13, 2022
I don’t usually read horror, but this one had me completely hooked. It’s set in Antarctica in a research station, so kind of a closed environment. An alien or infection begins infiltrating the group of teens doing a volunteer project there. They have to stop it in order to survive. I loved the relationships between the characters and the way those relationships were challenged by the thing infiltrating their group. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
2022 Reading Wrap-Up: Your Favorites
One of the most fascinating things about blogging this year has been watching my statistics and tracking what my readers are most interested in. Here is a sampling of some of the most interesting data.
Your Favorite Review
You’ve Reached Sam Dustin Thao Wednesday Books Published November 9, 2021
YOU’VE REACHED SAM is by far my most popular review with more than 6,500 views this year alone. I don’t quite know how that’s possible. It’s my top performing post almost every month, which is pretty wild. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine, to be honest. I liked a lot of things about it, though, and I’m excited to see Dustin Thao’s next book. WHEN HARU WAS HERE is supposed to come out until December 2023.
Your Favorite List
26 Stories Inspired by Asian History, Folklore, or Mythology
Originally posted July 23, 2020
I’m a little bit embarrassed about this post? I wrote it before I learned of the controversy surrounding the filming of a live-action Disney movie, so my first version celebrated the movie coming out and offered a list of books by Asian authors, inspired by Asian history, folklore, or mythology to read while waiting for the movie’s release.
After learning more about the filming and some comments made by actors, I updated the post so that it focused on reading these books as perhaps an alternative to supporting the movie. I still think the original title is… weird? Awkward? It doesn’t quite say what the list truly is.
At any rate, it’s been a really popular post with more than 5K views since 2020, and about half of those from this year. I’ve started an updated list that includes more recent releases, but there are SO MANY BOOKS to include (yay!) that I haven’t finished it yet. Probably it’ll need to be a two-part list, too, with middle grade and young adult posted separately.
Most Discussed Post on The Story Sanctuary
Top Ten Tuesday My Summer Reading List
(of backlist book titles)
Since I posted my list of anticipated summer releases a few weeks before the Top Ten Tuesday meme topic, I made this list of backlist titles that I wanted to read. At 25 comments, it’s the post that had the most discussion on my blog. I loved that people stopped to comment. It’s always fun to talk books with visitors and to see which books people have read and what their feelings about them are.
Most Discussed Post on Twitter
Best Middle Grade Books I Read in 2021
Over 9K Twitter Impressions. 9 Comments. 8 Retweets. 41 Likes.
I’m not very engaged on social media these days. It’s so much just keeping up with my blog, reading, and making sure reviews get posted when they should be. So these stats probably aren’t very impressive to someone with a regular Twitter plan, but they kind of blew me away. I have Middle Grade Twitter (my favorite twitter!) to thank for the love on this post.
2022 Reading Wrap-Up: Overall Stats and Goals for the Year
This past year was the best my blog has ever had. I more than doubled my visits and page views over my totals for 2021 with about 202K page views and 131K visitors for the year.
One of my goals was to post seasonal reading lists, which I did pretty consistently. Sometimes I posted one list with both YA and MG titles, and sometimes I posted separate lists, depending on how many books there were between both categories. This summer, I began doing recap posts, tracking how many books I read from my anticipated list and which books turned out to be my favorite. I loved doing that, so I’m definitely planning to continue that.
I’ll talk about my goals for 2023 in a Top Ten Tuesday post after the New Year, so more on that in the other post!
What’s in your 2022 Reading Wrap-Up?
Let’s talk about your favorites. Favorite book you read this year? Favorite post you read or wrote for your own blog?
Or feel free to tell me about your favorite part of my 2022 Reading Wrap-Up, too! I’m very much still experimenting with my recap format, so I’d love to know what parts you find the most interesting or things you wanted to know that I didn’t share.
Best wishes to you all as we head into the new year. May your bookshelves be full of fantastic chapters yet to be read. May you find the right book at exactly the right time. And may your journey be filled with great friends, both on the page and in your life.
I don’t usually post anything specifically about Spooky Season. Halloween wasn’t an important holiday in my house. Though I was raised in a conservative Christian home, I think the real reason we weren’t big Halloween celebrators is that my dad is generally against holidays which revolve around candy. Ha! So I never really got into the spirit of the holiday, I guess. My mom sews and loves costumes, so we always had costumes and created reasons to dress up around our house. Maybe that’s another reason I didn’t look forward to the holiday specifically for an excuse to dress up?
In any case, I also happen to be a pretty tense reader, so I don’t usually chase down a lot of spooky-ish reads. Somehow this year I’ve ended up with a reading list full of books that I’d call at least mildly spooky. These are spooky but not terrifying.
Here are my best suggestions for a book to curl up with under your blanket while you sip your pumpkin spice beverage as you celebrate this spooky season.
5 Perfect MG Books for Spooky Season
I’ve listed these books in order from least to most spooky. That way, if you’re like me, you’ll have a better chance of finding a book at your personal spooky comfort level.
What you need to know: I read this book earlier in the year, and can’t stop thinking about it. It’s got some spooky magic, unforgettable characters, and possibly the best exploration of grief I’ve ever seen in a novel.
Release Date: August 3, 2021
10 Perfect YA Books for Spooky Season
Just like the middle grade section, these spooky reads are arranged in order from what I found to be least to most spooky.
What you need to know: Three friends will use art, science, and the magic of a powerful legend to seek the perfect romance. I haven’t read anything by Evelyn Skye, but I love the books by Sandhya Menon and Roshani Chokshi that I’ve read, so this one looks like a sure win to me.
What you need to know: A small town plagued by missing teens. A nest of vampires and bloodsucking butterflies. One girl determined to destroy them and find her sister. I liked the unique spin on vampires in this one.
What you need to know: A kidnapped boy. A role his abductor has created for him. Can he escape before he loses himself? This one could be on the edge of what I can handle, but I loved A LIST OF CAGES, so I really want to try it.
What you need to know: A twin’s sister dies under horrific circumstances, and he will do whatever it takes to find out why. I’m not usually brave enough to read horror, but this is RYAN LASALA. I feel like I have to give it a try after the way I adored REVERIE.
What you need to know: A high school team visiting an Antarctic research station. An unknown, shapeshifting infection pursuing them one by one. Scary books aren’t my usual go-to, but I couldn’t put this one down. Ace main character.
Summer is one of my favorite times to read. The more relaxed schedule makes me feel like I’m not so pressed for time, and I usually manage to fit in a few backlist titles I’ve been excited about reading.
This year was better and worse for me reading-wise. I have no shortage of books thanks to my early-pandemic massive orders to indie bookstores near me, as if somehow I alone could save their businesses. (Hopefully I did help, though!)
But I also had a lot of other stuff going on. Some physical. Some just the accumulated exhaustion from an overwhelming school year with my girls. In any case, it was more of a relief to hit summer than it usually is, but also not as much of a respite either.
In any case, I did get to read a number of really great titles, books that totally made my week. I also got to pass on some of my favorites to another reading friend and her daughter, so hopefully those books will be much read and loved there, and that makes me happy, too.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list of my favorite reads in summer 2021.
5 Awesome Middle Grade Books I Read in Summer 2021
I’ve only been reviewing middle grade books for a few years, but I can’t believe I overlooked them for so long. Often I find middle grade titles say things I didn’t know I needed to hear in a way that I never thought to put them. These are the best middle grade books I read this summer, and every one of them will stick with me a long time.
The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb
What you need to know: I feel like this book hit me straight in the center of my heart. It said so many things I needed to hear, and at exactly the right time. It centers on hope and the life-saving quality of unexpected friendships.
4 Fantastic Young Adult Books I Read in Summer 2021
When I first started blogging, I only reviewed young adult fiction. In the years since, I’ve branched out into middle grade and nonfiction, and I love both of those, too, but YA will always hold a special place in my heart. These books were the best in YA that I read this past summer.
We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon
What you need to know: You probably know how I feel about Rachel Lynn Solomon, so there’s no surprise to her latest being in this list. This is another perfect, delightful rom-com featuring a baker and a harpist! So much to love.
What you need to know: Sequel to Forest of Souls. It’s still got the creepiest trees I’ve ever read! Love that. The characters strike my heart and the story keeps me guessing. I’m in to the end with this series.
4 Incredible Nonfiction Books I Read in Summer 2021
I guess I could have lumped these in above, but it felt more right to give these nonfiction titles their own place to shine. These were so much fun to read. I found myself searching online for more information about the topics mentioned and eagerly turning pages in every single one. Several are backlist titles, but I couldn’t leave them out because they were such great books.
What you need to know: This is another backlist title. This book totally breaks down options for high school graduates from internships to charitable programs to military to college and gives tips for how to apply to or prepare for all of them. So much great information.
What you need to know: This is a backlist title, but I did read it over the summer, and it’s AMAZING. Tells all kinds of incredible facts about trees, their lives, and how they interact with plants and animals around them. Beautifully illustrated. So much information on each page.
About WATCH US RISE by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.
I loved the multi-media feel of WATCH US RISE. The descriptions of art, the poetry and blog posts, all of it created this really broad reading experience for me. I loved that Jasmine and Chelsea made mistakes along the their journey as strong women– not because I wasn’t rooting for them, but because those mistakes made them so real and made me feel like it’s okay to make my own mistakes, too, because it’s part of learning. Their passion energized me.
And if that’s all there was to this story, I’d still say it was a great book, but ohmygosh there’s actually more! Romance. Family issues. Grief, loss and mourning. And all the way through, I felt so connected to the characters and what they experienced. I love that they were strong women with passionate voices advocating for themselves and others. But I also loved that they weren’t defined by their ideals, and I felt like that was a really important part of the message, too. You can be a feminist and still be interested in fashion. You can be a feminist and still idolize a man (in this case, her dad).
I realize that’s probably obvious to a lot of people, but I feel like it’s worth repeating in a world where often we distill people down to one idea or one thing and ignore the rest. At any rate, I definitely enjoyed this book and recommend it, especially to girls looking for their place and their voice in social issues.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Representation Chelsea is white and Jasmine is black.
Profanity/Crude Language Content None.
Romance/Sexual Content Brief kissing.
Spiritual Content Some disparaging comments about Christianity, and some questions like, why is God referred to with masculine pronouns in the Christian faith?
Violent Content In one brief scene, a fight breaks out between students over one of the girls’ blog post topics.
Drug Content None.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.