Book Reviews for Winter 2022

Written by Michelle Watson

December 8, 2022

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My book reviews for winter 2022 include quite a mix of fiction, nonfiction, light and heavy, short and long books.

Here’s where you can find me on Goodreads and The Storygraph. Connect with me so that I can see what you’re reading, too!

Letters from Father Christmas

By J. R. R. Tolkien

Collection of real-life letters from Tolkien to his children

You’ll love it if you wish you could be pen pals with Santa Clause

This book is a collection of letters and drawings that Tolkien sent to his children each Christmas, starting in the ’20s and into the mid-’40s. For real. He writes pretending to be Father Christmas, telling them about the goings on at the North Pole (polar bears, snowmen, and even goblins). This was extra-merry on audio with sleigh bells ring-a-linging.

Content warnings: There are some goblins who try to take over the North Pole, but nothing scary. If your kids believe in Santa, they will still believe at the end of this book. 😉

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

Literary historical fiction

You’ll love it if you want a complex plot and complex characters, richly rendered

I loved The Lincoln Highway, but I was hesitant to try this book because it sounded SO boring. And it might be boring to you—but I adored it. This is my kind of book. Simple plot + complex characters = 5 stars. You don’t need a degree in Russian history to enjoy it, either.

Content warnings: This is an adult book, and there is the normal stuff, but nothing gross.

The Thirteenth Tale 

By Diane Setterfield

Historical mystery

You’ll love it if you’re a fan of Jane Eyre or gothic novels in general

A young bookish woman receives a mysterious handwritten letter from the most prolific and famous writer of her time. This writer has long evaded biographical questions from the press. But now, she’s ready to spill all her secrets, and she’s chosen an unknown, unpublished person to write what will surely be the biography of the century. Expect plenty of chills and a gothic atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Content warnings: There is some major family dysfunction (including incest, rape, and self-harm) in the first third of the book, but thankfully this doesn’t persist into the middle and ending.

M Is for Mama: A Rebellion Against Mediocre Motherhood

By Abbie Halberstadt

Christian motherhood

You’ll love it if you’re seeking iron-on-iron motherhood advice that’ll convict you as much as it’ll inspire you

I forced myself to listen to this on audio SLOWLY. One chapter a day max. It was a solid five-star read for me. Abbie basically says, “Here’s an issue that tempts us toward mediocre motherhood.” Then, she says, “Here are some scriptures that speak to this issue.” And then she offers sound, grounded advice that points us toward excellence in our chosen profession.

Enough about Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self 

By Jen Oshman

Christian inspiration

You’ll love it if you’ve tried “self-care” and “self-love” but it didn’t work as promised

This is a well-written, scripturally based argument for why a me-first mentality leads (eventually) to deep unhappiness and disillusionment. Instead, Jen Oshman offers a life that is Christ-centered and that leads (eventually) to deep joy and peace. This is a solid, brief primer on God-first living.


By A. J. Hartley

YA thriller

You’ll love it if you’re seeking a YA thriller with robust multicultural worldbuilding

This book wins major points for original worldbuilding and atmosphere. Major points. But, it’s not going on my list of favorite YA dystopian thrillers. Like many other novels in the genre, it stars Katniss Everdeen in different trappings. “The fate of the world hangs on an obscure, oppressed teenage girl…” you know the drill.

Content warnings: There is an attempted rape, murder, and violence. But it all stays within the realm of what you’d expect from YA. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much romance at all in this one and no sex.

I Am the Messenger

By Markus Zuzak

Magical realism

You’ll love it if you’re in the mood for grit, humor, mystery, and LOADS of teenage male angst

I adored The Book Thief, so I had high expectations. Like The Book Thief, this was brimming with emotion and foul language. But the message at the heart is…solid gold. This book will appeal most to young males because it (rightly) reflects their maleness in a way that’ll (logically) feel a tad alien to a female reader.

Content warnings: Lots of violence and aggression. Rape occurs offstage. I’d recommend 16+ years at the very youngest.

The Giver Quartet  (the 4-book series)

by Lois Lowry

Middle-grade and YA dystopian

You’ll love it if you prefer dystopias that are free from raunch and graphic violence

Every autumn, I get the itch to re-read a series (just for the comfy-ness of it). Last year, it was The Hunger Games. The year before, it was Harry Potter. This year, it was The Giver Quartet. I have so many memories reading The Giver as a young person. These books do venture into social and political issues, so I recommend that young people read these with guidance, if possible. (This is because there will be no earthly utopia unless Jesus Christ says so, and we can’t rely on systems to get us there.)

  • The Giver: A must-read for anyone of any age.
  • Gathering Blue: An interesting story with a somewhat muddled message.
  • Messenger: A quick, easy read with a much stronger and cohesive message.
  • Son: A good series-ender, but much longer than it needed to be.

Book journal pages you can color

Love books AND colored pencils? Then these printable book journal pages are for YOU. I designed them to be cheerful and nostalgic. Pop your email into the box below, and I’ll send you the FREE printables.

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