December 2022 Books

Welcome to that time of year where you keep having to mentally check yourself before you say the previous year.  Welcome to 2022!  I mean… 2023.  Dang it!

Anyways, before we all rocket into the future together, I would like to take a look back at my last few books of 2022 (used it correctly that time),and review my December books.  These final few texts pushed me to 68 new books read this year and 46 new comics.  Good times.  Let’s get to reviewing shall we?

Books will be rated on a 1 – 5 star scale with 1 being bad and 5 being excellent.  If you enjoy what you see and don’t want to wait until the next book post, please follow us on Goodreads.  We’ll stay consistently updated there before compiling our month’s reading and thoughts here.

The comics I have read will also be included at the end of the post.  Those will just be listed and not officially reviewed.  However, if you ever want to hear about any specific comic in particular or want my thoughts, don’t be afraid to ask.  I enjoy discussing everything I read. 

Let’s go!

It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan – 4.5/5 Stars

It’s All a Game takes a look at the ins and outs of board games.  Where do they come from?  How are they designed and made?  What are the trends?  Why do people play them?  Tristan Donovan uses his book to explore the history of board games, share fun trivia about their existence, explain the psychology behind why people play them, and paint an entertaining pictures of the people working behind the scenes of this ever present piece of culture.

Despite the title, It’s All a Game covers games before the creation of Monopoly and touches on games post-Catan.  When the first chapter began discussing the history of chess, my first thought was “come on, get to the games I really care about.”  However, it did not take long for me to get invested in what Donovan had to share.  The evolution and game design of Chess was fascinating.

The entire book remained riveting as Donovan took the time to delve into the history of many of the most popular and well-known board games: Monopoly, Clue, Operation, Trivial Pursuit, etc.  The design and ideas that went into these games is extremely interesting, but often the people involved are just as entertaining to learn about, whether they were the designers, marketers, or players.  

Donovan does takes the time to tie his examination of specific games into the larger fabric and trends of board game history and to look at what it said about their place in society at the time (with some games needing to be reworked to keep pace with where society has progressed since their initial inception).  

If you’re a fan of board games or history, It’s All a Game feels like a must-read that is sure to delight you.  Even if you’re not a big gamer or history-buff, many of the factoids share within the book are interesting and there is a good chance the stories of popular games will spark fond memories of games from your past.  Highly recommend this book, which is rare from me for nonfiction.

Black Heart by Anna-Lou Weatherley – 3.5/5 Stars

Black Heart is the first novel of the Dan Riley series by Anna-Lou Weatherley.  The novel introduces us to Dan Riley who is still grappling with the recent loss of his girlfriend and unborn child.  While dealing with his personal traumas, Riley must also work to capture a serial killer who seems intent on recreating her own twisted version of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  Riley must bring his A-game because this cause is about to become very personal.

This novel nicely sets up many of the threads that Weatherly will continue building upon as the series progresses.  This Dan Riley is hurting but is beginning to hope for a way to at least live with the pain, even if he can’t move past it.  We are also introduced to his supporting cast who will continue to play roles as more Riley stories are told.

There is a second perspective character though, and that is the killer, nicknamed Goldilocks.  Weatherly paints Goldilocks as a twisted individual, but paints in the backstory to help provide context to the villain’s motives.  While some of the backstory feels a bit heavy-handed or like it is overly trying to get readers to sympathize with the killer, it is overall well done.

Weatherly cranks up the tension and anxiety-inducing threats nicely, especially as the novel rushes towards a climax that will have readers praying against the worst.  

Black Heart sets up a world and character that readers should easily be able to invest in and will most likely compel readers to want to see what happens next.  

The Couple on Cedar Close by by Anna-Lou Weatherly – 3/5 Stars

The Couple on Cedar Close is the second novel in the Dan Riley series.  As Detective Riley continues to battle with his grief and still tries to bring himself some healing, he must now deal with a new mysterious murder case.  Lauren Mills wakes up with her estranged husband brutally murdered in her home.  With all signs pointing towards Lauren as the most likely suspect, it’s too bad that she can’t remember anything about the night before.  Did she blackout and do the unthinkable, is she lying about the amnesia, or is something more sinister afoot?

While I enjoyed this novel overall, it was the weakest of the three Dan Riley novels I’ve read.  Dan’s personal life worries are explored but seem a bit on hold, due to his efforts to avoid certain conflicts.  While this makes sense for him as a character, it does leave readers hoping for some advancement.  It will come, but they definitely have to wait for it.

As for the case for this novel, it is interesting but also feels a bit stretched out.  

The Collection Programs in Schools: Concepts and Practices by Marcia A. Mardis – 3/5 Stars

The Collection Programs in Schools  is a look into trends and concepts to consider in terms of education and school libraries.  The book explores ideas such as weeding, digital resources, disaster preparedness, and circulation policies.

I bought this as a textbook for a school librarianship program that I am currently working my way through.  Overall, I found it to be a helpful resource, even if it wasn’t the most riveting.  The information is clearly laid out and easily accessible even for those newer to the material. 

It’s a good resource for those interested in learning about school libraries.

The Fireballer by Mark Stevens – 5/5 Stars

Frank Ryder has taken the world of baseball by storm.  This Baltimore Orioles pitcher throws balls faster than batters can react, regularly exceeding 105 mph.  His very existence is causing people to question the future of baseball and the possible need for rule changes.  While Ryder is a start to the people, in private he is a man struggling in isolation due to a tragic childhood accident.  Ryder must go on a journey to confront his inner turmoil in order to find peace on and off the field, and more importantly figure out how to proceed into the future.

I am not a big baseball fan, but this novel made the sport both interesting and accessible.  It’s clear that Stevens is both passionate and knowledgeable about the sport and its history.  That love of the sport is contagious and genuinely made me want to pick up a bat and ball myself.

The character of Frank Ryder is well written and it is well worth joining him on his journey of self-discovery, redemption, and healing.  I always appreciate when sport novels remember that the people on the field matter as much as the scores on the board, and The Fireballer does just that.  The game is looked at through multiple lenses but the human perspective of each is understandable and relatable.

At times Ryder feels a bit too goody-two shoes, but it’s also explained that this is a result of his trying to be better and overcome his childhood guilt.  There’s also nothing wrong with a gifted (though flawed) man being good at the core of his being.  We don’t get mad at Captain America for being someone whose character is worth aspiring toward, right?

I didn’t expect to like a book about pitching and baseball so much, but I did.  Though I’m sure part of that love is because the book is about so much more than just a game.

The Fireballer is a fantastic look at the pressures of being a sports icon and a good reminder that beneath those public faces are people who carry their own baggage and histories.  This one gets a big thumbs up for me and deserves every bit of its 5/5 Star rating.

To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North – 4/5 Stars

To Be or Not To Be is a choose-your-own-adventure book putting readers into the roles of Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (which he totally stole from this book).  While players can follow the traditional events of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, they may also make wildly different decisions which will be filled with humor and unexpected twists.  Each of the different endings is accompanied with a full page illustration.

Ryan North’s decision-based adventure does a wonderful job of both honoring the original Hamlet while also poking fun at it (it’s plot and the time period’s societal expectations).  No matter what paths players choose, they are sure to stumble upon a number of great jokes and clever writing.  North creates exciting adventures while also having fun with the meta-narrative of choosing-your-own-path.

While I can’t say that I read absolutely every choice-path, I read the majority of them.  Though some do loop back into another and there are a few forced paths, the player should feel like they have a decent amount of control and like their decisions do matter within the confines of the narrative.  As I ventured down different branches and circled back around, I found the different stories and consequences amusing and worth the reread.  However, if a reader does decide to only go down one path, accept their fate, and then never pick this book back up again, they should still have a good time.

To Be or Not To Be is a silly and fun romp around the world of Hamlet that should be entertaining for those who love Hamlet to those who know pretty much nothing about the original.  North’s humor is great in its informal, fourth wall breaking way.  If you like silly fun, To 

Be or Not To Be is worth checking out.

Comics Read:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 – Faithless by Donny Cates
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 1 – Then It’s Us by Al Ewing
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 – Here We Make Our Stand by Al Ewing
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 – We’re Super Heroes by Al Ewing
  • She-Hulk vol. 1 – Jen, Again by Rainbow Rowell

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