For 2022’s year-long reading challenge, we’ve invited you to read a book for each of the following categories:

  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Middle-grade or Young adult novel
  • Short Story collection
  • Takes place in a rural setting
  • A book about food
  • A mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman
  • A western
  • Historical fiction not set in WWII
  • Recommended by a Friend
  • Title with Five or More Words
  • Published the decade you were born
  • Told from multiple perspectives

The idea is to shake up the way you choose what to read next, perhaps introducing you to a book you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. For each book read, you’re can enter a drawing for a Salina Area Chamber of Commerce gift card. You can also leave a review of the book you read. Here are some of the 5-star reviews that were left for reading challenge books during the first quarter of 2022:

Title: “Forever Wild” by K.A. Tucker
Category: Takes place in a rural setting
Review: Great novel about the pitfalls and adventures of moving to rural Alaska! Funny, current and a romance. The characters are funny and relatable, and it’s a quick read!

Title: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Category: Middle-grade or Young adult novel
Review 1: I read this book for a book club for the upcoming spring. Aristotle is a growing boy trying to find the secret of the universe – though threw growing he is able to understand he finds the ‘secret’ in himself. Ari is stuck in his mind for most of the book, pushing loved ones away, hiding things about himself, keeping rules. Dante reminded me a lot of myself, struggling between loving his parents and not wanting to be himself because he believes it would disappoint his family. The family structures in this book were diverse and multi-level. Generational Trauma of Air’s family runs deep but as events unfold the family realizes the hurt they have been living in. Real steps are made towards growing together. This book was masterfully written, the book comes to life as you read it.
Review 2: I loved this book. It was so accurate in the portrayal of how difficult it can be to just open up to yourself and be honest with yourself when you’re gay especially when you’re just in high school and just trying to figure out who you are. Being a teenager is that weird juxtaposition of childhood and adulthood, yet being neither at the same time. I feel that Ari to me is the true poet with how he can articulate everything in his mind even if he can’t say it out loud. For a while I did wonder if he was gay even though it seemed so obvious like his parents said, You don’t just throw yourself in front of a moving vehicle to save someone unless you love him & beat someone up for almost killing him unless you love him. I wish more people had the kind of unconditional love and support Ari and Dante do from their parents for being gay. They are so blessed and lucky. An absolute essential must-read.
Review 3: I loved the first book in the series and this was an equally enjoyable read that was finished way too soon and left me wanting more. I liked knowing once Ari confessed his love to Dante what happened to that love. It made Ari grow up in ways he never thought he would. He had to become a cartographer to map his existence out as a gay man, which most of the world shunned, not only so he could be safe but also I think in that in-between world of teenager to man, he was just figuring out how to exist. Ari was lucky that he only had to open up and say, “I’m gay” and the people around him who had tried to love him but he had wanted to be invisible and left alone, loved him and accepted him. His most hated rival became his best friend once he told her, he was gay. Ari even helped another boy learn this lesson, with his friends accepting him for being gay, too. I think Rico was supposed to contrast this but he is my one major complaint because we go from him being beat up and Ari & another boy, Danny, who we never establish his relationship with Rico, beat the guys up and Rico is saved to them going to Rico’s funeral. What happened to Rico, was he beat up again and nobody could save him and this time it was fatal? They say something about Rico couldn’t “pass”. I’m assuming as a straight guy but I don’t like to assume things. It implies Ari & Dante could pass as straight. Anyway, it’s amazing how close Ari becomes with his dad, which is all the more sad when his dad dies. You knew Ari & Dante would have a choice to make about breaking up or making long-distance work once high school was over and they would go to different colleges, but when Dante leaves to go to Paris in one of his moods and Ari makes the romantic gesture of traveling all the way there to fight for their relationship, it’s kind of a temporary, false happiness where the book ends because they still haven’t resolved anything even though I loved the gesture in itself. The one thing I absolutely loved was that Ari decides to be a writer. With all his deep thoughts and journaling, he’d make an amazing one. So, I do have some critiques but overall I did love the book and I hope there is another book on the way.

Title: “Save Me the Plums” by Ruth Reichl
Category: A book about food
Review: Could not put this down!!!!! A delicious journey!

Title: “Will” by Will Smith
Category: New York Times Bestseller
Review: You think you know who Will Smith is? You don’t have a clue! Get this on your list!

Title: “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly
Category: Told from multiple perspectives
Review: Three women, from different locations and backgrounds, lives intertwine at a concentration camp during WWII. Caroline works for the French consulate in New York, Kasia, a teenager in Poland involved in the underground, and Herta a Nazi doctor. The story reveals the challenges these women, their friends and families endured. The horrors of the surgical experiments women, including Kasia, were subjected to. The book reveals the dark and hatred forced on to fellow humans through the Nazi regime, but ends with broken families and relationships being brought back together, and the mental anguish suffered finding peace – at least to some extent.

Title: “Verity” by Collen Hoover
Category: Recommended by a Friend
Review: I could not put this book down, read it in a day! It was full of on the edge of your seat suspense.

Title: “The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka
Category: Historical fiction not set in WWII
Review: Reminded once again, how our country was built on the backs of the innocent and unknowing, searching for a better life.

Title: “Lethal White” by Robert Galbraith
Category: A mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman
Review: Super compelling mystery in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling.

Title:Radium Girls” by Kate Moore
Category: Historical fiction not set in WWII
Review: The story revolves around women, girls really, working painting luminescent watch faces with radium during WWI. It vividly describes the process, and how the company denied the gruesome health effects imposed on the employees. What was once a good job for the girls turned into a health nightmare. The corruption of the company to cover up and deny any responsibility, and the legal battle these brave women fought for human rights.

Title:The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball
Category: Takes place in a rural setting
Review: Big city girl meets farm boy to interview for a piece on organic farming. Big city girl falls in love with the farm boy, and life for her is wonderfully never the same again. Loved this!

Title:Dry” by Neal Shusterman
Category: Middle-grade or Young adult novel
Review: I’m not typically a fan of dystopian works, but Dry is eerily more like realistic fiction with our current climate challenges.

Title:The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn
Category: New York Times Bestseller, Told from multiple perspectives
Review: I loved this book. The narrative starts with Charlie St. Clair, someone who is looking for her best friend and cousin, Rose, after WW II, and her search leads her to Eve and Eve’s handsome employee Finn Kilgore, who has also had his share of battle wounds. Then the narrative starts switching back and forth between Charlie St. Clair and Eve, who lived as a spy during WW II, who through agreeing to Charlie’s search finally finds out that, Rene, her old nemesis isn’t dead and starts to search for him. I feel like this book had everything and something for everyone. There is adventure with the espionage and who is going to get caught and when. There is history in which you get what it really was like to be a spy and how it was specifically for a woman to be a spy in WW II. Then there is also what it is like for a woman to live in this time era and have to live with the stigma of not having a husband if they get pregnant in the time before and after WW II. Unfortunately, we still have that double standard of “easy” girls and then the boys who don’t have to pay much consequence, if any at all. There is also romance. As the narratives alternates, we go back and forth from the present of 1947 with Charlie and 1915-1919 with Eve (ending the present in 1949). We get to understand Eve and the war further by see through her eyes, and the connections she is making. Charlie is no less courageous. She is a math genius who runs away from her rich mom and dad who want her to get a simple operation to get rid of her little problem (baby) that she is carrying. She refuses and goes on this search for her best friend with Eve who is a gun-wielding, cursing maniac and a Scotsman she finds out is an ex-convict. Charlie convinces Eve to open her eyes and go on this hunt with her. Then, it becomes more and more clear that what they are both searching for exists in one person Rene Bordelon, but in what way and what will they do when they find him? Read it to find out! It’s an excellent book that I’d recommend to anyone over 18. It does have a torture scene, although that is foreshadowed in the beginning. You also have to hear as I said above what the female spies really had to go through and I know even today that female soldiers are treated differently than male soldiers. It’s hard to hear, though.

If you would like book recommendations, email, call 785-825-4624, ext. 234, or use the website’s chat tool. You can also fill out a Your Next Read form to get recommendations tailored to your tastes.

Happy reading!