While this wasn’t the best year for many reasons, 2021 was a GREAT reading year for me. It was tough to narrow it down to my favorite books, so I ended up with a fairly long list. Hopefully you’ll get some vacation time and be able to find a quiet nook, a glass of wine and can enjoy a few of my recommendations. I found myself reading so many older books vs new releases. While social media has its dark side, it’s been great at resurfacing older books to new readers, including me!
I HIGHLY recommend the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I’ve read books 1-3 and the first book in the spin off series Flesh and Fire. Just go in knowing that it’s not a complete series and there are major cliffhangers. Poppy and Casteel are one of my top couples of 2021, I love their banter, enemies to lovers, fantasy and vampires, good vs evil. It’s one of those series that I wish I was reading for the first time again.
Colleen Hoover has just blown up on TikTok and while I’d read a couple of her books before, I found myself all in this year. Verity, might be my favorite book yet. Or maybe It Ends With Us or November 9? Tough call. I’m still thinking about Verity. THAT ENDING?! Such a crazy twist, total mind f*ck! It’s about a young writer who is hired by the husband of a famous best selling author to finish her book. All is not as it seems. It Ends With Us is another that sticks with me. I’m not sure even how to describe it, because none of my words can possibly capture the feelings I had when reading this book. It’s heartbreaking and troubling because the “bad guy” isn’t your typical character. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I felt guilty about my feelings about him. Sadness, pity, some love, confusion…
All of my book friends know that I’m 100% Team Ravenhood series by Kate Stewart. Book three, The Finish Line came out in January and I devoured it IMMEDIATELY. I’ve read the first two books twice, have the audible of book one and will likely read them all again in 2022. I can’t say enough about this series.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons was EPIC. I was googling WW2 to see what was accurate and to understand the circumstances of their love affair better. This book has been out for a long time, and it’s a beast. Very long and there are three books total in the series. I read the first two and decided that I had closure and haven’t picked up book three. The reviews have scared me away. I liked the HEA as it stood.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E Schwab is one of those polarizing novels. Equal amounts of love and hate. Count me on the love side. Another long book, very thoughtful about life, what’s important, how we’re remembered and our overall impact on the world.
ACOTAR! I give this whole series ALL THE STARS. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas is book four in the series. Honestly, I so disliked Nessa the h’s character in the previous books. Going in, I had very low expectations. But wow…wow…I was completely blown away. I love her and I loved her H, Cassian. It was so sexy and completely reignited my passion for the entire series. I need to reread. This series was tops on TikTok, has a huge fandom and is being made into a HULU series. I hope they don’t ruin it. Fingers crossed.
The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon was a terrific listen! The narrator was perfect, the story of Benny the white piano player with mob ties, and African American singer Esther was powerful and sweet. It’s set in 1960’s New York. They had so much going against them, yet made it. I enjoyed the format of the book as told through a radio interview with Benny. A must listen!!
Another fantasy series I became addicted to was Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco. I whipped through the first two books and book three is on my most anticipated list for 2022. I listened to both of these books. There’s a prince of hell, a witch, romance and 19th century Italy. The second book follows the prince and witch into hell where she thinks she’s going to marry the Devil. Cliffhangers on each book, deliciously slow burn romance!
From the Embers by Aly Martinez grabbed my heart and squeezed it for hours. I found myself sneaking in a paragraph between work calls and reading late into the night. Get this book.
Another top fantasy series this year was a total surprise, new author to me and included in my audible plus subscription. I get so excited when I find amazing books included in the plus catalog! The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen is like Game of Thrones without the magic. Multiple kingdoms, many at war, and each one has their own distinct personality. From being surrounded by water to deadly female warriors and an evil stop at nothing king. The “Bridge” refers to a bridge that one kingdom owns and where most of the trade happens in this world. Enemies to lovers, lots of adventure and bad ass women!
Tessa Bailey knocked it out for me with It Happened One Summer. This was adorable and don’t let the illustrative cover fool you either. It was also so freaking SPICEY! Grumpy meets sunshine when a Hollywood influencer type is forced to move to a small fishing village in Washington State. She meets hottie fisherman Brendan who is her complete opposite. Charming dialogue, sexy times and humor make this one of my fave reads of the year. Excited to read book two!
Neon Gods by Katee Robert– This is an excellent original Hades and Persephone retelling. Great world building with Robert’s vision of the new Olympus. The gods and goddesses are hilariously petty. It’s Katee Robert, so of course it’s hot!
People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry was a great follow up to one 2020’s best books, Beach Read. I listened to this one and the narration was spot on. I couldn’t wait to pop my AirPods in to do the dishes. Which is saying something! Friends to lovers and opposites attract tropes that takes place over ten summers and ten summer trips.
The Good Lie by A.R. Torre was the perfect murder mystery. Teens are murdered, the h is a psychiatrist who specializes in deeply disturbed clients, the H is a lawyer who’s son was one of the victims. He’s also the lawyer defending the man accused of being the serial killer. Curl up by the fire this winter with a cup of coffee and dig in. You won’t be disappointed!
The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas is one of the most talked about books on TikTok and was a homerun for me. Aaron is my new book boyfriend. Slow burn and when it finally starts to sizzle… Oh. My. Forced proximity, enemies to lovers, grumpy sunshine with two smart MCs who finally gloriously figure each other out. I loved it!
I’m a big fan of The Miles High Club series by T.L. Swan. All of the books were soooo good! And The Casanova was THE best. I giggled, swooned, and blushed as I was listening to this from audible. Eliott is Kate’s handsome boss and an absolute asshat. They’re opposites in every way. He catches a fun loving pretty woman dancing in the copy room one day and is shocked to learn its Kate! From there, his attitude slowly changes, catching Kate by surprise. She has no idea why he’s treating her differently. Their banter was so fun to listen to- clever, hot and eventually so sweet.
Best romance duet goes to The Naked Fisherman and The Lost Fisherman by Jewel E. Ann. Wow, just wow…. these are fabulous! I stayed up all night reading book one. I’d do it again. I had a full day before book two was released. Hardest 24 hours of my bookworm life. There’s a major age gap on this one- it did make me a bit squeamish at first, but was handled really well.
King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair is book one in the Adrian and Isolde series. This was a great fantasy/PNR romance. Adrian is a vampire king, and Isolde’s father forces her to marry him to save his kingdom. There’s steam, enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience and all set in a wonderful fantasy world. This couple nearly combusts on the pages, the chemistry is sooooo good. Gimme book two now, please.
I just finished the third book in The Plated Prisoner series by Raven Kennedy. TikTok made me read it and I inhaled each one quickly. The series is super dark, lots of potential triggers, be warned. There are kingdoms, evil queens and kings, faeries, and the use of the cringeworthy title, “saddles” to describe the groups of women and men kept by kings. Saddles, because they are “ridden.” If you can take that bit, you can handle the series. I like the main h, she was a saddle and not just surviving, simmering through abuse, she fought back. Book four is out in 2022.
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee: this GUTTED me. Heartbreaking! One of the few books I’ve read with an h closer to my age.
Sinner by Sierra Simone: read this with a glass of ice cold water. It’s just the hot!!