The Best Books I Read in 2021

by - December 29, 2021


If you couldn't tell from my plethora of posts about books, I read a lot. I read so much that I'm pretty sure Amazon is losing money on me despite my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Not counting re-reads, I read 140 books this past year (yes, counting December because I won't finish another book before the end of the year).

I averaged about eight books a month, but May was by far the most books I think I've ever read in a single month with 28. However, 20 of those fall into the same series. It sucked me in, and I read them much the same way that other people breathe. Don't worry, they made the list.

These are the books that made the most impact on me this past year. They are the stories that made me think, challenged my beliefs, helped me escape reality for awhile, and often left me with a book hangover. These are the books I have told others about, bought my own copies to keep, and in some cases have already reread. I have discovered new authors and found new worlds I wish I could visit in real life. And I hope you find at least one book on this list that does the same for you! 


Gamer Girls series - I'm starting with this series because it's currently sitting at the top of my list. I've already reread this entire seven book series once, and I am currently rereading it again. That's how good this series is. It challenged my way of thinking about some things and opened my eyes to some situations I've never truly considered. It also made me miss playing video games with my friends in college. In a nutshell, a hate group called the Kings of Gaming are targeting women who play video games with virtual and real-life attacks.

As in the other times I've talked about this series, I need to include some warnings. Throughout this series, there is a lot of trauma, including rape, extreme PTSD, violence, a transgender woman just beginning her transition, sexism, domestic violence, and unconventional relationships.


Shades of Trouble series - This series exists in the same world as Gamer Girls, and there's even a little bit of crossover. Essentially, a group of people are trying to reopen a juvenile diversion center in a rural Texas town, but one of their neighbors is doing everything in his considerable power to stop it from happening. There are quite a few other challenges to overcome throughout the books, as well, the biggest of which is a child custody case. As with Gamer Girls, there are some potential triggers in these books, but there are warnings. You should also know that it centers around a very unconventional relationship. But the characters are so well-written, and it addresses a lot of small-town issues, some of which I've witnessed first-hand.


West with Giraffes - This book gave me a lot of insight into a time period of American history that I didn't really learn about in school. It's the story of a pair of giraffes being carted from New York to California and all the issues they encounter along the way. A young boy manages to get himself hired as the driver for part of the journey, but everything that can go wrong on the trip does, and he ends up making the entire journey.


Opium and Absinthe - First of all, I really love this author. Lydia Kang is one of the best mystery writers I've read, and I've read a lot. She has this knack of working in a twist you just won't see coming, even if you know to be looking for it.

There is a murderer on the loose in New York City who's staging his kills to look like vampire attacks.  Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, has just been released, fueling the fantastical rumors. When Tillie's sister is one of the victims, Tillie begins investigating, but she's got some personal demons to fight along the way, namely her newfound addiction to opium and her fiancé's unwanted romantic advances.


Verity - If you've never read Colleen Hoover, you're missing out. I don't think I've read anything by her that I didn't enjoy. This book was not what I expected at all, and quite frankly I'm still not sure which version of "the truth" is the right one. She kinda leaves it up to the reader.

A moderately successful author, Lowen, is hired to finish writing a successful series after an accident leaves the author, Verity, unable to continue. Lowen is unexpectedly kicked out of her apartment and temporarily moves into Verity's family's home at the insistence of the husband. While going through Verity's office for direction on the remainder of the series, Lowen finds and reads Verity's autobiography, which is filled with dark secrets.


The Cursebreaker series - This is my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling. I've read a few, but this is the only one I would recommend to others. Prince Rhen and his captain of the guard, Grey, have been trapped inside a curse, forced to bring girls to their kingdom in the hopes she'll fall in love with the prince and free them. Time after time, they fail. Then a girl with cerebral palsy is brought by mistake, but that mistake could be their salvation.


The Book of Lost Names - This historical fiction about WWII hooked me from the very first chapter. Eva is a semi-retired librarian with a secret past. When a German librarian begins reuniting books stolen by Nazis during WWII with the families' descendants, Eva gets the chance to finish the mission she began when she worked as a forger for the French Resistance - getting Jewish children safely over the border into Switzerland with new identities while preserving their given names in secret code in a religious text.


The Coven saga - This whole thing is technically not finished, but it's a bunch of different seasons woven together to tell one story. Regardless, this whole storyline is absolutely one of the best magical tales I've read in awhile, and I can't wait for the next book(s) to come out. There's really no way for me to summarize this without spoiling something for you, but if you like books about magic, i.e. Harry Potter, you should give these a try. I'm linking to the boxset you should start with, Elemental Magic. The reading order is on the author's bio page.


Chronicles of Blood & Chronicles of Madness - This was such a unique retelling of Alice in Wonderland. I enjoyed it immensely. Fair warning, it is reverse harem, and there is a lot of craziness. It's broken into two series, but both are complete. Mal is a 'fixer' who's been assigned to reverse whatever has turned Wonderland toxic. Turns out, it's been infected by another fairy tale, which has altered the characters' whimsical madness into something altogether deadlier.

Something to understand before starting this series: while many of the Wonderland characters do appear in this tale, they are all twisted. And, in a surprising turn of events, Mal is not a version of Alice. In fact, Alice barely plays any role in this story at all.


Worth It - A trio of best friends go to one of their ex's weddings and chaos ensues as two of them do heir very best to sabotage the pre-wedding festivities. Nothing goes as they plan, especially when two sexy distractions join the party.

I laughed my way through this book, then made my bestie read it so she could laugh too. I highly recommend it, and I just found out there's going to be a sequel!


Bluewater Billionaires series - This four-book series follows four best friends who are all billionaires in their own right. Emily is a brilliant scientist who's making life-changing skincare products; Cam is a literal rocket scientist blazing her own trail; Luna is a free-spirited, animal-loving vegan makeup queen shaking up the beauty industry; and Daisy is the heir to an international real-estate empire. They each get their own book, penned by separate authors, and face their own troubles in their own ways, finding love and new purpose along the way. All four of these was very good, but I think Wild Open Hearts was my favorite.


180 Seconds - This book absolutely wrecked me, but in the best way. It is amazingly well-written, and I can't think of anyone who shouldn't give it a read.

Allison is a college junior who keeps to herself, her only friend a girl who grew up in foster care with her. When she gets pulled into a social experiment with a social  media star, Allison's life changes completely. She suddenly has a boyfriend and a social life, but then her best friend drops some truly terrible news on her.


The Ice Swan - I've read several historical fiction books about the Russian Revolution, but they nearly always focus on Anastasia. This book, however, does not. Instead, it focuses on another royal family that manages to escape the Bolsheviks. Svetlana, along with her mother and sister, flee to Paris, where they are forced to live in the city's underbelly. There, Svetlana meets Wynn, a British army surgeon, and agrees to marry him simply for protection from the Bolsheviks who continue to hunt her and her family.


Shadows and Shade series - This series isn't finished yet either, but y'all I have been sucked into this world and it's kind of ruining me for other books right now while I wait for the next one to come out. It combines a lot of aspects of some of my favorite books ever, but she does it so seamlessly.

The Elorsin brothers arrive at the estate where Shade is an indentured servant looking for a bird. They end up leaving with her instead, despite her lack of desire to go with them. But Shade's destiny is much  bigger than she ever dreamed, and it centers around the Elorsins.


The Seventh Bride - Fifteen-year-old Rhea is unwillingly betrothed to Lord Crevan, a sorcerer who has been married six other times. When Rhea is summoned to his estate before the wedding, she discovers that none of his previous brides have left the estate. They're all trapped within the property, and all have unwillingly give something precious to their husband. Now, the greedy sorcerer has set his sights on Rhea's youth. Now, it's up to her to save not only herself but all the others Crevan has trapped.


The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress - Judge Joe Crater's rise to the bench leaves him indebted to Tammany Hall and a notorious gangster. He's also cheating on his wife, blackmailing the maid, and has no idea his mistress is working for the gangster he owes. This book is based on a true story, although the actions of those involved is fictionalized.

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