This year has been quite disappointing, as far as books go. I didn’t hit my goal of reading 50 books and was only able to read 36. Of those 36, six were five star reads, three were one star reads and the rest were somewhere in between. Today I’m going to share my five stars, one stars and a few honorable mentions. If you’re interested in any of the other books I read, you can check out my Goodreads. With that, let’s talk about some books!
📚The Best of the Best
One of the first books I read in 2021 was The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. This book, despite how it may seem, isn’t a horror story; it’s honestly more fantasy. It’s very creepy and atmospheric but not scary, at least not to me. I would put it in the same genre as another favorite book of mine, House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. You can read my full review here.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
Next up is Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. This book is a Gothic romance (though, that’s debatable) that was published in 1944. I had high expectations because of how much I Ioved the book Katherine by this author and thankfully, I was not disappointed. I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the growing sense of dread throughout it. It’s obvious something isn’t right and as you keep reading, that “oh no” feeling continues to grow until the climax. There’s also a supernatural element that adds to the creepy vibes. You can read my full review here.
A classic gothic romance, the story features an 18-year-old Miranda Wells who falls under the spell of a mysterious old mansion and its equally fascinating master. Tired of churning butter, weeding the garden patch, and receiving the dull young farmers who seek her hand in marriage, Miranda is excited by an invitation from the upstate New York estate of her distant relative, the intriguing Nicholas Van Ryn. Her passion is kindled by the icy fire of Nicholas, the last of the Van Ryns, and the luxury of Dragonwyck, and a way of life of which she has only dreamed. Dressed in satin and lace, she becomes part of Dragonwyck, with its Gothic towers, flowering gardens, acres of tenant farms, and dark, terrible secrets. This compelling novel paints a marvelous portrait of a country torn between freedom and feudal traditions; a country divided between the very wealthy and the very poor. Poor tenant farmers at Dragonwyck, the European royalty who visit, and American icons such as Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and the Astors are vividly brought to life. This is a heart-stopping story of a remarkable woman, her breathtaking passions, and the mystery and terror that await her in the magnificent hallways of Dragonwyck.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a beautiful retelling of the “Rapunzel” fairytale and is a gorgeously written page turner. It blends together everything I love in a good book from romance to magic to a touch of the macabre. It’s perfect for lovers of more adult fairytales or historical fiction. You can read my full review here.
French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…
After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.
Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.
Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer was a total surprise. I picked up this book randomly after seeing it on some best romances list and I put off reading it for months. I SO regretted that after reading it because this book is fantastic. It is a World War II era romance and I’m a sucker for those. I will cry every. single. time. and this one made me SOB. If you like historical fiction or romance, I can not recommend this book enough. You can read my full review here.
In town, they called her “Crazy Widow Dinsmore.” But Elly was no stranger to their ridicule–she had been an outsider all her life, growing up in a boarded-up old house under the strict eye of her eccentric grandparents. Now she was all alone, with two little boys to raise, and a third child on the way.
He drifted into Whitney, Georgia, one lazy afternoon in the summer of 1941, hoping to put his lonely past behind him. He yearned for the tenderness he had never known, the home he’d never had. All he needed was for someone to give him a chance.
Then he saw her classified ad: WANTED–A husband. When he stepped across Elly Dinsmore’s cluttered yard, Will Parker knew he had come home at last…
I’ve read Pet Sematary by Stephen King probably four or five times but I re-read it this year so I decided to include it. I do have a review but it’s from 2017 and not great so I’ll just summarize my thoughts. As I’m sure most of you know, this book is a horror story but when you look deeper, it’s also a love story. What greater love is there than to try and save your loved ones from death? That aspect of this book is why I keep coming back to it over and over again.
When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.
But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.
The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.
Miracle on Ladies Mile by Joanna Shupe is my most recent five star read. It’s a holiday inspired, historical romance novella. I really wish it was a full novel, though, because it’s just that good. You can read my full review here.
A holiday novella set in New York City’s Gilded Age, where anything is possible…
Since the death of his wife, department store owner Alexander Armstrong buries himself in his work. One night he encounters a mesmerizing young woman setting up the holiday window displays and on a whim decides to help. Grace’s charm is infectious and he can’t remember the last time he smiled this much . . .but will Grace look at him the same once she learns who he really is?
Aspiring designer Grace Shipley has big dreams and plans to work her way up from decorating the windows at the most popular store on Ladies’ Mile. And while she doesn’t need his help, her handsome new friend gives a whole new meaning to the idea of holiday cheer.
Now Alex must overcome his fear of another heartbreak and confess the truth, even if it means losing Grace forever.
Castles In Their Bones by Laura Sebastian was a four star read for me but I wanted to mention it. This book is the first in a fantasy series and though it had its issues, I think it was a strong first book. It set up an intriguing world and I can still vividly remember the majority of the story. It hasn’t released yet (I got an ARC) but it will in February 2022. If you’re a YA fantasy fan, this one might be worth adding to your TBR. You can read my spoiler free review here.
Empress Margaraux has had plans for her daughters since the day they were born. Princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz will be queens. And now, age sixteen, they each must leave their homeland and marry their princes.
Beautiful, smart, and demure, the triplets appear to be the perfect brides—because Margaraux knows there is one common truth: everyone underestimates a girl. Which is a grave mistake. Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are no innocents. They have been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence with a singular goal—to bring down monarchies— and their marriages are merely the first stage of their mother’s grand vision: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.
The princesses have spent their lives preparing, and now they are ready, each with her own secret skill, and each with a single wish, pulled from the stars. Only, the stars have their own plans—and their mother hasn’t told them all of hers.
Life abroad is a test. Will their loyalties stay true? Or will they learn that they can’t trust anyone—not even each other?
📚The Most Disappointing
I have a love/hate relationship with Sarah J. Maas so I truly never know what to expect when I go into her books. Her latest release, A Court of Silver Flames, didn’t make me feel strongly one way or the other. It was a solid three star read… so a disappointment. I really expected more from it after how much I loved Crescent City but this one didn’t even compare. I wrote a very lengthy review for this book so I recommend reading that here.
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.
My absolute most disappointing book of the year was Small Favors by Erin A. Craig. I loved her first release, House of Salt and Sorrows, so much that I didn’t hesitate in buying a signed copy of Small Favors. I just KNEW I was going to love this book… but I did not. My review for this is probably the longest and most in depth I’ve ever written so you can read that here.
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
📚The Worst of the Worst
Sanctum by Hannah McBride was so bad that I didn’t even review it here on the blog. I reviewed it exclusively on Goodreads and you can read that here. This book is a werewolf/shifter story that doesn’t know what it wants to be. You have super juvenile, immature characters and a typical YA storyline BUT you also have gratuitous and graphic rape scenes. There’s nothing about this book that makes it worth reading.
A survivor on the run
Barely escaping with her life, Skye Markham and her mother flee their sadistic pack and seek sanctuary within Blackwater. Against all odds, Skye tries to create a new life for herself. A life she thought only existed in dreams is now within reach.
An alpha with a pack to protect
Remy Holt has spent years guarding his pack – his family – from threats as the next alpha in line. When the Blackwater pack decides to help the Markhams, Skye becomes one of his own … In more ways than one, if his wolf has anything to say about it.
A bond unlike any other
As Skye and Remy’s lives collide, the shifter world starts to implode. Missing shifters, a dying population, and pack wars are causing their sanctuary to crumble around them. Skye thought she was finally safe … but maybe there’s no such thing.
The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout solidified my decision to never read anything else by this author. This is book three in the From Blood and Ash series and I absolutely loved the first book but it went downhill from there. I’ve read around six of Armentrout’s books at this point (two different series) and they all start out strong but then fall apart. It’s clear that she rushes to churn out book after book. IF she would take her time and only release one or two books a year, they would probably be amazing. However, I just can’t take her poorly edited and sloppily plotted books anymore. You can read my full review here.
She’s been the victim and the survivor…
Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
The enemy and the warrior…
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
A lover and heartmate…
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
And now she will become Queen…
The award for worst book of 2021 goes to Gild by Raven Kennedy. This is a New Adult fantasy retelling of the story of King Midas and his golden touch. This is the first book I’ve ever read that is both horrifically graphic AND horrifically boring at the same time. Rape is used as a plot device over and over and over. It happened so much that it wasn’t even shocking or worthy of note by the end of the book. It came across as very lazy story telling and like the author wasn’t creative enough to figure out how to move the plot forward without it. I do not recommend this book for anybody because even if you don’t care about the rape or violence, it’s still a poorly written and bland fantasy. You can read my full review here.
The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.
Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.
King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.
Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.
Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.
Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.
That is all of the good, bad and ugly books that I read in 2021! I hope that 2022 is a better reading year because this one was a flop. I will be putting up a post about all the books I’m excited to read in the coming year either this week or next so keep an eye out for that. I’d love to know if we share any opinions or if you feel differently! Thanks for reading and have a great day!