Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! Like past years I won’t be including re-reads, sometimes my opinion of a book could change and evolve after I had read it, so some surprises may be up near the top, as well as perhaps a book or two that didn’t make my reviews on here initially due to genre limitations. But here they are, ready for a countdown! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway”! Today I’m going to countdown my favorite reads, ten to six.
10. “She’s Too Pretty To Burn” by Wendy Heard
This was one of the earliest books I read in 2021 where I thought ‘okay, this is a contender for the top ten of the year’, mostly because it was so darn twisted and addictive! A Sapphic and modern retelling of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”, teenage photographer Veronica meets the shy but compelling Mick, who becomes her muse, and which starts to drive a deep and intense connection between the two. But when they get caught up in a murder within the guerilla art world, things start to spiral. The intensity was up there, the histrionics hit just right, and I was both rooting for the characters while also wanting to smack them upside the head at times. If there is a sequel (it may have been set up? I hope so!), I will definitely pick it up.
9. “A History of Wild Places” by Shea Ernshaw
Cults, baby! You know I love a good cult story, so this tale of missing people and the mysterious Pastoral (which may or may not be surrounded by a deadly diseased forest?) had ‘me’ written all over it. And Shea Ernshaw kept the thrills going, and took me by surprise multiple times! Travis is sent to look for Maggie St. Clair, a childrens book author who disappeared into the woods looking for a commune called Pastoral, but then he disappears too. Then a couple years later, citizens of the commune, trapped there because of a deadly plague, find evidence of their presence that they never knew of. This dark fantasy has a lot of horror and mystery elements that make it both dreamy and terrifying, especially when you see the secrets that the leader of a small, isolated community, has been keeping…
8. “Untamed Shore” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I love Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and the woman had multiple books published this past year. My favorite of the bunch also happened to be a favorite of 2021, and that was her republished thriller “Untamed Shore”. Viridiana is a teenage girl living in a Baja seaside town in the 1970s, when some wealthy American tourists arrive. She’s hired to be an interpreter, and is immediately taken with all of them, especially the handsome Gregory. But when one of them ends up dead, Viridiana is compelled to lie about what she knows to keep her new friends safe, and this in turn may be a mistake. For what does she actually know about these Americans? Viridiana is probably my favorite of Moreno-Garcia’s protagonists, as she is a complex character who feels very real while being easy to care about and root for, even when she’s making mistakes. The hard boiled crime mystery is a good one as well, and I was nearly breathless by the time everything shook out.
7. “White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson
A Gothic ghost story mixed in with a family drama with a dash of some really good points about redlining and gentrification. That is how I would sum up this new horror novel from one of my favorite YA Thriller authors. Mari and her newly blended family have picked up their life and are moving into a newly redone building in a neighborhood that her mother’s new company owns. Tensions are high due to Mari’s anxiety, as well as her head butting with her stepsister Piper. But once they move in, things take a turn for the strange. Things end up in places they weren’t in initially. Strange noises are heard in the night. A terrible smell takes over Mari’s senses on occasion. Mari doesn’t know if her anxiety is playing tricks on her, or if there is something very wrong in their new, ‘perfect’ home. This story had moments of complete terror for me, and anyone who loves a good ghost story should check it out.
6. “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I mean, it happens every once in awhile! A book that I loved one year that didn’t make it on the blog due to genre constraints makes it onto the Top Ten list. This year that book happens to be Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new historical fiction “Malibu Rising”! As someone loves a good family drama and a nice healthy does of eighties nostalgia, this one was a winner. The Riva siblings are getting ready for their annual Summer Party in 1980s Malibu, eldest Nina hosting and still processing her upcoming divorce. Pro surfer Jay is trying to mend a broken heart, while photographer Hud is hiding a secret from him. And youngest Kit has a secret of her own she’s hiding from all of them. We get to know the Rivas, their family history, and what happens the night that Riva’s Malibu mansion has a raucous party…. and then burns to the ground. I fell for all of the Rivas, and loved how Jenkins Reid tells their story of love, loss, and loyalty tested.
So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2021?