I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas, if you celebrate, and are staying safe and well through another hard year. Personally, I have found even more joy in reading this year than in previous years as (I think we can all agree) the need for escapism has been stronger than ever given the state of the world! I’m pleased to say that I have had an exceptional reading year in terms of quality with my average rating being over 4 stars! As I write this I have read 22 books of my goal of 20, which is admittedly a few less than last year but the quality of the reading material more than makes up for that, and it’s not all about the numbers anyway! Anyone who loves reading knows the joy of looking over the books they’ve read at the end of a year and remembering all the fun they had reading them. So I thought I would share my top 5 books that I’ve read this year in case anyone needs any inspiration for what to pick up next year! It has been a challenge to narrow it down to just 5, as always, but here they are! I hope you enjoy!
5. Mrs England – Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.75 Stars
My top 5 books of 2020 post from last year featured two of Stacey Halls’ novels and I stated that I would buy and be eager to read anything else that she published in the future. Well, thankfully I didn’t have to wait long as in 2021 Stacey released her third novel, Mrs England. This story follows Ruby, a children’s nurse, who moves from London to Yorkshire to be employed by the England family. The England’s are a wealthy family who own a mill and Ruby is there to care for their 4 children. However, all is not normal inside the house with the enigmatic Mr England taking charge in making all household decisions and those to do with the children, an uncommon practice for the time. Mrs England is seemingly reclusive, staying in her room most of the day, saying little when she does emerge and taking unusually long baths. Ruby struggles to settle in with the other household employees and soon feels isolated despite quickly building a relationship and a rapport with the children. As the novel progresses we soon uncover more and more secrets both about the Englands and their odd ways and Ruby’s own complicated history. There is drama, there is atmosphere, there is mystery; what else could you ask for! The characters in this novel are all well rounded with complex and realistic personalities and each with an interesting story to tell. This adds so much to the atmosphere of the novel which is totally enthralling and immersive. Stacey Halls hits the mark perfectly again in regards to the historical detail included and the believability of the setting and story. Another triumph of a novel that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys or has an interest in historical fiction. Stacey has well and truly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors!
4. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
Genre: Adult Mystery Fiction
Rating: 4.75 Stars
Okay so I know I am seriously late to the party with this one! I had been meaning to read this book for years but just never got round to picking it up, however, when one of my neighbours put a box of books in our stairwell for anyone to take from I spotted this little gem lurking at the bottom and had to pick it! This is the second Liane Moriarty book I have read, the first being Nine Perfect Strangers, and the second one I have thoroughly enjoyed! Big Little Lies follows three women whose children have all started at the same pre-school. Jane is a young mum who has just moved to the area with her son Ziggy, hoping for a fresh start. Madeline is a mum of three with an appetite for drama and gossip who already belongs to the cliquey group of mums at Pirriwee school. And Celeste is the endlessly beautiful but sometimes vacant mum of boisterous twins. The story begins with a tragic event happening at one of the school’s annual fundraiser events and then goes back to the beginning of the school year, slowly piecing together what happened in the lead up to the tragedy happening. One of the main selling points of this novel, besides the mystery of course, are the many relationships that we get to dive into. There are parents, step parents, husbands and wives, ex husbands and wives, wives of the ex husbands and many more and each is explored in depth highlighting the highs and the lows of each. Every character is real and believable, almost recognisable to people you may know in real life and the setting is so seemingly mundane and normal that the excitement and intensity of the mystery is almost greater. This book had me gripped from the start and I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives which really kept you guessing as to who could be responsible for the ‘incident’ at the school event. If you are looking for a suburban mystery to truly get invested in then look no further than this one, you won’t be disappointed! Now, I must watch the TV series!
3. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes
Genre: Adult Contemporary/Romance
Rating: 4.75 Stars
Evvie Drake starts over was the first contemporary romance novel I read this year and the first time I had read anything by Linda Holmes! As can be gathered from my full review of the book – which you can read here, I loved it! I tend to read a lot of contemporary and I usually really enjoy it but Evvie Drake Starts Over was just pure joy for me from start to finish. I loved the characters, I loved the friendships and I loved the slow burning romance. The setting of a small town in Maine provided the perfect backdrop for a romance novel and the descriptions of the town made me want to visit Maine and sit in a cosy cafe with a warm drink! The main character of Evvie was charming and relatable and I instantly found myself rooting for her in every aspect of her life as she tried to move on (and convince others to move on) following the death of her husband. Evvie’s lodger Dean, has come into town to get away from everything in his normal life following the collapse of his career as a baseball star and soon finds himself becoming more and more involved in small town life, and in Evvie’s life. As the two navigate their problems together, after promising not to ask each other about them, a bond grows between the pair and their promise gets complicated. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a sweet and heartwarming contemporary with deeper themes running throughout or anyone who wants to experience sheer joy because that is what this book was! I have recently found out that Linda Holmes is releasing another novel, set in the same town, in 2022 so I cannot wait to get my hands on that one!
2. Crazy Rich Asians (The trilogy) – Kevin Kwan
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75-5 Stars
It is very rare that I read more than one book from a series in one year (I’m more of a standalone kinda girl what can I say) and even more rare that I read a complete series within a year but let me tell you I could not get through these books quick enough! Kevin Kwan has an unimaginable knack for drawing you into the lives, loves and dramas of every single character he writes about. The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy starts with the story of Nick Young and his girlfriend Rachel as they travel back to his native Singapore to attend the wedding of his childhood best friend and introduce Rachel to his family. Let’s just say things do not go as smoothly as planned. Instead Rachel is thrust into the drama of Nick’s crazy rich family and the world they exist in which is full of luxury, tradition, rules and bitchiness. The drama of the plot continues in every installment of the trilogy with each following a different time in their lives and adding more new and interesting characters to the mix. There is no character that is uninteresting or serves no purpose, each has a storyline and a fortune to explore. One of the key characteristics of Kevin Kwan’s writing style is the immense detail be adds, describing each outfit, room and meal in decadent detail which totally immerses you and allows your imagination to run wild. The descriptions of almost every dish had my mouth watering and the detail of each outfit had me googling to picture it just right. After finishing each novel I could not wait to get my hands on the next one and my only complaint about the series would be that I want more, three books is simply not enough! It has been years since a series has gripped me in this way and it was heavenly, especially during this trying year, to spend some time feeling like I was involved in the lives of Asia’s elite. I cannot recommend this series or this author highly enough, I am simply addicted. As a side note, the movie Crazy Rich Asians (although slightly different to the book) is also amazing and a must watch!
1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a historical fiction novel that follows a young journalist as she gets the exclusive job of documenting the life of reclusive Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo. The book takes us through Evelyn’s life, as she tells it, with the story being categorised by each of her seven husbands. Before I had read this book I had heard reviewers say that you forget that Evelyn isn’t a real person and that is so true, at several points throughout the novel I found myself wanting to google Evelyn or look up her films to watch and then realising she’s a fictional character, and that is the power of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. This is one of those books where I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as the pleasure of reading it and finding everything out for yourself is such a special experience. However, I will say that what initially appears to be a classic tale of an old Hollywood starlet and their luxurious life turns out to one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and evocative stories I have ever read. With themes of domestic violence, body image and LGBTQIA+ relationships there is never a dull moment. Add to this the mystery of why Evelyn is deciding to tell her story at this moment after years of silence and why she is telling it to this particular young journalist and you’ve got a winner. This is a book, a story and a character who will stay with you long after the page is turned and it deserves every comment of praise and appreciation it gets. Believe the hype on this one, it is well and truly worth it!
So those are my top 5 books of 2021! I really hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books and what your top 5 books of the year were! Fingers crossed for an equally amazing reading year in 2022!
See you next time,