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My Top Ten Best Books of the Year

It’s that time of the year again where I start rolling out my end of the year content. For the rest of the year I will be wrapping up my 2021 year in books and start kicking off my 2022 plans. Today, I thought I would start things off on a high note and share my ten favorite books of the year. This year I tier ranked them from ten to my ultimate favorite of the year.

Honorable Mentions

When I first went through all 142 books I have read (so far) this year I had a list of 18 books that I considered favorites. So these 8 are the ones that I really loved but didn’t quite make it to the top ten.

TEN

Why I love it: This is a rich fantasy world filled with lots of political intrigue and different creatures that completely captivated me and I flew through this 800 page book in less than a week. This book made me laugh, smile, cringe, cry and had a reveal that totally shocked me. I am planning on rereading this in January so everything is fresh in my mind when the sequel comes out in February.

Synopsis:

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

NINE

Why I love it: This is a wonderfully imaginative book that deals with hard topics in a beautiful and impactful way. I read this book way back in February and I still think about the horrifying ending all these months later. Please look up trigger warnings for this book if there are topics that you may be sensitive to.

Synopsis:

Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.

EIGHT

Why I love it: I only recently finished this book and it had so many elements that I love. The writing is beautifully atmospheric and even though I knew something was going to happen I was still on the edge of my seat as it was happening. I love books that have cults or communes as the main plot line and this was a clever and thoughtful take on the familiar commentary about them.

Synopsis:

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

SEVEN

Why I love it: Fonda Lee doesn’t hold back at all when it comes to this incredible fantasy. Everything about this book is exceptional. The characters, the setting, the magic, the politics, the relationships, and the writing. There is a prequel book that is coming out for this series in April and I would love to read that and then reread Jade City and then the next two books that I haven’t gotten to yet.

Synopsis:

JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities. 

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

SIX

Why I love it: This was a wonderfully creepy and strange little story that begs the reader to answer the question if the monsters are real or are they a manifestation of our main character, Cassandra. I read this book during Dewey’s 24 hr readathon and I instantly fell in love with this stunning little horror story. It is only about 250 pages but Camilla Bruce makes each one count in this haunting and gorgeously written book. There is possible sexual abuse talked about so please be aware of that before picking it up.

Synopsis:

You Let Me In delivers a stunning tale from debut author Camilla Bruce, combining the sinister domestic atmosphere of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects with the otherwordly thrills of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she?

After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy–everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far).

Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body–just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript.

Then again, there are enough bodies in her past–her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother.

Cassandra Tipp will tell you a story–but it will come with a terrible price. What really happened, out there in the woods–and who has Cassie been protecting all along? Read on, if you dare…

FIVE

Why I love it: This book requires work but the payoff is is the incredibly layered and masterfully plotted story about a house of horror and the lives it’s touched. I am still in complete awe of Danielewski and his unbelievable talent and this complex, rich and riveting world that he created. It took me months to make it to just over 100 pages and then I flew through the rest of this tome in the matter of days. I still think about this book and there are a few different ways to reread it and I look forward to meeting this book again in the future. I definitely need to read more Danielewski in the future.

Synopsis:

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth—musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies—the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

FOUR

Why I love it: Hilary Mantel deserves all the praise she receives for this incredible retelling of Thomas Cromwell’s life. As a fan of Tudor history I have never liked Cromwell but Mantel humanizes him so well that I found myself completely wrapped up in him. This is another tome that I read in the matter of days and still think about to this day. I took an intentional break from this trilogy because the next book deals with the murder of Anne Boleyn and I needed to steel myself up for that.

Synopsis: England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

THREE

Why I love it: This was an incredibly moving and accurate representation of what life is like for many teenagers. Perhaps not the money aspect but the pressures and complexities are all depicted honestly especially when it comes to teen girls. Kelly Yang also did what I wish more authors would do. She let her story speak for itself and didn’t feel the need to have a character deliver a preachy soliloquy. I said back when I read this book in March that I would have my boys all read this book when they were older and I still stand by that. There is quite a list of trigger warnings for this book but this story is so absolutely important that I hope it continues to be talked and recommended.

Synopsis:

Speak enters the world of Gossip Girl in this modern immigrant story from New York Times bestselling author Kelly Yang about two girls navigating wealth, power, friendship, and trauma.

They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.

Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.

Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.

TWO

Why I love it: This is one of the best written books that I have ever read. It is a real testament to Sarah Waters that she wrote a historical fiction that comes across as if it was a contemporary from the 1940’s. The Little Stranger is a clever haunted house story centered around a Dr. Faraday and his connection with the Hundreds Hall estate and its inhabitants. This book also stands out to me for having one of my favorite endings I have ever read. I hope 2022 brings me more Sarah Waters because this book was perfection.

Synopsis: One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

ONE

Why I love it: This is not only my favorite book of 2021 but also one of my favorite books of all time. As a character driven reader Olivie Blake did a fantastic job making this group of people come vividly to life. The Atlas Six is another incredible fantasy filled with different types of magic and abilities and has a complex world. I feel like Blake just scratched the surface of this world and I can’t wait to see where she takes this series. The ending of this book is also jaw dropping fantastic and took my love of this book to new levels. Since this is such a character heavy story people who prefer more plot driven stories won’t like this nearly as much as I did. However, Blake did such an impeccable job with these characters that they all feel so real to me which left me hanging onto every word. Tor picked this indie published story up and because of that Blake tweaked the story a bit and I will nervously be rereading this when it rereleases March 1. Olivie Blake also recently announced that Amazon has picked up the rights to make a series and I seriously cannot wait to see who they cast and watch the show.

Synopsis:

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…

– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

~Cassie

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