Best and Worst Books of 2021!
Worst “The Last Thing He Told Me,” by Laura Dave is one of the worst. Hannah Michaels is living a happy life with her husband Owen Michaels and his daughter from his previous marriage, Baily. Everything changes when Hannah gets a note from Owen telling her, Protect her. Owen has disappeared and Hannah finds out that Owen isn’t who he says he is. Hannah and Baily team up together to find out where Owen is and who he really is. While the plot hooked me in, the story dragged on and on and the ending was so abrupt with no resolution or explanation which ruined the book for many of us who read it. The characters were not very likeable either. Laura Dave explained in her authors note that she originally started this back in 2012 and then put it away for many years. It seemed as though Laura wasn’t very passionate about the novel. If she waited longer or perhaps someone else wrote this, maybe it would have been a better book. Hopefully the Apple tv series does a better job tying up the ending than the book did.
Best “Tokyo Ever After,” by Emiko Jean is a young adult book about a girl named Izumi Tanaka who feels out of place in her Northern California town being one of the few Asian’s as well as Japanese American girls in her town. Izumi was raised by a single mother recently finds out a clue about her biological father. Izumi’s father isn’t just anyone, he’s the Crown Prince of Japan. Izumi makes a trip to Japan and she learns being a princess isn’t all tiara’s and ballgowns its about learning thousands of years of tradition, learning Japanese, and dealing with conniving cousins and the ruthless press. The book is basically “Crazy Rich Asians,” meets “What A Girl Wants,” and “The Princess Diaries.” I am not one who enjoys many young adult books since I’m no longer a young adult, though this one is one of the few exceptions. I can’t wait to read the sequel, “Tokyo Dreaming,” to find out what happens next. I love the characters and I like how Izumi matures throughout the novel without losing her bubbly personality.
Worst “Once Upon a Broken Heart,” by Stephanie Garber is a young adult fantasy novel. It’s another case of the plot hooked me in but when you read the book the story didn’t enchant me, it was a curse like in the novel. Evangeline Fox wants to stop the boy she loves from marrying her stepsister. Evangeline goes to The Prince of Hearts. As payment for this, she has to kiss 3 people of The Prince’s choosing. The book had good ideas but it was missing something. There was too much fluff and the characters were bland in my opinion. I had to skip to the end just to find out what happened. The book leaves off a cliffhanger so you know a sequel is coming. I enjoy fairytales and the attempt to create a new one was nice but unfortunately it didn’t work for me.
Best “Katherine Parr The Sixth Wife,” by Alison Weir is the final book in The Tudor Queens series. This is a historical fiction book about Henry VIII’s final wife Katherine Parr who is the wife who survived without being executed or divorced. I didn’t learn anything new from the book but I still enjoy reading almost anything Weir writes. Katherine had to use her wits to survive the dangerous court of her husband who she had no choice in marrying. When Katherine is free to marry Thomas Seymour, Thomas isn’t the best husband either. Books like this also make me respect living in America, I can choose who I marry and when I will and I can choose to be Catholic without the government executing me for it. Poor Katherine had to hide her Protestant beliefs from Henry.
Worst “Mexican Gothic,” by Slivia Moreno Garcia is about Noemi Tobadoa who gets a letter from her cousin Catalina telling her, her husband’s family is slowly killing her. Noemi goes to the manor to investigate. The story had potential but it dragged on and on none of the main characters we’re likeable, the side characters like Catalina and Marta Duval and the ghosts were more interesting characters. Catalina seemed more level headed than Noemi. Noemi is shallow, immature and doesn’t always think before she opens her mouth. The chemistry between Noemi and Francis was non-existent and Noemi kept comparing Francis to his cousin Virgil as being the not attractive awkward boy who was never approached by women. So it was a shocker that she was attracted to him in the first place.
Best “The Newcomer,” by Mary Kay Andrews is a beach read meets mystery thriller. Scarlett “Letty” Carnahan discovers her sister Tanya brutally murdered in her New York City Apartment. Letty knows who did it, Evan Wingfield, Tanya’s ex-husband. At that moment Letty has to flee New York City with her four year old niece Maya and they end up in a Mom and Pop motel in Treasure Island Florida called The Murmuring Surf. While at the motel, Letty is trying to raise her niece and juggling working and trying to figure out the whole story about her sister’s shady past and also trying to resist falling in love with the owner’s son, Joe DeCurtis who is a local police detective. The story even with its slow bits kept me invested. The characters were likeable and I could picture the motel and the beach. I can’t wait to read more from Mary Kay Andrews.
Worst “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” is a prequel book about Coriolanus Snow who would eventually become the main villain and dictator in The Hunger Games trilogy. While some ideas were good, it didn’t make the entire novel good. I did like the fact that Snow was a mentor and that in this prequel we find out who came up with the idea of the hunger games to start with. Sejanus, Snow’s friend was a likeable character. I like the fact that Sejanus took a stand and called out the games for what they were, evil. Unfortunately none of the good stuff could have saved the novel. I felt Suzanne Collins couldn’t decide whether she wanted to make Snow an unlikeable person as a teenager, or if she wanted to give him a sob story. We know he lost his parents in the war and he’s living very well for himself with his cousin and grandmother in the capital despite claiming that they’ve fallen on hard times. There was also a romance between Snow and his mentor Lucy and just as I feared it turned into an Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala type romance. The problem with this novel is it was written several years after the main trilogy ended. I believe if it was written right after “The Mockingjay,” I could see the appeal of a Hunger Games prequel. I think a better plot for Snow would have been him having a career in politics and him rising to the ranks to the ruthless dictator we’ve come to know.
Best “A Gentlemen in Moscow,” by Amor Towels follows Count Alexander Rostov, he comes back to Russia a few short years after The Romanovs were overthrown and there are still bad feelings towards the upper class. The Bolsheviks sentence Alexander Rostov under house arrest in The Metropol Hotel where he makes friends with characters throughout all walks of life, and witnesses history from his window. The writing is descriptive and it takes you to another place another time and another world entirely. The story does move slowly but the writing and story make up for it. I can picture the beautiful Metropol Hotel. Count Rostov is a mentor to a little girl named Nina and when Nina grows up Rostov becomes a guardian to Nina’s daughter Sofia. Rostov also finds love with actress Anna Urbanova. I like the fact that there isn’t a lot of sex in the novel and its only implied that the two of them had sex. The count is intelligent as well as a gentlemen and he doesn’t let his circumstances get the best of him. My favorite quote from the novel is If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them. The quote is very relevant in life especially now where it seems everything is so uncertain due to a pandemic and many of us are stuck at home. It is quite easy to let life get us down, but we must not let it keep us there. This novel is a love letter to all of us who love Russia whether we’ve been there or not.
Worst “The Silent Patient,” by Alex Michaelides is a mystery/thriller novel. It was Michaelides’s first novel. Alicia Berenson shot her husband point blank in the face and no one knows why and Alicia isn’t talking. So she is put in a mental institution. Theo a psychologist wants to figure out Alicia and why she an artist with a promising career shot her husband. While the plot had potential the story was just meh. I also felt the twist was a bit unrealistic. Perhaps I expected too much after reading Michaelides’s second novel, “The Maidens,” and loving that novel so much. Authors sometimes have their duds once in a while or they don’t release a good book their first try and then start releasing better books after that.
Honorable Mention “The Lincoln Highway,” by Amor Towels is another historical fiction novel. Emmett Watson recently gets out of the juvenile detention center after serving a short sentence for accidently killing another boy in a fight. With Emmett’s parents father dead and the home being foreclosed on, Emmett intends on taking his brother Billy to California to make a better life for themselves and possibly find their mother. What they didn’t know was two other boy s from the juvenile center snuck in the back of the warden’s car and intend on making a trip of their own. These two friends steal Emmett’s car and go the opposite direction to New York and here goes Emmett and Billy’s quest to get the car back. The novel takes place over the course of ten days from multiple points of views. While reading this novel I could picture all the places and people and it was almost as though I was watching a movie as I read. Amor Towels knows how to write a novel. It’s a long one but its worth it. I did feel the ending was a bit out of place and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I also didn’t know how sometimes he would put dashes when every people would have conversations. Overall this book just like “A Gentlemen in Moscow,” are masterpieces. I think by the time I have children and grandchildren of my own, his books will be considered classics.
Dishonorable Mention “Velvet Was the Night,” by Silvia Moreno Garcia takes place in 1970’s Mexico during much political unrest. Maite a lonely secretary and Elvis a minor thug in a gang are the main characters. Maite has to get her neighbor Leonora’s pictures away from the gang in hot pursuit. The pictures have incriminating evidence against them. Maite and Elvis were likeable characters even if a bit whiny at times. The story dragged on and on and I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and wondering when Maite and Elvis will meet. The epilogue honestly was the most exciting part. Garcia’s books might not be my favorite, but at least they do keep me invested in the story and get me out of terrible book ruts.
Honorable Mention “The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina,” by Zoraida Cordova is a magical realism novel. I knew it would be something I would enjoy because there is magic and another culture in the novel. However I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it. The Montoya family are used to a life without explanation. They don’t ask about why the pantry never runs out of their grandmother, Orquidea’s home or why the matriarch herself won’t leave her home of Four Rivers, even for special occasions. When Orquidea is dying the Montoya’s believe all of their questions will be answered until Orquidea turns into a ceiba tree. Seven years cousins Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon’s powers manifest but there is a malevolent figure after them determined to destroy Orquidea’s line. They go to Ecuador to solve the mystery once and for all. I love how descriptive the writing was and the characters were likeable. I like how we go back and forth between the present and Orquidea’s past. My only criticisms are that the sex scenes were a bit too much, sometimes the points of view of the characters changes so quickly and I’m thinking, “Oh we’re now reading from this character’s point of view now?” Sometimes the story dragged a little bit. Other than that I enjoyed the novel a lot.
Dishonorable Mention “The Turnout,” by Meg Abbott is a mystery/thriller novel that takes place at a ballet school. It was my first time reading from Abbott and I thought I would enjoy it. Once again the plot sounded good but the story itself was terrible. The characters were unlikeable and I wanted to hit them for being so stupid. Also the creepy handy man dating the sister of the owner was a creep and an abuser despite the sister being into the sex. “The Turnout,” was quite the burnout for me.
Honorable Mention “The Plot,” by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a mystery/thriller novel about a down on his luck writer Jacob Finch Bonner who is teaching an MFA writing course at a third rate college. In comes arrogant student Evan Parker. Evan thinks his book will be a future bestseller and he doesn’t need this course and Stephen Spielberg will by the rights to it. Jacob waits to hear about how Evan’s novel will do and its never published. Jacob ends up finishing the rest of the story and now he’s back to being a bestselling novelist and its part of Oprah’s book club and Spielberg does indeed have the rights. But someone knows what Jacob did. Someone sends him a message saying “You’re a thief.” Now Jacob has to find out who knows about the novel and how much truth was in Evan’s novel.
Best “Once Upon a Wardrobe,” by Patti Callahan Henry is not only just the best book of 2021 but it’s one of the best books ever. Megs Devonshire a college student knows her brother George doesn’t have long to live. George read’s “The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe,” by author C.S. Lewis. George’s final wish for Meg is to find out where Narnia came from. Meg’s goes to C.S. Lewis and his brother Warren and asks that very same question. Lewis doesn’t give her a straight answer but rather many answers from his life and the stories he read and what inspired him to write such a classic. “Once Upon a Wardrobe,” is also about how stories not only just entertain us, but also changes us and how stories even though fictional have some sort of truth to them. I was emotional while reading this book I cried both happy and sad tears. I felt as though I were in the novel and one of my favorite scenes were when Megs, and her love interest Padraig take George to Ireland to see Dunluce Castle which inspired Cair Paravel castle in the Narnia novels. Even though you know what George’s fate will be I love how Meg’s and every character is devoted on making George’s last few days an adventure.