Saturday, January 8, 2022

My Favourite Books of 2021

I have always been a pretty avid reader and typically listen to audiobooks as I have a bit of a drive to and from work. But, starting in 2020, I really made reading as a form of relaxing a priority (my unwind tool before bed instead of my phone, more reading in the bath, etc.) and it has paid off - in 2020 I read 90 books and in 2021, I read 117! Way more than I've ever read in a year before! 

I will read anything, and I know a lot of people say that, but I read every genre (maybe a little less sci-fi), but fantasy, non-fiction, young adult, literary fiction, graphic novels, I will try it all!

My Favourite Books of 2021
I purchased all these books myself - this post contains affiliate links

So of the 117 books I read this year, I rounded up my top 11 Favourites of the year - I either gave these book a 5 or 4.5 star rating out of 5! (There were a few more that I gave a 4.5 rating to, but these are just the best of the best and they have to shared!)

There is a good mix of adult and YA from all different genres - fantasy, romance, contemporary, and historical fiction, so a little bit of everything in there! Here is a closer look at the books from number 1 to number 11 in the order of my love (all of the first 5 were my 5 star reads of the year, and the other 6 I rated 4.5 stars!): 

My Favourite Books of 2021

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ~ Are you looking for a book that will rip your heart out?! Look no further! But actually, this book is stunning. It is an adult Greek historical fiction, and a retelling of story "The Illiad"; but, you don't need to be familiar with it to enjoy this book (it's been a long time since I've read it), but certainly if you enjoy history or greek mythology, that will help! This book is about Patroclus and Demi-god Achilles - it starts with their friendship and growing up as boys together following Patroclus being cast from his family home. You watch as their friendship develops into their devotion to each other (it's hard to say just love, because it feels like it so much more than that!!) 

I love the build of this story and that it really focuses on character development and setting before it starts to get in to their story of going to fight in the Trojan War. You know the characters and their relationship prior to the war, and it's that much more hard hitting watching everything they go through. If you know the Illiad, you know what happens, but without spoiling this, when people will say this book will wreck you, it's so true - I cried and cried and cried some more at the end. I could not put this down and it was fantastic! 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas ~ Another book that hit me with all the feels - I laughed, I cried, I did it all and it felt pretty powerful to me! Concrete Rose is a young adult contemporary and is the prequel to The Hate You Give and follows Starr's father, Maverick Carter, 17 years before the events of THUG. So, even though you know the "outcome" or the eventual paths that Maverick chooses, because of the subsequent book, it's still a worthy read. 

This book takes us back to Garden Heights with 17 year old Maverick in a very intense time in his life - he is raising a son that the mother has left with him, he loses a family member to a crime, and he is trying to decide on whether to get out or go deeper in the gang life he has been living. While this book itself is fiction, let's be honest, this is such a sadly common story that is playing out in America: a young black man growing up with a father in jail, finding security and safety in a gang while trying to provide and protect his family. He is also trying to finish school, and finds out that he is a father himself at 17. This story felt like a very real story, making it more heart-breaking, but also more heart-warming. The writing is so great and it's got a great build up. Because you know the outcome Maverick chooses, it keeps some hope in a story that can be sad and difficult to read. This book left a lasting impression on me and, I want to give this book to every young man (and women) struggling out there, to show that there is always hope! Great read.

Hunting By Stars by Cherie Dimaline ~ Another powerful read to round out the top 3! This is a follow up to the young adult dystopian novel, The Marrow Thieves and I won't spoil the synopsis of this book itself. This duology is set in a future where the world has been ravaged by global warming and people have lost the ability to dream - the only people left with the ability to dream are Indigenous people and the cure potentially lies in their bone marrow, but this means death for the unwilling donor, so Indigenous people are being hunted. We follow a young man, and a group of people who are on the run and trying to find their loved ones and keep themselves. This book takes off right from the events of The Marrow Thieves and Cherie puts our beloved characters through the ringer in both of these books! 

While this is a dystopian novel, it really touches on themes that are still true today - it speaks to the past and the impact of residential schools and families dealing with this, but it also it touches on how a group of people can be targeted and singled out and how quickly it can turn people on a whole group of people. It very much touches on climate change and how we are treating the planet. The big draw of these books is the found family theme - I love the characters. The book is hard to read, but still remains hopeful. Our characters face really difficult choices and touches on the extremes we would go to for the ones we love. Really good book! 

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah PennerThe Lost Apothecary is an adult historical fiction, but with a duel timeline - one set in 1791 set in the apothecary itself, and the other in present day with a woman who discovers an old artifact and starts to unearth the story of the apothecary! 

Let's start with 1791 and the apothecary, because to me this was the absolute best part of the book - Nella runs the apothecary and she secretly dispenses poison to woman, specifically to kill the men in their lives. It was such a great plot line - honestly, Sarah Penner can just write me stories of all the men Nella made poisons for and their stories and it would be fantastic. I love a solid revenge type story - a scorned woman dedicated her life to murdering men; then Nella meets young Eliza, who is interested in the shop and befriends Nella, but unfortunately, their coming together becomes the beginning of the end - I loved the coming together of their stories and their resilience together! 

It took me a little bit longer to get in to the present day story of Caroline - she ends up travelling to London alone following her husband's infidelity and finds herself mudlarking in the river searching for little treasures, where she discovers a vile and starts to research what she's found. I loved that the author took inspiration from her own mudlarking adventure - I honestly love antiquing and looking at old little treasures, and I've always found myself wondering the back story or about who used to own the items! So, when I looked at Caroline's story through that lens, I connected with it a little bit more and by the end I found myself invested in her story and outcome and loved how she grew. The author certainly added a little suspense as well too - there was great pacing and it jumped back and forth between characters so well adding to the build up. Honestly, this was hit and miss for other people - I love a story that focuses on atmosphere and so I can understand this plot may seem slower to some readers or not as "exciting" but I loved the apothecary! 

The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young ~ Welcome back to the Unnamed Sea and the island of Bastian -  this is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that is set in the same world as the Fable & Namesake duology. I would certainly recommend those first to help establish what this world is really like (and establish some events that occurred before this novel takes place) and it's a great story set at sea! 

But, this book takes places firmly on land of one of the islands - our main character Bryn Roth is summoned back to Bastian on her 18th birthday to take her place amongst her family who is a "mafia-style" family running a fake gem trade, and a ruthless in getting what they want. Bryn is sucked in to their world, but also doesn't just want to be a pawn in their games - she wants to make her own path. There is also a mysterious silversmith working for the family and I enjoy this enemies to lovers slow-burn romance and I just really loved the storyline! I wish this was a *tad* longer or hope we eventually get a follow-up, because I want to see more of these two! This books focuses on breaking tradition, defying expectation, making your own fate, and taking back your power! Really enjoyed this one! 

My Favourite Books of 2021

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin ~ This is a young adult fantasy/magical realism novel - it's set in our world, but includes witches that have seasonal powers connected to weather. It focuses on human caused climate change that is leading to off-season weather events that are occurring, causing witches to be depleted of their magic and dying while trying to reverse the problems (this touches on the real issue of climate change in a very approachable way). 

Our main character, Clara is the first "ever" born in 100 years, meaning she has the magic of all seasons. But, she does not like to use her magic as it has harmed many people she loves. She is still in a magical school and is at a crossroads trying to harness her powers or decide to get rid of them and risk her life. It's a book about finding and coming in to yourself and harnessing your power. It also touches on the power of friendship and love. I wont spoil much, but my favourite scene is when Clara and Sang speak to each other in flowers - it was absolutely gorgeous! It has enough teenage angst and growth, that I really enjoyed it!

If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy ~ Next is an adult romance novel - it is described as a body positive twist on Cinderella, set in a reality t.v. dating show! Our main character, Cindy decides last minute to be a contestant on a dating show, very similar to the Bachelor - she is an aspiring shoe designer looking for a little boost from the t.v. show! The characters in the book were so enjoyable and Julie's writing style always has my hooked to keep seeing what will happen next - this was the first book in a while that I stayed up late reading!

I loved the love story in this book; but, I also loved the addition of the juicy "behind the scenes" clips of a reality dating show - it felt a little over the top, but very fun! Also, loved the focus of shows and fashion in there. This had more glimmers of the Cinderella story, as opposed to being a full on re-telling and I really enjoyed that. This was light-hearted (of course with the little up and downs of a romance), but still so good - perfect quick, happy read! 

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno ~ This one is a young adult magical realism and it focuses on the Fernweh family - their magic passes down in the women through generations, and each woman's magic shows before their 18th birthday. Our main character, Georgina Fernweh just finished high school and is nearing her 18th birthday - her magic has not shown itself yet, where her twin sister Mary has been showing her ability for years. This is Georgina's last Summer on the island of By-the-Sea (before going off to college), and By-the-Sea is an island where strange things can happen and weird weather occurs all year. Also, every Summer tourists descend to catch a glimpse of a 300 year old bird. Tragedy strikes on the island and the Fernweh woman are cast in to a suspicious light - Georgina is trying to solve the mystery to help her family, while navigating storms, love and magic! 

I absolutely enjoyed this little gem of a beachy summery magical book. I loved this moody Summer island setting - it was the perfect beach read - this is a little murder mystery, a little first love, a little bit of magic and I loved it! The themes were great and I enjoyed the focus on the strong women in the Fernweh family. I personally love a novel that focuses on characters, setting and atmosphere and this book was all that! 

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy ~ Julie Murphy is on this list twice, and this time with a young adult contemporary fiction. This is the third book in the Dumplin' series, although this one could really be considered a companion novel as the characters from Dumplin' are supportive characters in this. You go back to Clover City and this story centres around Waylon, who is a fat, openly gay teen boy making his way through High School. 

This was a cute, heart warming little book and I loved it! Julie Murphy has a writing style that I love, so I enjoyed going back to Clover City and seeing old characters and new ones - Waylon discovers drag and this book really centres on his story and becoming comfortable with who he is. I love the drag, representation and some teen drama in here! You will find yourself rooting for our main character! 

Circe by Madeline Miller ~ And, Madeline Miller is the other author to make it on here twice - after I listened to The Song of Achilles, I immediately listened to Circe and really enjoyed this! This book focuses on Circe, daughter of the sun god, Helios. This follows Circe - she is not as powerful among the gods, so she spends her time among mortals and discovers her power of witchcraft. 

Circe is banished to a deserted island and we watch as her story intersects with many well known figures of greek mythology; as well as watch her witchcraft powers grow and develop (and yes, what she is most known for is being a bad ass witch who turns men in to pigs!) Again, this was a story that really develops setting and characters, but I loved watching Circe's growth and focuses on her "humanity" as opposed to be painted as just a villainous character in history. I enjoyed her devotion to her son and watching her make decisions for love and protection! I will read everything Madeline Miller publishes! 

The Strangers by Katherena Vermette ~ Oooh, this is another hard hitting book - Katherena Vermette is fantastic author, when I read the book The Break, it was amazing and The Strangers is a companion/sequel to The Break (I do suggest reading that first because it focuses on one of the characters involved in the major incident in the book and her story!) The Strangers focuses on 3 generations of the Stranger women. The author has a way of writing characters that is incredibly real - these women's voices were raw, heartbreaking and sometimes difficult to read, but it was powerful. This story and what it touches on, feels like real stories playing out as a result of generational trauma. 

This touches on one child living in care, reuniting with family, her sister in jail for a horrible crime, their mother dealing with her addictions and struggles. It also touches on their grandmother's story to explain their mom's childhood - it deals with their stories, struggles and survival. They are sad, angry, in pain, but still they are persevering and there is hope there. What I really loved was the perspective that every person is not the same person to everyone - someone may be hard to love, or have done something terrible, but they are still someone's mom, sister, or grandma. I couldn't help being angry, hopeful, and sad - this got me everywhere, and you will root for these women! 

What was your favourite book of the year? 


  1. I will try to read all of these!! They sound fantastic and definitely up my alley! I love fantasy so a lot of your recommendations are pretty perfect for me.

    1. I should edit and say that The Lost Apothecary I have read and even though I didn't LOVE it, I was utterly fascinated by it and if anything I didn't love it because I wanted MORE!

    2. Sooo many good books here - I love these all for different reasons! With the Lost Apothecary, I could have taken a full longer story on just the apothecary as it was up and running because I loved the storyline of that!