If anything defines my reading this year, it is contemporary romances and classic film biographies. I binged both like there was no tomorrow.
Unfortunately for the contemporary romances, they all blended together after a while, so that I don’t have strong memories of most of them. This makes me a bit sad as I was especially looking forward to reading this years’ releases from authors, Sally Thorne, Sarah Hogle, Beth O’ Leary and Emily Henry. I did like their books, but none of them stood out to me in the sea of contemporary romances.
I suppose the good news is that I far exceeded my reading goal for the year which was set at 80 books, based on previous years’ accomplishments which hadn’t exceeded 85 in several years. But in 2021 I read over 125 books.
Most Read Authors:
I’ve already listed all my most read authors this year in another post, so I will keep this brief. Penny Reid was by far the author I read the most this year with a total of sixteen books, although some were re-reads. In a distant second was Julia Quinn who was a new discovery for me. I read six of her titles after binging the Bridgerton series on Netflix. I also read four books each by authors Lyssa Kay Adams, Kate Clayborn and Nichole Van.
I specifically chose to focus on reading some of the numerous classic film biographies I own this year. Though I made a dent, I still have a ways to go. But I’m proud of what I accomplished. My favorites of these, was director King Vidor’s A Tree is a Tree, which gave me a view into early Hollywood as well as some of the technical aspects of directing a film. I also really enjoyed learning more about one of my newest actor obsessions in John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. Beauchamp’s book, Without Lying Down, on silent screenwriter Frances Marion and her female friends who worked in Hollywood was fascinating! Though Cary Grant will always be my favorite actor and the Eyman’s biography about him presented a unique perspective, it is not my preferred bio on the actor, which I discuss in greater detail in my review elsewhere on my website.
I also chose to participate in Raquel’s Summer Reading Challenge over at Out of the Past and personally reviewed Memoirs of a Professional Cad, A Double Life, A Twist of Lemmon, John Gilbert’s biography and Without Lying Down.
I still continue to seek out new authors. Although my overall percentage of books by new authors dropped from 50% last year to around 31%. This year I tried out a new approach by just randomly selecting books my library had available that I thought I might like. This approach was hit or miss for me. I discovered a few authors that I will definitely put on my must read list, including Harper St. George’s romances, Regina Scott’s National Park series and Kimberly Duffy’s stories about strong females and historical India. Books by the aforementioned and a couple more even made my list of favorites this year. But for the most part many of the other new authors I tried wrote some good stories, but nothing that won my loyalty as a reader.
I’ve never been big on audio books, but managed to squeeze a few in, including Cranford, the only classic “read” this year. I generally choose audio when it’s the only format left available to me.
And now it’s time to share the books that made the biggest impression on me or that I just really loved.
- The Songbook of Benny Lament -Amy Harmon’s books are always a must and I loved her take on the 1970’s music scene as seen through the eyes of an inter-racial couple.
- American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt – I’ve long been intrigued by President Theodore Roosevelt, so I was fascinated by this fictionalized take on his oldest daughter’s life. Alice was definitely her father’s daughter.
- A Peculiar Combination – I loved the author’s previous cozy mystery series, and was thrilled to meet the characters in this new series. The WWII London setting and utilization of characters who do not always work on the right side of the law has me interested enough to continue, even though I’m otherwise burned out on WWII settings.
- The Ice Swan – This historical novel combined some of my favorite things, WWI Paris, Russian aristocracy and a cross-cultural romance. Not to mention, it is extremely well written.
- Come Back to Me – I love a good time- travel story and also love medieval fiction, so this was right up my alley. I thought the author did a great job making the time-travel itself as well as the adjustments the character faces seem realistic. Adding in some espionage and action made it even more exciting. I can’t wait for the sequel!
- Dearest Josephine – I appreciated how this book focused on the benefits and drawbacks to allowing fictional stories feel like real life. It really gave me a lot to ponder.
- The Bromance Book Club – I adored the concept of this book, a group of men learning how to love and respect their significant others using romance novels as a guide. This first book in the series focused on a husband trying to win back his wife, which is rather uncommon in modern romances.
- Devil in Disguise – I always salivate over a new Lisa Kleypas romance and this one did not disappoint. And I absolutely loved her first Scottish hero.
- Battle Royal – No one writes gruff, stand-offish heroes with soft centers quite like Lucy Parker. I really enjoyed this sweet and funny story about rival pastry chefs who start out as competitors and complete opposites, but then find they have more in common then they realize.
- Remembering Jamie – An utterly romantic read thanks to a faithful, sacrificial hero who must try to woo back the wife who doesn’t remember him. This is the last book in a series and an excellent finish to it.
- Nothing Short of Wonderous – What really stands out to me from this book is how utterly it transported me to the early years of Yellowstone as a national park. The author did an excellent job creating a setting that feels alive and real. I now want to visit the park for real!
- Luck of the Draw – I’ve read a LOT of contemporary romances this year and this is one I particularly enjoyed. The characters really grabbed my heart and for once I found myself really appreciating a combative, snarky romantic relationship.
- All That Really Matters – This is one of those stories that has really stuck with me. Through her main character, who is an Instagram influencer, the author raises some very interesting topics to consider. In this day and age when social media sometimes appears more real, than real life, we need more books like this.
- The Mozart Code – It’s rare that book leaves me speechless, but this one has. Set in Vienna and Prague during the Cold War, it’s a well-researched, perfect blend of action, suspense, mystery and romance. I really don’t have the words to do it justice.
- In a Far Off Land – I can’t say that this modern take on the story of the Prodigal Son was an instant favorite with me. But it has stayed with me long after I finished the last page. As a classic film fan, I did appreciate the 1930’s Hollywood setting and I’ve thought about the characters many times since I closed the book.
- Tapestry of Light – This was not an easy read as the heroine experiences so much emotional trauma. Themes of loss, bitterness and grief weigh the story down, but the little flickers of hope and light the author weaves in reveal truths in a memorable way. Plus the author’s passion and love for India is displayed in her vivid depiction of its’ culture.