I’ve read 150+ books in 2021 (the most I’ve EVER read in a year & I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top this amount, unless this is my new reading normal??). That being said, as much as I’ve really made an effort to read books I have a very good feeling that I’ll enjoy (hence why most of my reading in 2021 were contemporary books), I’m not going to love or even enjoy EVERY single book that I read. Today I’ll be discussing my most disappointing reads of 2021. I think the theme of most of the books below & why they’re on this list mainly has to do with that I wasn’t expecting MORE from them.
As always, I want to include a disclaimer that my disappointment in the following books has nothing to do with anything other than the fact I simply didn’t enjoy the book or that it didn’t meet my expectations. Additionally, just because I may have not enjoyed a book, doesn’t mean that you won’t or doesn’t discredit your love for it!
Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell (Simon Snow #3) – Controversial opinion, especially for someone like me who considers Rainbow Rowell to be one of her favorite contemporary authors, but I’ve come to the conclusion in 2021 that I likely wouldn’t have read the Simon Snow trilogy if it hadn’t been written by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve realized that I love the ‘contemporary-ness’ of this trilogy & this finale (aka Baz and Simon’s relationship), but I just can’t get into the magic and fantasy world of this series.This book isn’t necessarily a case where I didn’t like the book or couldn’t stand it, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be??
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave –The Last Thing He Told Me falls into the category of a book that was super hyped that I normally wouldn’t have read on my own (and I think it was also chosen as a Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick) and ultimately walked away feeling okay about it. It was much more of a domestic thriller than expected.
Summary (from the publisher): Piper Evans: elementary school teacher by day–avid romance reader and anonymous podcaster by night. She lives a quiet, reclusive life, taking care of her mother, who struggles with mental illness, avoiding her regrettable ex, who bartends in town, and trying to make inroads in the tight-knit island community that still sees her, five years in, as an outsider.
And she’s happy with how things are–really–until British royals rent the property next to hers and their brooding bodyguard decides she’s a security threat. Piper quickly realizes that one person’s fairy tale is an ordinary woman’s nightmare as a media frenzy takes over the island and each run-in with Harrison Cole is hotter and more confusing than the last. But beneath Harrison’s no-nonsense exterior lies a soft heart, one that could tempt a woman who’s sworn off attachments into believing in white knights.
But when Piper finds herself smack in the middle of a royal scandal that rocks the island she’ll need more than Harrison’s strong arms to shield her–she’ll have to do a little rescuing herself. With careers, hearts, and friendships on the line, Piper and Harrison will have to decide what they’re willing to give up for a chance at their own happily ever after.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Give me any royal-inspired back & I’m already there – not to mention one with a protagonist who is a teacher and runs a romance novel podcast!
I 100% admit that the cover of The Royals Next Door totally grabbed my attention a few months ago, and I couldn’t also help but love the synopsis. The book follows Piper, an elementary school teacher and romance novel podcast hosts who lives on a small-town island in British Columbia. Piper doesn’t tend to socialize, after leaving her ex-fiancé at the altar years ago and living with & taking care of her mother who struggles with mental illness. Piper’s life definitely gets more interesting though when the British royals Prince Edward & Duchess Monica (picture Meaghan and Harry) move next door, along with their broody and attractive bodyguard, Harrison. As Piper and Harrison adjust to having each other as neighbors and doing their best to protect the royals’ privacy, they soon find themselves trying to have their own happily ever after admins royal scandal.
And just like that, it’s the last month of 2021! I’m looking forward to my reading in December, not because I necessarily know what I’m reading (my December reading is always a mix oof holiday books and a mix of books I didn’t yet have the time to get to in 2021), but because I feel so energized by my November reading. I read a total of 12 books in November, much in part to some holiday breaks from work that were spread out throughout the month, and I also dived a bit more into TV than I had earlier in the fall.
My favorite books of November were Ghosts by Dolly Alderton, The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox, and Palm Beach by Mary Adkins
I shared a What I’ve Been Reading Recently wrap-up last week, but I am back with another wrap-up semi-based off on what I read during the Thanksgiving Break (and by semi, I mean yes I will be sharing a contemporary romance review here soon!). This mini review round-up features a memoir based on a super popular Netflix Mini series, a contemporary fiction read that was SO addicting, and a recently released poetry collection.
Since I’ve been busy with work and life things this fall, I’ve really made an effort to read books that make me excited to read in my free time. Palm Beach had been on my TBR for a while, and then Becca Freeman from Bad on Paper Podcast posted it on her Instagram story raving about it and I immediately put the book on hold from my library. Palm Beach is an adult contemporary fiction read, following married couple Mickey and Rebecca. Rebecca is a freelance writer whose works focuses on economic inequality and exposing the lives of the wealthy, while Mickey is a Broadway actor and caters in between show jobs. When Mickey loses his ability to sing and is offered to work as a house manger for a multimillionaire, Rebecca, Mickey, and their young son relocate to Palm Beach and soon find themselves involved in the lives of the rich & elite.
Something about Palm Beach made it the type of book that I just did not want to put down – I managed to read it in less than 4 hours. I loved the character development, following the third person perspectives of Rebecca & Mickey, and much like Rebecca, I loved learning about the couple Mickey works for. In a way, the book reminded me of Laura Hankin’s Happy & You Know It, being that both books should different perspectives of wealth and service jobs like nannying and house managers. I have to admit that the semi-twist/direction of the story involving Rebecca and Mickey’s family felt unexpected in the second half of the story, but overall I thought this was such a thought-provoking and well-written contemporary! Definitely pick this one up if you like slice of life type books that you can’t put down.
When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell–both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.
With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician’s assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
If you are craving a holiday baking completion meets a book with a setting like Gilmore Girls meets The Parent Trap/sister-switching-places shenanigans, look no further than Maggie Knox’s The Holiday Swap.
The Holiday Swap follows identical twin sisters, Cass and Charlie, who both need a break from their careers and decide to switch places for the two weeks leading up to Christmas. After Charlie, a co-host of a popular Christmas baking completion show, has an accident at work that leads her to lose her sense of taste & smell, she convinces Cass, who is running their small-town, family-owned bakery during the busiest time of year, to switch places. As the twins step into each other’s shoes (& baking aprons), Cass and Charlie make some big realizations about their sister’s life…and yes, might develop some feelings for a local fireman and physical’s assistant along the way.
It’s been another month where I read so MANY books, but don’t write MANY book reviews, oops. Instead of sharing multiple mini reviews or full length reviews about the books I’ve read in November, I’m instead going to be sharing some thoughts of each of them here (similar to wrap-up posts from June & July this summer). While I’ve definitely enjoyed the books below (yes, some more than others) I’ve definitely have been in a mini reading slump/trying to find books that will give me the same feels as two of my FAVORITE recent reads, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton (my first book in November and the Bad on Paper Podcast pick this month) and The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (I am so looking forward to Ali Hazelwood’s novellas coming out next year! – I think I’m going to wait for the print bind-up).
As we’re now fully in the last two months of 2021 (!!), it’s time to slowly but surely begin wrap-up season. December is always filled with posts about my favorite books of the year and my anticipated books for the new year, but I’ve kicked off the reflective season with the End of Year Book Tag for the past few years. This book tag is always a great way for me to think back on what I read this year (and yes, start forming my favorites posts) and do a little goal-setting for the rest of the year.
Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
Since I’m publishing this post on a Monday morning, I thought it’d be fun to share the books I’m currently in the middle of and that I will finish by the end of this week (which means this year, haha) – I’m currently reading My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan – this contemporary romance had been on my TBR radar for a while since it’s written by audiobook narrator star Julia Whelan and it was recently mentioned twice in two of my favorite bookish podcasts, Bad On Paper and Friends to Lovers. I also have Dolly Alderton’s memoir, Everything I Know About Love, on my nightstand because I immediately needed more of her writing after finishing Ghosts two weeks ago. I’m sure this question will be a bit more pressuring during the week in between Christmas and New Years, as I hope to do a lot of reading since I’m off from work then. As always, I *try* to finish any book I’m currently reading by New Years’ Eve so I can start the new year with a fresh read, but sometimes that plan doesn’t work out depending on my NYE plans and my desire to always being currently reading something!
I can’t believe I’m already sharing my holiday book TBR, but does anyone actually think I wouldn’t take the opportunity to talk about them?? I’m not someone to rush into the holiday season as soon as Halloween ends (okay fine, I have listened to my Christmas Spotify playlist already), but I also wanted to share the holiday books on my TBR in case you are looking to plan your festive season reading between November and December. I actually decided to share my list earlier because I myself had to put a few of the books below on hold from my library already! For the most part, I keep my holiday book TBRs short because I don’t want all of my reading in November & December to be holiday-themed and I try to stay away from over-the-top cheesy holiday books (and there may or may not be books of holidays past that I still haven’t read, like The After Life of Holly Chase, oops).
Always, in December by Emily Stone – I totally admit that the cover alone of Emily Stone’s Always, in December drew me in. I heard this one is on the heavier side of a holiday story, as the main protagonist, Josie, lost her parents on Christmas years ago and writes them a letter each year. On the way to the mailbox, she runs into Max, who has his own reasons for avoiding the Christmas season, and the book follows them on their chance encounters over the next year – it kind’ve sounds like a deeper cross between Josie Silver’s One Day in December and Sophie Cousens’ This Time Next Year.
The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer – I feel like The Matzah Ball is THE holiday romance of 2021 – it’s also the Matzah Book Soup Book Club pick for November. The Matzah Ball is a Hanukkah inspired holiday romance, following a Jewish Christmas romance novelist, Rachel, whose publisher wants her to write a Hanukkah inspired romance.
I told myself that I was going to create this Taylor Jenkins Reid book ranking post right after I read Malibu Rising and Maybe in Another Life back in June….but here we are 5 months later! Today, I am going to be sharing a much-anticipated (on my end at least!) by ranking Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. I started reading TJR’s books back in 2017 and have read at least one book of her’s every year since. I do still have to read her short story published through Amazon, Evidence of the Affair. I’ve made my rankings from favorite to least favorite, & I’ve included my star ratings & when I read the book.
1. One True Loves – I know many readers love TJR’s more recent historical fiction/big cast of characters type books more than her early contemporary books, but I’ve always held One True Loves as my favorite TJR book. TJR’s contemporary books tend to have what-if type storylines where the main protagonist has to make a choice in a partner or lifestyle that will lead to a totally different life. In One True Loves, the main protagonist is led to believe that her husband was lost at sea and returns to her hometown to heal and develops feelings for an old friend…only to find out that her husband didn’t die after all. The book definitely got bonus points in my book for partially taking place at a family-owned bookstore. My Rating:4.25/5 Stars Read In: 2017
2. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo –The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the book that really put TJR on readers’ radar (it’s also her highest rated book on Goodreads) and was her first venture into the historical-fiction type writing she is now known for. The book follows unknown magazine reporter Monique, who is selected to learn about the glamorous and scandalous life of movie icon Evelyn Hugo. I remember absolutely loving the writing style throughout & how the story connected all together in the end.My Rating: 4/5 Read In: 2018
Summary (from the publisher): Nina Dean is not especially bothered that she’s single. She owns her own apartment, she’s about to publish her second book, she has a great relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and enough friends to keep her social calendar full and her hangovers plentiful. And when she downloads a dating app, she does the seemingly impossible: She meets a great guy on her first date. Max is handsome and built like a lumberjack; he has floppy blond hair and a stable job. But more surprising than anything else, Nina and Max have chemistry. Their conversations are witty and ironic, they both hate sports, they dance together like fools, they happily dig deep into the nuances of crappy music, and they create an entire universe of private jokes and chemical bliss.
But when Max ghosts her, Nina is forced to deal with everything she’s been trying so hard to ignore: her father’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, and so is her mother’s denial of it; her editor hates her new book idea; and her best friend from childhood is icing her out. Funny, tender, and eminently, movingly relatable, Ghosts is a whip-smart tale of relationships and modern life.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I always have some favorite books unexpectedly sneak up on me during the last two months of the year, and this year it includes Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts. Ghosts is the Bad on Paper Podcast November book club pick. I liked the sound of its synopsis, following a thirty two year old woman named Nina who hasn’t the best of luck when it comes to dating, but I swore I kept seeing rave & rave reviews everywhere as soon as it was announced as a BOP pick and it made me need to pick it up ASAP. I was actually in the middle of another book when Ghosts came in from the library & put that book aside to gobble up Ghosts in less than 2 days.
Ghosts is set in 2018 London (yes, it’s a British contemporary but not a chick lit/contemporary romance type of British contemporary), following writer & chef Nina as she decides to finally go on a popular dating app called Linx. Nearly all of Nina’s friends, including her childhood best friend Katherine and even her ex-boyfriend but still friend Joe, have all moved on and are in the engaged/married/married-with-kids part of life, while Nina feels like she is constantly reminded of her singledom alongside her best friend, Lola. Nina’s family life also feels like it is slowly crumbling apart, as her father has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mother struggles to accept his condition. Nina starts to feel like her life might just be coming together when she meets a man named Max through Linx, only to be ghosted by him weeks later..