Top 5 Favorite Books of 2021

Hello Readers and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Since today is the “holiday” that celebrates love, I though this would be the perfect time to talk about all the books I LOVED in 2021! Plus… I am WAY behind on my 2021 recaps and thought this would be the perfect excuse to still write this post even though it’s about 7 weeks late (Oops). So grab your Conversation Hearts, Dove chocolate, you favorite person and let’s talk books!

The first book I’d like to mention, and definitely a favorite of the year was Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. How I stumbled upon this awesome book was completely accidental. I typically do most of reading on my Kindle Oasis and have been trying not to buy as many physical books (key word there is tying) because I’m running out of space. I decided to run into Barnes & Noble to pick up a book and ended up chatting with one of the employees. One thing lead to another and she ended up recommending Everything is Figureoutable to me. I had never heard of this book but the synopsis hooked me from the start. You can figure out everything if you put your mind to it. I’ve read both the physical book and the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, high energy and extremely motivating to listen to) and completely loved it. I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction but this was such an inspirational book, how could you not love it?

Next up we have Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber. I loved Garber’s Caraval series and it was great returning to this world! While Once Upon A Broken Heart isn’t directly connected to the Caraval series, there are some overlaps and Easter eggs that you’ll pick up on having read those books first. I was already excited about this book but to make it even better, I was asked by Flatiron Books to join their Blog Tour supporting this release! The plot of this novel was simple, how far will you go for your happily ever after? For Evangeline Fox, it’s pretty damn far – so far, that she makes a deal with a Fate to help her win back the love of her life. From this somewhat simple deal, a dazzling story unfolds filled with adventure, magic, murder and mystery. This book also swooped in to save me from a pretty terrible reading slump, so I can’t recommend it enough! If you’re looking for more content on Once Upon A Broken Heart, check out the Author Q&A we did here or my full length review of the novel here.

Continuing on with favorite fantasy, I read and loved Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. GOOD LORD was this a great book. This was the epic conclusion of the Dark Artifices trilogy (which is also my favorite trilogy that Clare has written to date). This book came in at over 900 pages and it did not feel that long! It read so fast that I found myself absolutely devouring it during Tome Topple Round 14 back in March. Since this is the last book in a series, I don’t want to go into much plot here to avoid spoilers (and I’m not going to talk much about the series because the Shadowhunter books are all so interconnected). If you’re a fan of fantasy, magic and memorable characters, the Shadowhunter Chronicles are for you. There’s a lot of “required reading” to be able to read this series but it’s all worth it. I was completely engrossed by all 3 books in this series and cannot praise them enough!

As I start to wind down my list, I feel like it’s only appropriate to include one of my favorite thrillers – Survive The Night by Riley Sager. I am quickly becoming a Riley Sager fan – I’ve read a few of his books and have a few more waiting on my Kindle. I’ve enjoyed each one and I think Survive The Night might be my favorite so far. This book takes place in the 90s, before cell phones and readily available technology. After Charlie Jordan’s roommate is murdered, she’ll do anything to get away from her college campus, including taking a ride home from a stranger who may or may not be a murderer. The story unfolds over the course of the night as her and her mysterious companion travel in his car. There’s an unreliable narrator and twists at every corner. There were quite a few things that caught me by surprise (and other things I saw coming a mile away) but overall, I loved this one. It was fast paced and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I’ve seen some reviews dragging this book but if you can suspend belief for awhile (and go back to a pre-technology time) I think you’re really going to like this one!

Last on my list is Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters by Kara Goldin. This was also a nonfiction read (look at me, 2 nonfiction titles in my Top 5 list) and it was utterly fantastic. Goldin is the CEO is one of my favorite beverage companies, Hint Water. Hint is an unsweetened water beverage that is PACKED with fruit flavors. I stumbled upon this company years and years ago at a local grocery store. I picked up a few bottles and have loved it ever since (ironically, I had a problem with a few of the bottles that I purchased – when I reached out, I ended up emailing back and forth with Kara’s husband, Theo). The only way I can explain this book is equal parts life advice, inspiration and entrepreneurialism. Goldin is so down to earth and relatable. When Goldin created Hint, she started the company as a way to drink more water and kick her Diet Coke habit. As you read her story, you come to find out that every product expansion or growth opportunity was born from something personal that Goldin cares deeply about. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just a feel-good story, be sure to pick this one up!

Well, that’s it. Those are my Top 5 books of 2021 that I just loved. I hope this post provided you with a few potential new titles to try or maybe I mentioned one of your favorite books! What did you read that was absolutely amazing last year? Leave me a comment or you can always tweet me @ItsMrGeekToYou.

Until We Meet Again,
Shawn

Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020

Earlier this week, I talked about my Top 5 Biggest Book Disappointments of 2020. I specifically decided to call out BOOK disappointments, because otherwise the entire year would’ve been featured on that list!

Just me trying to make it through 2020 in one piece…

I really shouldn’t complain. While this was a total dumpster fire of a year, I did get a chance to read a ton of great books! When the pandemic first began, I really struggled to settle into a new routine and adjust to this “new normal.” My reading definitely took a nose-dive because I just couldn’t focus on my books with everything happening in the world. Thankfully, by the Summer months I got myself back on track! Deciding which books to feature here really was a challenge! I’m going to keep the summaries short but I’ve included a blurb about what my this book so great (in my opinion). After that long intro, it’s time to talk great books!! (My list will be in my reading chronological order through the year, starting January to December).

Kicking off this list is Oona Out Of Order by Margarita Montimore! What an absolute joy and refreshing deviation from my standard genres! This was a story about a woman who, starting on her 19th birthday, begins living her life out of order. Each birthday she time hops to a different age, 19 – 54 – 37 – 78. What really made this a memorable reading experience were the life lessons and fantastic quotes sprinkled throughout this novel. Each year Oona lives teaches her something which I found to be interesting and applicable to my life. Montimore also had some truly noteworthy quotes, my favorite being: All good things end, always. The trick is to enjoy them while they last. As I look into 2021, this is something that’s going to stick with me. Savor these enjoyable moments because you never know how long that are going to last.

Next up we have House In The Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune. A good friend of mine recommended this book to me and I am so glad she did! Cerulean Sea is the story of a social work name Linus, who handles orphanages for “special children.” One day Linus gets a high-priority assignment and is asked to travel to a very… unique… orphanage. There he meets an eclectic group of people that turn his entire life upside down. Each of the children has a very distinct personality that adds so much charm and dimension to the story. To put it simply, this book is perfection. While this was a work of fiction, Klune does an incredible job weaving in relevant parallels to what’s happening in today’s world (like prejudice and discrimination). If you’re looking for a feel-good story, look no further than The House In The Cerulean Sea!

Starting last year, I decided I wanted to read all of the Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. I started off strong, reading The Mortal Instruments trilogy (Part 1, Books 1 – 3), The Infernal Devices trilogy and started The Mortal Instruments Part 2 (Book #4, City of Fallen Angels). This year, I finished off the last 2 books in part 2 of The Mortal Instruments, the supplemental short story bind ups and moved onto The Dark Artifices. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare was my favorite entry in this world to date. The writing was engaging and the plot centered around a mystery. It was a wild ride from the first page to the very last! What really cemented this book’s spot on my Top 5 list was the fact that it was nearly 700 and it didn’t feel nearly that long. The story was meaningful and there wasn’t fluff or filler. I’m currently reading Lord of Shadows and I’m anxious to see where the story goes from here!

My next book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, was a bit of a toss up. I was conflicted including this because it has already received SO much praise this year already. If you haven’t heard of this book (first of all, where have you been?), it’s the story of Adeline LaRue who makes a deal with a Dark God to change her fate and have the life she always dreamed of. The catch? As soon as Addie leaves your vision, you forget her… until she finally meets someone who remembers. Similar to Oona Out Of Order, Addie LaRue is not my typical genre of book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was an epic story, that needed to be told, and Schwab crafted it would masterful precision. I was nervous about how this was all going to wrap up but the ending was utter perfection. It was a great culmination to a fantastic tale

Finally, rounding out this list is, Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman. This was one of the last books I read this year and I ENJOYED IT. I’ve read several of Bachman’s other works (A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry). Both of these novels were wonderful and definitely tugged a bit at the heartstrings. I went into Anxious People expecting a lighthearted and funny story about a bank robbery gone wrong. This wasn’t quite what I got. The novel had a much more serious and somber tone since suicide plays a large role in the plot. There was a large cast of characters but Bachman did a great job giving each one a distinct voice so you never mixed them up. While suicide is at the center of the book, the story manages to be uplifting and center on healing. Give this one a whirl if you need a little optimism in your life.

I would like to cheat and add one final “Honorable Mention” which is Atomic Habits by Jame Clear. It’s really hard to put this book up against some of the incredible fiction I’ve previously mentioned but I had to still mention this book. I absolutely loved it and thought the advice was so applicable. Clear does a great job making the advice relatable and useful (as opposed to most of the other self-help / development books I’ve read). He’s easy to connect to and doesn’t come across as condescending. A MUST read if you’re looking to build new, or break existing, habits!

And there you have it! My Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020. While this year wasn’t quite exactly what I was hoping it would be, I learned a little and ended up reading a lot. I’m hopeful that 2021 will be the year we’ve all earned and deserve!

Have you read any of my favorites? What did you think? Any recommendations on “Must Read” books for 2021? Leave your favorites in the comments – let’s face it, my TBR is never going to shrink!

Until We Meet Again,
Mr Geek

Top 5 Biggest Book Disappointments of 2020

As we’re winding down 2020, which has been THE most disappointing year of my life, I thought what best post to kick off with than the reads I was really looking forward to but did not deliver! All of the books featured in this post were ones that I thought I was going to absolutely love but ended up feeling less than satisfied. On that note, let’s jump into some disappointment!

My biggest disappointment of the year has to go to YOU by Caroline Kepnes. When YOU was released on Netflix, I quickly binged Season 1. When I realized the show was based on a book, I knew I had to read it! In the show, the main character (Joe) was a creepy but likable anti-hero. Even though he had some sick, twisted ideas you still wanted to root for him. In the book, we got more of Joe’s internal dialogue which was vulgar and over-the-top. I won’t be reading Hidden Bodies or the other 2 books that have been announced. I will, however, be continuing to watch the Netflix series!

Next up on my list is another thriller-is book, Everyone Knows How Much I Love You by Kyle McCarthy. I received an ARC of this book and was excited when I got my approval email. This sounded like it was going to be a quick, fun and toxic book that was going to whip through in a single sitting. The main character was demented and the story was outrageous. Initially, I didn’t understand why this book was getting such bad reviews on GoodReads and Netgalley. Then I hit the middle. The whole tone of the book changes and the main character engaged in an affair with her best friend / roommates boyfriend. The fling was disturbingly graphic and really did nothing to advance the story. Eventually, this part of the novel ends and the story gets back on track. The ending, however, was so random and strange that I didn’t understand how we even got there. McCarthy definitely tried to be edgy, shocking and unique but these efforts completely fell flat.

I’ve always loved the idea of self-help books but they tend to never deliver the content I’m expecting. A prime example of this is How To Lead When You Aren’t In Charge by Clay Scroggins. There was an overabundance of religious references, “God’s Plan” and it generally lacked any actual leadership advice. I opted to listen to the audiobook and Scroggins voice sounded like a used car salesman. At one point he even spoke some rap lyrics and I cringed so hard it physically hurt. This was a HUGE pass for me!

We’re over halfway through and winding down. The next book, for me, was a personal disappointment: Eldest by Christopher Paolini. I read Eragon years ago and loved it. I loved the sense of adventure, dragons and epic story. I was looking forward to continuing the journey and decided to pick this up for a round of Tome Topple. To start, this book was unnecessarily long (200 pages could’ve easily been cut). Multiple POVs is usually something that I enjoy but the storylines were BORING. Initially, I was really invested in one of the stories. Eventually that interest fizzled out and I had to slough through the rest of the book to finish it.

The final book rounding out this list is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I remember when this book was released earlier this year. It was sold out on Amazon and I saw a ton of Bloggers, Bookstagrams and YouTubers RAVING about this horror novel. Eventually I snagged a copy for my Kindle and decided to read it during October when I read only horror books. This wasn’t an overly long book but after the first 50 pages things really slowed down and nothing really happened. The story continued to crawl for the next 150 pages. Once I was about 100 pages from the ending, the plot found it’s groove and moved like wildfire until I turned the last page. After all the praise, I was expecting something a little more addicting and had to put down.

So there you have it, my top 5 biggest book disappointments of the year! Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Were you also disappointed or did you love them? What are some of your biggest book disappointments of the year? Leave me a note in the comments if you agree/disagree and any books I should avoid!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Top 5 Friday: Thrillers

Let me start off by saying this, I absolutely love the suspense / thriller / mystery genre! There is just something about a heart-pounding mystery that I can’t resist. I’m not sure when I got into these types of books, but I have very distinct memories of reading thrillers in bed and actually sitting up straighter because the book was so engrossing! Whether you’re a fan of the genre, looking for a new read, or someone who’s always wanted to give this genre, but didn’t know where to start, this list is for you!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Summary: Meet Alicia Berenson, a famous artist, married to a popular, in-demand, fashion photographer. Alicia has the perfect life until one night she returns home, shoots her husband five times in the face and never speaks another word. Since Alicia won’t speak, she’s it own deepens the mystery around her. She’s soon transferred to a secured forensic unit (The Grove) where she can be hidden away from the public eye and monitored. Enter Theo Faber. Theo is a criminal psychotherapist who has been itching for a chance to work with Alicia and get her to speak. As Theo’s work with Alicia continues, we’re set off down a winding path of twists and turns, where nothing is as it appears!

Why This Book Made the List: Quite frankly, it’s un-put-down-able. I had seen this book on my “Must Read” lists for 2019. The premise did sound interesting but I thought this book would struggle to live up to the hype. Boy was I wrong. Michaelides does such a fantastic job weaving this story together. The pacing was perfect and he provides just enough details to keep you reading. I think what is most noteworthy is the ending. It was twisty, surprising and definitely steered clear of more standard / cookie cutter ideas!

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Summary: What the secret to a happy marriage? It’s easy, murder. The premise is simple, a married couple abducts and murders women. The husband handles the identification and luring while the wife handles the disposal. This is purposefully done so neither spouse know where the girl came from or where her remains are located. If this plot sounds at all interesting, don’t investigate this book anymore and just go buy a copy.

Why This Book Made the List: This book was so surprising! I saw this book featured on Netgalley but by the time I requested it, all of the ARCs were taken. As soon as it was released, I scooped it up. The synopsis is sort of vague but it just adds to the overall vibe. Downing does such a great job weaving together all of these details and expertly crafted one hell of a story. The last quarter of the book was incredible and left me speechless. Usually I’m pretty good at figuring out the ending before I get there but that was not the case here!

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Summary: Ted Severson is sitting at an airport bar, waiting to catch his flight back to Boston. He is attempting to drink his sorrows away because he’s sure his wife, Miranda, is cheating on him. He then meets the beautiful and mysterious Lily Kintner (who is also on his flight back to Boston). Ted, being slightly intoxicated, launches into how woes and how he could kill Miranda for what she’s done to him. Lily immediately jumps on board, saying she’d love to help. The two plan to meet up in a few weeks to map out of the final details of their murder plot.

Why This Book Made the List: The way Swanson wrote this book, every chapter ended on a cliffhanger and each section of the book ended with a bomb drop. I absolutely tore through this book at a ridiculous pace because I had to know what was going to happen. This book moved at breakneck speeds and was impossible to put down because you just had to know what was going to happen next. The twists were genius and very unexpected! I have to admit, I wasn’t crazy about how it ended – it wasn’t horrible but definitely not my favorite. Overall, a fantastic read that I cannot recommend enough!

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Flynn

Summary: Anna Fox has agoraphobia and spends her days inside her New York City home, too scared to venture outside. She passes the time watching old movies, drinking wine (there’s nothing wrong with that) and spying on her neighbors. When the Russells move in across the street, Anna has a new subject to watch. Mrs Russell stops over to introduce herself and they spend an afternoon socializing and getting to know each other. As Anna is gazing out her window, she thinks she see Mrs Russell being murder – but that couldn’t be! She calls the police and soon they stop over with Mr and Mrs Russell… but this isn’t the Mrs Russell that stopped by earlier! What did Anna see… or not see?

Why This Book Made the List: From the very beginning, The Woman in the Window sunk its hooks into me and never let go. I was curious to learn more about Anna, what caused her agoraphobia and how did she get to this current state she was in? The story flips between multiple present and past which help fill in her overall timeline. Like all of the other books on this list, the twists were fresh and really caught me off guard. They were a rather unique take on a somewhat overplayed storyline. I’ve recommended this book to several people and everyone has loved it! I’m anxious to see the film adaptation (staring Amy Adams) but who knows when that will happen – the film has been delayed several times (once to rewrite the ending since a test audience found it confusing and again due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Summary: Journalist, Camille Preaker, has done everything in her power to separate herself from the small town where she grew up (Wind Gap, Missouri). Unfortunately for Camille, she is assigned to investigate a series of gruesome murders that happened / are happening in Wind Gap. Camille returns to her hometown and remembers all of the reasons why she left in the first place: Small town drama, her overly-needy mother, half-sister Amma and psychological demons that’s she’s trying to leave in the past. As Camille digs deeper and deeper into these murders, she quickly realizes that she might not survive this homecoming.

Why This Book Made the List: I picked up Sharp Objects after I read Gone Girl. While I enjoyed Gone Girl (the ending was meh), I loved Sharp Objects. I found the setting to be interesting and the bizarre family drama dynamics were definitely entertaining. As Camille dug deeper and deeper into the mystery, I had no idea how this book was going to end. It kept me engaged and interested until he very last page – and that ending was perfection! This is an extremely dark book that deals with some pretty heavy subject matter – definitely check out the trigger warnings on this before taking the plunge! Also, if you do enjoy the book – I highly recommend the HBO series. This also starred Amy Adams (as Camille) and she did a fantastic job bringing this character to life. While I enjoyed the TV show, it did take about half of the episodes for the plot to really come together and get interesting.

There you have it, folks! These are some of my all time favorite thrillers. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do they deserve to be in my Top 5 list? Sound off in the comments or tweet me / add me on GoodReads (@ItsMrGeekToYou)!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

PS – This post includes affiliate links, if you’re looking to pick up one of these books, please consider using the links in my post. I’ll receive a small commission and it doesn’t cost you a thing!