Although we’re already over half way into the second month of 2022, I have finally finished my post about the best books of the last year and so today I want to share my love for these books!  There have been so many amazing books published in the last year, and I’ve had the priviledge of reading quite a few of these wonderful new releases, as well as many great already published books out there.  Below is a list of my ultimate favourite reads of 2021.  These books are ones I would recommend anyone to read as they really are that good, and I hope you might find a new favourite title you haven’t heard of yet.  I’m also going to be including a mini list of the best reads of 2020 below too, because I didn’t do a blog post like this last year and I feel that there are a few very worthy books that deserve a shout out.

So to be clear, below is going to be my list of the best books I’ve read last year, and while the majority of the books I’ve read are new releases, some of them aren’t and my list depends on the books I’ve read in 2021, not the year the book was published.  I also want to stress that I have read so many wonderful books in the last two years, too many to show here, that this is just a list of my ultimate favourites, although there are so many wonderful books that I’ve read and reviewed on this blog too, that didn’t make it into this list (but maybe they should have).

Best Reads of 2021!

Children’s picture books

Gustavo the Shy Ghost book cover

Gustavo the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

I’ve read so many picture books but not many become ultimate favourites.  Gustavo the Shy Ghost though is one sweet looking ghost and he’s so shy that the other monsters don’t notice him.  In an attempt to get to know the others Gustavo decides to hold a violin concert, where he will play the violin, but will the other monsters show up, especially the one he really likes called Alma?  I love the illustrations in this book, especially the way Gustavo looks and the whole Day of the Dead theme.  The story is brilliant and it’s a book I recommend getting as you’ll never want to stop looking at it once you’ve started! 🙂

Children’s fiction

The Elephant in the Room book cover

The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This beautiful and heart-warming story had me crying happy tears at the end.  When Sila’s mum has to go to turkey to sort out her immigration papers, Sila  is assured she will be back soon, but as the days turn into weeks and months Sila is left missing her mum.  One day her mechanic father takes her to repair an old vehicle and while there Sila starts talking to the elderly owner.  Soon the pair strike up a friendship and get the opportunity to adopt a real elephant and move it to the old man’s estate.  This is such a moving story and shows you the beautiful bond between animals and humans.  While caring for Veda, the elephant, a lot of funny things happen too and the ending leaves you feeling so happy and moved that you’ll be crying and thinking of this story for a long time!

Edie and the Box of Flits book cover

Edie and the Box of Flits by Kate Wilkinson & Joe Berger

This is such a wonderful and engrossing read!  Travelling on the tube one day with her dad Edie spots a box that a teenager has left behind when exiting the train. She tells her dad who works at the Lost Property Office in Baker Street and the two take the box to be kept there until someone claims it. But when Edie decides to have a look around in the storeroom at the Office, she notices the box and discovers some strange creatures inside.  The creatures are called flits, small borrower-like people with wings, who love sugary treats.  The story is so interesting as Edie ends up helping the flits to find one of them who’s missing.  The tale is so engrossing, I just couldn’t put it down and it’s so interesting and fun as it heads into the underground of London.  There are some lovely illustrations in the book too and with sparkly golden parts to the cover it really does feel like a special book! 🙂

Adventures in Thousandworld The Darkenstar book cover

Adventures in Thousandworld: The Darkenstar by Joseph A. Davis

This was one of my most recent favourites in chidren’s fiction and it’s still on my mind so many weeks and months after reading it! 🙂  Julia lives in the Swedish town of Klippsby along with her brother Edvin and her mum.  She knows there’s something strange about the refugee in her class, Kasir, and when shadows attack her and her brother in their home one evening, Kasir is there to help them escape.  Running away from the dark shadow creatures Julia, Edvin and Kasir meet the town’s vagrant the Troubadour, and together the four of them escape Kilppsby and end up in a fantasy world where drawings come to life.  This is such an amazing adventure story and it kept me glued to the pages as I read.  I love the story shown from Julia’s point of view as she enters the new world of Thousandworld (a world of a thousand different worlds) and travels to different places all while unable to communicate with most people due to not knowing the language or culture.  It’s an amazing fantasy adventure and I cannot wait until book two is translated into English (from Swedish) as I’m desperate to know more about what will happen next to all of the characters.

The Crystal Palace Chronicles Star of nimrod book cover

The Crystal Palace Chronicles: Star of Nimrod by Graham Whitlock

This is a brilliant time-travelling tale!  Joe is spending the summer helping out his dad in his restaurant or practicing skateboarding and parkour skills in Crystal Palace Park, but when some bullies throw his skateboard over a fence, Joe has to scramble amongst the brambles to retrieve it.  While making his way through the brambles though, Joe finds an old compass and ends up being transported back to 1888 and the Victorian Crystal Palace.  While in the past Joe meets characters like Arthur Conan Doyle and HG Wells, and soon overhears a conversation by some men who plan to steal a famous diamond.  Joe and his friends end up going on an adventure to not only save a gem and a friend but to help Joe get back to his own time.  I really loved this fast-paced story which captured the magical Victorian Palace to well!  The characters are all so interesting and different, and I love how connected so many of the charcters are and how so many people we meet really did visit or live in Crystal Palace, or nearby, at the time.  This is the first in a series and I can’t wait for the next installment, it really is an amazing read, especially if you love time-travelling or historical stories! 😀

Teen/Young adult fiction

Shine Until Tomorrow book cover

Shine Until Tomorrow by Carla Malden

This is another time-travelling story, this time following Mari Caldwell into the cool and hippy world of 1967!  Mari loves her vintage Leica camera but when her school teacher gives her an imcomplete for photography it’s the first in a series of events that go wrong.  After arguing with her mother and jumping onto her bike to get away, Mari ends up having an accident.  She manages to get up and drag herslef into a random abandoned vehicle to rest and recover and when she later wakes up she finds herself in the past.  I really enjoyed this story and how it unfolds.  Mari doesn’t realise she’s in the past at first and it takes some time to get used to it, but I love the adventures she has meeting a band and becoming part of their group for a time.  This is a great coming-of-age story with Mari ending up playing an interesting and pivotal part in the future and I do like the twists and how things end for her.

KID A History of the Future book cover

KID: A History of the Future by Sebastian de Souza

This is a big book but such an amazing read!  It’s the year 2078 and after a series of deadly pandemics, most of the people of the future are living plugged into a virtual reality universe called Perspecta.  While most people now live like this, teenager Josh ‘Kid’ Jones and two of his friends live in a small community in London filled with offliners, people who refuse to be plugged into Perspecta.  When Kid discovers an old iPhone left to him by his father, he ends up communicating with the past (the world of today), and a girl called Izzy.  This is such a brilliant read and a book which touches upon the dark future that plugging into a virtual reality world can have.  The offliners live in a toxic world and are considered second class citizens, and so many things happen to Kid, not only his connection to the past but his connection to Perspecta that this book left me feeling a whole bunch of emotions including happiness, gripping tension and shock.  There are some great twists and it has a brilliant ending which gives the possiblity of a future novel too.

Earthlings book cover

Earthlings: The Beginning by Ray Star

Earthlings is not like any book I’ve read before.  A mixture of science fiction (a story set in our future) and fantasy, because there is magic and talking animals.  Peridot lives on a small island with her mum, her mum’s friends Ann and Joseph and a small collection of animals. Peri lives a happy life but is plagued by the same falling nightmare again and again. When she turns thirteen, her mum gives her some special gifts, promising to tell Peri some truths she has been hiding from her. But then a young boy shows up, cold, dirty and terribly thin, and all of Peri’s attention focuses on him. Soon Peri and the boy, Euan, are friends but when something goes wrong and Euan disappears, Peri is determined to get him back, no matter what, even if it means leaving the island and facing the dark and dangerous world beyond.  This is such an engrossing story with something interesting happening to humans in the future.  The book is a magical story set in the near future and it’s the first climate fiction novel I’ve ever read with great messages of how destructive humanity can be to our world today.  It’s a brilliant first part of a trilogy and I can’t wait for the next installment!

Twin Daggers book cover

Twin Dragons by MarcyKate Connolly

This book came out the year before (in 2020) but I finally managed to read it at the start of 2021.  This brilliant fantasy follows twin sisters Aissa and Zandria as they spend their days in the city of Palinor among the Technocrats, people who love machines.  But Aissa and Zandria are part of an undercover Magi group and have been tasked with finding the heir to the Technocrat throne.  The story follows Aissa as she begins working in Palinor and later gets a job at the palace of the King and Queen.  But working at the palace is dangerous as a Magi spy, and soon Aissa finds herself getting too close to the Technocrat scientist she is working for.  This is a wonderful Romeo and Juliet style fantasy story with so much detail and a really engrossing tale!  The world of Palinor is descrbed in such a way that I felt myself swept into the story and there are a lot of touching moments when you discover more about the heartless and the relationship deepens between Aissa and another character.  It was my top fantasy read of the year and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a beautiful romance story and a very moving and engaging fantasy world.

Heartless Heirs book cover

Heartless Heirs by MarcyKate Connolly

This is the sequel to Twin Daggers and like the first book it is so wonderful and swept me right back into the world of Palinor and beyond.  I don’t want to spoil the story by saying anything about what happens, but we learn more about Aissa and Zandria’s unique powers and the story focuses more on the heartless and what can be done for them.  I love the relationships in the story and there are some amazing twists.  It’s the perfect finale to this amazing fantasy duology, and I would recommend both books as they are just so amazing, and just look at this cover!

The Hawthorne Legacy book cover

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is the second book in The Inheritance Games series and I just loved this so much.  After inheriting Tobias Howthorne’s millions and finding out why she was chosen as the heir to his fortune Avery is still riddled with unsolved puzzles.  While digging deeper to find out about more about someone, she discovers more about herself and the Hawthorne family.  This book, like the first is such a brilliant fast-paced  thriller.  It’s best to read the first book in the series The Inheritance Games first as this leaves you knowing who all the characters are and the situation but I just love how this sequel leaves you with even bigger twists than the last and some amazing things are discovered as Avery and others try to piece together the puzzles left behind by Tobias Hawthorne.  The final book in this series is out later this year and I can’t wait to read it!

Marrow Charm book cover

Marrow Charm by Kirstin Jacques

This is a brilliant and creepy dark fantasy book.  Azzy lives with her brother and their guardian in the Below, a world below ground where humans dwell, safely distant from the magic that’s above. The world of Above is tainted with magic that is so powerful it destroys and turns humans into strange and horrid creatures.  Soon the magic taints her brother and he is cast into the Above.  Azzy is determined to go after him, but the world of Above is a dangerous place and not all is as it seems.  This was such an epic adventure and I just loved this book so much.  This the first in a series but some of the descriptions were so eerie and dark that it made me feel a little creeped out at first.  A lot happens on this adventure and some interesting twists and it’s definitely a book I recommend for something a little different in fantasy.

Adult fiction

A Book of Secrets Cover

A Book of Secrets by Kate Morrison

This amazing historical fiction follows Susan who was born in Ghana before being transported as a baby with her mother to England during the tudor period.  Raised by a Catholic family at the time that the country was newly Protestant was dangerous in itself but Susan faces struggles when she is sent off to marry a printer in London.  This book is so interesting from the start as we learn about what it was like for some black people in Tudor times.  I love how this story shows the difficulties faced but also shows how some black people, like Susan, were able to rise up in society.  So many things happen and Susan’s life is filled with lots of dramatic, sad and also lovely moments, it is a wonderful story and such compelling reading and I can’t recommend it enough especially if you’re a fan of the Tudor period!

The Nirvana Effect book cover

The Nirvana Effect by Brian Pinkerton

This is a brilliant science fiction/dystopian story set just a few years into our future.  US citizens have embrassed a new technology that allows them to experience anything in their minds without ever having to leave home. All sorts of experiences and sensations are delivered via a chip that’s inserted near the brain. While the majority of the population enjoy the new technology that keeps people occupied in their own virtual reality, others like Aaron and Clarissa don’t, and prefer to live in the real world experiencing real things. But the US government plans to make the chip mandatory for all its citizens and the two find themselves on the run.  This is such a gripping and engrossing story.  The chip technology has left the US in ruins, nobody cares about thier homes, nature, animals and even their own bodies.  The story switches viewpoint between a few different characters and I love what a thrilling and tense adventure this is, with the characters who don’t want to be chipped trying to flee the country in order to escape it.  I highly recommend this to any sci-fi or dystopian fan!

A Clockwork River book cover

A Clockwork River by J S Emery

This has to be the most epic and biggest book I have ever read!  This hydropunk novel is set in Lower Rhumbsford, a city whose power comes from the River Rhumb, but after many years the river is sluggish, pipes and valves are leaking and stuck, and the river faces freezing for the first time in history.  This brilliant fantasy adventure follows several characters, Samuel Locke who on his way from a meeting disappears after being attacked by someone for his lock collection.  Briony, Samuel’s sister, who dabbles in alchemy finds herself facing a marriage propsal from a rather older gentleman, and a few others.  Everyone’s individual adventures all mixtogether and I love how interesting, strange, funny and silly their adventures are, all while trying to stop the end of the River Rhumb’s power.  The book is written in a brilliant way, the style of narration is a lot to take in but once you get used to it it’s such a joy to read and will make you laugh often.  It’s such an epic book and although I rated it down one strawberry as I felt the ending was a little too quick (I wanted more), the fact I keep thinking about this book makes it a favourite for me 9and makes me wonder if I should change my strawberry rating) and it’s a book I will love to read again and again, once I can dedicate about three weeks at a time! 😀

The Plague Letters book cover

The Plague Letters by V. L. Valentine

This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading!  The story takes place in 1665 during the Great Plague in London and follows pastor Symon Patrick as he discovers strange markings and things done to the bodies of the plague dead.  The story is a bit of a mix of historical and mystery with a good dose of humour thrown in.  While the story switches viewpiont occasionally, to show the murderer and what he is doing, it’s the story told from Symon’s point of view that makes this so fun to read.  I love some of the silly things that happen with his friendship with a certain Lady, or the silly things that happen with the characters who make up The Society for the Prevention and Cure of the Plague, or the interesting new girl who is helping Symon in a strange way!  The mystery is so good, I never guessed who it was and the whole story just ends so well.  If someone asked me what is my one favourite book of the year, I’d pick this one as my ultimate favourite and one I’d recommend to everyone!!!

Best Reads of 2020!

Children’s fiction

Tiger Heart book cover

Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes

This lovely story takes place in the late 18th/early 19th century in London and follows Fly as she falls down a chimney and straight into a cage which has a tiger in it.  Fly is a gutterling, a street child, and ends up speaking to the tiger who stangely speaks back to her and so begins an interesting and lovely adventure follow Fly and her tiger as they have to find their way back to the tiger’s home land.  The adventure is brilliant, moving and really made me feel so emotional at the end!  It’s a lovely adventure that takes place both in London and later somewhere else and it’s just such a wonderful read that I recommend it and its standalone sequel The Dragon and Her Boy (which I’ve now reviewed on my blog here) to everyone who loves a wonderful historical adventure story with a bit of fantasy thrown in!

Sequin and Stitch book cover

Sequin and Stitch by Laura Dockrill & Sara Ogilvie

This was a beautiful and touching story and it resonated with me so much, probably because my mum used to sew for people too.  Sequin lives with her mum and her brother Stitch in a flat high up in a tower block. Although their home might seem simple to some, to Sequin it’s a palace filled with amazing dresses and beautiful outfits that her mum spends her days sewing. Sequin loves to help her mum with the sewing and spends most of her days taking care of her baby brother while her mum sews. But she faces trouble at school with some girls who don’t like her, and not everyone believes that her mum is as amazing as Sequin does.  Sequin’s love for her mum and brother is beautiful to see, despite the fact she gets bullied at school and her mum suffers from confidence issues.  This book is so lovely and has an amazing twist near the end that I didn’t see coming but made this all the more special to read.  It’s just amazing!

Teen/young adult ficiton

The Hand the Eye and the Heart cover

The Hand, The Eye, & the Heart by Zöe Marriott

I absolutely adored this Mulan inspired story set in an alternate historical version of China.  Zhilan is the oldest child born to the Hua family.  When the Emperor calls all the men in Zhilan’s village to fight in the war against a powerful enemy, her father, once a great war hero but now disabled, must go to fight.  But Zhilan knows if he goes he won’t survive, so she decides to take his place.  The story is so compelling to read and I really got into this.  The story of Zhilan, who calls herself Zhi is interesting and I like how this developed into a story not only about the adventure, battle and army and what happens with that, but it’s also an interesting story with the diferent characters and Zhi questioning the gender she was born as, but without this overwhelming the adventure.  It’s a wonderful story with some interesting twists and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it after reading it!

The Cousins book cover

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

I’ve read lots of Karen M McManus’s novels, in fact all but one so far, but this one has to be my favourite ever.  Teenagers Milly, Aubery and Johan are sent an invitation to work on the island where their very wealthy gradmother lives, after not hearing from her or ever seeing her, their whole lives. For years they’ve lived with the knowledge that their parents were disinherited by their grandmother but they’ve never known why. Now the three of them have the chance to find out.  This was such a brilliant twisty adventure that never slowed down.  I think the island setting and the three cousins who are all so different but linked together this way made me love this story more and I loved how every chapter left you desperatee to find out more, so many twists, just amazing!

The Inheritance Games book cover

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is a brilliant and twisty thriller!  Avery is a typical teenager who’s not had it easy since her mum died, living with her sister and having to work to help pay the rent. But one day a mysterious man invites Avery to the reading of a will of a very wealthy billionnaire who has died. Nobody knows why Avery’s name is in the will, least of all Avery, but they all soon learn that she’s the inheritor of his entire fortune. But why would a billionnaire leave his entire fortune to someone unknown, and why Avery of all people?  This book is filled with puzzles, riddles and amazing twists throughout.  I loved trying to work out all the clues as to why Avery was chosed as the heir to Tobias’s fortune, and I just loved her character as well as so many of the others.  It’s a brilliant thriller and one which never gives you a moment to pause, simply amazing!

Adult fiction

A Time for Swords book cover

A Time for Swords by Matthew Harffy

This is the first book by Harffy that I’ve read but it really was an engrossing read.  Set in 789 AD, the story follows Hunlaf, a young monk who has come from his monestary at Werceworthe to Lindisfarne to see the scriptorium.  But not long after arriving the monestary is attacked by Norse invaders and Hunlaf finds himself not running away like the others who are fleeing the invaders but he runs towards the enemy, ready to fight.  The story is intersting and introduces a wealth of different characters.  I love how Hunlaf develops and is pretty useless as a fighter at first but slowly becomes more competent.  The band of characters that he meets up with is interesting, I enjoyed the relationship between Hunlaf and Runolf, and I love how detailed and engrossing the action was.  The book is a bit gory in places but I’ve never enjoyed a medieval story more and can’t wait for the sequel which is coming out in March this year!

Ashes cover image

Ashes by Christopher de Vinck

This is an interesting sotry set in Belgium during the second world war and follows Simone and Hava as they try to flee in invasion of the Nazis into neutral Belgium.  The book makes for compelling reading and the story of Simone and her friend Hava is a wonderful but harrowing one especially when you find out what later happens to one of the girls.  The story is inspired by true events that happened to the author’s family and it is educational too as there are lots of interesting excerpts at the start of each chapter which show you just what happened during the war, things such as parts of Hitler’s speeches which showed he wanted to target more than just the Jewish people.  I love how this book teaches without feeling like it and ultimately is a beautiful, but rather poignant and sad at the same time.

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my list of the best books of 2021 (and 2020)!  These were my ultimate favourites and i would recommend them all to everyone.  So do check them out if they sound like books you might enjoy reading, because I do think these are all reptty amazing! 🙂


Have you read any of these books?  What were your favourite books of last year?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂