Yesterday I sat down and realized that since 2021 is done with, it was time to tally up the number of books I read last year. Turns out I read around 114 books. I did start on my 115th but since I’m in the middle of it I didn’t count it. Today I’m going to attempt to share my favorite books that I read.
I’m not going to lie, it was a bit difficult narrowing so many books down. However, I tried to keep today’s list to ten or less. There are a couple of series that I will list collectively, so know that technically this list does contain more than ten books. These books are in no necessary order except maybe the order I read them, but that’s not quite accurate as I read some of these books multiple times throughout the year.
Girl at Heart by Kelly Oram
Charlie Hastings is a baseball prodigy and the only girl on her High School baseball team. She’s always been just one of the guys. When her best friend, and secret crush, makes other plans for their senior prom, Charlie decides to quit the team and learn to become a normal girl.
Team Captain, Jace King, knows quitting is a decision Charlie will regret for the rest of her life so he makes her a deal: Don’t quit the team and he’ll help her find the girl inside with the help of Jace’s twin sister, Leila. As Charlie’s inner girl comes out, it’s obvious not everyone is happy with the change. Charlie may have to choose between being who she really is and losing her best friend. Luckily there’s someone who’s always seen the girl Charlie is at heart.
I picked this book up at random one day last month and proceeded to devour it in less than 12 hours total. I immediately read it two more times in a row. I loved this story. Seriously, just writing about it makes me want to read it again. Okay, I guess I have to actually tell you what I love about this book, right?
Maybe I’m just a sucker for people becoming who they really are. I am definitely a sucker for a good love story. While the love story is more of a sub-plot, it is very sweetly done. Oram could’ve easily made the romance portion of this story the forefront, but instead she kept it mostly focused on Charlie broadening her horizons and learning to be a more balanced person.
One thing I definitely liked and appreciated is how not everyone knows Charlie has a crush on her best friend. I feel like Oram writing it that way made it more true to life. When her crush is publicly revealed, the reactions are on point for the characters. So great job Oram!
I am so glad that I can recommend this book for everyone. There are no explicit scenes or language. It really is just a book about finding yourself with a sweet relationship mixed in. If you haven’t read this book, go read it. Now!
Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston
Padmé Naberrie is only fourteen years old when she assumes the throne of Naboo and the moniker Amidala. As Queen, Padmé gathers a group of handmaidens, each with their own special skill. They are to be her assistants, her protectors, decoys, and most importantly, her friends. It’s not always easy waters in the group and their loyalty will never be tested more than when Naboo is invaded by the Trade Federation.
If you’ve been around then you know that our family loves Star Wars. Out of all the many talented and interesting characters, Padmé Naberrie Amidala Skywalker is my absolute favorite. I just love her. I also love the Prequel Trilogy so reading this book was so much fun. It begins with the Padmé’s election and goes all the way through The Phantom Menace. It gives a lot of behind the scenes mixed in with the movie scenes. Prior to reading this, I knew that some of the handmaidens had been tortured. Reading this book I finally found out the who, why, and how.
This book is a worthy addition to the Star Wars Universe, and the ending isn’t as sad as its predecessor (which is also its sequel?) Queen’s Shadow. It is definitely a book for any Padmé fan.
Silence and Broken Silence by Natasha Preston
When Oakley Farrell was five years old, she stopped talking. Eleven years later, she still remains silent despite the pleas of family and friends. The only person who seems to accept her as she is, is her lifelong best friend, Cole Benson. In the end, it’s Cole she leans on when the truth comes to light, and it’s Cole she walks away from.
Four years later, Oakley returns to personally face the monsters of her past. Despite the time and distance, she’s never stopped loving the boy next door and Cole is determined to be there for her once more. As Oakley navigates finding closure for her horrible past, she must also find the answer of whether or not Cole fits into her future.
This is actually a trilogy, but for some reason I didn’t read the third book last year? The third book, Silent Night, is a good one, too, so if you pick them up then definitely read the third one, too. There’s also a spinoff book with Oakley’s brother, Jasper, as the main character. So I guess technically it’s a series, but I’ve only read Oakley’s story.
The first thing you need to know is that these books deal with sensitive subjects of child abuse so they may not be for every reader. I don’t want that to turn you off, but I feel readers do need to be informed.
Silence and Broken Silence have been two of my favorite books for a few years now. I think I have to give props to Preston for writing a non-verbal character so well. It probably helps that most of the first book is in first person so we know what’s going on in Oakley’s head, but even how she writes the relationships is, in my opinion, well done.
I honestly don’t think you can truly have Silence without Broken Silence, which may be why I put them together on this list. While you can read Silence by itself, it does not leave you on a cliff hanger and is a complete novel, Broken Silence just brings even more closure to everything.
In the second novel, Oakley’s trauma isn’t just background noise. It’s not a vague thing she has to deal with but is already over, and I think that is so important. Preston shows that trauma isn’t something that is fixed once the person is removed from it. There isn’t a simple fix and the repercussions can still affect someone even years later or when faced with something unexpected.
I first mentioned Silence in my post Eight Book Series You Should Read.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
In 1939, Rill Foss and her four siblings are taken by strangers from their shanty boat and put into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. Once it becomes apparent that the promise to be returned to their parents is a lie, Rill fights as best she can to keep her siblings together and safe.
In the present day, Avery Stafford has returned home to help her senator father weather a health crisis. While carrying out her duties, Avery meets May, a woman who seems lost in the past but has connections to Avery’s present that she never envisioned.
I think the fact that this book is based on actual events makes it more heartbreaking than if it was simply fictional. I struggled with getting through the first few chapters of this book because it was so sad, but the mystery of who May is kept me going. I had to know. I can now say that I am glad that I stuck it out because for all of its heartbreak, it does have a happy ending.
I first saw this book on Pinterest and immediately placed it on my TBR list. It sat there for about a year before I finally remembered it was there and bought it. I love historical fiction and this book sent me on a small rabbit trail of research on the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and what happened there. The sad reality is that not everyone who was in that home got a happy ending, something Wingate actually portrays in her book.
As for Avery’s portion of the story, not only does she go on a quest to solve the mystery of May, but she also faces some of her own truths that she has been burying underneath the guise of “good daughter”. Avery is tenacious, sometimes to the point of downright stubborn, and intelligent, while also being loyal and loving. She’s in a position to make a difference not just for her family but for her community, something she takes measures to do well. I always ended Avery’s chapters with reluctance.
Before We Were Yours is both fictional and informative and a definite read for history lovers.
If I Break by Portia Moore
When Lauren Brooks married Cal Scott, she never thought he’d leave her alone and pregnant with no idea of his whereabouts three years later. When she finally gains a clue of his whereabouts, Lauren sets out to find the truth, but the truth is so twisted Lauren knows their lives won’t be the same. The journey ahead might break her, but if it does then what does that mean for the man she loves and their daughter?
This is another series that I love and up until last year, I had not read the conclusion to it. There are four full books in this series with a novella between the first and second books and a prequel novella. If this series sounds interesting and you want to pick it up then I strongly suggest not reading any of the synopsis except for maybe the one you’re reading. Believe me, you do not want to spoil any of the twists.
I did not know what I was getting myself into when I first picked up If I Break. As the novel progressed, I tried to figure out which way it was going, but I failed and how wonderful that I did. The twists do not end with the first book, either. I was intrigued and glued to each and every book in this series. The fourth full book brought about the conclusion and I have to say, it may have been the most heartbreaking one of them all. Everything is revealed and true to the series’ initial title, you wonder if it’ll all be too much. It almost becomes a question of ‘who’ will break, and when, instead of ‘if’ someone will break.
I first mentioned If I Break in my post May and June Reads.
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
After the fall of Jerusalem by Rome’s hand, young Jewish girl, Hadassah, is sold as a slave to be the companion for Julia, the daughter of wealthy Ephesian. The only surviving member of her massacred family, Hadassah serves with a steadfast love and mercy that is unlike that of other slaves. Her sweetness reaches not only that of her masters, Decimus and Phoebe Valerian, but that of their older son, Marcus, who soon falls in love with the slave. But Hadassah holds a secret that could get her sent to the Colosseum as fodder. She’s a Christian. Hadassah struggles every day to show those around her the love of Jesus while also keeping her faith a secret, not to mention the feelings that continually grow for Marcus. Will Hadassah be a beacon for Christ, or will her light be extinguished by those around her?
This book changed my life. It is part of a trilogy, but if I had to pick out a single book from the three to read over and over it is this first one. Every time I read it, Hadassah reminds me what it is to live like Christ, to love as He did. In short, her journey makes me want to be a better example of Christ.
Hadassah struggles constantly with feeling like an inadequate light. She lives out the love of Christ, even speaks of the wonders of God, but she feels like she’s not speaking the correct words that would open up the eyes of those around her to the love of God. To me, Hadassah is the epitome of one who serves man by serving God first.
If you pick up only one book from this entire list, or even just one book this entire year, please pick this book up.
I first mentioned A Voice in the Wind in my post March Reads and Reviews.
Saving Miss Everly by Sally Britton
Hope Everly is on the adventure of a lifetime. The problem is everyone thinks she’s her twin sister, Grace. When she and the family she’s traveling with become shipwrecked on an obscure island, the pressure to be soft and kind Grace almost becomes too much. The only person she’s able to be herself with is a stranger, a man who has been castaway on the island for over a year.
Alejandro Córdoba has been stranded on the same island long enough that he knows it back and forth, but he also knows that it’s unlikely they’ll ever be rescued. The one bright spot in the weight of caring for more castaways is Grace Everly. He soon falls in love with her fiery spirit, but he’s confused by the completely opposite person she becomes when she’s around her companions. If Hope ever reveals her ruse, will the others forgive her? And what would happen if rescue never comes?
I loved the adventure of this novel. The fact that I’ve always wanted a twin drew me in, too. This is a beautiful regency era novel that is safe for all readers.
I feel like Hope is a kindred spirit in the way she longs for adventure. She tries to be true to herself while also keeping her ruse up. She’s level-headed in the face of crisis and tries to play peacemaker with the most hardheaded people. She’s the light of hope that Alejandro absolutely needs after being alone and stranded for so long. I don’t feel like their relationship is rushed, but comes naturally for two people who are facing impossible odds.
This book can be read as a stand-alone, but it is part of the Inglewood series, so if you’re wondering what Grace is doing back home while pretending to be Hope, you can find that out, too!
I first mentioned Saving Miss Everly in my post February Reads and Reviews.
So there you have it! My favorite books from 2021! I hope you pick up one or more of these books this year. If you do, I’d love to know what you think of them!
What books did you read in 2021 that were your favorite?
Let me know in the comments!