While my novel draft of Crescent Moon Crossing is with my developmental editor, I’ve had a few days’ break from writing, so I compiled a list of the best books I read this year.
Goodreads has a popular app that keeps track of books that you read each year, if you’d like to try your hand at goal-setting. Don’t be intimidated by the voracious readers there. (Seriously, who can read a book a day? Evidently, a lot of people!) Ignore them, set your own pace, and enjoy!
I always try to read around 20 books each year, and post reviews of my favorites on NetGalley, Amazon and Goodreads. If you sign up on NetGalley as a reviewer, you get to request Ebooks to read for free (and well before they’re published), in exchange for a fair and honest review. Of course, not all of your favorite authors submit their upcoming books to the site, but you can read the ones that do before anyone else. Granted, I’ve found a few DNF (Did Not Finish). But many more gems.
Here are some of my favorites from 2021:
by Jonathan Drori, 2020 (Non-fiction)
This author and environmentalist follows in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg as he tells the stories of 80 magnificent trees from all over the globe. The entire book’s presentation is engaging. I learned a LOT and was thoroughly entertained as well.
by Alice Hoffman, 2021 (Paranormal)
In the latest book in her Practical Magic series, author Alice Hoffman has finally returned to the Owens family to fill out the family backstory on the mysterious “aunts” Francis (called Franny), and Bridget (known as Jet). And—surprise! They had a baby brother! There’s magic, yes. But it’s set against the historical backdrop of real events like the Vietnam War, draft evasion and San Francisco’s Summer of Love. The whole novel is a comingling of dreamy, lyrical fairy tale and real-life struggles.
by Rob Jung
2019 (Paranormal suspense)
Anthropology professor Terry Castro, leading a summer-school program in the Peruvian rain forest, stumbles upon a lost tribe of tall, white-skinned warriors from the time of the Incan empire.
Greedy humans being as they are, the problems pile up from that discovery.
This is Jung's first book, published at 75! I'm impressed.
by Heather Herrman, 2021 (Historical thriller)
A macabre historical thriller. Molly Green, an orphaned girl, is plucked from a life of misery and abuse by her newly-discovered and extremely wealthy aunt Ava, the infamous Corpse Queen. She has built her empire by robbing graves and selling the corpses to medical students who need bodies to practice surgical procedures. And she wants Molly to help her procure the corpses.
You’ll learn a lot about the barbaric surgical procedures at the turn of the century.
by Heather Young, 2020 (Suspense)
I’d describe The Distant Dead as a literary mystery. But this book transcends genre. The story begins with a horrific discovery, but expands to explore the weight of family obligations and how drug addiction and tragic decisions can rip those families apart.
The characters resonate and you will care deeply about them.
by Erica Ferencik, available March 1, 2022 (Suspense)
Valerie Chesterfield is a linguist trained in the most esoteric of disciplines: dead Nordic languages.
Her brother was killed while researching in Greenland, and one of his coworkers asks her to travel to the Arctic to investigate a scientific impossibility. A young girl, found frozen in a glacier, woke up when they thawed her out, and is now speaking a language no one understands.
If you're willing to fill in the plot holes on your own, this is an interesting read.
by Peter Heller, 2021 (Thriller)
You don’t have to love fly fishing the way Heller and his character Jack do to enjoy the mystery, murder and romance in The Guide. Although if you do love to fish, I’m guessing you will be enthralled by this book.
Heller makes the river a central character, one I was eager to explore. He's a superb writer. I've enjoyed all of his books.
by Ruth Hogan, 2017 (Suspense)
Anthony Peardew is the Keeper of Lost Things. Once a celebrated author of short stories, now in his twilight years, Anthony has sought consolation from the long-ago loss of his fiancée by lovingly rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind.
Realizing that he’s running out of time, he leaves his beautiful house and all the collected treasures to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, the one person he trusts to fulfil his legacy and reunite his lost objects with their rightful owners.
A sweeter read than I usually do, it hits all the right feels.
by Hannah Jameson, 2019 (Dystopian thriller)
This breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic and twenty other survivors stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into chaos after a nuclear bomb hits.
As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, the narrator becomes obsessed with discovering the truth behind one girl’s death at the hotel.
But the important question is, who will be with you at the end of the world? And what kind of person will you be?
by Mickey J Corrigan, 2021 (Fiction)
A cover blurb describes The Physics of Grief as, “Good Fellas meets T.S. Eliot for a drink in an Irish pub.” It’s a good description for this novel’s quirky view of a topic typically shrouded in sadness: death and grieving.
It’s clear that author Corrigan knows people as well as any high-dollar shrink. It’s an original and fast read that will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve finished the book.
by Danielle Dulsky (Pagan non-fiction), 2020
The yearning to slow down and simplify, return to the earth, and maybe even “rewild” what has been tamed in ourselves persists even though that dream may seem ever more remote in contemporary life.
Danielle Dulsky shows that even in our high-tech and high-pressure lives, it is possible to manifest your own “year of the wild” and to tap into often-forgotten holy wisdom.
by Sarah Goodwin, 2021 (Thriller)
Eight people sign up for a reality show where they are to spend a whole year on the island of Buidseach, a remote, uninhabited island, surviving with limited resources. Think Bear Gryll's The Island/Survivor/Castaway/Lord of the Flies!
But when the day finally came for them to leave and the boat didn't arrive, the book was still only halfway through so I knew things were going to get worse … and they did...a lot worse.
by Tana French, 2020 (Suspense)
Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.
But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.
by Harold Roth 2017 (Pagan non-fiction)
An in-depth exploration of 13 essential plants and herbs most closely associated with witchcraft--13 because it's the witching number and reflects the 13 months of the lunar calendar. The plants are poppy, clary sage, yarrow, rue, hyssop, vervain, mugwort, wormwood, datura, wild tobacco, henbane, belladonna, and mandrake.
Roth writes simply and clearly on a vast amount of esoteric information that is not easily found elsewhere. Each chapter focuses on one plant and includes information on its unique plant spirit familiar, clear how-to instructions for magical projects, and pragmatic information on growing and cultivating.
The author says, “This book is a great choice for intermediate-to-advanced witches who would like to work more closely with the traditional witching herbs, especially the baneful plants with their rather difficult spirits. Working directly with spirits is one of the fundamentals of the Craft."
This is the book that inspired me to attempt a poison garden. (Still working on that, by the way. He's also made me hyper-wary of poisonous plants.)
by Alice Blanchard, 2021 –(Suspense)
Welcome to Burning Lake, a small, isolated town with a dark history of witchcraft and false accusations.
This third book in Burning Lake series starts off with a gruesome murder of a popular Wiccan priestess, dressed up and tied to the train tracks to face her death alone in the middle of a winter snowstorm.
Detective Natalie Lockhart is called to investigate the scene. She gained unwanted notoriety when she and her family became the center of not one, but two sensational murder cases (in Books 1 and 2).
The mystery is atmospheric and Natalie and the other characters in Burning Lake keep the story and its occult occurrences suspenseful. However, be forewarned: The ending leaves the reader completely and abruptly hanging. I don’t know if/when the next book will be written. Maybe go back and read the first two books in the series while you're waiting. That's what I'm gonna do.
I’ll slip that list to you soon. I’ve been adding unpublished titles from NetGalley like crazy!
I’ll also have more news on Crescent Moon Crossing next week. The editor’s proof is due back Feb. 4. Then the next round of hard work begins!
Until then, good reading.