My Top 10 Books of 2021

Hello 2022! I’m very excited for the books I’ve got planned to read this year, I was very lucky to get some books for Christmas and a £50 gift card to Waterstones – which was a very fun little shopping trip especially as the books are on sale! Books that I recently bought with my gift card that are newly added to my 2022 reading list is a post for another day!

This post is a round up of my favourite books that I read last year, along with a little review.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

This made me giggle, cry and debate my life choices – what if I did something differently, how different would my life be? The book follows Nora as she evaluates her life, her regrets and choices that she wishes she made – she questions “What if?”. When she changes certain decisions that she has made in her life she is shown an alternate life and enters that life to see if this is what she wants. As I was reading I was willing Nora to find happiness, at one point I found myself getting into the alternate life and questioning why she wasn’t finding happiness. But then that’s exactly how this book makes you think, happiness is subjective – a life that makes you happy may not be what makes someone else happy. This book delves into the topics of depression, regret, suicide and what it actually means to find happiness.

Playing Nice by JP Delaney

Pete Riley answers the door one morning to a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s two-year-old, Theo, isn’t Pete’s real son – their babies got mixed up at birth.

The two families – Pete, his partner Maddie, and Miles and his wife Lucy – agree that, rather than swap the boys back, they’ll try to find a more flexible way to share their children’s lives. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an investigation that unearths disturbing questions about just what happened the day the babies were switched.

And when Theo is thrown out of nursery for hitting other children, Maddie and Pete have to ask themselves: how far do they want this arrangement to go? What secrets lie hidden behind the Lamberts’ smart front door? How much can they trust the real parents of their child – or even each other?

Now this book had me hooked from the front cover – What if your child was really theirs? I don’t know what I would do!! The parents in this book were faced with such a dilemma, which arguably would have been easier if they fully trusted each other. The parents try to come up with a plan to be in each other’s lives and start a relationship with their biological children. This becomes very hard as the book goes on, Miles becomes very forceful to insert himself in Pete and Maddie’s lives, showing his psychopathic true colours. This book goes into the debate of nature vs nurture as Pete and Maddie start to notice the similarities between Theo and his psychopathic biological father.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Teeming with life and crackling with energy – a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood.

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

This was such a beautiful book, so well written. It follows the lives of different characters changing perspectives in every chapter but yet never confusing, you can easily follow and feel the differences (and similarities) from all the differing voices and stories. I loved how each section had a set of characters that were all obviously connected, e.g. the book opens with chapters from Amma (mother), Yazz (daughter) and Dominique (mother’s best friend), but throughout the book you read these little connections that the characters have with other people that they are not seemingly connected to. I was there reading the book like “Waitttt a minute that’s linking to someone else’s story!!”. This books explores the experiences of being Black and British, working class, Queer, an immigrant, a survivor. This book was so beautiful – a must read!

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corrine, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corrine’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives – it will end them…

I am always one to say, the book is better than the film/tv series and for the case of The Stranger I will still be sticking by this statement. I watched the series first and really enjoyed it – just after reading the book you realise that the show cuts a lot of the story and character moments out (which is obviously to be expected – just always makes reading the book better!) If you’re looking for a thriller, this is one to read – a mystery on who the stranger is and how they know everyone’s secrets.

The Dinner Guest by B P Walter

Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

This was a very interesting thriller to read – you know who dies, you know when but you don’t know who did it and why. From the prologue I was hooked – there was a false confession and you question why they died and what really happened at this dinner party. No relationship, marriage, or family is ever perfect, this book is filled with family secrets that all come out after Rachel joins Matthew’s book club with her intentions being far from wanting to read more books.

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window..

I had this book listed in my books I’m excited to read post and it didn’t disappoint! I read a lot of thrillers and crime books, so it’s nice to break it up with a little bit of love. Firstly I actually honestly found it a little strange that they shared a bed and never met and it was weird that she decided to move into a man’s flat without actually meeting him. Once I got over that part, I really enjoyed them falling in love through the little notes they wrote to each other and their anticipation to meeting and the initial shyness and awkwardness when they finally meet. I loved the humour in this book and really rooted for their relationship, for Tiffy to move on from her past awful relationship and be with sweet loving Leon.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

The greatest love story is the one you least expect…

Alice Wright doesn’t love her new American husband.

Nor her domineering father-in-law or the judgmental townsfolk of Baileyville, Kentucky.

Stifled and misunderstood, she yearns for escape and finds it in defiant Margery O’Hare and the sisterhood bringing books to the isolated and vulnerable.

But when her father-in-law and the town turn against them, Alice fears the freedom, friendship and the new love she’s found will be lost . . .

I loved the Me Before You series so when I saw this was by Jojo Moyes I had to get it. This is a beautiful book on the power of friendship and sisterhood. The typical romance in the book is sweet but it’s the friendship between Alice and the women that she meets through joining the library that is really important. It’s the friendships in our lives that can help us through very tough times in our lives – Alice is in a loveless marriage, in a small town far away from home, and finds herself lonely until she meets Margery and the other ladies. The book is set in the 1930s, so it explores on the social issues women faced and expectations for women in this time period – there are a few black characters in this book so the topic of race is touched upon. Beautiful book with women from different backgrounds coming together with a simple purpose to educate.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

You’re feeling pretty smug about your commute to work by riverboat. No more traffic gridlock or getting stuck on the tube in tunnels (you’re claustrophobic). Now you’ve got fresh air, an iconic Thames view, a whole lifestyle upgrade. You’ve made new friends on board – led by your hedonistic young neighbour, Kit – and just had your first official ‘water rats’ get-together.

The day after the drinks, Kit isn’t on the morning boat. The river landmarks are all the same, but something’s off. When you disembark, the police are waiting. Kit’s wife, Melia, has reported him missing and another passenger saw you arguing on the last boat home after your drinks. Police say you had a reason to lash out at him. To threaten him.

You protest. You and Kit are friends – ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is pointing the finger? What do they know about your private lives?

No, whatever coincidences might have occurred last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

Another one from my books I’m excited to read post – and this one was very twisted! This one threw me into a loop at the end, I had to go back and read things from before, once you get to the end it’s hard to trust anything! One thing through reading this is that I found the main character (the story is told through his perspective), Jamie, really unlikeable – just didn’t like him, he annoyed me with his lies and secrets. Really exciting thriller and I’ve got more Louise Candlish books on my wishlist now!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Alternating between the present-day narrative of husband Nick Dunne and the past diary entries of his wife Amy, we learn their previously perfect marriage has come undone following a move from New York to semi-rural Missouri. Amy inexplicably disappears without trace, apparently pregnant; Nick, whose emotions seem to betray little outward signs of grief or worry, is the prime suspect. However, is all that we read the truth? Is Amy genuinely missing, and, if not, what could be her possible motive?

When book shopping I don’t normally go into the store knowing exactly what I want to get, but this time after recommendations and reading the reviews online I went straight in and looked for this! I read this and then watched the film and it’s another one that’s just way better than the film. The relationship of Nick and Amy is the core of this book, the things they do to hurt each other and claim to love each other. They know each other inside and out, know what the other one is thinking how they work and how to get into the other’s head. If I could erase my mind to read this again fresh I would – if you love a thriller this one is should be on your list for this year.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

This was the last book that I read in the year, technically finished this in 2022 but I will still put it on this list! Such a fun book – crime solving, mystery and comedy. I loved The Thursday Murder Club gang and their unlikely friendship – if they weren’t living together in the retirement village their paths would probably have never crossed as they are all so different and they all have crucial different parts to play in solving the murder. I love that the perspective switches between the third person narrative and Joyce’s diary entries – she’s very funny in how she tells the story of her days and it gives a touching perspective on life and death and enjoying the time you have with the people you love.

Let me know your thoughts on these books if you’ve read them!

I will be sharing my Waterstones haul soon and share the books I’m excited to read in 2022!

Thank you for reading,

Antonia

xoxo

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