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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best Novels I've Read So Far This Year

I'm not much for book boyfriends—I've been married to my real-life sweetheart for 24 years as of yesterday and that's better than any fictional romance!—so I was going to skip this week's Top Ten Tuesday.  Then I realized that as tomorrow is September 1, we're official 2/3 of the way through 2021.  With only four months left in the year, I started thinking about what I've read so far and what I still want to get to before 2022.  Of the 135 books I've read, only a handful have been really stand-out reads.  So, I decided to share with you the ten (well, eleven) best novels I've read so far.  Since I'm not feeling very inspired by next week's topic either, I'll post my ten non-fiction picks then.  

Before we get to that, be sure to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl and give Jana, our lovely TTT hostess, some love!

Top Ten (Okay, Eleven) Best Novels I've Read in 2021 (So Far)

- not including re-reads and in no particular order - 

1.  The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian—This historical novel set in 1920s Mississippi features two young women living hardscrabble lives who must team up to cover up the unintentional murder that brings them together.  Absorbing and atmospheric, this is a beautifully-written debut.

2.  The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny—No surprise here.  I adore the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and this installment, the 11th, is particularly intriguing.

3.  Bluebird by Sharon Cameron (available October 5, 2021)—I've enjoyed all of Cameron's books, but this YA World War II novel is my favorite.  It has everything I love in a good hist-fic read: an atmospheric setting, a compelling plot, lovable characters, and excellent writing.

4.  Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (available September 14, 2021)—I was thrilled to get a paper ARC of this up-and-comer from an author whose books I've enjoyed.  Not gonna lie, her last few have not been up to snuff.  This one, though?  It's a gem.  A family saga + a mystery + a funny, upbeat plot.  What's not to love?  

5.  The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs—Another no-brainer.  The long-running Tempe Brennan series is one of my favorites.  This installment, the 20th, has our intrepid heroine digging into the mystery of a storage container with two corpses stuffed inside that washes up during a South Carolina storm at the same time a horrifying flesh-eating bacteria is rearing its ugly head around the U.S..  It's another riveting page-turner from Reichs.

6.  If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright—I just finished this debut, which tells a rich, powerful story about the Dust Bowl.  It's technically a Christian novel, but the religious elements are well-woven into the tale and never get preachy or cheesy, at least in my opinion.  It's moving, hopeful (in the end, at least), and faith-promoting.

7.  The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman—This middle-grade novel was one of my first reads of the year.  I loved the story about an adopted, mixed-race girl who has to learn to come to terms with her different ethnicities, cultures, and families.  

8.  Dark August by Katie Tallo—Also read early in the year, this gritty mystery/thriller set in a mysterious ghost town, kept me turning pages late into the night.  I just saw that a sequel is being released in 2022.  Can't wait!

9.  The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner—This historical, about an Irish immigrant who travels to San Francisco to become the wife of a man she's never met and finds herself in the middle of the famous 1906 earthquake, is another atmospheric, absorbing read.  I've enjoyed lots of Meissner's books, but this one is my favorite (I think).

10.  The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm—I tend to read mostly darker, more serious fiction, so it's always nice when I come across a book that's just a fun, feel-good read.  That's exactly what this middle-grade gem is! 

11.  A Distance Too Grand by Regina Scott—This historical is also on the lighter side.  It deals with a female photographer who is determined to take her dead father's place on an 1871 expedition to the Grand Canyon.  Along with proving herself as a photographer, she also has to survive the treacherous trip and guard her heart against an old flame.  Also a Christian novel, this one is clean, uplifting, and compelling.  It's a fun start to a series I'm very much enjoying.  Thanks to Lark for the recommendation!

There you go, eleven of the best novels I've read this year.  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What are the best books you've come across in 2021?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!


  1. First of all, happy anniversary, belatedly. We also married in August, that was been 38 years ago.

    Therefore, like you, I also needed a twist. Good idea with the favourite books, I did this earlier for my Mid Year Freakout Tag. Always fun to reminisce.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT earlier.

    1. Happy anniversary to you, too! 38 years is awesome. My parents just celebrated their 50th. I love long-lasting love :)

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Marianne!

    2. I remember when we celebrated our 25th and many people said they hardly know anyone who has been married for so long. Mind you, there were three other couples in our church who also had married the same year we did, we had a special mass together.

  2. The Length of a String sounds like an excellent read!

    And congratulations on 24 years of marriage. I’ve been married for 16 years. :)

    My post:

    1. THE LENGTH OF A STRING is a great read! It ticks a lot of my boxes: adoption (I'm an adoptive mom), a mixed-race girl (my adopted daughter is bi-racial), family history (I'm a genealogist), and history ('cause I love it). So, I really enjoyed this one.

      Congrats on 16 years! That's awesome. Like I said to Marianne, I love long-lasting love :)

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lydia!

  3. I did not love If it Rains, I just found it too heavy. I want to read The Nature of Fragile Things, so I am happy to hear it is good :)

    1. IF IT RAINS is definitely grim, but then, I've never read a book about the Dust Bowl that wasn't. It was just a dark, scary time for those people and I prefer a realistic portrayal than one that is falsely optimistic.

      I really liked THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS. It's a great read. I hope you enjoy it!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Cindy!

  4. I need to go and look up Dark August and A Distance Too Grand (although I think I saw that in another of your posts). The two books that seem to have stuck with me this year are Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and that Cold Vanish book. But I've also enjoyed a clutch of Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian.

    1. I've talked about A DISTANCE TOO GRAND before. I enjoyed it and its sequel, both. They're light, uplifting reads that just make me smile. DARK AUGUST is much darker, but it's super absorbing.

      I've never read anything by Eugenides or O'Brian. I'll have to check them out.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Cath!

  5. Glad to hear that Apples Never Fall is a good one. I'm looking forward to it. I also want to put Dark August on my list. Happy anniversary to you and your husband! Our 41st was this month. :-)

    1. Happy anniversary to you, Kay! My parents just celebrated their 50th and it was so fun to be with them on their special day :)

      APPLE NEVER FALL is a really fun read. It surprised me in a few ways, so I'm anxious to see if other Moriarty fans like it as much as I did.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Kay!

  6. Congratulations on the anniversary. These days, that's quite the accomplishment, for sure.

    It really is hard to believe it's time to start thinking about Top 10 lists already, but that's where we are. This year I've read so little nonfiction that I will be lucky to have a worthy Top 5 list, I think. I love seeing Louise Penny on the list, and I already have a couple of the others on my TBR based on what you've said about them earlier. Happy Reading...stay well, y'all.

    1. It is! I can't count the number of couples I've seen lately get married and divorced in under two years - sometimes in less than one. Sad.

      Well, now that I said I would make a list of the ten best non-fiction books I've read this year, I'm not sure I can actually do that since I don't think I've read ten. Oops! I'm reading one right now about the Donner party that's super intriguing. We'll see how many I have by next Tuesday.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Sam!

  7. OOo, just added The Girls in the Stilt House to my wish list, as it sounds right up my street. I'm back into historicals at the moment. And Louise Penny? Oh, you know I've read them all and, just got THE MADNESS OF CROWDS on Sunday. That's up next as is BONE CODE too. :D

    1. I love atmospheric hist-fic like THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE. Let me know what you think of it when you get to it.

      I'm purposely reading the Gamache books slowly so I can savor them. Right now, I'm listening to A GREAT RECKONING and enjoying it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Alex!

  8. Congratulations on 24 years! Happy belated anniversary. A Distance Too Grand by Regina Scott looks so good to me. I live close to the Grand Canyon and go there often. I'll have to read that one for sure.

    1. You should! It's always fun to read a book set in a familiar landscape.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Wendy!

  9. Great picks! I have read Cameron's Dark Unwinding duology but nothing else of hers. I'm not typically a fan of war novels, but maybe this would be a good one to pick up.

    1. Cameron's a great writer, isn't she? If you do pick up a war book, I recommend this one!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Nicole!

  10. I haven't read any of these books but mostly because I don't read historical novels but The lion of mars looks fun - I like middle grade books.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. Have a lovely day

    1. THE LION OF MARS is a quick read and it's uplifting. Can't go wrong with that! I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lissa!

  11. I'm glad you liked A Distance Too Grand! And so many other good books on your list. :)

    1. I did! I enjoyed the second book as well, although not quite as much. I'm looking forward to the third book. I have an ARC on my Kindle - just need to get to it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lark!

  12. I love that. Real life romance is the best :)

    Adding some of these books to my tbr!

    1. Agreed! I love seeing long-lasting marriages. That definitely does not seem to be the norm these days.

      Thanks for popping in, Diana!

  13. Awww, Happy Anniversary to you and your hubby! I agree with you on that Susan Meissner book. I've had really good luck with every one of hers I've read so far, but this one is my favorite.

    1. I haven't loved all of hers, but I have liked the vast majority of them. I agree what Carol said below - this one is her best yet. Let me know what you think of it!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Suzanne!

  14. It's good to be reminded of your favorite reads so that I can add some to my TBR list. It's a great combination of mystery/thrillers and historical fiction

    1. I'm glad you found some titles to pique your interest. Let me know what you think of them if you get to them!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Helen!

  15. I like seeing people's favorite reads because it's always a great way to get ideas for books to read! And I do see a few here that look great! The Gamache books in particular have always looked interesting to me.

    1. I just saw that the Gamache books are being made into a t.v. series, so now would be a good time to read them!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Greg!

  16. Loved The Bone Code, as expected, and am about 80% through Stilt House and really enjoying it. Some others on this list are intriguing to me. Thanks.

    1. I figured you'd enjoy THE BONE CODE! It's a great one. I love the Tempe Brennan series, but some of them are definitely better than others and THE BONE CODE is one of the really good ones, in my opinion.

      I'm so glad you're enjoying THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE. It's such a good novel, but I haven't really seen anyone talking about it. It deserves more love for sure.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Annette!

  17. Good idea to start curating that ultimate end of the year list! I loved The Nature of Fragile Things, too! I'm certain it will be among my top ten of the year! Her best yet I think!

    1. Totally agree with you! It was a riveting read.

      I'm hoping I'll still encounter some more really great books this year. We'll see.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Carol!

  18. I am so glad to hear you say that about the new Moriarty book! Her last few have been misses for me but this one sounded so good. I am so jealous you got it early! I'm on a huge hold list at the library. haha! Have a great week!

  19. Congrats on 24 years! I'm not one for book boyfriends either so I love your topic. I haven't read any of them but several are on my TBR - especially the Liane Moriarty.


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