Hello from the tail end of 2021! I have not found much I wanted to blog about this past two years, but today the Goodreads Reading Challenge has shaken me out of my apathy.
In 2021, I read 61 books. This is fewer than I have read in any of the past four years (though I am also not sure what happened in 2017! I l know I read more than that, but A LOT happened that year so I think perhaps I forgot to add them), though looking at page count, it may be that this year I just read longer books, which took me more time.
As always, and by intent, I read mostly in the crime fiction arena: 32 titles I comfortably shelved as crime (thriller, mystery, suspense) plus five titles I count in the “general/lit fic” category deal with crime in some way. I read only one non-fiction title this year but read more fantasy and scifi than ever, and let’s be real, that’s probably because of the pandemic.
I read two pandemic-adjacent books and both were excellent though heavy—sci-fi pandemic tale The Wanderers by Chuck Wendig and historical magical realism novel The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia, which is set in the 1918 influenza pandemic.
This year I was drawn to immersive experiences, finishing two trilogies and several multiple works by the same authors: I completed a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy (NK Jemisin’s The Broken Earth) and all three available from Irish-Australian thriller author Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series (give me more soon, please!). Similarly I fell into the Daevabad fantasy trilogy (from SA Chakraborty) but am still waiting for my library hold of the third book. I also read two books each from SA Cosby and Rachel Howzell Hall. I recommend all of these, heartily. (Wendig’s book above, at 800 pages, should basically count as two books as well.)
Speaking of immersive, several books were single-day binge reads for me, including the one non-fiction title (Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow) and, surprisingly, one of the books I bought solely for analysis in order to develop my own craft as a writer (The Divorce Papers, which is told only through memos, letters/emails and legal papers). Other binges were the first book in McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series, Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party, and Howzell Hall’s These Toxic Things.
On the opposite side, I had a heck of a time getting into any audiobooks this year, probably because I haven’t been going on solo walks because of the pandemic, and later, recovering from surgery. I am loving the story and narrator in Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, but I have not been in the needed listening headspace at all this year. I may just get the ebook and read it that way and restart my audiobook listening when I get back to daily walks. I also did not finish a few books that I think were more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation and which I will try to wrap up at some point in the future.
I’m still pretty much a magpie in terms of how I select books—if it falls in my lap and it’s shiny, I read it—but I do make an effort to look where I can find the “shiny” from diverse authors, and I think I was overall successful in doing that this year. About a third of the authors I read are not from the US, and a vast majority of the authors were women, which I also wasn’t surprised by. However, after looking at the authors from this year’s reading, I think in 2022, I would like to seek out more fiction by Latinx voices, as I was surprised to note this year that I didn’t end up reading much in that space. Any recommendations?
What did you read this year?
Books I finished
Crime Fiction (Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, “Dark”)
*In no particular order*
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
I don’t want to play favorites but this one was maybe it this year for standalone thrillers? Great characters, pacing, setting, everything. Check it out.
Blacktop Wasteland by SA Cosby
All the hype is deserved. Read this if you haven’t already.
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
I was a fan of her first two books, and just as I’d hoped, this story of backpacking, murder and toxic friendships was right up my alley.
The Ruin (Cormac Reilly # 1 ) By Dervla McTiernan
I was missing Tana French this year, so luckily I found McTiernan for my Irish police procedural fix.
The Scholar (Cormac Reilly # 2) by Dervla McTiernan
The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly # 3) by Dervla McTiernan
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Super atmospheric novel set on the now-touristed grounds of a Southern Plantation, and the reason I picked up Bluebird, Bluebird for audiobook. I really need to do that better justice.
Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby
Also getting lots of hype. Also deserved.
Long Gone by Alafair Burke
I really liked her writing and will seek out more of Burke’s work in 2022.
For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
Read this and the next one for a sinister look at prep schools. This one is more “fun” than the next one.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Did you read and like Lolita? Then read this. If not, well, you were warned.
Nightblind (Dark Iceland # 2) by Ragnar Jonasson
I picked this one up because we were going to Iceland. It shares a location with Netflix’s Trapped so I made my husband drive all the way up to Siglufjörður to see it. Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you the story about getting there.
Snare (Reykjavik Noir Trilogy # 1) by Lilja Sigurdardottir
A tense romp dealing with international smuggling. It caught my eye because of the Iceland trip and I’ll be on the lookout for her other books.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
If you like a main character with a descent arc (as I certainly do!), read this.
The Best American Mystery Stories 2020 edited by CJ Box
These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall
And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall
Conviction by Denise Mina
A writing critique partner suggested this twisty story about conspiracies and sunken yachts and podcasts to me. Thank you, Helen! I loved it.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Hunters and toxic friendships in Scotland.
Long Range (Joe Pickett # 20) by CJ Box
Hunters and malfeasance in Wyoming.
Thirty-One Bones by Morgan Cry
Goodreads tells me that this is the least-popular book I read this year. I don’t know why—I enjoyed it! It’s set on the Spanish coast and has British conmen and many hi-jinx. Suffers a bit from the typical men-writing-women thing but not enough to complain about.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
This was sold to me as a thriller but I think it might be more in the social horror category? Anyway, if you liked Jordan Peele’s Get Out or Us, you will like this. Excellent read.
The Interior (Red Princess # 2 ) by Lisa See
This is an older novel I picked up in used paperback. I haven’t read much about China since we lived there, and this novel did such a great job at picking tiny details up and bringing them to life—on top of a very interesting thriller plot about factory workers that I found really believable, even for the time that I lived there. There is also an overarching political thriller aspect to it, which is not my usual cup of tea, but I liked this.
You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks
The Next Accident by Lisa Gardner
A Matter of Latitude by Isobel Blackthorn
This is set in the Canary Islands and is super atmospheric.
The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice
Influenced by Eva Robinson
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Cross and Burn by Val McDermid
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd
The Survivors by Jane Harper
Harper’s first two books I read were fantastic thrillers set in Australia. This has a crime aspect too, but I think it disappointed fans looking for more strict thriller tropes and for that outback Aussie feel (this is set on the coast in Tasmania). I still enjoyed it very much.
There There by Tommy Orange
This is told in short chapters by different, related people all getting ready to go to a powwow where (um, no spoilers, so—something dramatic!) will happen. Beautifully written.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
A young woman in India is accused of setting a train on fire. Told in several points of view. Really moving and stayed with me for a long time afterward.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Like her first book (Homegoing) I wish I knew someone who had read this so we could talk about it. Anyone game?
We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop
Argentina, pro athletes, and a toxic sibling relationship. Great read.
Circe by Madeline Miller
A great dive into Greek myth from Circe (remember? The witch with the sheep in the Odyssey)’s point of view. If you liked Wicked, read this.
The Secrets of Lost Stones by Melissa Payne
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
I read this because of the TV show, which I loved. The book does not feature the same things that I loved about the show (oddly!) but it is still a good read about guilt and loss.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
I liked this so much, until the end. It felt like we were just getting into the story, so I hope there’s a sequel!
The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
Hey Ladies! The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss
Another book told only in emails and messages, etc.
The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
These Women by Ivy Pochoda
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This stayed with me afterward. Women accused of witchcraft in a tiny whaling village in Norway hundreds of years ago.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth # 1) by NK Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth # 2) by NK Jemisin
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth # 3) by NK Jemisin
Shut up, stop talking about it, and just read these books already!
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
This is harder sci-fi than I really like to read, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. Oddly has some of the same premises as The Broken Earth?
The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy # 1) by SA Chakraboty
The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy # 2) by SA Chakraboty
I got really into these stories about djinn. C’mon, library hold, hurry up and give me number 3!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Beautiful and immersive gothic story set in the 1950s in Mexico. I think it counts as magical realism, but maybe not.
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
I really really loved the concept of the world in this book. But the twist at the end makes it hard to recommend unless you are really into reading dark, dark things.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Goodreads says this is the most popular of the books I read this year. I thought it had a not very responsible take on the use of antidepressants. Other than that, nice premise.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
Just devastating. Really good read. Thank you to Fiona for lending it (& The Mercies) to me.
Started & will finish sometime later
The Gringa by Andrew Altschul
The Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories 2021 by Alafair Burke and Steph Cha
I’m sipping this like a fine wine.
Bloodline by Jess Lourey
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith
Did not finish
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler
Bath Haus by PJ Vernon—on my ereader
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke—audiobook
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon—in paperback
Next up—friends’ books
I have my ThrillerFest pals Colleen Winter’s and Eric Bishop’s books coming in fast on my TBR pile. Colleen published The Disruptors, her sequel to speculative fiction adventure sci-fi tale The Gatherer this year, and Eric’s debut political thriller The Body Man was also recently released.
News from Beth
Updates and musings.