My Favourite Reads banner 2020

So here we are in the new year and thank goodness for that. Frankly, 2021 was a poo year. Except on the reading front. When it came to the number and quality of books I read, it was actually a corker. Silver linings, eh?

According to my Goodreads tally – you can follow me on there here – I read 99 books in 2021. Not as many as 2020, when I read 107 books, but a satisfying total regardless. My favourite for the year? Hmmm. Probably Australian author Charlotte McConaghy’s stunning Once There Were Wolves (I rave about that here). Like her adult literary debut Migrations, this book was breathtaking, and I can’t wait to see where she goes with the next.

My best new author find of 2021 was Steve Hockensmith. His Holmes on the Range was a hoot (more about that here) and the other books in the series that I’ve read so far are also proving to be excellent fun. I don’t know about you, but I need all the laugh out loud books I can get right now.

Anyway, back to my favourite reads of December. I had a couple of books that I picked up but didn’t go on with – probably just a mood thing – and another that I read right to the end only because I’d bought the paperback, and which I’m still a tad stroppy for wasting so much precious reading time on it. Otherwise, my December books were a wonderful lot, with the one I loved most being…

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Together by Christmas by Karen Swan

Together by Christmas by Karen SwanI really enjoyed Karen Swan’s The Christmas Party when I read it last year (my thoughts here) so when an author buddy offered to loan me her copy of Together by Christmas I said ‘yes please’ immediately.

What a wonderful book and even better than The Christmas Party! Swan creates such interesting characters. In this case the heroine is a celebrated professional photographer with a young son and a past that continues to affect her life.

Together by Christmas is quite an intense read at times and deals with serious issues. Be warned that while the title implies the story is a light Christmas romance, it’s not. It’s a beautifully written, emotional book about a woman dealing with trauma and finding peace and love, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Prepare to have your heart tugged hard.

I bought Swan’s 2021 Christmas release, Midnight in the Snow, last month and plan to read it soon.

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The Second Blind Son by Amy HarmonThe Second Blind Son by Amy Harmon

I’ve loved all the Amy Harmon books I’ve read but I’m particularly fond of The Chronicles of Saylok fantasy series (the first book was The First Girl Child, which I talked about here). It’s a brilliantly drawn world based around Norse mythology, loaded with heroes and villains, and featuring a cursed kingdom under the threat of collapse.

Like The First Girl Child, The Second Blind Son is gorgeously romantic. Hod and Ghisla were fabulous characters – brave, skilled, and talented, and perfect for one another – and how they connected and fell in love was beautiful. It was a relationship that left me sighing and feeling gooey. Just what you want from a romance.

Please, please let there be more Saylok books.

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Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffAurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora’s End is the third and final instalment in the Aurora Cycle series and what a terrific conclusion it proved to be.

So many twists!! The characters gave me more than a few heart stutters as they faced incredible dangers and choices. I was so invested in them that the thought of losing any was horrible.

The story got a bit mind-bendy on occasion with the manipulation of time, but Aurora’s End was as action-packed, sassy and romantic as Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning.

Loved it.

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Black Rabbit Hall by Eve ChaseBlack Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

I’d had my eye on Black Rabbit Hall for quite a while so when it came on sale I snatched it up. A gothic-y tale about a big old Cornish house with secrets? Oh yeah. Gimme, gimme.

I really enjoyed the way this story unfolded, with the two timelines. First there’s the modern tale of Lorna, a young woman on the hunt for a wedding venue who falls in love with Pencraw Hall, aka Black Rabbit Hall. Then there’s the story of the Alton family who, a generation previously, had enjoyed idyllic times at the house until it was spoiled by tragedy.

I liked this so much I went and bought another of Eve Chase’s books, The Glass House.

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The Black Dove by Steve HockensmithThe Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith

I cannot properly express how much fun I’m having with this Holmes on the Range series. It is an absolute blast – laugh out loud funny, action-packed and intriguing, and Otto (Big Red) and Gustav (Old Red) are adorable.

The Black Dove (book three in the series) sees the Amlingmeyer brothers in San Francisco where they end up “detectifying” a Chinatown murder and getting into strife. So. Much. Fun.

Next stop, book four and A Crack in the Lens. Yee-haa!

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Already Gone by Jaye FordAlready Gone by Jaye Ford

I’m a huge fan of Jaye Ford’s thrillers – Beyond Fear is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Already Gone is a novella-length prequel to her excellent release Already Dead, and introduces Miranda Jack, a journalist whose husband was killed in a hit-and-run.

This was terrific. So terrific it made me want to read Already Dead again.

Coming Feb 2022. Check out Jaye’s website for more info. There may even be future freebies to be had!

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The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Bjorg AegisdottirThe Creak on the Stairs by Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir

I bought this because I thought it was a mystery about a lighthouse and I have secret reasons for wanting to read about lighthouses. Clearly, I didn’t read the blurb properly because while The Creak on the Stairs is a mystery, the lighthouse is only peripheral. A lucky mistake it turned out because this book was a fab read.  

Set in Akranes, Iceland, not far from Reykjavik, The Creak on the Stairs is a murder mystery loaded with atmosphere. Elma, a police officer who has recently returned to her home town after a stint in Reykjavik, is the main character, although the story is told from other points of view as well. While the murder is the main part of the story, why Elma returned is another, adding depth the the tale, and it’s always fun to read about a location so different to Australia.

I liked the ending of this and thought it fitted, but I suspect some might be frustrated by it.

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What fab reads have got you excited lately?

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Cathryn and happy new year!

    Wonderful about the Amy Harmon book. I loved the first in that series and will now have to get this one.

    A couple I’d recommend – The Handover by David Barnett, about two security guards at a Manchester Museum. They see each other for five minutes a day during handover, until things change and suddenly life gets much more interesting and fulfilling. Chris Brookmyre’s The Cut – a mystery, adventure, crime with his usual dark humour. Also Elly Griffiths’ latest ‘The Midnight Hour’ which I enjoyed more than the others in her Brighton series.

      • Happy New Year, Annie! I’m with Anna, The Handover sounds veeery intriguing. In fact, they all do. Thanks!
        I so wish my local library had the Elly Griffiths series in ebook. I really enjoyed the first one and would like to read the rest. I’ll have to lodge a request.

  2. Cathryn, thanks for this. I always loved your lists. Would you realise that this time round, I haven’t read any of these authors? Clearly I need to get out more.

    I agree, it’s been a pretty ordinary year but I’ve read some fantastic books. Having said that, I bought a new TV for Christmas and I didn’t do very much reading in the last few weeks at all. I checked my listing and only saw 2 5* books. One was called Seashaken Houses about the history of lighthouse building in Britain (I’ve got a fascination with lighthouses!) and The Postscript Murders by Ellie Griffiths which was a lot of fun.

    • I am very jealous of your and Annie’s Elly G consumption! But LOL on the television. If you’ve been starved for a while then I can understand the attention you’re giving it. All those Sewing Bees and Bakeoffs!
      That’s a nice tip about your lighthouse fascination. I may have to pick your brains when the time comes for my secret lighthouse project.
      Always lovely to see you here, Anna.

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