Now that we’re weeks into the New Year, that’s certainly plenty of time to start your 2021 TBR challenge with a bang! For me personally, I’ve already polished off 14 books this month, currently in the middle of another one, and about to head out to the library this weekend to pick up another hold that’s ready. So, suffice it to say, once I finish my daily work duties, I pretty much spend all my time reading. I mean, it’s still a pandemic and a lockdown, so like, what else is there to do instead? From my first five-star read of the year, sweeping romances, impactful guidebooks, and powerful literary masterpieces, my Recently Read list has been absolutely packed with winners. And so, welcome back once again to Miranda’s Book Nook! Keep on reading for eight more 2021 book titles that I can’t get enough of this month that should be on your radar this year. Happy reading!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
I know, I know, I’m late to the party on this read. And, I’m kicking myself for not picking this book up earlier, however, you can’t change the past and we’re here now. So, a bit of backstory: After seeing TikTok after TikTok where readers proclaim it one of the best, I immediately looked up a book summary and was floored by what I read. It sounded so good, so I immediately went to find a copy. While, unfortunately, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the library didn’t have a copy readily available as soon as I wanted to read it, Target did. And so, within three days of ordering, my book mail was shipped and arrived at my house.
Okay, so, GAH, I didn’t even realize that I polished off this four hundred-plus page novel in a single day. I just couldn’t put it down, as I read it early Tuesday morning at midnight, then slept until my alarm, read some fifty pages as I ate breakfast, worked my normal hours at my new job, and then picked up this book again as I cooked and ate dinner, and then kept on reading until 11 at night when I finished this read. That’s how good and enthralling this was because I just couldn’t put it down.
This book is like a cross and a mix of genres between historical fiction, contemporary, fantasy, romance, and literary fiction. There’s so much vulnerability about life, love, and being remembered. Here, we start in a small town in France in 1714, and we meet a young girl named Adeline. She dreams of a life and real love. She soon meets a mysterious stranger who offers her a Faustian deal for immortality. In doing so, she’s cursed where no one can remember her after they first meet. We travel with her from century to century and continent to continent, through various historical and artistic moments. Then, some three hundred years later, everything changed. When, in New York City, Addie meets Henry in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. We follow her relationship with Henry and with Luc, the devil she made a deal with, all as she struggles to make her mark on the world when she’s destined to be invisible. This book is just so so so so special, a five f**king star read in all its glory, no doubt about that. It will one hundred percent be my new go-to book recommendation for anyone who’ll ask me for one this year.
Rating: Five Stars (I’m adding a new section for all my 2021 book reviews and recommendations from here on out, where I’ll be including my rating out of five stars here.)
Ballet Orphans: A Prequel by Terez Mertes Rose*
I have a soft spot for books about the behind the scenes world of dance and ballet, and this read was a lovely addition to that genre. Here, it is 1990 and April is a ballet soloist in New York when her mom dies just two years after her dad’s death.
She’s trying to rebalance her life when she gets a principal offer at a struggling San Francisco ballet company. A new life in a new city seems like an exciting prospect to her, but the other dancers are wary of both a new dancer and a new artistic director. Then, there’s a troubling former dancer with an explosive past. While technically this is a prequel novel, I found it easy to get into as a newbie to the series. Here, she realizes the sacrifices that are necessary to make her professional dreams come true and her desire to be loved and protect her chosen family.
This reads quite quickly with engaging language and tone. It’s a fun read about the behind-the-scenes world of ballet. It’s vulnerable, authentic, fun, and engaging that I very much enjoyed.
Rating: Three Stars
Enjoy the View by Sarah Morgenthaler*
Sarah Morgenthaler continues her popular Moose Springs romance series with this adventurous new addition. Here, Hollywood starlet River Lane is in need of a career facelift, so she heads up to Moose Springs, Alaska with her film crew to make a tourism-boosting documentary about the area and this charming town. However, the locals are less than accommodating.
She’s determined to prove herself with this movie both for her career and to everyone that gets in her way, oh, and none of the quirky locals want anything to do with her. Except one. Easton Lockett, a side character in the author’s previous books, is a survival expert and mountain guide, who’s a big pile of mush underneath his rugged, outdoorsy facade. He’s tasked with getting River and her crew up and down the mountain safely as they film the journey along the way. However, falling for her was not part of his plan and makes his job a lot tougher, but ultimately he can’t shake their inevitable connection.
I picked this book up right after finishing the all-consuming drama of Addie LaRue (see above) because I wanted something light, easy, frothy, cute, and fun. And, this book gave me just that. For those of you who loved the author’s previous books in the series, you’ll enjoy returning to Moose Springs and getting a deep-dive into the beloved side character, plus seeing both Graham+Zoey and Rick+Lana still have their HEAs is fun. Or if you, like me, are just jumping into the series, it totally stands on its own as a cute, wilderness-y romance book. River and Easton start off at odds, which of course, but that allows for such fun banter. It gives me similar vibes to Not If I Save You First because they both need to survive physically but also learn to be open when love is right in front of you. It has dual perspectives and is full of easy, relatable, and indulgent language that draws you into the story. Trust me, once you get sucked into the action, you’re all in on this read. These two have the sparks and banter, and it’s beyond cute. Then, the ending is absolutely precious, sweeping, and cheesy romantic as all heck.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: January 19
The Divines by Ellie Eaton*
I was excited to begin this highly anticipated literary fiction novel, which just completely enthralled me and I couldn’t put it down. It’s set in present-day LA with flashbacks to a British boarding school in the ’90s and this coming-of-age novel explores the destructive relationships between teenage girls.
In the flashback, the girls of the elite St. John boarding school are notorious for pushing boundaries, their sharp tongues, and chasing boys. Now in her thirties, Josephine hasn’t spoken to any of her former peers in fifteen years ever since the school closed in the wake of a mysterious scandal. During her honeymoon, she takes a detour to the old school grounds, which brings up all sorts of memories of that time and the horrid things they got away with. This visit provokes all sorts of recollections about the school’s final weeks, leading up to the big scandal, and her violet secret at its center. As she remembers more and more, her life, her sense of self, and her marriage all crumble around her. Eaton looks at adolescent sexuality, female identity, social class divide in this suspenseful novel. This book is full of rich, exciting language that draws you in. Josephine has such an intriguing first-person point of view and voice. It has such a compelling tone, and it gets so engaging that makes this read hard to put down.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: January 19
David and Ameena by Ami Rao*
This read was such an unexpectedly poignant and moving romance story starring American-Jewish aspiring jazz pianist David and British-Pakistani painter Ameena. This story is set in New York City, and their journey begins when they meet in a crowded subway car, which, like, don’t I wish that was realistic hahaha.
While hailing from vastly different upbringings, beliefs, and experiences, they are both torn between their dreams versus their families’ expectations, which connects them. after their fated initial meeting. The book shows how they navigate their relationship amidst ambitions, careers, and the city they live in and love while they must deal with and confront the challenges and struggles of today’s world. This book, told in dual perspectives, features very descriptive language that feels very romantic for me as a reader. Everything is timed just right to draw me in, except for a few sections that out of nowhere tell the story of Ameena’s dad or brother. These tales almost feel out of place in this story, leaving me confused at its purpose because it doesn’t seem to make sense or intersect with this romantic story until the very end, which was almost too late for me.
There is one other thing that struck me as inauthentic. So, I get the author, Ameena, and the publisher are based in the UK and use British English, however, David is American and the primary setting is in the US. So, the use of British English for his sections, or her boss’ scenes, for example, doesn’t exactly make sense because American English is quite different. I liked this read and its authentic, vulnerable portrayal of the characters, the hard moments, and the story, but it does take quite a bit of time to get into it.
Rating: Three Stars
Available: February 4
Yes & I Love You by Roni Loren*
While this book initially took me a little bit to really get into, by the end, it was an all-consuming, sweet romance read that I could barely put down. Here, Miz Poppy is a popular and vibrant reviewer who covers the most exciting nightlife options in New Orleans, but little do crowds know, is that Hollyn Tate is the girl behind the online persona.
After her boss tells her to start adding videos to her reviews, Hollyn is fearful of people finding out her true self and finds help to conquer those fears where she least expects. That’s where aspiring actor Jasper Deares comes in. After he realizes that the girl who orders coffee from him is Miz Poppy, he thinks a review from her about his improv troupe will be his chance at fame and media attention to jumpstart his acting career. All he needs to do is help her overcome her stage fright so she’ll write a review of his troupe. But, things soon get complication as their connection deepens, she overcomes her fears, and he realizes what he actually wants to do in life and how to get there. Told in dual perspectives, this book is full of realistic and authentic character. Oh, and the representation is so nice to see in this friends with benefits trope read. And that ending is just way too cute to put into words!
Rating: Three Stars
Available: March 2
The Rejection That Changed My Life by Jessica Bacal*
After everything many of us have gone through during this tough and unprecedented time, this timely book provides just what we need to look forward and move on.
This self-help book deals with rejection, failure, and searching for work. It features all sorts of interviews with more than 25 women in a variety of fields all about their experiences, providing you with new ways to think and cope with career changes, challenges, and triumphs. All these empowering, diverse stories serve as confidence-building inspiration to help facilitate your own growth and coping mechanisms. So, obviously, this is far from my usual type of read, but after everything that’s happened post-COVID, I want to grow more, and this book is a huge help full of advice to pick yourself up and keep going.
It makes you realize that your feelings of rejection are far from unique, and it is OK, but that doesn’t mean you should give up because of it. The format per interview includes an intro about their background, a first-person account of their rejection story, and then their key tips. This book, now more than ever, is so important to show women that nothing is worth giving up on our dreams and to stay strong. The end also features a workbook of seven exercises the reader can complete to help deal with and process their feelings. before moving on. To me, this book promotes strength and confidence.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: April 6
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle*
I absolutely adored this author’s first book, the five-star You Deserve Each Other, and so, I was instantly excited about picking up her second novel. Here, Maybell is a big-time dreamer and a hopeless romantic, who often thinks of a romanticized AU to cope with her disappointing and struggling reality.
After she learns she has inherited an estate and surrounding land in the Smokies from her late great-aunt, Maybell sets out to make a new start in this house aka the only happy memory from her childhood. However, when she arrives, she learns the house and grounds are falling apart and that she’s actually the co-inheritor alongside the grouchy yet gorgeous groundskeeper Wesley. It’s hard for her to get Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise on how to fix up the house, all while trying to attend to Great-Aunt Violet’s dying wishes. These two slowly let their guards down, open up to each other, and get out of their comfort zones to find something totally new together. It sounds very cute, and now that I finished it, that holds up.
This cute, precious novel is full of very descriptive language and details that pull me in. Also, Hogle portrays a genuine, vulnerable portrayal of anxiety which is so authentic and real, yet still so rare in many books out there, and this level of care added such a depth and a raw, authentic layer to Wesley, However, it’s quite a really, really slow slow-burn story that at times, I wished the pacing was accelerated a tad. Then, there’s a couple of sudden jumps between reality and Maybell’s AU scenes, which can be confusing at times. That being said, this one-sitting read is very romantic, indulging, and sweet. It kept me alert and intrigued to just find out what happens next immediately after I started. While in my eyes this can’t top my love for Hogle’s first book, I still very much enjoyed this cute romance.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: April 6
*Several advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.