• Grace A. Johnson

2021 Highlights: Bookish Favorites


Man, y’all, looking back over the last year has been crazy. I read 150 books (give or take a couple that Goodreads miscounted) in 365 days—most of which were compliments of three free months of KU and NetGalley/publisher ARCs. Plus I beta/alpha read several that probably don’t count… And I’ve started many that I’ve yet to finish as of the end of 2021. My point is that HOW IN THE GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY AM I SUPPOSED TO PICK FAVORITES?

Fortunately for myself, I’ve not confined myself to a specific number of favorites in the past, so I don’t have to worry about that. It’s just...they were all good. This entire post is basically pointless.

Then again, my myriad of two- and three-star reviews is proof enough that there were some books (or series) that simply topped the rest. Therefore, instead of just listing my favorite individual books, I’ll also be listing my favorite series (as in, ones I read the entirety of...or at least most of the entirely...as in, not a series I read one book out of or a series that hasn’t been completed); my favorite novel (standalone or part of an incomplete series...I’ll mark those); my favorite authors from this year’s selection (specifically new-to-me authors I discovered this year); my favorite beta-reading project (because why not?); my favorite book that I’m currently reading; and lastly my favorite reviews this year!

Wow. That’s a bunch of favorites. Better get into ‘em quick, eh?

Also. Note. I have only linked to my top nine favorite individual books on Goodreads because I would be here aaaaalllll day linking to every single book/author I mention. #googleit

 

Favorite Books

Y’all, this was a hard list to make! I had so many favorites, but only a few really stuck out as being the most delightful and memorable! Keep in mind that these are simply the best of the best of about 150 books! (The asterisk indicates a book that is/will be the first in a series.)

#1 The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham.* Y’all, I cannot gush about The Mistletoe Countess enough! This novel was everything I could ever want in a book—a perfectly executed marriage of convenience/arrangement; beautiful, tender romance; LOADS of kisses; a spot of suspense and mystery; lovely faith elements and themes; a heroine I positively adored; and a hero I fell for! Basham may have let me down with Hope Between the Pages, but she sure surprised and pleased me with TMC!

#2 A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano. First off, I have adored Politano’s books this last year. The subtle romances are beautiful. The elements of mystery and intrigue are nothing less than epic. The messages and themes are so truthful. I honestly didn’t expect her novels to get any better after Lady Jayne Disappears (which was her first book, but the second one I read). Until A Midnight Dance. The first scene absolutely captivated me with its intensity and passion, its delectable descriptions, the surge of emotion, and rest of the novel to follow was just as exquisite. To think, all it took was one dance…

#3 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. One word: MR. DARCY. Oh, wait, that’s two words. Still, though, Mr. Darcy lived up to his sterling reputation. And although I’m not as big of an Elizabeth fan as some, I did indeed thoroughly enjoy her character (she was Keira Knightley the entire book, just sayin’). And Austen’s writing? Well, let’s just say that there’s a reason why she’s as famous as she is, even all these years later.

#4 The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. I could simply drown in Frantz prose...but when you combine that with characters as lovely and passionate as Roxanne and Cass, boy howdy, have you got a book! The romance in this was both subtle and electrifying, a contradiction that worked perfectly, and the plot was so full and engaging. Of course, I adored Cass, and I actually liked Roxanne, despite my reservations. It really doesn’t get much better than this, my friends!

#5 To Treasure an Heiress by Roseanna M. White.* My review of this novel is coming soon, so I’ll keep this short. Suffice it to say that SHERIDAN WAS PERFECTION. Beth was actually more than tolerable. The comedy was GOLD. The spiritual elements were on-point. And I CAN’T WAIT for Book 3!!!

#6 Fairest Son by H. S. J. Williams. Y’all know I try to shy away from fae and dark fantasy and whatnot, but the reviews for this book were too good to resist—thank the Lord! Fairest Son was actually one of the most beautiful allegories I’ve read (not that I’ve read all that many...maybe four or five), and the way Williams wove in the fantasy elements wasn’t excessive or disturbing...it was positively breathtaking!

#7 When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin.* Let me put it like this: one character was a socialist and the other was a feminist. And yet...I loved this book. I think that says it all. *winks *

#8 The Secret of Emerald Cottage by Julie Lessman.* A Julie Lessman mystery? Count me in! Complete with an Irish playboy (of course), a heroine who packs (best. thing. EVER.), and a mystery that just gets deeper and more dangerous by the minute, The Secret of Emerald Cottage was an epic experience! Not quite on the same level as A Passion Redeemed, but still worth the five stars!

#9 Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering.* A clean 1930s British murder mystery with a dash of faith and a hint of romance? Y’all, I simply can’t complain! Deering put all of my favorites together in a story that’s reminiscent of a Christie novel with a Christian perspective, which made this mystery-lover more than happy! (Yes, little known secret, I adore mysteries...Nancy Drew was my first bookish love, after all! It’s just hard to find well-done ones in the Christian fiction world.)

And number ten is my honorably mentioned four-way tie...the following books for their engaging plots, lovely prose, and delightful characters:

  • The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Nicole Deese, and Amanda Dykes.

  • Imagine by the Teen Writers’ Nook family.

  • Preacher on the Run by Jayna Baas.*

  • Unknown by Vanessa Hall.*

 

Favorite Series

Y’all, I can’t number these! Series are so broad and unique, and each novel within them is different! Plus, in some cases, I’m still waiting on the next book in some of these series...and I was already selective enough in picking these!

  • Age of Conquest by Tamara Leigh

  • Secrets of the Isles by Roseanna M. White

  • The Bride Ships by Jody Hedlund

  • The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy by Kellyn Roth

  • The Moretti Trilogy by Kristina Hall

  • Hanger’s Horsemen by Karen Witemeyer

  • The Covenant House by Connilyn Cossette

  • State of Grace series by Tammy L. Gray

 

Favorite Authors

These here are my top new-to-me authors for this year! Most of these are indie authors while a few are authors I’ve been wanting to read from for years! Keep in mind that these are in no particular order!

  • Kellyn Roth

  • Hannah Linder/Willowy Whisper

  • Kristina Hall

  • Vanessa Hall

  • H. S. J. Williams

  • Jayna Baas

  • Joanna Davidson Politano

  • Daisy Torres

  • Connilyn Cossette

  • Jenna Terese

  • E. K. Seaver

  • Abigail Kay Harris

  • Anna Augustine

  • Sarah Monzon

  • Julianna Deering

  • Tamara Leigh

  • Jessica Kate

  • Nicole Deese

  • R. M. Archer

  • Kara Swanson

  • Maya Joelle

  • Pepper D. Basham

  • Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Now, for some of my favorite repeat authors (also in no particular order)…

  • Julie Lessman

  • Roseanna M. White

  • Karen Witemeyer

  • Kristi Ann Hunter

  • Laura Frantz

  • Becky Wade

  • Tammy L. Gray

  • Sarah Sundin

  • Kate Breslin

As for the author who surprised me the most this year…

  • Jane Austen

I should’ve been an Austen fan right off the bat, but I read Persuasion last year, and it just didn’t do it for me. Well, I knew I should give the infamous Austen another chance, so this year I read Pride and Prejudice and Y’ALL. I wanna devour everything Jane Austen now!

 

Favorite Beta/Alpha Read

Right now, this is a three-way tie between Kellyn Roth’s latest novels:

  • At Her Fingertips

  • Beyond Her Calling

  • A Prayer Unanswered

I also got to beta read Calligraphy Guild by R. M. Archer, but I’m not offering an opinion on it just yet, as I believe she’s made several revisions since I read it! I’m also in the process of beta-reading Heir to His Crown by Issabelle Perry, which is quite lovely...just sayin’!

 

Favorite Current Read


Let’s see...I have quite a few novels on my currently-reading shelf at the moment, most of which are there due to my negligence...because, yes, I’m taking my precious time (aka six months) to read one book.

BUT ANYWAY. As of right now, I am reading an ARC copy of Beyond Her Calling, but since I’ve already mentioned that one, I must pick something else, shouldn’t I?

  • A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz is the novel I’m actively reading at the moment, a gorgeous second-chances romance between a chocolatier and a privateer, set in 1740s Virginia. Chocolate and seafaring—two of my most favorite things! How could I not love this book? On top of all that, it’s by Laura Frantz, and, y’all, that woman can write, lemme tell ya!

 

Favorite Book Review

The final section is a sneak peek of my next 2021 Highlights post all about my book reviews from the last year! I posted probably fifty reviews on my blog—including mini reviews that I did during the spring—and Lord only knows how many on Goodreads, so picking a favorite was not an easy task…

Of course, I could choose my most negative, rantish one (because y’all know I love to rant negatively), or my most positive one, or my most concise and detailed one. But in the end...Pride and Prejudice wins out.

Reviewing this beautiful novel was a huge undertaking (probably took me two weeks), and I went so far as to include gifs and quotes and all the gushing I could. In fact, I probably did more of a fangirl’s examination of the characters than I did actually review the book...but, seriously, how are you supposed to review a classic?

Plus, I didn’t feel rushed to review it or conflicted about my thoughts or offensive about my negative comments (of which there were none...that is, except concerning Wicked and Mr. Collins), which makes that post all the more wonderful.

So we’ll call it my favorite bookish discussion, and you can get in on the fun here!

 

Well, I think that takes care of everything...but before you go, you can check out my Goodreads Year in Books (which isn’t entirely accurate, due to some glitches on mine/my Kindle’s/Goodread’s part) for all the highlights and lowlights!

And now it’s your turn!!! What was your favorite book? Favorite series? Favorite new-to-you author? Lemme know in the comments!!!


Yours in spirit and script,

Grace


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