I set a somewhat modest goal for myself in 2021, knowing I'm pregnant and would be having a baby in September (and to be honest with myself, I was never a *huge* reader until quarantine hit in the spring of last year). 10 books. Ten books felt like a reasonable, attainable reading goal.
I'm going to be updating this post as I complete books throughout the year with ratings and my thoughts on each title. Disclaimer: I mostly read fictional novels and what some may consider "chick lit", I figured you do too, so we're in good company here. The reviews will be in the order I read them, if that makes any difference to you. Enjoy and let me know if you read any of these recently!
"Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman
An emotional, really solid read. Takes place in Sweden and is about a bank robbery gone awry. There are a whole lot of characters and narratives in this one. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I really enjoyed the story. Big trigger warnings with this one, there are some pretty heavy topics regarding mental health, substance abuse, and some other very serious things. The characters are unusual folks and some are frankly (intentionally) unlikable. The ending left me in happy tears and I was satisfied with the way things wrapped up.
"Shipped" by Angie Hockman
A classic, feel-good, romantic comedy and love story. It's very cute and the author uses great imagery to really invest you into the scenes. The female protagonist is a likable and relatable girl. The story is very predictable so if that bothers you, maybe skip this one, but if you just want a somewhat cheesy, pretty darn cute story about two young professionals overcoming the challenges of working together while falling in love - this is your guy.
"Cobble Hill" by Cecily Von Ziegesar
I feel so conflicted about this one because I wanted to like it so badly. I was a huge fan of the Gossip Girl book series when I was in younger (the show was good too, but you know, the books were better) and being the same author, I just had really high hopes for this. This book is about basically nothing? I felt like I spent the entire book turning the page waiting for something to happen, but nothing really does. I suppose it is more of a character study book than a follow the story type book, but it just didn't connect for me. at all. This one was a huge miss for me and I felt like I had wasted too much time with it once I finished it, almost didn't finish it tbh.
"Finlay Donovan is Killing It" by Elle Cosimano
I read this one with lightning speed. You know how people always say "couldn't put this one down!" I have rarely found that to be true of any books I've read, except this one. It really was compelling from the very start and had a lot of twists and turns keeping you locked in. It's also surprisingly funny. I don't usually read mystery novels and I even told Zach when I picked it up that I wasn't sure this was for me because I usually don't gravitate toward this genre, but boy am I glad I took it home with me. Although a bit unrealistic at times, c'mon it's a murder mystery for crying out loud, it's not so far-fetched that it prevents you from enjoying it. This is definitely a contender for my favorite book of the year.
"The Royal We" by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
This book was just "okay" IMHO. I guess I had high expectations of it because I had read such great things. First of all, it's a pretty long book for what amounts to being not that long of a story. Second of all, it's just comically similar to (which maybe it's supposed to be and that's the point?) Will & Kate's love story with a few very minor differences. It's the story of a commoner, in this case American, falling in love with England's most-eligible prince and heir to the throne. It had some cute parts, and the protagonist is fairly likable, it just wasn't my cup of tea (British pun *ba dum tss*). If you're a huge fan of Duchess Kate and her love story to Prince William, you'll almost certainly enjoy this book. If, like me, you're fairly indifferent to them, you'll be fairly indifferent to this book.
"People We Meet on Vacation" by Emily Henry
I was super duper excited to read this sophomore novel from Emily Henry because I read her "Beach Read" last summer and loved it. This did not disappoint. I will tell you, it is very much a rom-com type story, so if that isn't your thing, maybe skip this one. There isn't too much about it that is surprising, no twists and turns along the way, just a very cute story of people realizing their love for each other and growing through the process. If you're looking for a feel-good story that will make you "aww" more than a few times, pick this one up.
"Red, White, & Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston
Wowie there was so much hype around this book, I knew I had to read it. Okay, I will preface this by saying that, for whatever reason, it took me a looooong time to really get into the plot. Don't get me wrong, the story as a whole is very cute and it was nice to have protagonists that are members of the LGBTQ+ community. We don't have enough of those in rom-com fiction! That being said, the story is *wildly* unrealistic and (don't be mad at me) pretty dorky at times. That may not make sense if you haven't or don't plan to read it, but if you have or do, you'll know what I mean. I didn't hate this book, but I definitely didn't love it either. A solid 3 out of 5 stars.
"28 Summers" by Elin Hilderbrand
For my first Elin Hilderbrand book, I had some high expectations. I know so many people adore her work and she has no shortage of well-loved novels. I intentionally didn't really look into her "style" or general vibe before reading this book because I wanted to know as little as possible and just see how I felt. Okay, now all of that being said, I am so sad to report that I didn't really love this book as much as I had hoped. I found myself getting so frustrated with the characters in what seemed to me like a really easy problem to fix if they just communicated better. I just kept struggling to come up with reasons that they weren't ending up together? The ending was a total tear-jerker and definitely tugs at the heart strings, but it really didn't feel like (in my opinion, of course) a complete story. Beautiful summery imagery, but the characters and storyline lacked something that made the story almost frustrating to get through.
"The Rehearsals" by Annette Christie
Oh my gosh I loved this book. I thought this was a really refreshing take on long-term relationships and romance. A really quick read for me and honestly enjoyable from start to finish. I think what I loved about it the most is that it strayed from the "fairytale" engagement, wedding, marriage, relationship trope that can be really played out. These characters felt like real people that you would know and dealt with some pretty big obstacles and working to overcome them together. It was really sweet and a joy to read, my only bugaboo was that I felt the ending was a bit rushed and incomplete. As of now, I would say this is my second favorite read of the year!