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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 Book Review

 Good morning friends! I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I know so many people whose plans were changed/not what they were hoping for due to COVID and if you also fall into that category I am so sorry! I am hoping and praying this was the last Christmas that we all have to worry about this stupid virus. 

 

It's the end of the year, which means it's time for the end-of-year book review! I know book reviews are all over blog-world this time of year and I cannot get enough of them. I love to see what other people are reading and their honest opinions of the books.

Each year I try to break down my favorite books into different genres just in case you have a particular genre you prefer to read. This year my genres are thriller, historical fiction, fiction, and nonfiction. I tried to narrow it to down to my top 5, but there were too many that I really loved, so it ended up as a top 8 list. At the bottom of this post I will tell you my top book of the year-- and you're in for a surprise!


Thriller:

One By One: "Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.


When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech start-up, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one."

This book was one of my favorites of the whole year. I could not stop talking about this book to everyone I know. Ruth Ware really knows how to write thrillers, you may have heard of her other books "The Woman In Cabin 10" or " In a Dark, Dark Wood". In my opinion this book was even better than those two. If you like thrillers and haven't read this one yet, add it to your list!


The Guest List: "On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?"

I could not put this one down! I love the kind of stories where there are multiple characters' POV, multiple secrets, and one bigger overall mystery you're trying to piece together. I thought this one was very well written, always leaving me wanting more. 

Fiction:

Anxious People: "Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.


Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next."

This book is the perfect mix of funny, sad, heartwarming, and thought-provoking. All the things you want in a good book. When I first signed up on the library wait list for this book there were 223 people ahead of me and I thought "oh come on, this book can't be THAT good" but it was! If you haven't already read this one, please add it to your list for 2022!


It Ends With Us: "Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. And when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life seems too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened."

I read this book last month but never got around to writing my monthly book review. This book was a very heavy read. It touches on domestic abuse, homelessness, depression, and substance abuse just to name a few things. Yet the main character is someone you can't help but root for. She is a strong female lead who finds herself in many hard situations with difficult choices to make. She won't leave you disappointed. 

Nonfiction:


Plant Over Processed: "Andrea Hannemann, known as Earthy Andy to her more than one million Instagram followers, believes that food is the fuel of life, and that consuming a nourishing, plant-based diet is the gateway to ultimate health. Andy’s mantra, “plant over processed,” embodies the way she eats and feeds her family of five in their home in Oahu, Hawaii.

But it wasn’t always this way. Andy was once addicted to sugar and convenience foods and suffering from a host of health issues that included IBS, Celiac disease, hypothyroidism, asthma, brain fog, and chronic fatigue. Fed up with spending time and money on specialists, supplements, and fad diets, she quit animal products and processed foods cold turkey, and embarked on a new way of eating that transformed her health and her body.

In Plant Over Processed, Andy invites readers to join her on a “30-Day Plant Over Processed Challenge” that will detox the body, followed by a long-term plan for going plant-based without giving up your favorite dishes. Packed with gorgeous photography and mouth-watering recipes—from smoothies and bliss bowls to plant-based comfort and decadent desserts—this life-changing guide takes you to the North Shore of Hawaii and back, showing you how easy it is to eat plant-based, wherever you are."


Okay this probably seems like a weird one for a "favorite books" post, but this book, in conjunction with SuperLife which I read last year, is a big part of the reason we made the switch to eating a more plant-based diet. A book that causes you to make a huge lifestyle change is probably big enough to add to the "favorite books" list.

 Before reading this book the thought of giving up meat, dairy, and processed foods seemed way too restrictive to me, but the recipes in this book were so good I honestly didn't miss them at all. Not only that, but I started to notice a significant change in my energy levels and how I felt. If you are considering trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet in 2022 I highly recommend this book. We make the Red Curry, the Save-Your-Dollars Soup, the Thai Summer Rolls, the Nach-yo Average Cheese Dip, and all the smoothies regularly. 

What I love about this book is that she encourages flexibility. You don't need to go 100% plant-based from the beginning. You can start by having a plant-based breakfast 2-3 times a week. Then maybe add in a plant-based lunch or dinner once a week. Maybe you still eat fish or eggs, that's fine too. It's all about encouraging more plants, less processed food, and every little change you make adds up.

Historical Fiction:

Our Darkest Night: "It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.

Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.

But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge. 

As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . . " 


I'm always a sucker for WW2 historical fiction, but this one was especially good. I remember while reading this book thinking that the characters were so well written I felt like I knew them. I became so attached to Nina, Nico and the members of Nico's family that when problems arose for them I could not put the book down until I found out what happened-- even if that meant staying up until midnight reading! 

Shanghai Girls: "In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.


As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules." 

Scenes from this book still haunt me today and it's been months since I read this. One thing I loved about this book was the uniqueness of the plot. I had not read any other historical fiction books written about Chinese American female immigrants and I felt like I learned so much more than I would have from a WW2 book (since I've read dozens of those). If you love historical fiction and are looking for a new era to read about, I recommend this one!

Our Woman in Moscow: "In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digbys defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digbys from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet KGB officer forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties."


I have yet to be disappointed by a Beatriz Williams book. Every single time I pick up one of her books I think to myself "there's no way I'll love this one as much as the others"... and every single time I do! This one had me hooked from the very beginning to the very end. I did not see the surprise twist coming at the end yet somehow it made the whole book come together even better. 


And now for my favorite book of the year....



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It's a tie! I honestly could not decide between Anxious People and Our Woman in Moscow. Both books were very different, but both were fantastic!



Okay so now you tell me... what was your favorite book of the year?


See you back here Friday!


4 comments :

  1. Anxious People was one of my top reads last year.

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  2. I've got Anxious People for my list 2022. Check the title of your blog post - are you stuck in 2020??!?! Haha. You know I love Earthy Andy too.

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  3. I want to read Our Woman in Moscow this winter. It sounds so good! Thanks for sharing your favorite books! Have a super day!

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