The Best of 2021: All the Bookish Bests


This year has been filled with so many great books. Yeah, there have been a few duds, but thankfully they were the exception. So now, just hours before we kick this year to the curb say goodbye to 2021, I'm sharing my standout reads. Those books that, for various reasons, made a lasting impression. Here we go...




The Charm Offensive was *this close* to being included in my Best of the Best of the year, but I had to draw the line somewhere. That in no way diminishes my love for this absolute gem. The Charm Offensive was like a giant hug to my heart.

Always, in December was an amazing, emotional story of love lost and love found. While not a romance, it still delivered all the feels and I was completely invested in Max and Josie's story. I can't wait to see what Emily Stone delivers next.



Color me surprised by Down Too Deep! I expected a run of the mill romance but I was amazed at how connected I was to those characters and how their story touched me. Way more emotional than I anticipated. And it was one of the rare instances where I was not put off by children playing a prominent role in a romance novel. The kids were sweet, their dialogue felt age-appropriate and believable, and they added so much to the story.

I requested Playing the Palace from Netgalley on a whim and what a great decision that turned out to be. Playing the Palace didn't take itself too seriously and instead delivered a campy, frothy good time. Nonstop fun.


Malibu Rising is another one that was *this close* to being in my overall favorites of the year. Taylor Jenkins never disappoints and Malibu Rising was another great example of her gift of weaving a story that makes me forget I'm reading fiction. I was 100% invested in the Riva clan and the dual timeline made for such a rich story. Julia Whelan is a top-notch narrator and she brought every character to life.


Lisa Jewell is a long-time favorite. I've been reading her books for two decades now but I can safely say The Night She Disappeared is her best yet. Jewell managed to weave together three timelines and doled out bits of information and small clues as the story was slowly revealed. My favorite thing about Jewell's brand of mystery/suspense is that the characters are always front and center. The plot, while strong and intriguing, never overtakes the real story: the characters and how their lives are impacted. Side note: The audio version was absolute perfection.


It's safe to say that Jennifer L. Armentrout has a definite formula to her writing, but it's also safe to say that it's completely addictive. Grace and Glory was an epic series finale and it delivered in a big way. All my favorite characters were in attendance complete with action, humor, romance, battle scenes, and several twists that I never saw coming., What more can you ask for? 


With Layla Colleen Hoover delivered another what-the-hell-did-I-just-read moment. There were several instances in the beginning that gave me chills. Such a great creep factor. As the story started to unfold, and the twists kept coming, I was absolutely fascinated. This was one of those don't want to put it down/can I read and walk at the same time books. 



When I read Cake (the first book in the amazing series) in 2020, I was instantly hooked. And throughout 2021 I inhaled the next six books in the series. This is one of those series that I could rave about endlessly. At its core is the story of the McKallister family and how one tragic event changed their lives and continued to effect them all for years to come. Reading each book was like returning to friends that I'd missed - ones that I was desperate to check on. Nothing in Bengtsson's writing is over the top or melodramatic which makes these characters and the issues they are dealing all the more believable and emotional. The books are fantastic, the audio versions are superb... The whole series is *chef's kiss.*



I decided to not even bother trying pick one favorite book of the year. Way too stressful. 😊 But I decided I could handle choosing one favorite per quarter so that's what I did.

The Things We Leave Unfinished was among the first books I read this year (way back in early February) and the fact that it still resonates with me almost eleven months later says a lot. The dual timeline and the way the characters in both times were connected drew me in. But it was the characters themselves, and what they experienced and sacrificed, that made this one unforgettable.

Tied was a story that was like a punch to the heart and it took me by surprise. It was so much more than I expected, in all the best ways. This was like a fairy tale romance but with a dark and gritty edge. I was utterly captivated from the very start and my heart ached for the characters who had been through so much. They desperately needed each other and were so much better together than apart. I adored this story of healing and know I will read it again.

Emma Scott knows how to write angst. And I admit, sometimes it's a bit much, even for me. But not the case in When You Come Back to Me. I lapped up every delicious, angsty drop and was begging for more. Holden and River were characters that I held close to my heart. I desperately wanted to hug them and promise everything would be okay. Few characters move me on such a visceral level as Holden Parish did and I shed so many tears throughout this story. The audio version was phenomenal and I found myself replaying certain scenes just to experience it again and again. 

Ripple Effect is my most recent read and before I even finished it I knew it would be among my favorites of the year. Once again, J. Bengtsson proved what a stellar storyteller she is and created characters and a narrative that had me finishing the book in record time. Filled with one of the best character arcs (I'm looking at you RJ), tension, humor, swoony moments, a great cast of secondary characters, and an epilogue that was everything, Ripple Effect was an instant favorite. 

So there you have it... my best of 2021.
Have you read any of these books?
What was your favorite book of the year?

Release Blitz & Review: Ripple Effect by J. Bengtsson #NewRelease #GreysPromo

Ripple Effect by J. Bengtsson is now live!

An enemies to lovers tale with an earth-shaking twist!

International pop star RJ Contreras finds himself at a crossroads when his mega famous boy band, AnyDayNow, breaks up. After his solo career fails to take off, RJ retreats to a no-frills apartment where he can hide out from the world and lick his festering wounds. 

But when the girl next door starts slipping 'good neighbor' contracts under his door and complaining about his behavior through strategically placed Post-it-Notes, RJ snaps out of his self-absorbed melancholy to wage war. 

Nothing short of an act of nature could repair the relationship between these two strong-willed enemies. But guess what Fate has in store?

Download today or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Listen to the audiobook narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Stella Hunter!

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J. Bengtsson has ensured that I ended 2021 with a bang. My final book of the year is also one of my favorites of the year – filled with fully developed characters, great banter, humor, and heart wrenching moments that brought all the feels (and the tears). As an avid fan of Bengtsson’s Cake series, I had high expectations for Ripple Effect, and it exceeded them all.

Dani Malone has been feuding with Chad, the jerk in the apartment next door, for months. Ever since he moved in five months ago, he seems to have made it his mission to push all her buttons. She tried to be nice, but it’s turned into all-out war with the exchange of snarky Post-It Notes and, when they see each other face to face, barbed insults. But then the unthinkable happens and Dani and Chad and trapped together. All the pettiness is stripped away as they have only each other to turn to. 

Strip me of all the ladders I'd climbed and all the awards I'd won and you were left with that little boy who ate his dinner on a TV tray away from everyone else because there was no room at the four-person table.

RJ Contreras (aka Chad), one-fifth of the mega famous boy band AnyDayNow, has been living under another name and wallowing in self-pity and a bad attitude for months. Ever since the band broke up and his solo album tanked, he has pulled away from his former bandmates, men who are like brothers to him, and is hiding out to lick his wounds. Oh, and also taking perverse pleasure in driving his next door neighbor to her limits. When he and Dani are forced into survival mode, they both shed the petty annoyances and see beyond the surface, sharing an experience that will change both their lives forever.

I understood now that from the moment he'd moved in next door, RJ had changed me. By challenging everything I'd thought I knew about myself, he'd awakened a fighting spirit in me that my domineering mother had shut down somewhere along the way.

Ripple Effect pulled me in from the first page and I couldn’t put it down, reading the entire second half of the book in one day (exceedingly rare for me). Bengtsson managed to have me fully invested in Dani and RJ from the start and, as their situation went from bad to worse, I felt the tension, the anxiety, and the fear right along with them. There were moments that were so heartbreakingly poignant that my heart ached, and I shed more than a few tears.

Dani's loyalty to me at my most vulnerable was as remarkable as it was depressing. She barely knew me, and yet, still she had more allegiance to me than did my own parents - neither of whom would've stayed here by my side so I wouldn't have to face the end alone.

The character arcs for both RJ and Dani were moving, but it was RJ’s evolution that was the most impressive and touched my heart. The issues with his family, his feelings of unworthiness, and his need to prove himself had shaped his life. And seeing him grapple with those issues, end toxic relationships, and take steps to change his life made me want to stand up and cheer.  In addition to RJ and Dani, there was a host of secondary characters that made the story all the richer – RJ’s bandmates, the members of The Lucky Swimmers Club (Dani’s numerous half-siblings), firefighter Parker, EMT Bruce, and more.

I can’t express enough how invested I was in RJ and Dani and how much their journey moved me and engaged me. I adored these characters and how, through great adversity, they came out stronger, better, and together. Add in an epilogue that was so sweet, so heartwarming, and so… perfect, that I’m still smiling about it days later. With themes of family (and found family), forgiveness, courage, and perseverance, Ripple Effect is a story that meant the world to me. All that's left to say is: Experience this one for yourself; you won’t be sorry.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


J. (Jill) Bengtsson is the bestselling author of the Cake Series. She writes contemporary novels focused on love, humor, passion, and family. Her heroines are strong, nurturing, and quirky while her heroes are what dreams are made of - gorgeous, committed, and in need of a little saving. A native Californian, Jill's novels are set under the glittering lights of the West Coast entertainment industry.
They are for the dreamer in all of us. 

Jill resides in Ventura County, California. She's married to the Swedish boy she met as an exchange student her junior year in college and they have three children, a golden retriever, and two ragdoll cats. 

The Sunday Post #273 | December 26, 2021


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news: a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books, 
and share what's coming up on your blog in the week ahead.

T H E   W E E K   I N   R E V I E W
Hope all those that celebrated had a wonderful Christmas. Whether it was with family and friends, or a smaller, quieter Covid Christmas, I hope you enjoyed the day.

I had assumed when I took off all week that I would have all the time in the world to do all the things, including blog posts and book reviews but... yeah, that didn't happen. Somehow it still managed to be a busy week with appointments, errands, gift wrapping, cooking, and more. Still, it was a wonderful week and it was so nice to have the time off to immerse myself in the season.

Christmas Eve was lots of fun - filled with family, food, games and gifts. Christmas Day was quieter, with just my mom coming over for lunch, but even so the busy-ness of the last few days caught up with me and I was exhausted. I indulged in a looong nap yesterday afternoon!

Sisters                                   Husband                                       Niece

I always enjoy Kenny G's Millennium Version of Auld Lang Syne. And I get teary when President Reagan talks about the Challenger crew. Every single time. 

O N   T H E   B L O G
Not a thing!

W H A T   I   R E A D

The Becoming by Nora Roberts - ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
My Beautiful Neighbor by Piper Rayne - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
My Almost Ex by Piper Rayne - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

C U R R E N T L Y  R E A D I N G

Ripple Effect by J. Bengtsson
My Vegas Groom by Piper Rayne

N E W   A D D I T I O N S

Secret Seduction by Jill Sanders

T O T A L L Y   R A N D O M


The Sunday Post #272 | December 19, 2021


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news: a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books, 
and share what's coming up on your blog in the week ahead.

T H E   W E E K   I N   R E V I E W
Christmas is now less than a week away. Can someone please explain how that happened?? I've kinda sorta finalized my Christmas Day menu. But I still have a gift or two to buy and some wrapping to do. So there's that. How about you?

On the plus side, I'm off all week! 😀 A couple weeks ago, on a particularly stressful day at the office, I decided I was done. And I needed a break pronto. So right then and there I sent an email stating I was taking off the week of Christmas. Having that to look forward to made the last two weeks a lot easier to bear.

I finally caught a Christmas movie! It starred Nick Bateman and if you don't know who that is, what are you doing with your life? LOL It was super cute and I enjoyed ogling him for two hours. 😍

Friday night we had dinner out - one of the handful of times we've eaten in a restaurant in the past (almost) two years. We planned on getting take-out but then saw the restaurant was less than half full so we decided to stay. Weird how that feels so illicit now. After dinner we went to see a local Christmas light display. This particular one is always voted one of the best in the city. The time and effort the homeowner must put into the display is impressive. All the lights are synched with the music and it's really something to behold. 

We're bypassing the 80's and going back to 1973 for this week's holiday music fix. Enjoy Elton John's Step Into Christmas! 

O N   T H E   B L O G
Tuesday, December 14

Thursday, December 16

W H A T   I   R E A D

Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker - ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Sleigh Bells Ring by RaeAnne Thayne - ⭐⭐⭐.5

C U R R E N T L Y  R E A D I N G

The Becoming (The Dragon Heart Legacy #2) by Nora Roberts
My Beautiful Neighbor by Piper Rayne

N E W   A D D I T I O N S


Wild Side by Mari Carr
Southern Charmer by Jessica Peterson

T O T A L L Y   R A N D O M