Ten Favorite Reads of 2021

It’s been quite the year! Goodreads is telling me I’ve read 78 books as of December 13th… which is quite a few for me! So I figured I’d round up my favorite highlights and a one line review for anyone that’s looking for a good read to start off 2022.

Note: these books were not necessarily published in 2021, that’s just when I happened to read them!

And second note: If I love the first book in a series, but overall the series is unsatisfying, I won’t recommend the first book. (However… if I haven’t read the sequel yet but I plan to, I’ll still recommend the first.)

Favorite Sequel: Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews
Book 5 of the Innkeeper Chronicles is every bit as good as the 4 books before it. If you want some light sci-fi romance in your life, this series about a magical inn that connects to the rest of the universe and the uncountable species and cultures in it (including a fun take on vampires and werewolves) is absolutely fantastic. I NEED MORE.

Favorite Novella: Split Therapy by E.P. Stavs
A fast-paced psychological thriller with two likable leads, a sweet side of romance, and a vigilante. Recommended to cure any reading slump.

Favorite Romance: The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams
I actually just finished this one, and was able to come add it to this post just in time! There’s so much to love in this book! Wonderful characters that feel real (especially in the audiobook!), a cute romance, fun plot (although as a gym rat I might be biased) and body positivity. I’m so glad I stumbled on this 5 star read, and highly recommend!

Favorite Middle Grade: Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
An achingly beautiful book told half in verse and half in prose about friendship, being different, and the difficulties and confusion of being a middle-grade kid.

Favorite Picture Book: Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Love love love love love this book. Fantastic illustrations and a wonderful message about dealing with bullies and embracing your awesome self.

Favorite Fantasy: Thief of Spring by Katherine Macdonald
A fae Persephone/Hades romance that I didn’t know I needed in my life. Great YA fantasy with a fun romance that totally sucked me in.

Favorite Young Adult: Billy Lemonade by Sarah J Maxwell
A beautiful paranormal tale of two healing teenagers. I read this book in one sitting, and I think it’s probably the most poignant, emotional tale I read this year.

Favorite Sci-fi: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
A sci-fi, post-apocalyptic pandemic novel with a unique premise, a twist, and a solid romance. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but it’s mostly because I’m scared it can’t live up to the first!

Favorite Thriller: The Whisper Man by Alex North
It was creepy, it was tense, it kept me guessing, and I was rooting for the characters the whole time. This is the kind of thriller that makes you want to read more thrillers. And the audiobook was amazing, so bonus!

Favorite Novel Overall: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This book absolutely blew my mind. A book about a group of goofy strangers that get caught up in a hostage situation that manages to be funny and sweet and poignant all that the same time. Definitely my number one book this year, no contest. And the audiobook is superb. If I have to recommend only one book this year, it’s this one.


If you have any best reads of 2021 I’d love to know! Thanks for reading!

The Library Haul – Aug 19


We try to take our littles (ages 5 and 3) the library almost every Saturday to get a fresh armful of books to tide us over for the week. We’ve missed the past few weekends, so this library haul is from a while back, but I thought I’d try to give a quick sum up.

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. Dog loves books so they open a book store. A cute story, but a little bland. ⭐⭐⭐ ½ And no request for rereads. 😕

Michael Recycle Meets Litter Bug Doug by Ellie Bethel. Cute story, great message, fun rhymes, and great illustrations. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ But… no request for rereads. 😕

Pirate Chicken All Hens on Deck by Brian Yanish. Chicken gets tired of being a chicken, so becomes a pirate. But then gets tired of being a bad pirate… and goes back to chicken life. Story fell a little flat for me. ⭐⭐⭐ And no request for rereads. 😕

Fire Truck vs Dragon by Chris Barton. Fire truck and Dragon are friends and do a lot of fun things together. A cute simple story with great illustrations aimed at the younger picture book crowd (2-4). ⭐⭐⭐⭐ And it seemed to be a hit with the 3yo with multiple reread requests. 😍

Eerie Elementary by Jack Chabor. After perusing the pictures, my 5yo rejected this one on the basis of being too scary. No rating.

The Last Firehawk by Katrina Charman (#6-9). Owl, squirrel, & firehawk go on epic fantasy adventure, battling against the evil vulture and finding the firehawk’s family. My 5yo LOVED this series. They were always the first books he wants when we get in the car, an whenever get back he checks to make sure they don’t have #10 yet (it doesn’t come out until November.) So this one gets double heart eyes! 😍 😍

Kung Pow Chicken by Cyndi Marko. Goofy super hero chicken and sidekick egg brother fight silly crime. My five year old seems to enjoy these, and he reads through them very quickly independently. We’ll definitely be picking up more of this series. 😍

Who Would Win? Ultimate Jungle Rumble by Jerry Palotta In which they make a bracket and postulate which animals would win in a fight to the death. A bit morbid perhaps… but as a kid I probably would’ve loved this series. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ And my kids asked me to reread this SOOOO many times. 😍 😍

Maisy Plays Soccer by Lucy Cousins. Exactly as the title describes. Super simple story, but Maisy books have always been a hit at our house in the younger age groups (1-3). ⭐⭐⭐⭐ And 3yo asked for a reread. 😍

Flyguy Presents Dinosaurs by Tedd Arnold. Very standard dinosaur book. No facts we didn’t know before, and the illustrations were pretty basic. This is my second flyguy book, and it hasn’t really resonated with the boys or me. ⭐⭐⭐ ½ And no reread request. 😕 Which is kind of shocking considering this is a dinosaur book!

Our Saturdays are busier with fall sports, but hopefully we’ll still be able to squeeze in our library visits!

Whew! And that’s it for now! Tune in next week for the review of our next library haul! Kid’s book recommendations and review requests welcome (as long as it’s find-able at our library).

The Library Haul – Jul 25


We try to take our littles (ages 5 and 3) the library almost every Saturday to get a fresh armful of books to tide us over for the week. I was traveling for work last week, so I didn’t get to read each of these the usual 3-5 times. But I read most of them at least once!

The Last Firehawk #5 & 6 by Katrina Charman. We finished up book #4 last week, and my 5yo started cracking into book 5. The basic ongoing premise of kid-warrior owl, spunky squirrel friend, and quickly-growing baby firehawk vs evil vulture and co. continues (via collecting ember stone pieces). We’ve been somewhat sidetracked by the latest Dragon Master book, but hopefully we’ll finish these up this week in time to nab book #7 & #8. Since my 5yo reads these independently and can follow the story it gets a: 😍

Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee. Sadly we didn’t get around to this one this week (that I know of) so back to the library it goes. No rating.

Dragon Loves Tacos 2 The Sequel by Adam Rubin. Um. I hate to say it, but this wasn’t for me. There’s a taco shortage so they make a time machine to go back in time to get a taco, bring it the future and… plant a taco tree. Naturally dragons keep getting the spicy tacos which gives them flaming breath. The story, prose, and illustrations all fell pancake flat for me. The only reason I’ll give it three stars is because the littles made me read it three times. ⭐⭐⭐ from me. 😍 from the littles.

How to be a Pirate by Isaac Fitzgerald. The boys in the treehouse say she can’t be a pirate, so the little girl goes to her seaworthy-looking grandfather to show her how to be a real pirate through his tattoos. And spoiler alert, she takes over the treehouse as the best pirate ever, to the awe of the boys. This one was probably my favorite one we read! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

But my littles, alas, didn’t ask for a reread. 😕

Superbuns by Diane Kredensor. Little sister buns goes around being a super hero with the power of kindness, but her older sister doesn’t buy it until she gets her own chance to be nice. This was more of a meh for us. The superhero-kindness connection didn’t seem quite as strong as it could have been. The illustrations were bright and catchy. ⭐⭐⭐½ But there was no request for rereads. 😕

The Magic School Bus Sees Stars by Nancy White. My kids LOVE magic school bus, and it actually gets them asking questions about the world so these are always safe choices for us. I have read magic school bus books a million times and they have seen all the episodes (original and reboot) at least 3 times each. So yeah. Magic Schoolbus is always a solid choice. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😍

The Dragon Hunters by James Russell. A cute story with cute illustrations about two boys who go save their dog from a dragon. It reads well, but I guess it just didn’t seem to stand out to me, and apparently it didn’t stand up to my boys either because we only read it the once. I would still give the other books in the series a try though. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😕

I Can Read! Level 2: The Amazing Spiderman by Susan Hill (I think.) This is your pretty standard “this is Peter Parker aka Spider-man” early reader. I probably read this 3 times, and they picked it up multiple times themselves because, you know, superheroes. My only beef is at the end Peter says “I’m not a nerd! I’m Spider-man!” Which… c’mon, I mean honestly he’s both, and he’s obviously in some self denial here. Plus, at least in this house, we think fondly of nerds, so we were all confused by this comment. You can’t be a nerd and a superhero? I thought that was kind of the point. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😍

Mind your Manners by Nicola Edwards. This book was a pleasant surprise! I thought the author did a great job of illustrating why bad manners are gross and rude, and how being nice really helped straightened out the animals and make them all happier. I would totally recommend this one! My boys were also asking questions and seemed to get it to (although they didn’t pick it up by themselves or ask for a reread. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😍

The Last Firehawk saga continues! (And yes I am sitting in the doorjamb because that it just where my laptop and I happen to be right now. 😂)

Whew! And that’s it for now! Tune in next week for the review of our next library haul! Kid’s book recommendations and review requests welcome (as long as it’s find-able at our library).

The Library Haul – Jul 10


We try to take our littles (ages 5 and 3) the library almost every Saturday to get a fresh armful of books to tide us over for the week. Last week, since my 5yo and his friend have been telling us about the local summer camp bully, we decided to try to pick out a few with a bullying message. Unfortunately, I forgot to get them to officially weigh in on which they liked… so I’ve included other indicators of their interest (which I honestly think work better).

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill. The bullying recess queen runs the schoolyard, until a new girl (who doesn’t know any better) breaks all the queen’s rules and then (gasp) asks the queen to play. Now that she has a friend, the queen is no longer a bully.

Vibrant illustrations and a quick, fun style… but I’m not going to lie, I have a little trouble with the whole “just be the bully’s friend” message. It’s a nice idea, but honestly I’ve never actually seen that work, and there’s no way I would tell my 5yo to go try to be friends with the 7yo that keeps pushing and hitting the smaller kids. ⭐⭐⭐½

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Chrysantheum by Kevin Henkes. This was a super cute story about a mouse with a long unusual name. She loves her name until the other kids at school start to make fun of her for it. Her parents continue to boost her up, and eventually the cool teacher weighs in to say she has her own unique name that she loves, and everyone changes their tune.

I loved how this showed the back and forth about how Chrysantheum felt about her name both when she was at school with the mean kids, and when she as at home with her loving parents. I thought the positive influence of the teacher rang true, and enjoyed this cute little story. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

No T. Rex in the Library by Toni Buzzeo. A little girl is sent to time-out for being too loud in the library, and then a T Rex jumps out of a book and begins its own wild rampage through a slew of other story books, while the little girl tries to get him to behave as he should in a library.

Not a whole lot to say about this one. Cute, picture book fun with vibrant images. I don’t think mine totally understood that the girl was trying to get the dinosaur to behave in the library until I explained it to them, but neither did they really care. If there’s a dinosaur involved. That’s a thumbs up from them. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this one twice, and my 3yo picked it up several times by himself (because, you know, dinosaurs). 😊

Little Boy Detective Blue by Steve Metzger. Detective Blue tries to solve the case of the missing Little Miss Muffett with a slew of clever nursery rhyme twists and vibrant, comic-book like illustratations.

This one went about a mile over my 5yo and 3yo’s head. They’re not super familiar with the old nursery rhymes, and even if they were, I don’t think they would’ve gotten the clever twists. I thought it was a cute book, but maybe a better fit or an older kid (7 or 8) that knows their nursery rhymes. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Dinosailors by Deb Lund. A pack of dinosaurs decide they want to be pirates! And then it’s harder than it looks.

Bright, fun illustrations, and short punchy writing, plus I definitely got a laugh out of the scene of the seasick dinosaurs puking into the sky. I think this would be a hit with any picture book reader and I highly recommend. It would also make a great gift for someone with a picture book reader. I will definitely be looking for the sequel, All Aboard the Dino Train next time we’re at the library. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was asked to read this book at least three times, my 3yo and 5yo both picked it up multiple times, with my 3yo also narrating to me what happens. 😍

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët. There are no words in this book, but the illustrations are very clear. My 3yo and 5yo still needed the plot explained the first time but then got it right away. (New girl gets bullied, and then someone decides to walk with her to school and everything turns around.)

Simple but very clear illustrations, there’s not a whole lot to be said about this book. I do like the silent message of being kind to those that could use a friend, and how friends can help disempower a bully. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½

Both the 3yo and the 5yo got this book right away, and picked it up at least once by themselves. No requests for rereads… but since there are no words, who needs one! 😊

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. Jeremy has a neighborhood “enemy” so his Dad suggests that they make him Enemy Pie. But first, Jeremy has to go spend the day with his enemy, and they become friends.

Solid writing and illustrations, but once again, this is that same message I’m not sure about⁠—where the misunderstood bully ⁠magically turns into a friend. Honestly, if anyone has an anecdote where this worked out for them, I would love to hear it. But if there’s a bully in the office, you can be sure, I will steer clear of them. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life? ⭐⭐⭐½

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. LOVED THIS BOOK. Seriously, I’m considering buying it for our shelf. It is perfection. Molly Lou Melon is different, but her grandmother gives her all sorts of fantastic advice about how to embrace her own awesome and live life to the fullest. This comes in handy when she moves to a new town and someone tries to bully her for being different. Unbothered, she brings the Full On Awesome, we’re all rightfully impressed, and basically the bully just can’t even deal.

I’m so on board, and if you’re looking to buy a picture book in the next 5 years, I would put this on your list. Six glowing stars! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

We read this book twice, but I didn’t see them pick it up for themselves. 😊

The Kid from Planet Z by Nancy Krulik. I picked up this early chapter book for my 5yo to read, but he/we didn’t get around to it. No rating, but we might check it out again in the future.

Batman: Catwoman’s Halloween Heist by Eric Fein. This is an early chapter book that follows batgirl and robin as they go to a Halloween costume party and Catwoman shows up to steal a diamond. It also has a few comic book like illustrations. I only read a couple chapters so it doesn’t get a rating from me, but my 5yo was seen with it quite often. I’m not sure sure if he read the whole thing, but for his level of interest it gets a 😍 (super heroes are a pretty easy win from him.)

The Last Firehawk #4: Lullaby Lake by Katrina Charman. Another early chapter book with illustrations, my 5yo devoured the first three of these books, but he’s still working through this one. I think the basic ongoing premise is kid-warrior owl, spunky squirrel friend, and quickly-growing baby firehawk are trying to thwart evil vulture and co., but I’ve only read a few chapters with him. I don’t think he likes them quite as much as the Dragon Master books (I think Firehawk is a little scarier), but they’re still the first thing he pages through every time we check out books, so I’m also giving this one 😍 .

Library regular right here.

Whew! And that’s it for now! Tune in next week for the review of our next library haul!