It’s that time of the year! This is a list of the best books that I read in 2021. For people new to the blog, this list includes all books, whether published this year or not. In the past, most of the books were not published in the year I made the list so this year is a bit different. I also am including one comic book this year.
Here we go!
I have written up this book in several lists including Book Riot’s Best of the Year So Far and Best of 2021. It’s a cozy murder mystery taking place in a small town outside of Chicago. Food, family and murder? Yes please. Lila Macapagal returns home to her family’s Filipino restaurant after a failed romance. But when her ex-boyfriend/food critic falls face first in his food at the restaurant, the police suspect Lila and her family are behind his murder. It’ll make you hungry for justice and Filipino food. Plus the sequel is already scheduled for 2022 and it’s awesome.
When I read the description, I knew I had to read it. It features a young transgender woman named Katrina who has run away from her abusive parents. And then the plot goes out there. She meets up with a violin teacher who has made a pact with a demon in exchange for the souls of seven of her students. Who then meets a woman who runs a donut shop with her family but the family is actually aliens on the run from the collapse of their civilization. It’s out there and it works. This book had me crying, laughing, loving the journey that Aoki took me on.
Written like a screenplay, Willis Wu is a bitplayer on the television show Black and White. But it’s not just his screenlife; he’s a bitplayer in his real life too. He finds himself in the position of being the Generic Asian Man but aspires to be the Kung Fu Guy. It’s an indictment of the US’s racial system and racial history for Asians and Asian Americans. It also won the 2021 Tournament of Books, so there’s that.
Nicknamed “flying monkeys”, the caracara and its other names —Johnny rooks of the Falklands, the chimangos of the Argentine pampas, the Bush Auntie-Men in Guyana Shield—are really curious birds, especially when you consider that they are more closely related to hawks than other species. Meiburg explores this peculiar creature taking readers on a journey throughout the Americans, from the Falklands to the US as well as deep time.
This brought back the good memories of field hockey in high school. The Danvers High field hockey team decides to use witchcraft to ensure a winning season. It doesn’t hurt that Danvers is situated in the historical location of the Salem village…home to the Salem witch trials. It’s a book that is best described as written in a collective voice with the narrative going in and out of each character and their high school tribulations as they navigate teenage years with a touch of dark magic. It’s bright, bold and I loved every minute of it.
I enjoyed this two book cozy series tremendously. In Book 1, Odessa Dean is a young Louisiana transplant taking care of her aunt’s fancy apartment in Brooklyn for the summer. She loves Williamsburg but didn’t realize how expensive it is. She ends up getting a job as a waitress at a bookstore/cafe. But when one her coworkers dies in a seeming accident, Odessa is convinced that her coworker was murdered. The second book has a murder take place in an escape room. “Nuf said. I love reading about Odessa’s adventures as well as the pitch perfect social commentary about housing realities in Brooklyn underneath. I hope we’ll be reading more about Odessa’s adventures in the near future!
Not surprising to anyone in my life, I love cheese. So American Cheese is the book I wish I had written. Berkowitz takes the readers into the culture of cheese – competitions, cheese burlesque, cheese courses, and so much more. Yes, I said cheese burlesque. It took place in my hometown too so I’m mad that I missed it! I especially loved getting to see inside how cheese competitions in the US and France work.
- Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes
This murder mystery features newly transplanted food anthropologist Miriam Quinones-Smith who has moved with her husband and young son to Coral Springs, FL. She’s adjusting to life away from the Big Apple which includes settling in, navigating her frankly racist mother-in-law, and more. Her new friend Alma helps her find a gig on a local Spanish speaking television doing cooking food segments. But if that isn’t enough, there’s the death of a young woman at a luncheon. The death of the woman, who was a former addict, is chalked up to merely falling off the wagon but Miriam is not sure. Can Miriam figure out what happened to the young woman, deal with her husband’s midlife crisis, her young son’s needs, and maintain a happy smile for the camera?
- The Appeal by Janice Hallet
This murder mysery is really unlike anything I’ve read in a long time. The basic premise is that two young lawyers are given a load of documents that a senior partner wants them to review. Someone went to jail for a murder but he thinks someone else is the culprit. The documents are mostly text messages, emails, and other documents centered around a community theatre production and a fundraiser to help a young girl get the medication she needs for brain cancer. I love how you don’t even know who dies until mid-way through the book.
I loved this book of poetry where each poem is about a different kind of daughter including Dorothy’s Daughter, Bigfoot’s Daughter, Ghost Hunter’s daughter, and more. It’s beautifully written, thoughtful as Corrigan explores each individual daughter and their special circumstances.
In the town of Thistle Grove, magic thrives. It’s centered around four founding families. Unfortunately Emmy Harlwo comes from the one family with the least amount of magic. Deciding to forge her own path, she leaves for Chicago. But now she’s back judging a magic competition that only happens every 50 years to decide which person from a founding family will be the head. One of the competitors is her ex-boyfriend, Gareth Blackmoore, who may have played a role with her flight, as well as the alluring Talia Avramov. But when she arrives, she finds out that Talia and Emmy’s best friend, Linden Thorn, all want revenge on Gareth as well. It’s a fun book of magical competition and fun revenge.
These days, I’m obsessed with all things North. So it was quite fortuitous that I heard about Finding True North, a sort of autobiography/ history that takes place in Alaska. Rettig moves to Alaska to get experience as a journalist thinking it’s a temporary move. But she soon gets drawn into the history of the place and finds that her initial understanding of the place might be too simple. She dives into the four industries of Alaska – gold, oil, flight, and subsistence, to understand how they shaped the culture and economy of the state. I think all of us in the lower 48 would benefit from reading Rettig’s book.
Readers of this blog know that I LOVE Squirrel Girl. Whistle is the first superhero I’ve read in years that I love almost in the same way as Squirrel Girl. Willow is a young Jewish woman in high school; she’s passionate about social justice, and volunteers at a pet shelter. She even befriends a seeming stray Great Dane; she’d bring her home but the apartment she shares with her mother is too small. Unfortunately, her mother is sick with cancer and their (lack of) health insurance won’t cut it. So when her family friend renters her life and offers her an opportunity to make some money, Willow takes it up. Suddenly money isn’t a problem anymore. But things keep happening in her neighborhood and Willow finds herself involved. I don’t want to say anything more because her transformation into a superhero is well-worth the reveal.
Last but not least, I enjoyed the Sassy Cat cozy series a great deal. Now with three books, this series features Mimi Lee who has just opened Hollywoof, a pet grooming store in Los Angeles. But starting a new business isn’t hard enough, she ends up with a snarky talking cat named Marshmallow who tells her about a local breeder who might be mistreating his dogs. But when the breeder shows up dead, the police think it’s Mimi’s fault. Throw in a cute neighbor and a mother who wants to set her daughter up, Mimi has got a lot to figure out.
That’s all for now!