October 2021 Novel Ideas: 44 Quick Lit Reviews
October 2021 Novel Ideas is a doozy of a post! We read a combined 44 books! That’s just wild.
We pride ourselves on only recommending books that we read, so we were scrambling to get the books read for our 2021 Christmas books list. Kirsten read 9 Holiday novels in 12 days!
Jackie was hard at work reading for our upcoming post on Dark Academia books, our recently published Witches book list, and trying to read upcoming book releases for the rest of the year!
Needless to say, October 2021 novel ideas truly covers all genres and has something for everyone.
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Kirsten’s October 2021 Novel Ideas Stack
Highland Games by Evie Alexander
I gushed about this on Instagram, but I’m gonna gush about it again here too. I love a good Scottish romance, which longterm readers know because of our Outlander book list.
This one has Zoe deciding to pack up her London life and move into the rustic, decrepit cabin on a castle estate her uncle left for her when he died. The problem is Rory, the castle’s caretaker, wanted the cabin for himself.
Rory starts messing with Zoe to get her to leave Scotland, but when he realizes he needs her help, sparks fly! This is the first in a new series about Rory and Zoe and their Scottish hometown.
It was charming, funny, STEAMY, and heartwarming. I personally can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
Thanks to Evie Alexander for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
Jenny Colgan is back with a stand-alone Christmas story about a failing bookshop and the woman that saves it. Carmen is stuck with no boyfriend, no job, and living at home, while her sister Sophie seems to have it all – beautiful house, great husband, a killer job, and 3 kids with one-more on the way.
When she realizes her client is going to lose his bookshop and home, she overs Carmen up for the job of turning the shop around, offering her a room at her house to boot.
But the long standing rivalry between the sisters is out in full force, Carmen seems to sabotage her own happiness in the romance department, and her bookstore boss might be hiding some family secrets that need uncovering.
A charming Christmas tale in true Jenny Colgan fashion, this heartwarming story also has some appearances from beloved characters from previous books.
Do you like Jenny Colgan stories? Check out our post of Jenny Colgan Books Ranked.
Thanks to William Morrow for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
This debut novel is billed as an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre but I think the Jane Eyre part is the least excited part of this fantastical tale. (Which is saying something!)
I’ve never read any YA Fantasy book like this one. The world building is so unique. Andromeda is an exorcist who cleanses households of the evil eye. Magnus Rochester is desperate to have the evil eye removed from his household but no other exorcist will take the job.
The chemistry between these two is intense and instant, the scenes of terror throughout the book are ideal for the haunting season, and the subtle Jane Eyre references bring the whole thing up a notice.
Looking for more classic retellings? Here are some of our favorites.
Thanks to Wednesday Books for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan
This is kinda like Love Actually in a bookshop. Nora and Simon’s bookshop is failing, but that doesn’t stop them from anonymously sending out 6 Christmas books to locals who need cheering up.
We see how their gifted books inspire changes in the lives of the recipients, how much their bookshop means to the community, and how all the of their lives intertwine.
I cried a few times while reading this heartwarming tale, but it deals with some pretty heavy subjects like death of a child and suicidal thoughts/depression. It’s really a wonderful book for the holiday season. Any true book lover will adore this Christmas tale.
Thanks to Putnam Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Her Honor by LaDoris Hazzard Cordell
While I’m always interested in the justice system, I often find non-fiction books about the topic to be dry, too technical, or just plain confusing.
But not Judge Cordell’s book which has a perfect balance of example based stories and explanation of legal issues without the legalese that can be confusing to those outside the justice system.
Her detailed antidotes about her life on the bench were compelling and troubling, drawing me in, and forcing me to see that our legal system needs work across ALL divisions.
I spent most of my time listening to this book, which is narrated by Judge Cordell, and I couldn’t pause it. I finished it in one day while ignoring life around me.
Thank you to Celadon Books for my review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Christmas by the Coast by Mandy Baggot
I had tears rolling down my face numerous times while reading this story. Harriet has flown into the Hamptons for Christmas to help arrange her beloved grandma’s funeral.
There, she bumps into Mack, a veteran amputee who used to correspond with Harriet during his time in Afganistan. As they begin to reconnect over various Christmas festivities, they deal with the heaviness of grief and ptsd.
Thanks to Aria books for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Looking for more Christmas Books for kids and adults? Check out our Christmas Books Hub for book club guides, book lists, book-related present ideas, and more!
Blame it on the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod
This is such a cute YA Christmas book. It’s a teenage version of The Holiday. In this story Holly and Noelle swap homes for a week around Christmas.
Holly wants to escape her ex-boyfriend, who is also her neighbor, and Noelle is out to win a social media challenge and prove herself as a teen influencer.
But as they get to know each other’s friends and family, their connection to each other grows too. And they learn a few Christmas lessons in the process.
Thanks to Source Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Always, in December by Emily Stone
I was blow away by this tear-jerking story. It was a romance story for the first 30% of the book, but then it becomes something much more deep.
Josie mails a letter to her deceased parents every Christmas, but this Christmas she accidentally hits a stranger named Max with her bike on the way to the post box.
As she explored the holiday season with Max her feelings start to grow, but when he leaves unexpectedly, she’s left to deal with the aftermath of the impact he had on her heart. But fate isn’t done their story yet as they bump into each other through-out the year.
Probably my favorite Christmas book of 2021, this one is tear-jerker for sure. I sobbed for the entire last 10% of the book. This book is a testament to the healing power of love and the kind of impact each of us can make on each other.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you are looking for a Christmas book that ends with a bow and smile, you may want to look elsewhere.
Thanks to Dell Publishing for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday
The sequel to A Princess for Christmas, is the love story of Leo and Marie’s man of honor (Max) and best woman (Dani). Dani is going through a divorce and Max begins to help her get over her ex in a strictly platonic way.
But as their friendship grows, their feelings for each other deepen. The beginning and end of the story feature lots of Christmas scenes in NYC and Eldovia. Plus we get to see Leo and Marie’s wedding!
I also loved the bi-racial relationship portrayed. It was fun to learn about Christmas traditions from Mexico.
Thanks to Avon for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Mistle Text by Whitney Dineen and Melanie Summers
When handsome, billionaire Archie is told he needs to go to his Godfather’s for Christmas, he hires Holly to be his personal Christmas shopper.
Holly is happy to accept the extra money as she’s been strapped for cash since her sister and brother-in-law died, leaving her to raise her 5 year-old-niece, Faith.
When Archie finds out his godfather is planning to announce the new head of the company, and he wants to name a family man the new heir, Archie begs Holly to be his fake girlfriend.
Thanks to Melanie Summers and Whitney Dineen for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
At a prestigious private school in New England, a group of kids known as “The Players” rule the school. They get top grades, get into the best schools, and rule the social scene.
But when one of the girls in the group is murdered, her best friend Jill begins to investigate who the real murder is and just how dark their privileged world really is.
Looking for more mysteries and thrillers set at schools? Check out the 21 books on our Dark Academia book list.
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
August 2021 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
A thriller that had me on the edge of my seat! Two best friends, Emily and Kristen, commit an accidental murder on vacation in Cambodia when they try to stop Emily from being sexually assaulted.
But the following year in Chile, it happens again. As Emily begins to suspect something is off with her best friend, she starts trying to distance herself from Kristen. But Kristen wants to keep Emily close.
With a narrator that is unreliable, because she can’t seem to trust her own instincts or memory, the twists and turns keep coming with this thriller. If vacation books are your thing, this thriller from books like People We Meet on Vacation is such a great pick. And, it is a perfect for books with unreliable narrators.
Looking for more books featuring unreliable narrators? 18 of our favorites can be found here!
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Wilder Girls is one of the most unique dark academia books I’ve ever read. Hetty has been quarantining at her boarding school for 18 months because their students have been infected by The Tox.
But soon one of her friends goes missing and Hetty takes matters into her own hands. This is considered an LGBTQ horror novel, it’s graphic and not for people who have weak stomaches.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
A moving memoir of life as a Chinese immigrant in America. Qian and her family moved to America for opportunity, but hurdle after hurdle is thrown in their way.
As her parents try to put food on the table, we learn about the immigrant experience through the eyes of a Qian as child. From her near constant hunger to trying to acclimate to her new school system, Wang writes in a way that makes the reader feel what she felt.
Truly a moving account of her early life. I challenge anyone to read this and not wonder how broken our immigration system is.
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
This is the most charming Halloween romance book about witches EVER. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it, but it’s perfect for the spooky season.
9 years ago Rhys Penhallow broke Viviane Jones’ heart and so she cursed him. Now he’s back in the town his family founded to infuse magic back into the ley lines but everything goes wrong!
As his curse takes over the town, Rhys and Vivi have to work to end the curse and restore the right magic back to the town…if they can keep their rekindled romance at bay long enough!
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre
This charming romance is perfect for Halloween! Danica is a witch hiding as a mechanic with her cousin, Clem.
Swearing to her grandmother not to fall in love with a mundane (non-magic man) so as not to lose her power is easier said than done.
She meets baker, Titus, and is instantly smitten. Can she casually date him or will she catch the feels?
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree
Wow. This is one of the best books I’ve listened to this year, and yes, I recommend it on audio for a few reasons.
First, the different narrators help tell this dual timeline story. Through one narrator, we learn about Ailey’s life as an African American woman in the 20th century. The other narrator tells the story of the female ancestors of Ailey’s going all the way back to her Indigenous, black, and white relatives from two centuries earlier.
Though Ailey and her ancestors, the weight of what it means to be black woman in America means. The sacrifices, injustices, struggles, and harrasments endured by Ailey and her kin in the present day and the past are explored with a depth so real, I forgot it was a fictional story at times.
The second reason this book is great on audio? It’s LONG. It clocks in at over 800 pages or almost 30hrs of audiobook time. The narrators sucked me in and those 30 hrs flew by.
I will say, this book made me consider my White Privilege in a way no non-fiction book could have. It’s a heavy story, but very worth the read.
For more of Oprah’s Book Club picks ranked, Check out this post.
The Christmas House by Victoria James
This heartwarming Christmas story deals with a few heavy topics, including childhood abuse and abandonment. Charlotte comes to her grandmother Ruby’s B&B with her sister and her mother for the Holiday Season.
She is shocked to see her old friend, Wyatt, has moved in next door with his daughter. But as her romance with Wyatt begins to bloom, dark feelings and sad memories stir for both of them.
This is not so much a Christmas romance, as a story about forgiveness and overcoming childhood trauma.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is the definition of a Beach Read. It’s set over one day at a party at a home on the beach in Malibu, CA.
The Riva siblings have thrown this party every year to mark the end of summer, but this year’s party is full of family drama, affairs, people swinging from chandeliers, and celebrities.
It’s frivolous and fun, but not TJR’s best work. Still, an OK TJR book is always worth the read.
For more of Read with Jenna Book Club picks ranked, Check out this post.
State of Terror by Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton
State of Terror is Hillary Clinton’s first book and she teamed up with mystery writing heavy-weight, Louise Penny to create an action-packed political thriller.
This story involves a Secretary of State globe-trotting to try to stop an impending terrorist attack from happening. In the process, we are privy to Louise Penny’s astute observations on human nature.
If you love fast-paced action based thrillers, this is a must-read!
L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón
This family drama covers a year in the life of the Alvarado family, consisting of Oscar, Keila, and their grown daughters.
SO much happens in this book including, infidelity, divorce, fertility issues, kleptomania, a brain tumor, hidden secrets, job losses, and climate change issues. It’s like a full on telenovela.
The best part for me, was the Jewish-Mexican representation. I honestly think this might have been the first Jewish Mexican-American family I have ever read about and I loved it.
For more Reese Witherspoon Book Club Picks ranked, check out this post.
My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand
The latest book by this writing trio is another historical fantasy with a twist. This time it’s Mary Queen of Scot’s story that gets the magic treatment.
Mary can transform at will to a mouse, but she needs to keep is a secret as shape-shifting is frowned upon. Can she be the Queen the country needs, win Francis’s heart, and keep her secret?
Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan
The Cafe by The Sea #4
This was definitely a happier book in the series than the last one. We get to see Flora and Joel’s new baby, check in with Fintan, and meet a new cast of characters as the residents of Mure prepare for the new hotel opening.
There were cute love stories, wrapping up of some longstanding plot lines, but also space for more books in the series to written.
His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal
The third installment of the Maggie Hope series sees our spy heading into Nazi Germany as a lure for a German operative.
We’ve seen Maggie come a long way since her days as Churchill’s secretary, but this is her first time in a truly dangerous situation and it deals with some heavy stuff. Looking forward to the next installment.
It Started with a Dog by Julia London
This charming little romance was a great audiobook to break up the heavier moments of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.
It’s about 2 people who accidentally switch phones on the way to their holiday flights. After texting each other over the week they are away, the soon start dating when they swap their phones back.
But soon they realize they are actually competitors who are each working to save their respective coffee houses in Austin, Texas. Will their love survive the coffee wars?
Freed by E.L. James
I’ve long stood by the face that Christian’s telling of Fifty Shades of Grey is far more interesting than the original trilogy and this book proves that even more.
We get all the scenes from Fifty Shades Freed told from Christian plus scenes we never got to see like his confrontation with Elena, what happened in the hospital when Ana was unconscious, his inner monologue about being a parent, his memories of his childhood… etc.
He’s by far the more interesting character, so it was fun to relive the series through his lens. This is guilty pleasure at it’s finest!
So, This is Christmas is by Tracy Andreen
A cute YA Christmas romance about Finley, who is home from boarding school and her classmate, Arthur, who shows up at her grandmother’s inn for Winter break.
Why is there? Because Finley told everyone all about the quaint town of Christmas, Oklahoma where she is from… but she exaggerated and now Arthur wants her create a Christmas he and his aunt will remember.
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A Spindle Splinter by Alex E. Harrow
This is the story of sleeping beauty like you have never read it before. Zinnia is turning 21 and it is the last birthday that she will have. She has a rare medical condition in which nobody has ever lived past twenty-one. Zinnia has always thought that she is a modern sleeping beauty.
Charm, Zinnia’s best friend, wants to make the last birthday special but, when Zinnia pricks her finger on the spinning wheel, she finds herself in another dimension with another sleeping beauty.
This modern Sleeping Beauty gives the power back to the women whose lives are stolen. It is a quick read that I absolutely loved because the women are no longer helpless.
Thank you Macmillian Audio for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
This dark academia book started out weird but intriguing. Catherine house is a very exclusive boarding school hidden in rural Pennsylvania. Every student accepted will have everything from books to clothes and food provided for them. The catch? They must leave everything behind for three years- and have no contact with the outside world.
As the story progressed, it went from intriguing to weird, to completely ridiculous in my opinion. The story took too long to build to keep my interest.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
I absolutely loved this book about Sunny, a twelve year old girl who lives with her parents and two bothers in Nigeria. Sunny is albino and teased for her looks.
When Sunny discovers that she is a “free agent”, someone with magical abilities whose parents are not magic, she enters a world she didn’t know existed. Sunny and her three fellow magical students must study and learn their abilities in order to stop the Black Hat Killer before he brings about complete destruction.
Unlike anything that I have read before, the story is woven beautifully.
You can find 26 more witch books here!
Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic Book 1) by V.E Schwab
In this historical fantasy, travel between parallel Londons is possible by powerful magicians known as Antari. Kell is one of the last Antari who lives in Red London and who serves as an ambassador. He is also a smuggler.
When Kell is robbed by Delilah, a pick pocket and petty thief, he is forced to bring her on an adventure as she always dreamed despite the life of death peril.
This is London like you have never imagined it before. The characters, while flat at first, begin to have more depth as the story continues.
Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick
I think Brian Selznick has an amazing mind to portray such a poignant story through a series of short stories. These come together with common themes and characters as the stories slowly overlap and intertwine. I think this is a beautiful piece of writing that will be completely lost on the younger audience to which it is intended.
This is NOT a middle grade book in my opinion. It is a piece of fantasy fiction that becomes increasingly sad as the whole picture becomes clearer. The relationship between two individuals over space, time, and dimensions is explored through love, loss and grief. This is one of the heavier books on this list.
For more books like this, head to our Ultimate List of YA Fantasy.
Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwall
Rosie and Ivory have grown up in their mother circus and are returning to Port’s End. It is a place closest to any home after years traveling. As the circus prepares for opening night, fundamentalists seek to stop the show for continuing.But, as the show begins, a massive fire strikes the tent and that is only the beginning.
This book is a queer re-telling of Snow White and Rose Red (not to be confused with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). It has been thoroughly reimagined and transformed in this book.
The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Flora and her brother are pirates on the Dove. In order to protect her identity, she has become Florian and is tasked with protecting Lady Evelyn on the ship until the time she can be sold.
Flora does not intend to fall in love with Evelyn and when the two free a captured mermaid, they change the fate of more than just her.
I am so glad that someone recommended this book to me. It is one of those books that really did not get the visibility that it should have. This book is so well written and is filled with magic while also exploring the power of love.
The Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I don’t know what took me so long to read this amazing book. I heard such great things and I did not want to be disappointed but, I was also afraid that it would be dark. Somehow, despite being about the god of Death, this was not a dark or heavy book.
Casiopea lives in her grandfather’s home with her mother where is is forces to clean. She dreams of leaving someday. When she accidentally frees the Mayan god of death, he attaches himself to her and she must go with him to free him from his brother’s curse.
I loved this book and its completely unique story.
Ski Weekend by Retkok Ross
This YA survival thriller had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it. I can see why it has won so many awards. Fair warning if you read it before a ski trip- you might want to wait until you get back!
Six teens and a dog go on a ski weekend but how many of them will return? When Sam, her brother, and 4 friends go on a ski weekend, the last thing they expect is to crash in a snowbank with little food and no cell phone reception. What would you do to survive?
For more snowy reads, head over to this post for 26 of our favorites for winter.
Thank you SparkPress and Blackstone Publishing Audiobooks for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
When Charlie Goodwin gets a concussion, and cannot smell or taste, she doesn’t know what to do. Her job as a chef and the promotion she has been working toward is on the line.
She begs her twin sister Cass to switch places like they did when they were kids. She will take over the bakery and Cass will pretend to be her.
This adorable holiday romance is just the book to brighten your day and put a smile on your face. How could we not put it on a list of novels about food?
Thank you Putnam for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Three Sisters by Heather Morris
Heather Morris did an outstanding job telling the story of three sisters who, against all the odds, survived the horrors of Birkenau together.
Heather’s storytelling is engaging and unputdownable despite the atrocities these sisters had to endure. The way these women supported each other and saved each other was both heartbreaking and wonderful. I spent half the book crying tears of joy and happiness. This is one of the books about sisters that is extremely emotional.
For more books about the Holocaust, check out this list.
Thank you St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio for my copies of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
Vanessa Price is a famous YouTube star whose life motto is to live life to the fullest every say. Her mother and sister but dies before they were 30. When she suddenly finds herself with custody of her half-sisters baby, life takes a spin in the other direction.
Adrian is the complete opposite of Vanessa. He is a lawyer who plans everything. When these two meet, they are just what the other needs.
I absolutely adored this book that will make you think about what you want out of life with a perfect dash of Romance.
Anticipation by Melodie Winawer
What a wonderful historical fiction that combines part of the amazing history of the Byzantine empire with science and some magic. This combination across genres also with the authors wonderful story telling was a hit with me.
The Story tells of Elias and his many lives over 800 years protecting the city he is connected with. IN 2015, Helen and her son have come to Green on a much needed vacation. The two stories come together beautifully.
For more Historical Fiction Fantasy Reads, check out this post.
Thank you Gallery Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Richard is one of a select group of six students who has been hand-picked to work under the guidance of a classics teacher names Julian Morrow. Richard is narrating the story and he begins by telling about the death of one of the students named Bunny.
As the story progresses, it is clear that this group of students ride the line of morality. The strained friendships and sexual tensions continue to push the edge until Bunny is killed.
This book was deeply disturbing and difficulty to read.
Still Life (Chief Inspector Gamache #1) by Louise Penny
I first read this book in 2018 just after we started the blog. I absolutely loved this book and have been reading each new one as it comes out. It pained me that my husband had never read any other these book so, on a recent road trip, we listened to this first book in the series.
This book was as good the second time as it was the first. Chief Inspector Gamache comes to Three Pines for the first time while investigating a murder. The characters are rich and this cozy mystery series is a must!
All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Seven families compete every twenty years over control of high magick. When the Blood Moon rises, the blood veil falls and each family chooses one child to compete to the death. The stakes are high and the prize is epic.
I loved this book and it left me simultaneously freaked out and wanting more. The parents in this book are brutal and willing to sacrifice their children willingly. It is perfect for fans of the Hunger Games.
Thank you Macmillian Audio for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
Laura is a romantic who is a lifestyle reporter. She specializes in segments in which people tell the romantic ways they met. Unfortunately, she has never met the guy and it doesn’t help that her parents’ love story was epic.
When she goes on a work trip to Jersey and picks up the wrong suitcase, she is hoping that this may be the start of her own meet-cute. As she travels around the island simultaneously uncovering parts of her parents story and searching for the suitcase man, she begins to uncover secrets as well.
This book was a perfect, imperfect romance.
Thank you Putman for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.