Ultimate Beach Reads 2021: The Hottest Summer Reads
*UPDATED Ultimate Beach Reads 2023 is HERE*
It’s almost summer! Spring is in the air, but as the weather warms up I immediately fast-forward to planning my summer reading. Why? Because I want all the 2021 Beach Reads!
We like to pick books that are engrossing enough to hold our attention but not so complicated that we need to think too hard. After all, we still want to be able to put it down to explore the beach!
Also, no tear-jerkers! We know you don’t want to be seen sobbing in public like Kirsten did when she read Me Before You on the beach one summer. People looked at her like she was crazy!
Before we get into Ultimate Beach Reads 2021, did you see our Summer Reading Bingo game? Check it out at the Beach Read Hub.
Ultimate Beach Reads 2021
This year’s list of Ultimate Beach Reads features all the books we’ve read in the past year that we think are perfect for the beach. Each book features a quick, honest review and they are separated by genre.
To easily navigate Ultimate Beach Reads 2021, use the links below to navigate to your preferred genres.
Fiction / Historical Fiction / Women’s Fiction / Romance / Thrillers / Mysteries / Fantasy / Non-Fiction / Young Adult Fiction
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
Fiction Beach Reads 2021
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Steven Rowley is a writer who has mastered the art of storytelling. With his signature wit and humor, this book tackles love, loss, and growth.
When Patrick’s sister-in-law dies and Patrick’s brother needs to go to rehab, Patrick takes custody of his niece and nephew for 90 days. Patrick is basically David from Schitt’s Creek with snark and sass. He treats the kids like mini-adults in the most delightful way.
I am such a fan of Steven Rowley and each book provides depth and insight into people at their best and worst. While this is a book about grief, you will find yourself laughing out loud multiple times throughout. It’s a poignant reminder of the importance of family. If you have not read this contemporary fiction book yet, what are you waiting for?
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel is all about 2 families who own a resort in the Catskills and are thinking of selling or overhauling the Golden. This is the ultimate in family drama books.
Three generations of the Goldmans and Weismann clans have gathered to make the decision and family secrets are unspooling left and right in the midst of goat yoga, comedy shows, and salon catastrophes.
It was a pleasure to read it while staying at the Hyatt on the Chesapeake and experiencing some resort life of my own. This is on our list of 52 Best Books for Book Clubs to Read.
One Two Three by Laurie Frankel
I had really high hopes for this book because I loved her last book. I enjoyed this book about the Mitchel triplets who nicknames each other One, Two and Three. 17 years ago Bourne’s water turned green and now, the town is fully accepting of the differences in many of the children born in the aftermath of the poisoned water.
I liked this book but, for me, it didn’t have the same pull as Frankel’s first book.
Thank you Libro.fm for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Girls with Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier
Girls with Bright Futures was gifted to me by @bookmarked and it is a total page-turner! What happens when a group of entitles parents are all fighting to get their kids into the most prestigious universities? Backstabbing, jealousy, and doing anything to get their kids ahead.
I was shocked by what people were willing to do but not so shocked that every page of this book could not be true! However, this book is more than just a fast-paced race to the finish. It has heart, and emotion and had me rooting for the underdog. I couldn’t put it down! My favorite read of this year so far!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is a library that has books filled with the infinite possibilities of the lives not lived. Have you ever wondered about a choice, or a path not taken? When Nora finds herself in the library she is forced to face the choices that she made in her life- relationships, education, profession…This is a magical book and I loved every minute of it
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
June 2020 GMA Book Club Pick
I adored Bennett’s debut book The Mothers so I was nervous to read her sophomore novel. Sometimes the next novel doesn’t live up to the first, but The Vanishing Half totally does.
The premise of this book set in the 70s is so unique. Two black sisters who are so pale they can pass for white. One embraces her black heritage and her hometown, the other disappears into white suburbia.
When they meet up again 20 years later through their own daughters, the result is a stunning portrayal of the ties that tether us to our families. This is one of the must-read books about sisters and family drama books! It is also an amazing book for book clubs because there is so much to discuss.
Cobble Hill by Cecily Von Ziegesar
This book explores families in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn and is a more mature look at NYC. The families and their stories are interwoven in a gossip girl like way, but the similarities end there.
The struggles these families experience range from eccentric to serious, but they all feel very real and relatable. These could be your neighbors or friends and that’s what makes it so enjoyable!
A Star is Bored by Byron Lane
A Star is Bored is a funny, yet poignant look at the life of a celebrity personal assistant. Charlie miraculously lands his dream job as a personal assistant to Kathi Kannon, Hollywood royalty, he is sure that he is set for life.
As Kathi and Charlie embark on trips and shopping sprees, they become more than just an employer and her enamored employee. What a great first book by Byron Lane who was once a personal assistant to Carrie Fisher.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Oh, how I loved this book. I have never read anything like this before. Miss Benson is a woman who has dreamed of finding the Golden Beetle of New Caledonia all her life. She finally decides to embark on the trip of a lifetime- which is no small accomplishment.
Her assistant on the trip is a very unlikely companion named Enid. With her bright clothes, blond hair, and huge personality, she is the opposite of Miss Benson in every way. This story is touching, endearing, funny, and, at times, sad. It will leave you wondering why a beetle expedition isn’t a more popular subject for books. Rachel Joyce is a wonderful writer and this book did not disappoint.
Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu
I’m obsessed with Destination Wedding. It’s a wonderful read for wedding season. I knew very little about Indian weddings but now I’m dying to be invited to one! They sound like so much fun! This book takes place in India, but the main character is American-born.
The author touches on racism, and what it means to be an American-born child to parents who are from India. The feeling of not being at home in either location is explored in a way that I found very relevant today. I actually highlighted a few lines because they were eye-opening to me.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
We did an entire post about Sex and Vanity because it’s just such an escapist read! It’s lighthearted and fun which is perfect when you want to take your mind off the doom and gloom of the world we currently inhabit. Like Crazy Rich Asians, this book features the over-the-top world of the wealthiest 1%, but it also deals with harder topics like microaggressions and racism.
The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman
Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I was going into a family drama like The Vacationers by Emma Straub, but it opened with a murder. I literally sat up at that point and thought “well, well, what have we here?” It was a dynamic family drama with secrets, lies, and tension…and the whole time I was trying to figure out who had committed the murder and why. I loved it!
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
I’ve seen many mixed reviews on this one, but for me, it was a reflective read about what it means to be loved, and the memories that scents hold. The premise of a little girl growing up on an isolated island learning about scents had me picking up the book, but the hard-life lessons she learned along the way kept me flipping the pages.
2021 Historical Fiction Beach Reads
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
Well I was not expecting this doozy of a book. Chanel Cleeton’s Cuba book series is wonderful, but this one left me with mixed feelings.
I love the Florida Keys setting of this story and the elements of this Hurricane novel. I was not expecting the domestic abuse one woman experiences (I mention this as it might be a trigger for some,) and while I liked most of the plots, I wasn’t a fan of the mobster storyline. 🤷♀️
Still, it was a fun read for a stormy summer day at the beach.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton
This is the closest of the books like Daisy Jones and The Six. It’s told in an interview format and is about a band from the 70s. The comparison makes sense… and yet…
This 70s book is wonderful in its own right! No comparison is needed. It looks at sexism and racism in the music industry during this time period and is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. It is a total must-read. This is one of the full-cast audiobooks that we included in our Ultimate List of Feel-Good Books to Brighten your Day
The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin
Wow, did I love this book. Grace has always wanted to live in London and finds herself working at a bookshop as WWII looms on the horizon. Grace’s new found love of books, the store and the friends who have become family, become the glue that holds her together during air-raids, blitzes and nights spent in darkness.
Love books about books? Check out our post here.
The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden
Well, this was a juicy bit of royal historical fiction!!! I had no idea that Crawfie, Queen Elizabeth II’s governess wrote a book about their time together later in her life, essentially banning her from the royal fold.
This work of historical fiction is based on the information gleaned from that book as well as Mary Crawford’s own history. It was so interesting to see the lives of the Queen and her sister through the eyes of their governess. This is perfect for royal lovers!
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig
This is an incredible novel about the women of Smith College who went to help French war victims on the war front. The band of 15 women in this novel is based on the 18 real-life heroes of Smith College.
These ladies started from scratch to help those ravaged by war only to have the war come back and destroy the lands around them again. But they never faltered in their quest to help the war-torn villages of women and children impacted by the war. The book gives a well-rounded feeling of what these women needed to do to save the lands and the people.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn does it again with this story about 3 female code breakers working during WWII. Beth, Mab, and Osla’s stories each could have been their own book, instead, we got an epic tale of intertwining friendship with a spy mystery to boot!
Oh, and did I mention that Osla dates Prince Philip before he marries Queen Elizabeth II AND that part of the storyline takes place in the lead-up to the royal wedding?
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
I really like this book but it was not what I was expecting- it was so much more. I thought the book was about Florence Adler. I was very wrong. This book takes place in the United States just before WWII. Every summer the Adler’s rent out their house in Atlantic City. Florence returns from college so she can spend the summer practicing to swim the English Channel. When Florence dies in a tragic accident, the family decides that they cannot tell Florence’s sister who is in the hospital on bed rest after losing a child a year before. I loved the writing, the story and the desire to keep family together at all costs.
Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul
Excuse my whole I gush about Gill Paul‘s newest book, Jackie and Maria. Gill Paul is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. I loved Another Woman’s Husband and The Lost Daughter, about the Windsors and Romanovs respectively. Paul’s take on a new dynasty, The Kennedys, is equally compelling.
Most people know about Jackie’s life during her White House years, but hearing the tale of what caused her to marry Aristotle Onassis was fascinating. I loved the dual narrators of Jackie and Onassis’s long-time lover, opera singer Maria Callas. It’s a perfect novel about music!
The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull
Lady Thelma Furness was the woman before Wallis Simpson. History remembers Wallis as the woman for whom King Edward VIII giving up his throne. In this book, we get to see King Edward’s relationship with Thelma and why it unraveled leading him into Wallis’s arms.
Thelma is herself the aunt of Gloria Vanderbilt and a great-aunt to Anderson Cooper. There was a lot of juicy info in this historical fiction. It is one of my favorite books about royals.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
What a wonderful book for historical fiction lovers. Set just after WWII, a group of unlikely friends come together to save Jane Austen’s cottage. A movie star, a farmer, a doctor, and a widow all have personal struggles to overcome. Over the course of the book, the society is able to save more than just the cottage. I felt like each of the characters were personal friends by the book’s end. It was a lovely read to rekindle hope.
The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
This historical fiction story takes place in the Bahamas during WWII. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are prominently featured, though the main story revolves around the murder of a man named Harry Oaks, life in Nassau, and the romance between the female lead and her beau.
There is also a bit of a flashback-type story that plays out in parts too. It’s a lovely little royal novel that had me flipping pages quickly and kept me entertained by the pool.
The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper
I don’t think enough is written about Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was a dynamic lady who was a guiding light for her husband, King George, as well as Queen Elizabeth. This book focuses on her work behind-the-scenes during WWII.
We get an inside look at the issues between her husband and his brother, King Edward, who abdicated to be with Wallis Simpson. Churchill’s relationship with the then Queen consort is also examined. We love the unique perspective of this pick from books about WWII.
Women’s Fiction Beach Reads 2021
Haven Point by Virginia Hume
What a wonderful read. I truly can’t explain how much this book swept me away to Haven Point as I learned about four generations of the Demarest family.
This story focuses on the great-grandmother, grandmother (Maren), mother, and daughter (Skye) as they spend their summers in the waspy coastal town. Secrets unfold, loves bloom and fade, and the ties that bond are explored.
A wonderful beach read with heart, I hope you take a chance and get swept away too. It’s one of the best family saga books I’ve ever read.
Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis
Well, this book was such a treat! It takes place at a seaside resort over one fateful weekend. We get a glimpse into the lives of the various guests and what brought them to the resort.
Oh and did I mention it opens with a woman falling to her death by the resort pool? Was it a murder? Was it a suicide? Was it an accident? And which of the guests is the victim?
It’s a light read perfect for the beach. Check out more beach reads at our beach read hub!
Goodbye, Lark Lovejoy by Kris Clink
This is the perfect feel good read for a hectic week. Lark Lovejoy is a 38 year old widow with two young boys. She decides to move back to her hometown and try and move forward with her life.
Will she have the guts to start winemaking as she always wanted to do before becoming a lawyer? And will she finally find a way to be happy again?
Lark did not expect to meet a younger man with his own difficult past. Despite sad moments and difficult topics, I found this book thoroughly enjoyable and difficult to put down. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!
Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey
There are so many things that I love about this book and I cannot wait to talk about them all with Kristy on April 12th! It is rare to find a book that can bring me to tears on page 10 and keeps me turning the pages. I read this book in a day because I just couldn’t put it down.
This is a love story that has depth and tackles difficult topics like infertility without being too overwhelming. I LOVED this book.
Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmonson
Thanks to Graydon House for my review copy. All opinions are my own. As soon as I realized this was a retelling of Sense and Sensibility, I knew I had to read it!
This version is set in D.C. and the key characters are involved in politics. It feels very appropriate post-election. I loved seeing the connections back to Jane Austen’s original work. It’s probably one of my favorite retellings of this particular story.
Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin
A funny bit of women’s fiction, this story revolves around a playgroup on the Upper East Side and their music teacher. As each of the moms in the playgroup struggle with aspects of marriage and motherhood, their guitar-playing musician has a different set of problems. The drama in this book could rival an episode of RHONY for sure, but that’s what made it so delicious!
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
This is my favorite Hilderbrand book to date and it is an emotional story is a tear-jerker for sure. At the end of her life, Mallory asks her son to make a phone call. The person who answers the phone is McCloud whose wife is the front runner to become the next POTUS. The story follows a unique love that spans a lifetime – one weekend each summer, for 28 years to be exact. 28 summers redefine what it means to be a soulmate. This is one beach read that you need to purchase this summer
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
I thought I was reading a light-hearted romance about a young woman and her grandmother switching places to reset their lives (and find love.) Instead, I found a story that was more about dealing with grief and finding your own happiness. Yes, there was a little romance, but this book was about heart IMHO. It was a wonderfully heartwarming tale.
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies: A Novel by Vicky Zimmerman
It is such a feel-good book but a fair warning- reading this book will make you very hungry! Kate’s life is no exactly where she thought it would be months before her 40th birthday. Her job is not secure and she has had to move back in with her mother after yet another break with her boyfriend. What she finds is a grumpy, smart and very smart 97-year-old lady named Cecily. The two ladies begin an unlikely friendship that will change them both forever. This book is charming and delightful.
The Chicken Sisters by K.J. Dell’ Antonia
December 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
This is another winner picked by Reese Witherspoon! This was an enjoyable family drama based around two sisters competing in a fictional reality tv food competition.
As the competition turns to tricks and sabotage, the sisters’ war with each other turns ugly. Family secrets just keep getting exposed and the hijinx gets better and better. This was the perfect light read to end 2020 and a perfect pick for a list of books about sisters. If you are looking for books about food, this should be on your must-read list.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
I generally love Reese’s book club picks. This particular one was billed as a Ghanan version of Crazy Rich Asians, a book I adored. There is gossip, and glamour, and lots of family struggles. The story focuses on Afi’s struggles in her arranged marriage, which is frustrating and fascinating to read.
2021 Romance Beach Reads
People we Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Do you believe Harry (from When Harry Met Sally) when he said “women and men can’t be friends.” ?
We are sure that he’s wrong, but one of our favorite tropes is friends to lovers. People We Met on Vacation is the latest beach read from Emily Henry and it’s addicting.
Poppy has been best friends with Alex since a car ride home from college a decade ago. Since then, they’ve gone on vacation together every year until 2 years ago when it all came crashing down.
Will they recover their friendship with one more trip or will their relationship be irrevocably ruined? This is the perfect beach, poolside read, or vacation read. You should be sure to add it to your summer reading romance books list.
To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows #2) by Martha Waters
I loved to Have and to Hoax so I jumped at the chance to read this book and I loved it!
To Love and To Loathe was exactly what I hoped it would be- funny, entertaining, and a great romance. It does not follow the same formula as the last book which makes it all the more enjoyable as something fresh and new.
But don’t worry, you will see some of your favorite characters from the last book. I love the characters and I love the book all the more because of that.
Thank you Atria for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Act your Age Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3) by Talia Hibbert
This is the third book in the Brown Sisters trilogy and I adored this romance. Eve Brown is a mess. She switches jobs and careers on a whim and can’t seem to do anything right. When her parents cut her off and tell her to find a job, she finds herself at a bed and breakfast interviewing for a chef position.
After Eve accidentally hits the owner of the B&B with her car, she begins the job helping Jacob, the reluctant owner. This steamy romance was a perfect one-sitting read and perfect for our list of enemies-to-lovers books. These two really have a lot standing in their way.
500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan
This is Lissa and Cormac’s story and it’s one of the more unique romances I’ve read. Lissa and Cormac are both first responders who end of switching places.
Cormac heads to the hustle and bustle of London and Lissa heads to quiet, sleepy Scotland. They correspond via email and text without every having seen each other.
This book also deals with organ donation and transplantation in a lovely, meaningful way.
The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn
I watched the show and LOVED it so much. I previously read some of the others in the series but I really wanted to read this first book in the Bridgerton book series and I have to say, it was my favorite.
There is something about Daphne and Simon that I adore. This book is a perfect historical romance. The Netflix book adaption smashed records and caused a boom in book sales.
Daphne Bridgerton is the fourth of eight children and is beginning her first season in the ton. As young women of marrying age search for a husband, Daphne is not quite like other girls. When the eligible Simon Bassett suggests they fake-date to allow them both a chance to breathe, things do not always go as planned. And to make matters more complicated, Lady Whistledown always seems to know the truth and the information ready for everyone to read.
Are you a fan of Bridgerton? We’ve got a list of books like Bridgerton you will love!
The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George
Like most of the rest of the world, I binged Netflix’s Bridgertons on Christmas Day. The regency romantic drama ended and I needed more! I immediately turned to this book to fill my need for a historical fiction romance. It comes out 1/26/2021 but it’s worth a preorder if you love these types of books. It takes place in the Gilded Age when a Duke needs to marry an American heiress to get her dowry to help restore his estates to their former glory. The problem is, the heiress in question isn’t so easily wooed….or is she?
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is one of the best romance books I have read in a long time. What could be better than a romance about writers? January is a romance writer who no longer believes in love. Until she was 28, she led an idyllic life filled with the ideas of perfect love.
Augustus Everett is a literary fiction writer who has never believed in love. They could not be more different. When they find themselves living next door to each other they decide to help each other overcome their writer’s block by challenging each other to a writer’s duel. This might be my favorite pick from our list of enemies-to-lovers books. Emily Henry books never disappoint!
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Samiah Brooks becomes an unwilling internet sensation when she discovers her boyfriend is dating two other women. Instead of drama or fighting, Samiah, Taylor, and London form an instant tight bond of strong, smart, independent women and I absolutely loved their relationship with each other. The three women make a pact to spend the next six months bettering themselves and perusing their dreams and supporting each other.
Samiah has been thinking about developing a new app for years. Cue: a gorgeous, smart, and thoughtful new co-worker whose chemistry with Samiah is undeniable. I loved so many things about this book especially the candid discussions about the struggles of a black woman in the workplace and the strong, supportive women in the book.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
This was such an adorable LGBTQ 🏳️🌈 romance. When Luc, the son of two rock stars, needs a boyfriend who is respectable in order to keep his job, he is willing to fake a relationship. Oliver Blackwood is a barrister who needs a boyfriend to bring home to his family.
It is a perfect situation until fake starts to feel real. Despite the fact that the two men could not be more different, they just might be the perfect Ying and Yang.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
I got this cute romance from a friend for Valentine’s Day. The story is about a wedding calligrapher who predicts a marriage between a couple will be a mistake. In writing. On their wedding program.
When the wedding gets cancelled, the groom comes in demanding answers. It was a great romance!
The Ex-Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Thanks to Berkley for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I picked up The Ex-Talk because I wanted to read a romance by a Jewish author. I loved that this one featured a biracial, interfaith couple.
The concept was cute – two radio show hosts fake a relationship to try to get ratings. Except they are pretending they already dated and broke up… which eventually leads to them actually dating. It was a cute, easy read. This is an office romance novel that is perfect for books like The Love Hypothesis.
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I read How to Walk Away and enjoyed it but I did not feel as strongly about it as so many people did. This book is a romance that takes place in a very unlikely setting. Cassie is a firefighter who has spent her life doing what she loves while blocking out and personal relationships. When she decides to go live with her estranged mother to help her, her perspective on life starts to change.
Ties that Tether by Jane Igharo
I love that contemporary romance writers have started writing novels that have meat. This book deals with death, family heritage, interracial relationships, and pregnancy in ways that knocked my socks off. I was really impressed by how I could get romance vibes while still having a thought provoking read. I can’t wait to see what Igharo writes next.
The Marriage Pass by Briana Cole
I read this book as my February Reading challenge book about addiction. Darian is a rich and successful doctor who can never have too many women in his life, despite the fact that he is married and loves his wife Shantae. When she proposes the idea of a marriage pass to celebrate their one year anniversary, he cannot pass up the chance to have his night with Shantae’s younger sister. The one night turns into a messy affair that will have Dorian grasping to get back the control he craves. Thank you Sparkpoint for my copy of this book.
Float Plan by Trish Doller
This romance follows the romance script with perfect predictability which means that it is perfect if you are looking for a romance. Note: there is a suicide in this book that might be a trigger for some people and you should avoid this book if that is the case for you.
Even though there is some heavier elements, I didn’t feel that the book ventured too much from the typical romance path. I enjoyed it.
Thriller Beach Reads 2021
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
What an amazing thriller. Alex Michaelides did it again! This book was insane with twists and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat and my heart beating a little faster!
Mariana is a therapist who is still grieving the loss of her husband when she gets a call from her niece, Zoe. Zoe’s best friend Tara is missing and Zoe is afraid something has happened to her.
One by one, When women start dying at Cambridge and Mariana gets deeply involved as she tries to solve the mystery. This Addicting Dark Academia Book is perfect to read before this book becomes a tv show.
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
The good sister is a psychological thriller that will keep you on your toes until the very end. Fern and Rose are twins who have always had each other. Rose is the responsible one who has always looked out for Fern.
Fern has trouble reading social situations, doesn’t like loud noises, and makes dangerous mistakes all the time.
Rose’s most important job was protecting Fern from their crazy mother. When Fern decides to have a baby for Rose, secrets start to come out. This is one of the books about sisters that will keep you guessing until the end and even then, you’ll be thinking about this book.
Too Good to be True by Carola Lovering
This is one of the most enjoyable thrillers I’ve read in a while. Even after I was surprised by twist after turn, the story kept moving in an unexpected direction. I love a thriller that I not only did not expect the ending but that I actually like some of the characters and where the story ends.
Skye Starling is engaged to a handsome older man who seems to be the answer to her crippling OCD. When Skye realizes that Burke is actually happily married and is using Skye, the story starts to twist and turn.
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
I’m calling it now. This is the best thriller of 2021. I love making sweeping statements like that, but it’s true! I devoured this book in one sitting and it kept me guessing the entire time! I listened to it, so I can tell you that it is EXCELLENT on audio. The story is a thriller retelling of Jane Eyre set in modern-day Alabama. I loved seeing the similarities to the original classic, but also how Hawkins took liberties to make the story fresh.
Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
I absolutely loved this thriller. There were many twists and turns that I just did not see coming! I gasped out loud on more than one occasion as I watched this creepy book unfold. It’s easily one of my favorite thriller books of the year. I did not see the ending coming at all!
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Home Before Dark is Sager’s latest book and it’s a great one! I love a good thriller, especially this time of year, and Sager never disappoints. This time the author takes us into a literal haunted house. I loved reading Sager’s take on the traditional haunted house story. I was unable to figure out the various mysteries and I wasn’t able to read it late at night!
His and Hers by Alice Feeney
There are two sides to every story and this one had me guessing until the last page. I had to go back and re-read. Anna Andrews works at the BBC and has her dream job as an anchor until she doesn’t and she will do anything to get it back.
When she has to return to her hometown to cover murders that are centered around her, nothing could complicate the situation more…..until her ex-husband is the lead investigator. Oh, and he knows the first victim as well. This book is a puzzle that isn’t complete until the last page
2021 Mystery Beach Reads
The Push by Ashley Audrain
January 2021 GMA Book Club Pick
This is a domestic noir that will scare the pants off most mothers. It’s compulsively readable.
Blythe Conner comes from a long line of bad mothers, but she’s determined not to be one. When she has Violet, she struggles to connect with her.
The reader is left wondering if Blythe is a mother who sees the worst in her child or if there really is something off with Violet. Something that even her husband can’t see. There is a reason this domestic thriller was chosen by GMA. It is that good.
Her Three Lives by Cate Holahan
Her Three Lives focuses on Jade and her fiancé after they have been attacked after a home invasion in her private life. Jade is an influencer and she keeps the invasion from her public following.
She also keeps her secret life from her fiancé, but as his PTSD has him growing more paranoid, he starts to distrust her. Will she be able to keep her secret private for long?
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Marie Benedict is the master of bringing women back to life in her historical fiction novels. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is my favorite to date and I found it hard to put down.
In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. She re-emerged as mysteriously as she disappeared and more questions than answers persist.
Benedict does a wonderful job of building the mystery and using her brilliant imagination and bringing us into the world of Agatha Christie. It is the perfect blend of fiction and mystery.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
A murder at a wedding. On an isolated island. In the middle of a power outage. Yaaaaaaaaas. This is an unputdownable thriller. The murder sets the scene and then we get the story in flashbacks without knowing who is murdered until the end. I’ve become v picky about thrillers recently and this one is hands down my favorite of the year so far.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
I was expecting a true thriller with this story, but it was more of a mystery. Diana is an aloof, strict parent and mother-in-law, but no one expected her to be murdered. Lucy, her daughter-in-law, struggles to understand why Diana acts the way she does, but the readers get a chance to see into Diana’s thoughts and we realize that her intentions aren’t quite what they seem on the outside. I fell in love with the story of Diana and Lucy’s relationship. The mystery of who killed Diana and why was the cherry on top of this delightful story.
The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett
This cozy murder mystery was an absolute treat. I loved
Together they figure out who was behind the murder at Windsor Castle during one of the Queen’s Dine-and-Stays. This pick from books about Queen Elizabeth II is perfect for fans of Maggie Hope, Maise Dobbs, and the Royal Family.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
I read this cozy mystery in one day. Maisie Dobbs is not your typical PI and she is the most unusual detective in this list of detective books. For a start, she is a woman working as a PI in 1929.
She is smart, thoughtful, and fun to read. This book will hit just the right spot if you are looking for mystery books or feel-good books to read. I cannot wait to read more books in the series.
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
Cate and her family have moved into a new neighborhood while their house is restored. Reports of assaults start to show up in the papers and it puts everyone on edge. Owen is a 33 year old man who lives with his aunt who does not hide her dislike for her nephew. He has never had a girlfriend and is a bit socially awkward.
Saffyre is a girl who lives with her uncle. She suffered trauma as a 10 year old and receives years of therapy from Cate’shusband Roan. He never uncovers the truth about her trauma and discharged her from therapy after three years.
The story takes a long time to develop and I had a hard time reading Cate’s part of the story because as a reader I wanted to yell at her to wake up. However, once the story really gets going, it is full of twists and turns which are classic Jewell style.
Fantasy Beach Reads 2021
Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey
Did someone say Harry Potter for adults?
This YA fantasy book is about a magic school and a chosen one wrapped up in a murder mystery with a not-so-lovable PI, Ivy Gamble.
Ivy has never had magic unlike her twin sister Tabitha. When Ivy is hired to investigate a murder at the school where Tabitha teaches, two worlds come together and Ivy must confront her past. This book was such a fun read.
Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
I was so excited when I learned that Netflix was making this into a series. I think it will be amazing on screen and I am so curious to see if they keep to the book or change things, which is so often the case.
Alina Starkov is an orphan who has never excelled in anything. When her regiment is sent into the fold and her best friend is in danger of being killed, she unleashes a power, unlike anything anyone has seen. It may be the answer to the wars that have ravaged her nation.
If you love this book, be sure to check out our post Books Like Shadow and Bone or Leigh Bardugo Books in Order: Complete Guide to 18 Amazing Books. It’s one of the most popular Netflix book adaptations.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Addie LaRue is trying to escape a life of marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love. She makes a deal with the devil to live a life free and unknowingly gives away the ability to be remembered by anyone. For three hundred years people forget her the minute she is out of sight until she meets Henry. I loved this book from the first sentence. It’s a total must-read.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
I had not heard of it but, it was recommended to me from a few people. The story sounded great and the cover was so beautiful that I could not resist. I absolutely loved this book. The story has just a touch of magic but somehow seems to relevant. Linus baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. This story was so much more than the sum of it’s parts.
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
I was utterly addicted to this tale of a witch, Louise, and a witch hunter, Reid, who must marry. Louise must keeper her identity as a witch secret from her new husband, but that’s easier said than done. The enemies-to-lovers story gave me all the feels. It’s the first book in a series.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
Have you ever loved a book so much that you couldn’t put it down but also didn’t want it to end? That is how I felt about book!
In 2004 Lara Barnes’s fiancé disappears on their wedding day. As Lara searches for answers, she starts to unravel a family mystery that goes back to 1925. This book has everything. It’s a dark fantasy filled with mystery, disappearances, and magic. I don’t want to give more detail because I don’t want to spoil any part of this book- it is my favorite fantasy of 2021 so far!
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik
I LOVED this book. I have never read anything like it and Naomi Novik is a wonderful writer who brings this story to life. I have never thought of magic in the way that Novik creates it in this book. For every bit of magic, energy is needed and the user can choose to create the energy or take it.
There are no teachers and no contact from the outside world until you either graduate or die. El is trying to get through school but unlike the other students, she is fighting her destiny of destroying half the planet with a single spell. Picture Harry Potter meets the Hunger games. I loved this dark, funny and well written fantasy.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
If you love A Court of Thorns and Roses, this is the perfect book for you. It is another fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I read it for a buddy read with some bookstagram friends. I really enjoyed this book although it is definitely a lot tamer than the other books in the series. It is not a typical retelling with more of a love triangle but, I don’t want to reveal more. It’s the first in a new series and I cannot wait to get the sequel.
The Extraordinaries by T.J Klune
Nick Bell is the most popular fanfiction writer of the Extraordinaries. When Nick has an unexpected encounter with Shadow Star, his superhero crush, Nick decides to become a superhero. With the help of his friends- an eclectic group of teens, Nick will do almost anything to become an Extraordinary if his ADHD doesn’t take him off course. This book was laugh-out-loud hilarious. I loved this YA coming of age story
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
If you have read the Hunger Games then you hate Coriolanus Snow. But, how did he come to be the ruthless ruler of Pam-am? This book takes us back to the morning of the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games. Young Coriolanus is the mentor for the female tribute of district 12- the lowest of the low. Now, their fates are entwined as his success in the capital will be determined by her success. This was not as good as the original trilogy; however, it provides enlightenment, insight and so many answers. I really enjoyed the book,
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
I absolutely loved this prequel to the amazing Practical Magic. The Owens women have a centuries old curse that started with Maria Owens in the 1600s. With her amazing ability to weave a story, Alice Hoffman has once again written a book captured my heart on the first page. Part historical fiction and part love story, this book had everything that I wanted from a prequel.
The Librarian by Christy Sloat
This is the perfect book for fans of Outlander! When Emme’s grandmother dies, she agrees to take over Gram’s library despite plans to head to college abroad. When she opens a book from Gra’s special collection, she finds herself face to face with Jack Ridgewell in 1892 England. Emme is part of an elite group of women who can travel to the past through books. This brings a whole new meaning to book boyfriend.
2021 Non-Fiction Beach Reads
Come Fly The World by Julia Cooke
In this delightful book, we learn about uniforms, training, frolicking adventures, and the glamorous life in the air that had me picturing Gwyneth Paltrow in View From the Top.
It also discussed far more serious topics like hijackers, Vietnam war flights and rescues, and issues of discrimination toward women.
We talked with Julia about the research of this book, what surprised her most, and other fun things over on IG. Be sure to check it out.
Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story by Erin French
My first celebrity chef memoir was not at all what I was expecting and I loved it! I found myself thinking of Erin as a friend while reading this story. I rooted for her, cried with her, and had so many food cravings it bordered on ridiculous.
I was not anticipating that this would be a story about redemption, finding inner strength, and perseverance, but that’s what it was. It’s a story of a mother’s love, a woman overcoming addiction, and a damn good cook who finds herself planting roots where she least expected it
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
My mom recommended this book to me for a feel-good book and it was exactly what I needed. Sy Montgomery is a naturalist who explores consciousness through amazing stories of animals- particularly Octopuses.
The lives of these shy, amazing animals are unlike any other animal on the planet. These intelligent animals with such distinct personalities are the backdrop for this wonderful feel-good, non-fiction book.
The Other Side of the Coin by Angela Kelly
I had royal fever this month while working on our Royal Reads post, so it’s no surprise that when my library hold for this autobiographical audiobook came through, I dove right it.
Angela Kelly is the Queen’s head dresser and long-time companion. She details her process for dressing the queen, talks about some iconic looks, and even reveals a few personal stories about her time with her majesty.
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
This narrative non-fiction deals with the unbelievable, true story of the Galvin family. The family consisted of 12 kids, 10 of whom were boys, and 6 of those boys ended up with schizophrenia.
The book discovers how each child’s illness immerged, what the dynamics were like in the hold, as well as the trauma many of the children experienced. The look into the changing landscape of psychiatry was also fascinated because it changed so much over the course of the boys’ lives.
All Boys aren’t Blue by George M Johnson
I love George M, Johnson’s voice as they talk about very difficult topics in such a way that the book is completely relatable to everyone. Everyone knows that memoirs usually aren’t my preferred genre but there was something about George’s story that had me hooked from the first sentence.
This book is eye-opening and profound. It made me think about things from a different perspective and I was captivated by the story throughout the entire book. This non-fiction book is so captivating, it reads like fiction.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
I love Lauren Graham because, in my mind, she’s Lorelai Gilmore. So the fact that this book was billed as a memoir that revolved a great deal around my beloved show had me signing up to listen. I found Graham’s rise to stardom to be an interesting one, but it was the behind-the-scenes look at Gilmore Girls that had me truly enthralled. I loved that she went back and binged it all, filling in her memories and sharing little anecdotes. We don’t learn much about her private life, but it satisfied the fangirl in me regardless.
Young Adult Beach Reads 2021
Tokyo Every After by Emiko Jean
What a fun quick book by Emiko Jean. I feel like this book was one part Princess Diaries and one part Crazy Rich Asians.
Izumi Tanaka does not feel like she fits in as a Japanese American in her mostly white California town. When she finds out that her unknown father is actually the crown prince of Japan, she is determined to meet him.
This book about royalty was an entertaining and light summer read that will satisfy your desire to escape into a royal getaway.
Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli
Kate and her best friend Anderson have communal crushes that work well when they are from afar but not so well when the crush comes to school and joins the school musical.
Matt Olsen was the cute guy to crush on from camp who now had the potential to come between Andy and Kate. Will their friendship be able to withstand heart ache and will Kate be able to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight?
Becky Albertalli captures the angst of high-school and heartache with perfection.
Thank you Book Spark for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
American Royals by Katharine McGee
I finally got around to reading this YA royal romance! I’m a huge royal romance fan, and this book has been sitting on my shelf forever! The story set-up is this. What if George Washington had become America’s monarch instead of its president? How would his descendants be ruling the country today? I mean. What a fun plotline! This book was pure fun and honestly would make for a perfect beach read.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
I loved this unique Peter Pan story that had me thinking about the true meaning of Neverland and the stories of the lost boys. Wendy Darling and her parents have never been able to move on after her brothers disappeared mysteriously five years ago.
Wendy has no memories of the 6 months she was gone and no explanation for why she came home and her brothers didn’t. Now, as children start to go missing again, it feels too similar to be a coincidence. This is a smart, well-written, well-thought-out, twisted Peter Pan story. This pick is perfect for a list of the best fantasy books for teens.
Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
Ahhh. This was just what I needed. A little bit of Paris, a little bit of ballet and a perfect romance to go with it. This book reminds me of one of my favorite movies- Center Stage- but set in beautiful Paris. It made me feel like I was there and I couldn’t put the book down.
This is a perfect YA romance and is a cute YA pick for books set in Paris!
Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young
I’m not the resident fantasy girl, but HOLY YES BATMAN. This story of a bad-ass female pirate was incredible. Normally, I only like fantasies if they have a strong romantic element. But in Fable, I found myself drawn in by our namesake character and the vivid world description.
Well done, Reese with this sailing novel
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
When it comes to books set in Italy that are escapist reads, this one is tops! In addition to offering a perfect description of all things food-related (yum), there was a sweet romance included.
It was like a double scoop of happiness. There are two more ya romance books in the series and I think I would like to indulge in both! The Netflix book adaption is a charming one.
You Have a Match by Emma Lord
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, she does it to support her best friend and secret crush, Leo. She doesn’t expect to find an older sister she never knew she had. To find uncover the entire story and get to know her green
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis
When 16 year old Emmie sends her name and email address attached to a red balloon, it travels over 100 miles and leads her to Lucas. Now 14 years later, Lucas is getting married. The problem? Lucas is her best friend who she is also in love with.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
After hearing a lot about this particular story, I quickly snatched it up, and let me tell you, the hype is real. This story is set in Philly (which I love) and features a Black woman of Caribbean descent who is entering into her senior year of college. Emoni wants to be a world-class chef but struggles with pursuing her passions in the kitchen while balancing the responsibilities of having a toddler. It’s a true coming-of-age story that is as delicious to devour as the many recipes described in the book.
What if It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
This book falls perfectly into that category. I enjoyed this YA romance that checked all the boxes for a feel-good light read. Ben is in the post office with a box of his ex-boyfriend’s stuff. When Ben and Arthur have a meet-cute in the post office, Arthur thinks it’s a sign or is it? Will he get another chance with this cute stranger from the post office?