The weather is getting colder, and I don’t know about you, but the only thing I’m doing this winter is curling up with a good book. Now if only I could find a fireplace… In any case, there are plenty of books that are out or coming out soon. We’ve got holiday romances. We’ve got thrillers. We’ve got YA. We’ve got fantasy. We are mostly focusing on 2021, because my brain is not ready to come to terms with 2022 yet, but we’ve got a few 2022 releases. Point is, there should be something for everyone. Happy reading!
‘The Holiday Switch’ by Tif Marcelo (10/5/21)
I know this book came out in the fall, but it’s a holiday rom-com, so it counts for the winter list. In it, Lila Santos moonlights as an anonymous book blogger. During the holiday season, she works at the Holly, a local inn. (Very appropriately named.) But her holiday cheer gets a damper put on it when her boss’s annoying nephew, Teddy Rivera, becomes her coworker and they butt heads left and right. When Lila and Teddy accidentally switch phones one day, they realize they’ve both been hiding secrets from each other—secrets that change a lot.
‘The Holiday Swap’ by Karma Brown (10/5/21)
I promise I didn’t make a mistake! These are two different books. The Holiday Swap is about two identical twins, Charlie and Cass, who switch places. It’s like Parent Trap but without the parents. It all goes down when Charlie, a judge on a reality baking show, gets hit on the head and loses her sense of smell and taste, making her incapable of judging. Cass, meanwhile, is running the family bakery and dealing with her annoyingly persistent ex, so she’s more than happy to escape that life for a bit. Switching places gets complicated when Cass and Charlie each meet hot guys who don’t know they’re not who they say they are.
‘All Her Little Secrets’ by Wanda M. Morris (11/2/21)
Elice Littlejohn is kind of living the dream. She has a degree from an Ivy League law school, a job as a corporate attorney in midtown Atlanta, a solid crew of close friends, and a FWB relationship… with her white boss, Michael. Everything is going great—until the day Elice discovers Michael dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Elice keeps her mouth shut about what she saw and gets promoted to Michael’s job. But it’s not the dream come true she thought it would be, because Elice discovers some sketchy company business, which puts her in danger. Make that more of a nightmare come to life.
‘The Fastest Way To Fall’ by Denise Williams (11/2/21)
Emily Henry, the author of Beach Read and People We Meet On Vacation, called The Fastest Way To Fall “a true comfort read”, so I’m sold. We start with a romance between Britta Colby, who works for a lifestyle website, and Wes Lawson, a fitness app CEO-turned-personal-trainer. Britta’s personal trainer, to be exact. The problem? Britta is supposed to be reviewing Wes’ app, and Wes isn’t supposed to date his clients. Can their relationship work out? See what I did there?
‘Doctors and Friends’ by Kimmery Martin (11/9/21)
Calling all Grey’s Anatomy fans—Kimmery Martin is back with another medical drama. The novel was written before covid but might be a little too close to home: three med school friends reunite for a European vacation, but as they’re getting ready to set off, a virus sends the world into disarray. One is an ER doctor in NYC, one works for the CDC, and one is an OB-GYN in San Diego. All of their lives are thrown into chaos by the virus. Okay, what did Kimmery know??
‘Duke, Actually’ by Jenny Holiday (11/16/21)
Jenny Holiday is back with another contemporary holiday romance. It’s New York City during Christmastime, and Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is recently dumped, unemployed (what does a Baron even do anyway?), and on a deadline to find a royal-approved prospective bride. While in NYC, he links up with Dani Martinez, a smart and gorgeous professor he met at a royal wedding and struck up a friendship with. As they hang out more, and the holiday spirit activates, their friendship may turn into something more.
‘NOOR’ by Nnedi Okorafor (11/16/21)
Protagonist Anwuli Okwudili goes by AO, her initials as well as Artificial Organism, the name she’s given herself after a car crash forced her to undergo a number of body enhancements. When she’s attacked at a trip to her local market, AO goes on the run and meets a man who goes by DNA, and together they attempt to cross the desert to avoid capture. Not easy when you’re living in a dystopia where an evil capitalist government is controlled by an equally nefarious megacorporation.
‘Our Violent Ends’ by Chloe Gong (11/16/21)
The second in Gong’s NYT best-selling series is out. The YA retelling of Romeo + Juliet is set in 1920s Shanghai and tackles issues like imperialism, multiculturalism, and gender. In the sequel, Shanghai is teetering on the edge of a revolution. Juliette is out for blood, after sacrificing her relationship with her beloved Roma to protect him from the blood feud. But when the two are forced to work together to save Shanghai, their secrets may drive them apart.
‘When We Were Them’ by Laura Taylor Namey (11/16/21)
Willa, Luz, and Britton had a friendship that they thought would last forever—until Willa fucked it up when they turned 18. The week of high school graduation, all Willa has left of the friendship is a box full of mementos. As she goes through the box, she revisits their friendship and tries to figure out who she is without her best friends.
‘King of Battle and Blood’ by Scarlett St. Clair (11/30/21)
This book is all the rage on TikTok, of all places, and I can see why: it’s got vampires, murder plots, a love story, and a whole lot more. So here’s the plot. Most of us look forward to our wedding day (I hope), but Isolde Lara is not most of us. She considers it her death day. That’s because she’s marrying Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, the Vampire King, to end a years-long war. Once they’re married, she’s going to kill him—she thinks. But she doesn’t succeed and Adrian threatens to turn Isolde into a vampire if she tries to kill him again. But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, because there’s some definite chemistry between them…?
‘Bed Stuy: A Love Story’ by Jerry McGill (12/1/21)
In this novel by writer, artist, and activist Jerry McGill, an unlikely romance sparks between Rashid, a young Black man from Bed Stuy, and Rachel, a married woman who’s 20 years Rashid’s senior. Their budding relationship forces them to confront a number of issues, like race, class, privilege, and more.
‘A History of Wild Places’ by Shea Ernshaw (12/7/21)
Travis Wren gets hired by families of missing people to find them after their cases go cold. He takes a job investigating the disappearance of Maggie St. James, an author of macabre children’s books who went missing—and it ends up being his last. Travis disappears after heading to Pastoral, an insular community founded in the 1970s, and where Maggie was last seen. Years later, Theo, who grew up in Pastoral, finds Travis’ truck. Theo’s efforts to figure out what happened to Travis end up unraveling a whooole lot of secrets.
‘If This Gets Out: A Novel‘ by Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzalez (12/7/21)
In this queer rom-com, 18-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight aren’t regular teenagers—they’re one-half of the biggest boy band in America. But underneath the carefully made-up and hair-sprayed exterior, there are cracks in the group, and Ruben is tired of being forced to stay in the closet by management. On a European tour, Ruben and Zach’s friendship turns into something more, and they want to tell their fans they’re in love. But their management is standing in the way, and Ruben and Zach have to figure out how they can stay true to themselves.
‘The Love Con’ by Seressia Glass (12/14/21)
Kenya Davenport couldn’t be more different than her STEM parents—she loves anime, gaming, and cosplay, and dreams of being able to cosplay full-time. When she enters a reality competition called Cosplay or No Way, her dream feels that much further in reach… but there’s a catch. For the final round of the show, the contestants must compete with their significant others… but Kenya is single af. Her best friend Cameron agrees to be her fake boyfriend for the show. Two close friends faking a relationship for the cameras? What could go wrong—or what could go right?
‘The Sorority Murder’ by Allison Brennan (12/28/21)
Three years ago, sorority girl Candice Swain was last seen at a party, arguing with some of her sisters… and was never seen alive again. In present day, Lucas Vega decides to do his senior capstone project on Candice Swain’s murder. He produces a live podcast investigating the murder and teams up with former U.S. Marshall Regan Merritt. To everyone’s surprise, they start uncovering clues, which means they start angering someone who does not want to be found out.
‘Must Love Books’ by Shauna Robinson (1/18/22)
Book lover Nora thought she’d finally set out on the path to her dream job as an editorial assistant at Parsons Press, but five years later, she’s jaded, burnt out, and worse: facing a paycut. Nora decides to do a little work for her rival publisher to make ends meet, but when Andrew Santos, Parsons’ star author, enters the picture, Nora has to choose a side.
‘The Overnight Guest’ by Heather Gudenkauf (1/25/22)
In the summer of 2000, a sleepover with Josie Doyle and her best friend Becky turns traumatic when an unknown gunman kills Josie’s family. Josie’s life was never the same, and Becky hasn’t been seen since. Flash-forward to present day, and crime writer Wylie Lark is snowed in in the very house Becky and Josie were last seen in. As the snowstorm rages, Wylie gets an unexpected visitor: a young boy. Wylie tries to find out the child’s identity and parents, but he doesn’t want them to be found. The book alternates between the summer of 2000 and the present.
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What a year, huh? Thank god this flaming tumbleweed made of discarded trash has finally come to a close. And while I don’t think that the world just magically improved the moment the clock struck 12:01am on January 1, 2021, at least we have some things to look forward to, like all the good books that are coming out. From highly anticipated debuts to new works from fave authors, here’s what we’ll be reading in 2021.
‘Be Dazzled’ by Ryan La Sala (January 5, 2021)
This Queer YA romance is like Project Runway meets ComicCon. Raffy has a passion for fashion design and is determined to win the cosplay competition at ComicCon. He has some stiff competition, though: Luca, his ex, who broke his heart. Which would be bad enough to deal with, except the two end up partnered together for the contest. This is gonna get messy.
‘The Push’ by Ashley Audrain (January 5, 2021)
The Push just might be the book of 2021. Its TV rights have already been sold, if that tells you anything. Blythe Connor survived a traumatic upbringing, which has left her unsure if motherhood is the right path for her. When her daughter Violet is born, it only brings Blythe’s fears to the surface—especially since, from the moment Violet enters the world, bad things start happening. Blythe struggles to love and understand her daughter, who keeps pushing them away. When tragedy strikes her family, Blythe is forced to finally come to terms with who her daughter really is.
‘What Could Be Saved’ by Liese O’Halleran Schwarz (January 12, 2021)
Alternating between Bangkok, 1972 and present-day Washington, D.C., What Could Be Saved follows Laura and Bea Preston, two sisters dealing with their mother’s dementia, who are contacted by a stranger who claims to be their brother who vanished 40 years earlier. Laura flies to Thailand to meet him and ends up with a lot more questions than answers.
‘Wings of Ebony’ by J. Elle (January 26, 2021)
Elle’s debut fantasy is perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. Rue, a Black teenager in Houston, has her entire world turned upside down when she finds out she’s half-god. And just in time, too, because evil forces are trying to take over the world. Naturally.
‘Do Better’ by Rachel Ricketts (February 2, 2021)
Need another book for your anti-racism education? Pick up a copy of Do Better, which offers mindful and practical steps to dismantle white supremacy on a personal and community level. Ricketts combines her experiences as an attorney, grief counselor, and anti-racism educator with her certifications in yoga, Reiki, and mindfulness to provide heart-centered and spirit-based practices.
‘Finlay Donovan Is Killing It’ by Elle Cosimano (February 2, 2021)
This is part fun read, part suspense. Finlay Donovan is newly divorced, barely making ends meet after her husband ran off with his secretary (so cliche). She’s behind on her book deal and dodging calls from her agent. Until one day when she meets her agent to discuss progress on her new novel, about a hit man, and a rich housewife overhears and thinks she’s actually a murderer for hire. Finlay would chalk it up to a misunderstanding and go on her way… but the money the woman’s offering might be too good to pass up.
‘Girl A’ by Abigail Dean (February 2, 2021)
Lexie is known to the world as Girl A, after escaping a horrific childhood of abuse and rescuing her siblings from her parents’ house of horrors. She’s fine with that and prefers to leave her past in the past, which is usually easy since she relocated to the other side of the world, her father died, and her mother was sentenced to life in prison. But when her mother dies and Lexie is named the executor of her will, she’s forced to return and unbury her past, which means coming to terms with the fact that she and her siblings don’t remember their childhood the same way.
‘The Kindest Lie’ by Nancy Johnson (February 2, 2021)
It’s Chicago in 2008. Barack Obama is ushering in a new wave of hope. Enter: Ruth, Ivy League graduate and Black engineer, who’s about to start a family with her smart, successful husband. There’s one problem: Ruth can’t let go of feeling like she needs to make peace with the baby she abandoned as a teenager. She returns home to start digging into the past and befriends Midnight, a white teenager. When a traumatic event brings the town’s simmering racial tensions to a boiling point, Ruth and Midnight’s friendship—and lives—get pushed to the breaking point.
‘The Project’ by Courtney Summers (February 2, 2021)
Fans of Courtney Summers and Sadie can finally breathe now that her new novel is coming out. Just like Sadie, The Project has a true crime element, though this time we’re not just dealing with a missing sister, but a sister who’s run off to join cults. The cult in question is a group called the Unity Project, which has undeniably done a lot of good in the community. Some, in fact, don’t even think it’s a cult. Lo Denham, though, is determined to uncover The Project for what it really is. When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works at claiming the Unity Project killed his son, Lo just might have the chance to prove to everyone what she’s been saying all along.
‘The Removed’ by Brandon Hobson (February 2, 2021)
Ever since Ray-Ray was killed in a police shooting 15 years ago, the Echote family hasn’t been the same. They rarely talk about Ray-Ray and each member of the family muddles along in their own silo of grief. Their annual family bonfire is the one opportunity they get to talk about his memory. As this year’s bonfire approaches, each family member finds the line between the normal and spirit worlds blurring—to bizarre ends.
‘The Gilded Ones’ by Namina Forna (February 9, 2021)
I’ve literally been waiting for this book since 2019, so yeah, it deserves a spot on the “most anticipated” list. The first book in the Deathless series, The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a 16-year-old who lives in fear of the blood ceremony that will decide whether she can become a member of her village. But the blood ceremony doesn’t go her way, and Deka knows she faces a fate worse than death. That is, until a mysterious woman presents her with the choice to leave the village to fight the emperor with an army of girls who are just like her.
‘Quiet In Her Bones’ by Nalini Singh (February 23, 2021)
When socialite Nina Rai disappeared one night, everyone assumed she’d just grown tired of her life and run away. Until 10 years later when her bones turn up in the forest surrounding her tony neighborhood. Nina’s son, Arav, is determined to find out the truth—but suddenly nobody wants to talk.
‘The Lost Apothecary’ by Sarah Penner (March 2, 2021)
The past and the present meet in Penner’s debut novel. In 18th century London, a female apothecary secretly doles out poison to women who need permanent solutions for the toxic men in their lives. She has two rules: every recipient must be carefully tracked in her logbook, and she will never do harm to another woman. In present day London, Caroline takes a solo trip to London after learning of her husband’s infidelity, and ends up discovering a vial from the apothecary.
‘Too Good To Be True’ by Carola Lovering (March 2, 2021)
I could not be more excited that the author of Tell Me Lies is back, this time with a psychological suspense. Skye Starling seems to have it all: beautiful, smart, a doting boyfriend who proposes. What she doesn’t show is that she’s battled crippling OCD since childhood. And what she doesn’t know is that her devoted fiancée is anything but. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, Lovering will throw another curve ball at you.
‘The Jigsaw Man’ by Nadine Matheson (March 16, 2021)
Matheson is a criminal defense attorney-turned-author whose debut tackles race and sexism in the legal system. In Jigsaw Man, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is her unit’s sole Black female detective. She’s racing to catch an infamous serial killer and his copycat before more people turn up dead.
‘The Dictionary of Lost Words’ by Pip Williams (April 4, 2021)
Based on actual events, The Dictionary of Lost Words is set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement. As a group of male scholars puts together the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of the scholars’ daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they deem not suitable for the dictionary. The result is her own dictionary of lost words.
‘The Last Exiles’ by Ann Shin (April 6, 2020)
Inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a portrait of a young couple, Jin and Suja, who fell in love in university and whose relationship is put to the test by Kim Jong-il’s regime. Suja is an aspiring journalist from a well-off family, and Jin is from a humble family in a small village. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, he makes a split-second decision that will change the course of his life forever. Suja, knowing nothing about what Jin has done, risks her family, her privilege, and her life to find him.
‘You Love Me’ by Caroline Kepnes (April 6, 2021)
The third book in the Joe Goldberg series opens with Joe leaving city life behind and moving to an island in the Pacific Northwest to be one with nature. He gets a job at the library and that’s where he meets Mary Kay, the librarian. This time, Joe tells himself he won’t obsess or impose. But this is Joe Goldberg, so we all know what’s really going to happen.
‘Dial A for Aunties’ by Jessie Q. Sutanto (April 27, 2021)
What do you get when you accidentally kill your blind date? Well, most of us would probably get arrested, but Meddelin Chan’s aunties come to the rescue to help her, um, dispose of the evidence. All would be well except the body is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the billionaire wedding all the ladies are working. As if pulling off the wedding of the century isn’t hard enough, now the Chans have to do it without getting discovered in the process.
‘The Woman With The Blue Star’ by Pam Jenoff (May 4, 2021)
In Krakow 1942, an unlikely friendship forms. 18-year-old Sadie Gault was living in the Krakow ghetto until the Nazis liquidated it, forcing its residents to live in the sewers. Well-to-do Eliza Stepanek wanders the streets aimlessly after her fiancé goes off to war. When she spots Sadie hiding beneath a grate in the street, she decides to help her, and the two form a friendship that faces the most difficult of tests.
‘People We Meet on Vacation’ by Emily Henry (May 11, 2021)
If you loved Emily Henry’s aptly named Beach Read, get ready for another sizzling romance that will thaw your cold heart. Poppy and Alex are total opposites and best friends. They have a tradition of taking a trip together every summer, until two years ago, when it all went to sh*t. With her life going downhill, Poppy decides to throw one final Hail Mary and convinces Alex to take another vacation with her. Is a week long enough to fix everything that went wrong with them?
‘The Hunting Wives’ by May Cobb (May 21, 2021)
ATTN anyone who loves Big Little Lies, Mean Girls, and Desperate Housewives: May Cobb’s upcoming suspense novel is for you. Sophie O’Neill moves from her big-city life in Chicago to a small town in east Texas with her husband and young son. Looking for a little more excitement, Sophie meets Margot Banks, who is a part of an elite clique known as the Hunting Wives. She immediately feels drawn toward Margot and her mysterious world full of late-night adventures and reckless partying… until she lands in the middle of a murder investigation. Suddenly this group is not so fun.
‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid (May 25, 2021)
Author of the sensation Daisy Jones and the Six is back with a new novel about four famous siblings who throw an end-of-summer party where the roof is on fire… literally. Told over the span of one unforgettable night in August 1983, this novel has it all: love stories, secrets, sacrifices, and much more.
‘The Maidens’ by Alex Michaelides (June 1, 2021)
From the #1 NYT bestselling author of The Silent Patient comes the latest tale of suspense from Alex Michaelides. Mariana Andros knows the charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge, Edward Fosca, is a murderer. Except he’s untouchable—he even has a secret society of female admirers called The Maidens. When another body turns up, Mariana becomes determined to expose who Andros really is, no matter the cost.
‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1, 2021)
When two young Black women get jobs in publishing, the resulting novel is like The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out. 26-year-old Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner books, and when Hazel starts working next to her, it seems like a dream come true—until Hazel is promoted and Nella is left behind. Then Nella starts getting notes on her desk urging her to leave Wagner. It seems like obvious sabotage from Hazel, but as Nella starts investigating, she realizes there’s a lot more at stake than just her job.
‘Razorblade Tears’ by S.A. Cosby (July 6, 2021)
On the surface, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee have little in common. They’re both ex-cons, and when their sons get married, they become in-laws (who struggle to accept their sons’ relationship). When their sons are murdered, Ike and Buddy must move past their differences in order to figure out what happened.
‘Mona at Sea’ by Elizabeth Gonzalez James (June 30, 2021)
Mona Mireles is a millennial perfectionist who nonetheless finds herself unemployed, living with her parents, and single at the height of the recession in 2008. This isn’t a gripping page-turner, but it’s a witty and relatable read—perfect for vacation or the beach (provided we can go there in summer 2021).
Images: @laurachouette / Unsplash