My Top 10 books of 2021

So this is my last post of 2021 where I share my favourite books of the past year! I’m thrilled to have been sent some great books this year by authors and publishers but I am aware that I’ve not posted on here or even read as much as I have done in previous years so I do apologise. This has been due to a combination of things as my job has been full on this past 12 months plus I’ve had some health issues that meant I had to have surgery. Thankfully, I now have the all clear after the biopsies I had all come back negative which is a weight off my mind! But I’ve also had to cope with some mental health problems caused by coming off my HRT as it wasn’t until I was forced to stop taking it that I realised just how much it has been helping me these past few years. It’s been a real struggle so I took the decision to cut down on blog tours for a while and I also gave up one of my three jobs in school as I realised I needed to put myself and my family first and being exhausted wasn’t doing any of us any good!

Anyway, enough about me and back to the books!! I failed miserably in my Goodreads challenge of 200 books so I may need to rethink my target for next year! But I have still managed to read lots of books in 2021 and most of them have been absolutely amazing but I’ve chosen my top 10 favourites and those are the ones I’m going to share with you today-they aren’t in any particular order as they are all brilliant and all come highly recommended!

So I was flicking through Instagram on Saturday morning and I saw an ad for this book as it was on special offer at 99p. I followed the link and it seemed like my kind of book so I bought it and started straight away as I was just chilling on the sofa after my staff night out the night before! Well, I ended up reading it in the hairdressers chair in the afternoon, the queue for the chippy in the evening and in bed that night-not going to sleep until I reached the very last page. It’s not often I get so excited over a debut novel I had taken a chance on but The Girl Upstairs is fantastic! It’s just so beautifully written with a central character you are never quite sure about and another that is unraveled so carefully it was like unwrapping a delicate and fragile present. 

Suzie lives in a ground floor flat underneath Emily, a young woman in her early twenties. Emily is portrayed as a selfish neighbour-noisy and uncaring of those around her-but as we find out more about Suzie we come to realise that she is judging her actions without knowing much about her even though she appears to know EVERYTHING! But the devil is in the detail here and it’s not until Emily goes missing that the overheard lifestyle of the girl upstairs becomes a significant part of who she is but why she has suddenly vanished? Suzie is obsessed with finding out, so obsessed that there is obviously something in her own past that demands she investigates Emily’s disappearance herself when the police don’t seem very interested in helping…

I absolutely loved this book! It’s not fast paced or action packed but it creates a wonderfully atmospheric flow throughout the slowly revealed plot. It played with my emotions too as I realised I had misjudged some characters early on and the revelations when they came weren’t the ones I was expecting so I felt that element of shock as the shattering truths were uncovered. It’s a book I didn’t want to end and when it did, I felt momentarily bereft as though I had lost someone very close to me and I wanted to know where they are now and what they are doing! And, for me, that’s the sign of a brilliantly created fictional storyline-one that felt real and engaging throughout. 

A highly recommended 5 star read for me! 

The Girl Upstairs was published on 9th December by One More Chapter.

Oh my Goodness I feel like I’ve been thrown around in my tumble dryer for the last 3 hours!! Casey Kelleher second psychological thriller is heartstopping read full of twists and turns and I was glued to my sofa all afternoon reading it! It’s one of those books that you race through because you’re desperate to know what happens but as you near the end, you slow down as you now don’t want it to end! I had no idea when I started I’ll Never Tell just how gripped I would become by this brilliant book but by the end of it I knew that this is the authors best book so far! 

When Alessia starts receiving threatening notes and gifts, she knows straight away who they are from and why she’s getting them because many years ago Alessia and her friend did a bad thing…and that’s all you probably need to know about the plot of I’ll Never Tell because I am also NOT TELLING!! This book took me on an emotional and shocking journey with some mind blowing revelations as the narrative took me to places that I hadn’t been expecting to visit. Alessia was a complex character creation, perfectly crafted with a disturbing backstory that didn’t seem to want to leave her alone. As the ending approached I truly didn’t know what to believe until all the threads perfectly knitted together to give a stunning finale to Alessia’s story. 

A brilliant 5 star psychological thriller that is one of my December #hotbooks and I can highly recommend it.

I’ll Never Tell came out on 3rd December and is published by Bookouture.

I’ve read Gemma’s books before and I love her twisty, turny plots packed full of shocking revelations. Our Little Lies is co-written with Joe Cawley but thankfully it’s a seamless partnership that has produced a great psychological thriller that grabbed me from the very first page! 

At the start of Our Little Lies, we know that something terrible has happened but we aren’t quite sure what or why. Grace and Justin have a lot of history but what has happened to them both to get to this point? We find out that two years previously Justin disappeared from Grace’s life the very day she finally found out she was pregnant with their much longed for baby. And now he’s back on the scene but he still refuses to explain why. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one with secrets…

There are some really shocking twists in Our Little Lies and they aren’t all at the end of the book either! And because of where it’s placed, I think the first twist really does an absolutely brilliant job of letting the reader know that this narrative may not be the most reliable source of information about Justin and Grace! After the first time of literally picking myself off the floor, the shocks just kept on coming! The authors have crafted such a clever and unique storyline with characters that aren’t always likeable and possibly don’t always make the best decisions but where would the fun be in that! 

It’s not often that I’m left completely speechless by a book-I read so many that not much surprises me in the world of psychological thrillers-but I have to admit that I was left gobsmacked by the ending of Our Little Lies. But it was just the perfect end to this brilliant, breathtaking storyline told by fresh and exciting new voices. I hope Gemma and Joe collaborate again in the future as they have complimented each others perfectly with their debut, delivering a gripping storyline from start to finish. 

Highly recommended by me!

Lisa Jewell has delivered one of her best books EVER here, with an emotionally twisty psychological thriller that didn’t leave my hands from start to finish! It was a stunning read that slowly unraveled its beautifully written secrets with a heartbreaking story of motherhood, loss and identity. The female characters especially were relatable and likeable and I loved the contrast between Kim and Sophie and how, despite their very different family situations, these very different women complimented each other as they sort a mutual goal. 

The Night She Disappeared delivered so much more than I had been expecting. It was a mystery first and foremost but the backstory was so much more as we meet Tallulah in the days and weeks leading up to her disappearance. A teenage mum who adored her baby but who wanted so much more from her life, little realising that her dreams were going to lead her to make some very questionable decisions…

Emotionally draining to read at times but I was totally engrossed in each and every timeline of The Night She Disappeared. Insightful, powerful and haunting with a twisty plot that will have your jaw dropping-I loved it!

It’s no secret that I’m huge fan of Rebecca Griffiths’ writing and that I feel her books deserve a bigger audience so I was absolutely thrilled when I heard she had signed up with one of my favourite publishers Bookouture! And her new publisher also marks the start of a slight change in direction for her with this creative take on a real life criminal and his heinous crimes. In The Girl At My Door she has woven a tense and atmospheric fictional narrative around the serial killer John Reginald Christie, with imagined scenarios and characters who have been created to cross the path of this vile monster. 

From the very first sentence there was a sense of foreboding and, although I only knew the basics of the murders perpetrated by Christie before I read this book, whenever he was on the page he gave off a convincing realism that gave me goosebumps. I thought it was a brilliant idea to use him throughout this novel, silently stalking his potential victim and sharing in her personal tragedies as he looked for a way to indulge in his obsession. And when he finally becomes part of the chain of vicissitude, it has devastating consequences…

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this book. I became totally invested in the lives of Joy and Queenie as the friends unintentionally became the focus of attention for a man with no moral compass. The attention to detail is brilliant, both in the descriptions of the historical period it’s set in and the life of John Reginald Christie. The quality of the writing slowly draws you into this gripping thriller and it kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited to see how this dramatic chiller would play out and whether or not another victim would fall into the infamous rope chair.

Shocking, immersive and beautifully crafted, The Girl At My Door is a stunning book with unexpected twists and one of the creepiest portrayals of a serial killer I have ever read! I’ve also listened to the audiobook so if that’s your preferred reading choice then I have to say that you will be blown away by the narrators (I’ve never liked the word “moist” but after listening to the first 5 minutes of the male actor delivering Christie’s words, I never want to hear the word EVER AGAIN! ) 

Highly recommended by me!

Lauren North has taken a dilemma faced by every parent and woven a scarily realistic psychological thriller around it. It’s always a worry when you have to decide it’s the right time to leave your child home alone as it needs to happen for the first time at some point but here, that decision leads to an horrific situation both for Anna and especially her daughter, Harrie…

I loved the way the narrative was written here. We have Anna, a woman I think that everyone can relate to, making the decision to leave Harrie while she takes her youngest daughter to pick up Harrie’s twin from gymnastics. She knows that she’s seen as a worrier but her anxiety may be justified as her past is revealed and her present situation explained. And then there is Harrie. What happens to her when she’s left home alone? Why won’t she speak to her mother about it? And why is there a silver car now following her? Then finally, we meet Anna’s friends via their what’s app group. It’s here that we realise all may not be as we think as the group also has a secret “spin off” group that Anna knows nothing about! 

It becomes obvious when a newspaper reporter starts asking questions that the night Anna made her difficult decision has led to something quite shocking but we are kept in the dark about this till very near the end. In fact, there are so many twists, red herrings and secrets that I had absolutely no idea idea what had happened or why until everything was revealed! And that’s what I love about Lauren’s North’s books. She’s become one of those writers who is an automatic buy for me as I love the way she keeps me guessing throughout her gripping storylines. 

Safe At Home was one of my hot picks for September. It’s tension filled from start to finish as we become heavily invested in this family and their lives. I can highly recommend it!

This is probably going to be once of the most difficult reviews I write this year as I’m no writer and I know that I will in no way do this book justice. This Is How We Are Human is a stunning book-heartbreaking with an honesty and validity that sweeps the characters along with the broom of life-and it’s the best book I have read this year. I have to admit to having been a beta reader for Louise Beech when the book was in its infancy and it blew me away then but the polish applied by Orenda books has taken it to another level…

One of the reasons I read an early copy is because of the work I do. I obviously can’t go into details but most people who read my blog know that I’m a Teaching Assistant for SEN children and have lots of experience of autism in primary school aged children. And one of the toughest parts of my job is letting go when they move onto the next stage of their education. I worry about how they will cope with the outside world-will they marry, have children and what sort of job will they do? And I know that’s not for me to worry about but it’s part of who I am and what makes me so good at my job (which is a very bold thing for me to say considering I suffer terribly from Imposter Syndrome in most areas of my life!). So I can honestly say that Louise has written an authentic portrayal of autism and the needs and worries of those diagnosed as being on the spectrum. 

Sebastian, Veronica and Violetta are all beautifully drawn characters and I adored all of them for different reasons. Veronica just wants the best for her son and if that means finding him a professional to satisfy the very normal sexual needs of a young man his age, then that is what she will do. Violetta is a young woman who, like many others, is drawn into the “easy” money that prostitution promises although emotionally it ends up costing her far more than she is ever paid. And I defy anyone not to fall in love with Sebastian as he starts to find his own way in the world…

I had to read the last few chapters though my tears. Emotionally, Louise Beech gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME!! She is one of the best writers of her generation and her books just speak to me so profoundly that I don’t read them…I experience them with a welcoming intensity deep within me. It’s a difficult feeling to explain as Louise writes such different books with each one that she releases but I think that the title of this one explains what she does perfectly-she is able to define and channel what it is to be human within her fictional work. I have made no secret of the fact that I adore her books and am a huge fan but This Is How We Are Human is my favourite of her books so far. It’s just so beautifully written, perfectly crafted and made me cry…a lot! Due to Covid restrictions there hasn’t been an Orenda roadshow this year so Louise hasn’t been able to make me cry in person with her readings but once this is all behind us, I’m hoping that events will quickly get back to normal and I’m stocking up on tissues for when that day comes! 

A must buy for fans of Louise Beech…and for everyone who has had their life touched and enhanced by someone on the autistic spectrum.

The Nurse is a brilliantly dark and twisty book with some very disturbing themes throughout but I just have to start by telling you just how much I absolutely loved this book! I did something that I very rarely do the moment I finish a book and that was to send the author a message to tell her just how much her book had affected me and how much I had loved reading it. In fact, I read the whole book on a Sunday afternoon because once I started it there was no way I was letting it go until I had unwrapped all its secrets…and OMG there were plenty of shocking moments revealed as the storyline cranked up the tension towards the last few gripping pages. 

This is an intelligently plotted novel with a well crafted storyline told in the present with multiple flashbacks to the past. Rose Marlow, convicted murderer, opens up to writer Theo whilst she is in prison for a crime she has admitted to committing. But as Rose talks about her life, things come to light that may have some bearing on her conviction and Theo is convinced she is not a murderer. Their conversations were my favourite parts of The Nurse as I loved watching their connection build in that very difficult environment and how Theo becomes entranced by the woman he believes is innocent of murder. But we, the readers, are never quite as sure. Has Theo’s head been turned by a beautiful “woman in peril” with a hidden agenda? I didn’t know what to think as the author keeps us guessing as to how the past has influenced the present. The tapestry of Rose’s life unravels to lay bare some truly shocking secrets and when those threads finally come back together, I defy anyone not to be completely and utterly devastated and emotionally drained by the fallout. 

The Nurse is a brilliantly compulsive read but it’s more than that-it’s heartbreaking, haunting and harrowing; a powerfully crafted tragedy that slowly wraps itself around your emotions, tightening its hold on you until it’s impossible to catch your breath. I knew I would probably like this book (I’ve previously read Falling Suns by the same author so knew that she likes to tackle some very emotive issues) but I had no idea just how much I would become emotionally involved with these characters-their story overwhelmed me at times but I had to stay with them until the very end, no matter what happened…

This has to be one of my most difficult reviews to write as I know nothing I write will do this book justice plus I’m terrified of revealing spoilers! The Nurse delivered far more than I was expecting and is a book that I know will stay with me for a long time-just as Falling Suns did. A highly recommended psychological thriller that will keep you up till the small hours-you have been warned!

I love a missing/murdered child thriller (this makes me sound very callous but I’m a sweetie honestly!) and so I was immediately attracted to the blurb for When They Find Her. But I didn’t expect to be so swept away by a storyline that delivered something very special and refreshingly different to the normal formulaic plot-line. I don’t particularly walk to talk about the plot at all due to that as I would hate to reveal any spoilers and reduce the shock factors for readers that need to come to this book without any preconceived ideas. What I will say is that it’s a heartbreaking, tense and utterly absorbing domestic suspense with a first chapter that is shocking and unpredictable. And after that brilliant start, When They Find Her just gets better with each chapter until it reaches its breathtaking climax. 

So I’m sorry to leave you hanging a little but please believe me when I say you need to read this book especially if you have similar reading tastes to me! For a debut author, Lia Middleton has carefully crafted her characters and placed them in an horrifically unimaginable scenario that kept me guessing until the very end. Highly recommended by me!

This is probably going to be the most difficult review I’ve ever written and probably the shortest too! I would hate to inadvertently reveal any spoilers about this brilliant gothic chiller! I said recently during Tracy Talks over on Compulsive Readers that Viper Books have gone over to the “dark side” and this book was one of the main reasons for that statement! It’s taken me a few weeks to get my head around what I read and I’m still thinking about it now which is why it’s taken me that time to think about how I would review it. Unfortunately, I’m still no further forward so here’s a review that really doesn’t do the book justice but forgive me please! 

The Last House on Needless Street is a brilliantly crafted, disturbing tale narrated by Ted who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia. It’s also narrated by Dee who moves in next door to Ted determined to find out what happened to her sister who disappeared when she was six years old during a family trip. There’s also a third narrator who may surprise you…it certainly did me! 

I loved this book and it’s one of my top reads of 2021 so far. It’s shocking in its intensity and it will worm its way into your heart and mind. Highly recommended for those looking for an extraordinary, horrific but memorable thriller.

So all that’s left for me to say is Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from My Chestnut Reading Tree and Darcy-the cutest Cavapoo in Cheshire! I hope to see you all (back on here or in person!!!) in 2022.

Jo xx


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I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

20 thoughts on “My Top 10 books of 2021”

  1. Oh dear, it sounds like you’ve had a tough year. I hope things are going better for you now and wish you the very best for 2022. These books do look like just the thing to take your mind off nasty things! Or rather, distract you…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Hoping no more health scares ahead!! Will be reading lots over Christmas as most of my family have Covid so a reduced family Christmas for us.
      Wishing you a happy 2022 when it arrives!!


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