Top Reads of 2021/ aka TRENTY AWARDS

I read about 30 books in 2021. This is a modest number, but one that I am proud of because 2021 was a busy, challenging year. I homeschooled my two kiddos for over half of 2021, job hunted/worked two new jobs, left work unexpectedly due to a family tragedy, published my debut novel, and got my second novel off to the races with my amazing developmental editor, Deborah Halverson. BTW, Deborah literally wrote the book on New Adult novels. Check it out.

Rather than recap everything I read, I thought I would share my top reads of 2021. Pretend you are at the TRENTY AWARDS–a swanky, if disorganized gala that I host yearly in my head where rose-gold Trenty statues are handed out by me and my cat. I may get weepy over here, because I don’t think I would have survived 2021 without these books. They were my escapes. Some were challenging and heartbreaking. Most were just pure comfort. All are so very deserving of their Trenties. So let’s get started!

The winner in the Shelfie Bestie category…

The Match by Sarah Adams

When you write books, knowing your comps is crucial. It’s a lesson we all learn early and well in the query trenches. So when I set out to see who I’d be virtually shelfed next to in the contemporary rom-com world, niched down into sweet romance, I found Sarah Adams. Happy day! Her books are fun, delightful, sweet, life affirming, and following her author journey on the gram is a joy. I’ve read quite a few of her rom-coms last year and will probably reread quite a few this year, but my favorite of hers so far has been The Match. Read it in a single sitting. Had to buy myself a sundress, even though it is winter here in Colorado, and fantasized about adopting a golden retriever afterwards. My babies were both born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and so this story set in Charleston felt like I rediscovered a little bit of home. Highly recommend for anyone needing a sweet romance.

The winner in the Favorite Bookstagram Recs category…

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

When you haunt bookstagram (which I started doing when I was getting my indie publishing ducks in line) you come across new releases. I saw Twice Shy pop up a few times. And then a few weeks later, I walked into my local library and saw it on the “new in fiction” shelf and brought it home with me. I was so glad I did. This is a delightful book, so fun to read, with a very satisfying ending. Recommend for the 18 and up crowd.

The winner in the Up All Night Reading category….

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

After enjoying Twice Shy I googled to see if Sarah Hogle had any other offerings out there, and quickly ordered You Deserve Each Other from my library (I love my library).  I read it in a single sitting, and stayed up until 4 AM to finish it. It was worth it. I loved this book. I should probably buy myself a copy. Highly recommend for rom-com enthusiasts. I laughed out loud. I teared up. Lots of fun. I actually don’t remember if there are any spicy scenes in the book… Def for an adult audience due to thematic elements and humor that would be wasted on the young. LOL. I’m still laughing right now over ***SPOILERS.***

The winner in the Right Time & Right Place category…

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

This book makes my list because of what happened while I was reading it. One: It was the first vacation we took since Mr. Trent’s terrible car accident/the pandemic/homeschooling/etc. While I was doing a ton of reading out loud to my kids, it had been months since I read anything for me. Anyway, we were headed on a kitschy road trip to Mt. Rushmore, and I decided to buy an ebook just for fun, just to enjoy, just for me. Two: While on this vacation, I got an email from my aunt (read on for more about her), who suggested I self-publish rather than spend another year languishing in the query trenches. “I’ll help you. You can do it. Why don’t you?” she said. I was still reading this book (turns out when you are sightseeing and driving, there isn’t a ton of time to read) when we returned from our road trip. I was on our back porch. Mr. Trent joined me and said, “Babe. I’ve been thinking we should do something for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Let’s publish one of your books. What do you think?” Immediate tears and kisses is what I thought. So… The Unhoneymooners has made my list because through association to this special, sweet, and important new beginning for me. Plus Hawaii!!!

The winner in the BookTok Made Me Do It category…

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Requested from my library, took every ounce of my patience to wait my turn, and I dropped everything when I got the hold notice (TikTok, I blame you). I had so much fun reading this book. Couldn’t put it down. I’m such a sucker for grumpy/sunshine, but what I loved best was the voice/narrator. Not many contemporary rom-coms are written in third person limited and the voice of this narrator was delightful perfection. It totally enhanced the nerdy, sciencey good-time. Note: once upon a time I worked at the Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Lab, and so it was lots of fun for me to read a rom-com set in this world. Adult content for language and a steamy bedroom scene, not suitable for the YA crowd.

The winner in the Favorite Reread category…

A Rogue of Her Own by Grace Burrowes

My aunt and publisher is the incredible Grace Burrowes, the best regency romance author ever, and yes, I will fight you on that one. My favorite book of hers is A Rogue of Her Own. I was lucky enough to beta read this one back in the day, and had such a happy time doing it. I’ve learned a whole lot about craft from Aunt Grace, and I often reread her books to hone my skills. LOL, and because they are wonderful! Every time I read Rogue, I get so emotional at the end because ***spoilers*** and then ***SPOILERS!!!*** I know everyone has a favorite Grace Burrowes novel (there is a delicious, extensive backlist to choose from), but this is mine. It’s a great place to dive in if you’ve never read any of Grace’s books.  

The winner in the Literary category…

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe captures in metaphor what it means to be a woman and, more specifically, a mother better than anything I’ve come across. Miller is a genius who has woven Greek myths into a single, beautiful story that is as relatable as it is entertaining. Circe, the goddess and our protagonist, is the kind of every-woman hero that affirms that every woman is in fact a goddess—not because of talent, beauty or birth-right, but because of the sheer will and work that each of us exert daily, hourly for the people we love. Beautifully written. Absolutely a must read. Highly recommend for the 15 and up crowd (not for anything salacious, but for complex and layered themes and one scene of heartbreaking violence).

In the Middle Grade category we have two Trenties to hand out…

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

I read this books to my children. I frequently had trouble reading because I just wanted to curl up and cry. This book tackles hard challenging topics of food insecurity and homelessness. Yet the book from the very beginning is whimsical and magical. This book will break your heart, but also rebuild it. Beautifully written. Highly recommend for any age.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Another fantastic read aloud to my kids. Highly recommend! We quote this book all the time now (Burma Shave!). It’s a beautiful, important, but also challenging read–you’ve been warned. One of my favorite parts of this story is when our heroine, Deza, finishes her new favorite book and screams for joy. Representation matters. (Aside: we were watching this trilogy last night, and I started crying because here was a heroine saving the galaxy, smooching the boy, and that representation didn’t exist when I was a middle-grader and I wish it had!!!) I’m looking forward to finding more amazing books by more amazing, diverse authors this year! Please share with me your favorite BIPOC authors!

The winner in the I Wrote It category…

Cover art for "My Cosplay Escape"

MY COSPLAY ESCAPE: A ROM-COM by me

Publishing a book means reading that book well over a thousand times. I read My Cosplay Escape a lot this year. It’s a silly, fun, fluffy, escape, and I love it. I have a favorite scene, which is surprising to me because I wrote all the scenes and like all the scenes, but the family barbeque stands out in the “I smile whenever I think about it” category (but I can’t give it two Trenties because I’m not an awards hog). I think it might be because I’m always hungry. I think it might also be because of an “Easter egg” that I love about Mr. Trent that I hid in that chapter.  

And so concludes the annual TRENTY AWARDS. Thanks for coming! Sorry about the cat hair and tears.

What were your favorite reads and rereads of 2021? What books helped you escape? In what categories did these books sweep your year-end awards gala???

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