It's that time of year again for my annual list of favorite books from the Philbrick Hall Fiction Department at Parkway Central Library. It's been a hard year for a lot of people, and although I usually read around 350 books a year, I struggled to read just over 250 this year. Like before, I leaned heavily on comfort reads, so this list is full of romance. When the world is a scary place, the guarantee of a happily-ever-after is powerfully attractive!
Snapped (Playbook, #4) by Alexa Martin
My favorite sports romance of the year follows a Colin Kaepernick-type football player who takes a knee and the publicist charged with dealing with the situation.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
When Yadriel, a trans teen boy, is denied the chance to become a brujo in his family, he decides to do the ceremony himself. Unfortunately, he ends end up tethered to the ghost he successfully summoned. Now Yadriel and his friends need to solve a murder mystery and mend family ties before Dios de las Muerte in a few days.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
On Oona's 18th birthday she finds herself jumping through time each year, always into her own life at a different age. Spanning from the 1980s to the 2000s, Oona has to make a life when she never knows what the next year will bring...
The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3) by John Scalzi
The final book in Scalzi's Interdependency trilogy. Facing the collapse of the backbone of the empire and in the face of denial and conspiracy, Emperox Grayland plays one last gambit to save as many people as possible. The entire trilogy is a rollicking popcorn space opera. Start at the beginning and read them all in order.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
When a plus-sized fashion blogger complains about the lack of body positivity on a popular reality dating show, she is tapped to be the next star of the show. She goes into it as a business proposition, but "reality" is more complicated than she thought it would be...
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Clara finally does something impulsive and moves across the country to be with her childhood crush. But when she arrives, he ditches her and leaves her stuck with a random Craigslist roommate, who happens to be a porn star. Clara and Josh realize that they actually have a lot in common, and start working together to make the world a better place. A really fun romance.
The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal
In an alternate history where an asteroid crashed into the US in the 1950s and accelerated climate change, humanity needs to look outwards for survival. Astronaut Nicole Wargin is one of the few who move up to the moon base to prepare for a new wave of pioneers. This becomes a locked room mystery in space dealing with the politics and racism of the time. While this is the third book in the Lady Astronaut series, it can be read as a standalone.
Check, Please! - Book 2: Sticks & Scones by Ngozi Ukazu
Hockey player Bitty is now a junior at college and has a new secret boyfriend who is a professional NHL player. A sweet graphic novel about the most wholesome hockey frat boys ever.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Laurie's partner of over 10 years dumps her unexpectedly, but they still have to work together. So she turns to the time-honored tradition of finding a fake boyfriend to change the narrative. But fake relationships have a tendency to become real in romance novels...
The Iron Will of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, #2) by F.C. Yee
The second book of the Genie Lo duology. Genie has settled into her new life as the heaven appointed guardian of California. But when terrible destruction threatens from an alternate universe and the Jade Emperor goes AWOL, Genie needs to change the system to save the world. (Note: Read the first book, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, first!)
Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert #1) by Olivia Dade
A plus-sized fan-fic writer, the actor who plays the character she writes about on a hit tv show (think Game of Thrones), a very public date, and a whole bunch of secrets. A love letter to fandom. Utterly charming.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
There is an urban legend that in a small cafe in Tokyo you can travel through time. The rules are strict and the stakes are high. This is an intimate series of stories about everyday people who have been given the opportunity to look backwards into their own lives.
The Duke Who Didn't (Wedgeford Trials, #1) by Courtney Milan
Years ago, Chloe Wong told Jeremy Wentworth to not come back until he could be serious about life. A Victorian romance set in a small town full of Chinese immigrants, the quest for a secret sauce, and the importance of lists and laughter. And secret dukes.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Jasmine is a soap actress looking to become a leading lady. Ashton is a telenovela star hoping to break into English-language television. Thrown together on a new show, they agree to rehearse together to make it big. But private rehearsals lead to soap opera levels of drama as Jazmin and Ashton have to navigate their new world together in this behind-the-scenes romance.
Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
When Cleric Chih visits the site of the old Empress's exile, she learns about the hidden world of overlooked women and loyal servants who changed their world. A short and evocative novella of politics, love, revenge, rage, and conquest.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Luc is reluctantly famous because his parents are rock stars, which has caused him nothing but grief. He decides to get a nice stable boyfriend to rehabilitate his public image and finds normal, boring Oliver. But Oliver has reasons of his own for needing this relationship and this kicks off one of the funniest rom-coms of the year.
Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith
Although Divya and Aaron have their own problems in the real world, they find comradeship and a place to belong to while gaming online. When they start getting harassed and trolled, Divya isn't about to lose the one place where she feels like she belongs and refuses to go down without a fight.
Headliners (London Celebrities, #5) by Lucy Parker
It's time for an enemies-to-lovers romance! Sabrina and Nick host rival tv shows until they're thrown together on a struggling morning show and are forced to compete to save their careers. The clock is ticking and it looks like someone is sabotaging them, so Nick and Sabrina will have to work together in more ways than one to survive the Christmas ratings season.
A Dangerous Kind of Lady (Longhope Abbey, #2) by Mia Vincy
Another enemies-to-lovers romance, this one set in the Regency. Arabella has been rejected by her childhood betrothed, but due to her father's insistence that she marry and his fallback choice of the disgusting Scunthorpe, Arabella decides to ask her ex-fiance to help her out and get re-betrothed temporarily. This is a book for lovers of witty banter and burning down the patriarchy.
Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1) K.J. Charles
After coming home from the Great War, Will Darling inherits his uncle's used bookshop, as well as some shady business and the interest of the government. Thankfully handsome and charming Kim Secretan shows up to help him out. But Kim is more than he seems, and a web of lies and danger is starting to close around Will...
How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
Professor Naya Turner's department is on the chopping block and the man responsible for making the final decision just happens to be the one man she made an effort to be outgoing with (and ended up being an amazing one night stand). Academic politics, a past emotionally abusive relationship that's coming back to haunt her, and the perfect man at the worst possible time...
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Sloan lost her fiance two years ago and hasn't been herself since, but when she finds a runaway dog things start turning around. When the dog's owner finally contacts her from Australia, Sloan isn't going to give up her new friend without a fight. Tucker is on tour but wants his dog back, and their texts quickly turn to phone calls and more. But Tucker is a rising musician who might not have time or space in his life for Sloan and she does not want to risk having her heart broken again.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Addie LaRue tells a stranger in the woods that she wants to see the world and live forever. But the catch is that no one will ever remember anything about her the minute they turn away. It takes hundreds of years, but Addie finally meets a person who remembers her...
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, #1) by Naomi Novik
In a school for magical youth, the only way to graduate is to survive. El is a dark witch in the making, but with no one to trust and everyone out for themselves, she has to navigate the school and the world's monsters to not only come out the other end alive, but become a hero in the process.
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: And Other Questions About Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty
Mortician Caitlin Doughty answers questions from kids all about death, from rigor mortis to whether they can give grandma a Viking burial. Never condescending, always funny and accessible, this is a fascinating book about biology and mortality.
The Lord I Left (The Secrets of Charlotte Street, #3) by Scarlett Peckham
What happens when an evangelical reformer and an apprentice dominatrix end up on a snowbound road trip together? Henry and Alice might not like or respect each other, but they're stuck together and must grudgingly work together. A remarkable romance that is equally respectful of religion and sex work.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
Anna is a temp worker for supervillains, but when she is injured while on the job and fired without health insurance, she turns her focus towards revenge—with statistics. As Anna does the research, she discovers how much more destructive superheroes can be than supervillains and sets out to restore balance.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
When 14-year-old Mona finds a dead body in her bakery, her comfortable life is shattered. With an assassin stalking the city and a plot to overthrow the Duchess afoot, Mona's small magical ability to make bread rise and gingerbread men dance might be all that stands between her city and total destruction.
Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5) by Martha Wells
Murderbot is back with its first full-length novel! When Murderbot's human associates are captured, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action. Inertia might be more attractive, but sometimes even a Murderbot needs to save the day.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Linus Baker is a minor bureaucrat working with orphanages for magical children. When he is sent to Marsyas Island and Arthur Parnassus's orphanage, the secrets he finds there will upend his life. A book about found family, love, and the Antichrist.
You can see all of my favorites from past years, as well as many other Staff Picks and recommendations from other librarians, through our curated lists in our Library Community!
I'll see you back here in 2021 with all the books that made me happy throughout the upcoming year!