Books we loved in 2021

It’s that time of year again! Well, yes, Santa is coming and we’re turning the page on another rough year. But we’re talking about books! And not just any run-of-the-mill books - our favorite books we read in 2021! 

Here you will find the favorite books that the staff at Upper Sandusky Community Library read in 2021, including why we loved those books and links for you to check them out yourself. After you’ve taken a gander at our favorites, let us know on Facebook and Instagram e best books you read in 2021!

"The Haunting of Leigh Harker" by Darcy Coates

What it’s about: Sometimes the dead reach back… Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep. Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined. A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbors dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape. Do you think you’re safe? You’re wrong.

Why Miss Patti loved it: Who is the one being haunted? Who’s the ghost? Excellent plot twists and turns!

Check it out >> Library

"The Drowning Kind" by Jennifer McMahon

What it's about: Be careful what you wish for. When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined. In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

What it’s about: It’s hard to keep my attention and this book just sucked me right in. I couldn’t put it down. Psychological suspense, little bit of supernatural elements.

Check it out >> Library | Libby

"The Haunting of Brynn Wilder" by Wendy Webb

What it’s about: After a devastating loss, Brynn Wilder escapes to Wharton, a tourist town on Lake Superior, to reset. Checking into a quaint boardinghouse for the summer, she hopes to put her life into perspective. In her fellow lodgers, she finds a friendly company of strangers: the frail Alice, cared for by a married couple with a heartbreaking story of their own; LuAnn, the eccentric and lovable owner of the inn; and Dominic, an unsettlingly handsome man inked from head to toe in mesmerizing tattoos. But in this inviting refuge, where a century of souls has passed, a mystery begins to swirl. Alice knows things about Brynn, about all of them, that she shouldn’t. Bad dreams and night whispers lure Brynn to a shuttered room at the end of the hall, a room still heavy with a recent death. And now she’s become irresistibly drawn to Dominic—even in the shadow of rumors that wherever he goes, suspicious death follows. In this chilling season of love, transformation, and fear, something is calling for Brynn. To settle her past, she may have no choice but to answer.

Why Miss Patti loved it: This book was so good I looked up Wendy Webb and read the rest of her books, also all very good.

Check it out >> Library

"The Last House on Needless Street" by Catriona Ward

What it’s about: In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three. A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time. A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory. And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible. An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Why Miss Patti loved it: This one is going to stick with me. What a story!! It’s not horror, nothing scary at all but the BEST book I’ve read this year.

Check it out >> Library | Libby

"The Stranger in the Lifeboat" by Mitch Albom

What it’s about: Adrift in a raft after a deadly ship explosion, nine people struggle for survival at sea. Three days pass. Short on water, food and hope, they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in. “Thank the Lord we found you,” a passenger says. “I am the Lord,” the man whispers. So begins Mitch Albom’s most beguiling and inspiring novel yet. Now, for the first time in his fiction, he ponders what we would do if, after crying out for divine help, God actually appeared before us? What might the Lord look, sound and act like? In "The Stranger in the Lifeboat," Albom keeps us guessing until the end: Is this strange and quiet man really who he claims to be? What actually happened to cause the explosion? Are the survivors already in heaven, or are they in hell? The story is narrated by Benji, one of the passengers, who recounts the events in a notebook that is later discovered—a year later—when the empty life raft washes up on the island of Montserrat. It falls to the island’s chief inspector, Jarty LeFleur, a man battling his own demons, to solve the mystery of what really happened.

Why Miss Patti loved it: This was out of my normal “range.” Wow, oh my gosh. His writing always gets me anyways. 

Check it out >> Library | Libby

"Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections" (revised and expanded edition) by Macrina Wiederkehr

What it’s about: In this masterpiece of simplicity, Macrina Wiederkehr offers a series of meditations to bring us closer to a "God for all seasons," revised and expanded into this new edition. Designed for daily use as well as for retreats, Seasons of Your Heart is an eloquent and lyrical invitation to journey through the spiritual seasons of wonder, hope, love, mystery, and faith. Macrina Weiderkehr shares her "seasonal struggle with God" and encourages us to recognize those same peaks and valleys in our own spiritual life. Using biblical passages, poetry, and excerpts from her journal, Wiederkehr provides meditative ideas and prayers as "postures" for realizing and approaching the holy in our daily lives. These reflections and prayers, then, have grown out of a daily listening to God in the changing seasons of my spiritual life, "writes the author." These reflections have grown out of my conviction that our God is not some Almighty Being beyond us, but a Mystery within."

Why Miss Annette loved it: This is one of the most thought provoking books I have read this year, and I still remain only 20 pages into it. I have a growing collection of her works and I love them all. You will not be able to find any of her books that I love in the system, unfortunately. I buy them all used on Amazon for my own personal collection.

"The Hobbit, or There and Back Again" by J.R.R. Tolkien

What it’s about: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: I read this for about the fifth time this year. Good adventure, good characters, and the classic battle of good vs. evil.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Voyage to Alpha Centauri" by Michael D. O’Brien

What it’s about: Set eighty years in the future, this novel by the best-selling author Michael O'Brien is about an expedition sent from the planet Earth to Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our solar system. The Kosmos, a great ship that the central character Neil de Hoyos describes as a "flying city," is immense in size and capable of more than half light-speed. Hoyos is a Nobel Prize winning physicist who has played a major role in designing the ship. Hoyos has signed on as a passenger because he desires to escape the seemingly benign totalitarian government that controls everything on his home planet. He is a skeptical and quirky misanthropic humanist with old tragedies, loves, and hatreds that are secreted in his memory. The surprises that await him on the voyage--and its destination--will shatter all of his assumptions and point him to a true new horizon.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: Good science fiction, and a “voyage” of self-discovery as well.

Check it out >> Library 

"The Sabbatical" by Michael D. O’Brien

What it’s about: Dr. Owen Whitfield is the elderly Oxford professor of history who first appeared in Michael O'Brien's novel The Father's Tale. In the events of The Sabbatical, which occur sometime later, Dr. Whitfield is looking forward to a sabbatical year of peace and quiet, gardening in his backyard, and tinkering with what he calls his latest "unpublishable book." As the year begins, he is drawn by a series of seeming coincidences into involvement with a group of characters from across Europe, including a family that has been the target of assassination attempts by unknown powers. During his journey to Romania, the situation in which he finds himself becomes more sinister than it first seemed. The story deals with the tension between fatalism and the providential understanding of history, with the courage and love that are necessary for navigating through a confusion of signs, and with the triumph of faith and reason over the forces of destruction.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: Good characters, good questions for our time - and the classic battle of good vs. evil. This one really makes you think a bit. The ending kind of leaves you hanging – but isn’t that the way it is with “true stories”?

Check it out >> Library

"Madam, Will You Talk?" by Mary Stewart

What it’s about: Widowed Charity Selborne had been greatly looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her old friend Louise - long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the parched Provencal landscape. But when Charity arrived at their hotel in the picturesque French town of Avignon, she had no way of knowing that she was to become the principal player in the last act of a strange and brutal tragedy. Most of it had already been played. There had been love--and lust--and revenge and fear and murder. Very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, when by befriending a terrified boy and catching the attention of his enigmatic, possibly murderous father, Charity has inadvertently placed herself center stage. She becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers. And now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, is waiting in the wings.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: A modern gothic romance with a little more substance than that genre often carries. A good romp.

Check it out >> Library

The Holy Bible

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: Really. The more you read it, the more it has to say, and verses that I didn’t “get” in the past just jump into clarity when they line up with where I am in my life.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee

What it’s about: Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—"Scout"—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Go Set a Watchman" perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: I reread "To Kill a Mockingbird" first, but found that isn’t necessary. This one was hard for me to get into, because I really didn’t like the main character at first. But as I continued, she kind of grew on me. I found it a hard book, emotionally, but I was glad I read it.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton

What it’s about: The poem tells of the defeat of the Ottoman fleet of Ali Pasha by the Christian crusader, Don John of Austria.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: Epic poetry. Not a book, but long enough for a short story! Describes the characters and events of the 16th century naval battle between the Christian Holy League and the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean Gulf of Patras.

"The Highest Mountain of Books in the World" by Rocio Bonilla

What it’s about: Lucas was convinced he was born to fly. He spent hours watching birds and airplanes in flight and tried to design his own sets of wings many times. But each time they failed. He wrote letters to Santa, pleading for help, but was disappointed with the toy wings and capes he received. Then one day something magical happened, without him even knowing it. His mother put a book in his hands and Lucas began to fly. And fly. And fly. Bonilla celebrates the wonder of books and their power to transport us to places beyond our imagination.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: A children’s book (grades 1-2). A little boy wants to fly more than anything else in the world; his mother shows him how. (I picked this one up because I was intrigued by the title!)

Check it out >> Library

"A Homeless Christmas Story" by Ryan Dowd

What it’s about: This children’s book tells a charming story about an unexpected visitor to a homeless shelter at Christmastime.

Why Miss Kathleen loved it: What is it like to spend Christmas Eve in a homeless shelter? This true-to-life story is not just for children, but for all of us.

Bonus: listen to Emilio Estevez read the book!

Check it out >> Library

"Blood Heir" by Ilona Andrews

What it’s about: Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival. Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit. If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she’d ever loved could threaten everything. One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.

Why Miss Rachel loved it: Great heroine that's cool under pressure, will do anything for her family, and fights gods and monsters with an eagle and an ax. What's not to love?

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Dark Age" by Pierce Brown

What it’s about: For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place? Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury. But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance. On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him? Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies. Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption. As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

Why Miss Rachel loved it: A Roman saga in space with all the pomp, conniving, and battles you could want and moments that will leave you aghast. Great for those who like military strategy in their sci-fi.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Wild Sign" by Patricia Briggs

What it’s about: In the wilds of the Northern California mountains, all the inhabitants of a small town have gone missing. It's as if the people picked up and left everything they owned behind. Fearing something supernatural might be going on, the FBI taps a source they've consulted in the past: the werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham. But Charles and Anna soon find a deserted town is the least of the mysteries they face. Death sings in the forest, and when it calls, Charles and Anna must answer. Something has awakened in the heart of the California mountains, something old and dangerous — and it has met werewolves before.

Why Miss Rachel loved it: It's a continuation of a series that saw the lead, who was previously a victim of abuse, be confronted with it again and be able to reclaim power that she felt it had robbed her of . . . and help another do the same. And werewolves. 

Check it out >> Library | Libby

Author Rob Buyea (middle school books)

Why Miss Jill loved this author: I enjoyed the Mr. Terupt series and the Perfect Score series. In both of these, kids are facing challenges and figuring out ways to overcome the difficulties. The characters are fun and I enjoyed each book in the series.

Check this author out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

Author Sharon Draper (middle school books)

Why Miss Jill loved this author: Her “Out of my Mind” series is about 11-year-old Melody who has cerebral palsy. She is probably the smartest kid in the class but is unable to tell anyone. Melody can’t talk, walk or write. The first book (“Out of my Mind”) was wonderful and the second book (“Out of my Heart”) has just come out. I can’t wait to read this one.

Check this author out >> Library | Libby

"Easy Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Barbara C. Jones

What it’s about: This slow-cooker cookbook makes meal planning and special dishes so easy you'll wonder how you lived without it. Every recipe has ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Just add ingredients and cook while you get on with your life. Recipes include meats, veggies, soups, appetizers and side dishes, each with its own special flavor and easy prep.

Why Miss Jenny loved it: I have read soooo many books this year and not all of them fiction. One of my favorite non-fic books is the “Easy Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Barbara C. Jones. This books contains many different recipes that are not repeated in other slow cooker cookbooks such as Chicken Tortellini Stew. This is delicious (from experience)! Each recipe can be adapted to type of diet, low salt, low fat, etc., and is easy to prepare to cook.

Check it out >> Library

"Wanda Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Farmhouse Favorites Cookbook" by Wanda Brunstetter

What it’s about: Amish cooks, who know how to please their hard-working family members, contributed over 200 recipes in traditional categories from main dishes and sides to desserts and snacks. Also included are kitchen tips and stories from growing up on Amish farms. Encased in a lay-flat binding and presented in full color, home cooks of all ages will be delighted to add this cookbook to their collections.

Check it out >> Library

"Favorite Recipes of the Lady and Her Friends" by Paula H. Deen

What it’s about: This collection of over 380 recipes from Paula's recipe box, with contributions from family and friends harkens back to a classic church cookbook in which neighbors share their best recipes. Included are treasured family recipes, quick and simple recipes, and many Southern classics. Paula hand selected each recipe, created and curated each chapter and shared personal anecdotes for the illustrator to recreate.

"Amish Cooking Class Cookbook" by Wanda Brunstetter

What it’s about: Heidi Troyer, her students, and other contributors share over 200 practical recipes for use in any kitchen, along with tips to keep things running smoothly. From learning how to boil eggs and knead biscuits to building a German Pizza and an Amish Haystack feast, "The Amish Cooking Class Cookbook" includes something beneficial for every age and skill set. Divided into traditional cookbook categories, there is a recipe everyone will find to love.

Check it out >> Library

Why Miss Cheryl loved these cookbooks: Three of my favorite books. Why? Because I love to cook and bake.

"Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio" by Derf Backderf

What it’s about: On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University. In a deadly barrage of 67 shots, 4 students were killed and 9 shot and wounded. It was the day America turned guns on its own children—a shocking event burned into our national memory. A few days prior, 10-year-old Derf Backderf saw those same Guardsmen patrolling his nearby hometown, sent in by the governor to crush a trucker strike. Using the journalism skills he employed on "My Friend Dahmer" and "Trashed," Backderf has conducted extensive interviews and research to explore the lives of these four young people and the events of those four days in May, when the country seemed on the brink of tearing apart. "Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio" is a moving and troubling story about the bitter price of dissent—as relevant today as it was in 1970.

Why Miss Krystal loved it: This graphic novel blew me away in February and I’m still thinking about it. Incredibly well-researched and visually arresting. It made me a fan of nonfiction graphic novels.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"The House in the Cerulean Sea" by T.J. Klune

What it’s about: A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, "The House in the Cerulean Sea" is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Why Miss Krystal loved it: Reading (or listening, in my case) to this book must be what it feels like to have a book settle a cozy blanket on your shoulders, hand you a cup of hot chocolate, and then give you a comforting hug. It was so satisfying and lovely that I can see myself turning back to this again and again.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry

What it’s about: The Pulitzer Prize­–winning American classic of the American West that follows two aging Texas Rangers embarking on one last adventure. An epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.

Why Miss Krystal loved it: I loved this book so much. Honestly, it was more than I ever expected it to be and brought out all the emotions, from anger and despair to heartbroken. These characters live in my head rent free and I'm glad to share the space with them. This book simply captivated me.

Check it out >> Library | Libby | hoopla

"Dangerous Play" by Emma Kress

What it’s about: Zoe Alamandar has one goal: win the State Field Hockey Championships and earn a scholarship that will get her the hell out of Central New York. She and her co-captain Ava Cervantes have assembled a fierce team of dedicated girls who will work hard and play by the rules. But after Zoe is sexually assaulted at a party, she finds a new goal: make sure no girl feels unsafe again. Zoe and her teammates decide to stop playing by the rules and take justice into their own hands. Soon, their suburban town has a team of superheroes meting out punishments, but one night of vigilantism may cost Zoe her team, the championship, her scholarship, and her future.

Why Miss Krystal loved it: One of my favorite tropes in YA is teenage girls who are involved in athletics fighting back against some type of injustice, and this book delivers on that in so many ways. It is a book full of pain and rage and a whole mishmash of emotions that I think will appeal to YA readers of all ages. In fact, this book does not shy away from the harsh realities of what young women have to deal with on a daily basis. Instead, it dons the mantle of female rage, sees how far that rage can be pushed, and the consequences of actions. It is just a phenomenal YA book.

Check it out >> Library | hoopla

"A Good Day for Chardonnay" by Darynda Jones

What it’s about: Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff--and even fuller-time coffee guzzler--Sunshine Vicram, didn't get that memo. All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that's about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?) Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny's got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he's not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She's seen it. Once. Accidentally. Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn't know when to quit, Sunny's life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy. Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

Why Miss Krystal loved it: I am a big fan of this series and can’t wait until the next one is published. There is quirkiness and humor galore, and I can’t get enough of it or the characters. You could call this a cozy mystery plus because while there is humor and lightheartedness, it also dips into darker plots and (spoiler alert) some sexy times.

Check it out >> Library | Libby

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