My Top Reads of 2021

Hey, everyone. With 2021 rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to take time to share my top reads for the year.

I’ll preface this post by saying I’ve read many enjoyable books this past year, but there are a few that really stood out for me—ones I’ll remember in the days and months to come.

These are listed in the order I read them.

An Unwanted Guest

This was my first time reading anything by Shari Lapena. The setting is an old-fashioned hotel where there are no modern amenities such as cell phones during the middle of a winter storm. It was a mere coincidence that I finished the book just prior to being stuck at home because Snowmageddon hit Texas in February.

The Curse of Deadhorse Canyon

I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture for quite some time, so this book particularly intrigued me. Co-written by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun, the book has elements of murder, a government conspiracy, greed, environmental issues, and Native American legends. The second book of this series was recently released, and I’ve already snagged my copy.

She Lies Alone

I discovered the author of She Lies Alone in early 2021 and have since read four of her psychological fiction books. When a writer keeps me guessing as to the killer’s identity, it’s a big plus for me. Laura Wolfe has become one of my auto-buy authors

Death in Panama

I enjoy reading a good legal thriller on occasion. I learned of Death in Panama through fellow author Jan Sikes sometime last year. I had the book on my Kindle for several months, but when I did read it, I wasn’t disappointed. William Venema is a retired attorney and I look forward to more from this author.

The Guilty Husband

I discovered this book through Book Bub. This debut novel of author Stephanie DeCarolis did not disappoint. While I don’t condone extra-marital affairs, I couldn’t help but root for the main character, Vince. And the ending totally surprised me.

Iron Lake

When Judi Lynn wrote a review of this book, I was intrigued enough to buy a copy. William Kent Kruger’s Iron Lake was written and first published in the late 1990s. It’s the first of his Cork O’Connor mysteries and also includes elements of Native American folklore.

Home Before Dark

I read Riley Sager’s latest release, Survive the Night, and it didn’t do much for me. But Mae Clair encouraged me to try Home Before Dark, so I checked out a copy from my local library. How can you go wrong where the setting is a house with a mysterious past that’s been abandoned for twenty-five years and is possibly haunted?

You Can Run

After reading Staci Troilo’s review of this upcoming release by Rebecca Zanetti, I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reader copy. There is mystery and suspense (my favorite genre) with a touch of romance. The book releases in January, and I highly recommend it. It’s the first of Zanetti’s Laurel Snow series and you can bet I’ll be reading the next book.

We Live Next Door

Wrapping up the list is another novel from Laura Wolfe. This was another page-turning psychological thriller set in a small-town neighborhood where things aren’t always as they seem.

That’s it for my top 2021 reads. What are some favorite books you’ve read this year?

Book Review: The Couple Next Door

Hey, everyone. Time for another Tuesday book review. I keep thinking my reading time will decrease as I spend more time writing, but that hasn’t happened yet. Matter of fact, I upped my Goodreads challenge from 35 books to 50 books for the year. (I really need to write but that’s another story.)

This week’s review is the second book I’ve read from author Shari Lapena.


Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

My Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

After I read (and enjoyed) Shari Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest, I wanted to read some of her other works. This book seemed like a good choice.

Marco and Anne Conti are parents of a six-month-old baby girl. When their next-door neighbors invite them to an “adults only” dinner party, Marco is especially eager to go. Anne has suffered from some postpartum depression, and he thinks it would be good for her to get out of the house.

When their babysitter has to cancel at the last minute, Marco convinces Anne they could leave the baby alone (the houses share an adjoining wall), take the baby monitor, and check on her every half hour. But the dinner drags on and finally at almost 1:30 in the morning, Anne demands they leave. When they return to their own home, they find the front door open, the back door unlocked, and the baby is gone.

Who took her and why? Was it for ransom? Or was there something more sinister going on? The book had a lot of twists and turns. Both Marco and Anne are hiding secrets from one another. The kidnapper finally demands ransom money and insists upon them not involving the police, but the exchange goes awry.

Despite there being a lot of telling and not showing, this was a page-turner that kept me guessing. I couldn’t help but notice the detective in charge of the investigation “almost felt sorry” for Marco on several occasions. I did figure it out about three-fourths into the book, but I read on to see how things would play out.

The wrap-up was a little lackluster, with no real suspense. But then came the ending. I won’t give anything away, but the author had a good story going until that last page, which I hated. Maybe I just don’t understand all the ends and outs of psychological fiction, but I found the ending so unnecessary.

I’ll likely read more from Shari Lapena but after An Unwanted Guest, I found this book lacking.

Book Review #An Unwanted Guest

Hey, everyone. It’s no secret I love a good, page-turning mystery. I scored big time with this one.

A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away


It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in and try to make the best of it.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm–and one another.

My Review

I love it when I come across a book that I don’t want to put down. An Unwanted Guest is one of them. I read it in two days and the only reason I didn’t finish in one night was because I had to sleep.

It sounds like the perfect weekend getaway—a quaint old-fashioned hotel where there is no cell phone service and no Wi-fi to distract its guests. The registry isn’t computerized, and instead of magnetic cards, rooms are locked with an old-fashioned key.

To top it off, the guests arrive during the middle of a winter storm. It’s so bad, in fact, that some of the hotel staff aren’t able to make it to work and a few guests canceled their weekend plans.

Lucky them.

A power outage changes the atmosphere from pleasant to ominous. It’s not long before murder is afoul. First one victim, then two, then a third…

Each of the guests, as well as one staff member, has things from their past to hide. But aside from the companions they arrived with, none of them knew one another before coming to the hotel. Are the murders connected? If so, why?

Written in present tense from varying points of view, this book held my attention to the end. I had suspicions about several of the characters and kept hoping it wasn’t a particular character that I instantly liked. While I figured out the murderer’s identity, there was a totally unexpected jaw-dropping twist at the end.

Unquestionably five stars for this one!