The Best Books I Read in January 2021

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I finished fifteen books in January and most of them were meh. That’s the down side to reading and reviewing over two hundred books a year, it takes something truly exceptional to wow me!

Below are three out of the fifteen that I found special, and only one of them is a five star review.

If you’d like updates on all fifteen of my January reads, check out the posts I publish each Sunday.

The Best Books I Read in January 2021

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

Gothic horror/Mystery

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This is my favorite read of the month by far. Please don’t be turned off by the Gothic Horror label, it’s not horror in a modern sense. It’s not a gory or scary book. And yes, it’s a long book, but it’s so worth it!

It’s a slow burn, the suspense builds beautifully with vivid imagery and lots of scares. But it’s so much more than a creepy novel. Our omniscient narrator takes the reader back and forth between two timelines, both focused around the supposedly cursed Brookhants School for Girls. One setting is the school in 1902, the other is the campus in modern day as it serves as a movie set. 

While it’s obviously about creepy goings-on, it’s also a story about sexuality and genre norms, about relationships, love, and family. There’s a lot going on here and the threads are maintained throughout. It’s an entertaining, gorgeous read that covers a ton of ground-there’s something for everyone. I highly recommend it for readers of literary fiction, LGBTQ history, and gothic horror.

The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

Contemporary Romance

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Advanced copy from NetGalley, expected publication February 9, 2021 This is a romance novel that highlights everything I love about the genre. It tackles heavy subjects like grief, cancer, and infertility while including hope and humor. Our protagonist Penny has had a rough go on the dating scene. Then she meets a series of incredible men who all bring something different to her life. Ultimately this story is about Penny’s journey to dig into what SHE wants wants from life, and how to find happiness internally. The humor is top notch, and I like the unique plot point of multiple romantic interests. I highly recommend this one for readers of romance.

*Reading Challenge Tip* This one has a dog on the cover, which fulfills a prompt in my 2021 Reading Challenge!

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Contemporary fiction/Audiobook

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I listened to the audiobook, read by multiple narrators. They added personality to the characters that wouldn’t have been there had I read the physical version.

As a music lover, this story resonated with me on many levels. This is a story about falling out of love, and also falling in love, and figuring out who you are. It’s also about what it’s like to be utterly moved by someone else’s art. Hornby creates characters with a lot of depth and flaws, then puts them in relationships with each other and lets them figure it out. That means sometimes those characters make poor choices, which happens a lot in this book! Ultimately, they find their way and it was enjoyable to watch their journeys. I highly recommend this novel for Hornby fans and music lovers, as well as readers of literary fiction. 

What was your favorite read in January?


  1. Jackie O’Briant

    February 1, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    These all sound great! Loved reading about them!

  2. Ramona Mead

    February 2, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks Jackie! I think you’d like Plain Bad Heroines for sure.

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