Podcast: Our Four Favorite Books of 2021 So Far

During this episode of the Clermont County Public Library’s Booklovers Podcast, Shayna and Laura share their four favorite books of the year – so far!

Andrea: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Clermont County Booklovers Podcast. I’m Andrea. And today I’m joined by Laura and Shayna, and today we’re going to discuss your favorite books from 2021.

So Laura, what has really rose to the top of your list?

Laura: [00:00:17] I have two choices.

One is dark and the other one is light and fluffy. I’m going to start off by setting the tone to be a little dark. And then Shayna, I know, is going to bring us back up.

Andrea: [00:00:29] Great. I love a roller coaster.

Four Favorite Books of 2021


all the murmuring bones
All the Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

All the Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

Laura: [00:00:31] My first pick is All the Murmuring Bones by Angela Slatter. It came out in the spring and I’m still thinking about it.

A once-powerful and prosperous family has fallen on difficult times because they’ve broken a long-ago made bargain with dark powers. Mirin’s grandmother is determined to restore the O’Malleys to what they once were. And to do that, she’s willing to sell Mirin into marriage to a distant, but wealthy cousin.

Of course, Mirin has other ideas.

This book is full of sea creatures, but these mermaids are from nightmares, not sweet stories for children. These are terrors of the sea and they’re angry with the O’Malleys. They’re willing to make Mirin pay for her family’s many transgressions.

The writing in this book is gorgeously Baroque. It’s ornate, it’s polished, and it’s paired with a very Gothic sensibility.

There’s the traditional Gothic, shadow-drenched, decaying mansion. Full of long, hidden, terrible family secrets. We get murder, ritual sacrifice, incest. Plus witchcraft and the terrible magic of these sea creatures.

So exquisite world-building, I’m really hoping that she chooses to set another book in this world because it’s beautiful.

Obviously, I loved it. It is the book equivalent of a very dark chocolate torte. It is gorgeous and rich. You have to consume it slowly and let the words just melt on your tongue

Shayna: [00:02:01] I love that metaphor. And now I’m hungry for the book and for a dark chocolate torte.

Laura: [00:02:10] Really, really good. I love it.

Dark but not too dark

Andrea: [00:02:12] Excellent. Well, thanks for sharing that, Laura. It’s not as dark as I was thinking. You know, dark could be like violence and murder, true crime darkness.

Laura: [00:02:20] Oh right. This isn’t real-life murder.

Andrea: [00:02:24] Dark fantasy.

Shayna: [00:02:26] I feel like a lot of authors when they write about mermaids and sea creatures, take the dark route. There’s just something so alluring about it, where it’s like, “Ooh gosh! An evil mermaid or creatures…like, what’s down there?” So, that sounds good.

Laura: [00:02:43] The cover is beautiful. Once we get it dropped into the video or if you go to the show notes, you can see it. It’s a mermaid tail. And then you read the description and you’re like, oh, that’s not all pretty or light-hearted. No singing crabs in this book.



Bookcover The Guncle
The Guncle by Steven Rowley

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Andrea: [00:02:57] All right. Well, Shayna, what is on your list, your favorite standouts for the year?

Shayna: [00:03:02] My first one that I’m going to talk about…I love this book so much. It’s called The Guncle by Steven Rowley. And it’s Guncle –  G U N C L E. So not really a real word, which I guess now it could be a word.

Andrea: [00:03:17] Isn’t it a word? Maybe not in the dictionary yet.

Shayna: [00:03:19] It’s a feel-good book. I really, really enjoyed it.  It’s hilarious.

So, if you want to laugh while you’re reading, which I find it really hard to find books that can make me laugh while I’m reading. You may read a funny scene and you’re like, “Huh…?”, but this one made me laugh out loud.

Andrea: [00:03:36] So, did you LOL?

Shayna: [00:03:39] Yes! I laughed out loud.

Summary for The Guncle

I’ll read the summary: Patrick loves his niece, Maisie, and his nephew, Grant, with all of his heart. Well, he loves spending time with them when they come during the summer for a weeklong visit at his home in Palm Springs. Or when he visits them in Connecticut for the holidays, no matter how adorable the children are.

Patrick is out of his league when it comes to caring for them. Tragedy strikes the family and Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian for the entire summer. Maisie and grant adore their Guncle, which stands for “Gay Uncle Patrick”, and his funny Guncle rules, but they also are figuring out how to grieve the loss of their mother. Patrick stumbles along not really knowing what he is doing, especially after losing his own partner a few years ago and dealing with his stalled acting career.

Plus, his lifestyle doesn’t really suit having a six and nine-year-old around all the time. Quickly realizing that parenting, even if temporary, isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened up to a new sense of responsibility. Having Maisie and Grant around isn’t so bad after all. And he will actually miss them terribly once summer is over.

Laura: [00:04:49] That sounds super heartwarming.

Shayna: [00:04:51] It is. He’s their gay uncle Patrick, their Guncle. And he’s in his late forties. And he was a famous actor on a sitcom show. And he kind of disappeared from the world when he loses his partner, Joe, in a car accident.

He buys a mansion in Palm Springs and he’s just happy, you know? He drinks and he has parties and he doesn’t care, you know? And then his brother, his wife dies because she was terminally ill.

Then his brother tells him, “I need you to take the kids because I have a drug addiction. And I’m going to put myself in this rehab center for three months. So, the whole summer you need to take them.”

And Patrick is like, “No…I don’t do kids” but he ends up taking them and it’s just so sweet. There were just parts in it where, you know, he is a funny guy. So, he tries to cover up pain and sorrow with humor but, sometimes that’s good.

And then sometimes it’s bad. Like sometimes the kids are not having it. They’re like, “You’re annoying. I hate your jokes. I hate you” …So, then he has to figure it out with them.

Passage from The Guncle

It was just really cute. It was really funny. I actually wrote it down…It’s a short conversation between Patrick and his nephew Grant, who’s six years old. And he has a lisp and the author actually showcases that in the writing, like in typing, if anything has an S I think he puts like a T H in there.

So, you get a sense of how adorable Grant is. I’ll just read it really quick. Cause it was my favorite. Grant is saying this to Patrick…

Grant: “You look like Harry Potter.”

Patrick: “That’s rude.”

Grant: “Why?” You know how kids are always asking why?

Patrick: “Because Harry was a Gryffindor, and I am clearly a Slytherin.” He hisses for emphasis.

The characters are just so inviting. And it was really heartfelt and tender. I loved it.

Andrea: [00:06:43] Good.

Laura: [00:06:43] It sounds wonderful.

Andrea: [00:06:45] I’m going to put it on my list to read.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Shayna: [00:06:46] I had heard of this author. He wrote Lily and the Octopus.  It’s about another gay character and he has a Wiener dog named Lily, and she ends up getting a tumor and it looks like an octopus. So that’s Lily and the Octopus, and it’s supposed to be another really heartfelt book.

Book cover for The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Andrea: [00:07:05] Sounds like it. Okay, Laura, which way am I going on the roller coaster? Are we going up or down?

Laura: [00:07:09] I tried to have some balance, right? This one’s very lighthearted. It’s called The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton. If you were looking for a fantasy alternative, historical wrong, come with lady pirates, witty banter, and sweet romance. This is the book for you.

Andrea: [00:07:33] I was looking for all of that.

Laura: [00:07:34] Who wouldn’t be?

Imagine a Victorian England where lady pirates sail the skies in houses. They plunder items that owners were practically begging them to take by leaving them unattended and in plain sight.

These are no unmannerly, unkempt, uncivilized pirates. Oh no. They are lady pirates. And the niceties of society must be observed. Unmarried ladies need to be chaperoned at all times. And even married ladies don’t show their ankles in mixed company.

Cecilia Basingwaite is the perfect Victorian lady.

She just happens to have some amazing fighting skills and deft fingers. Perfect for picking pockets. She longs to be fully established as a lady pirate, no longer forced to sit at the juniors’ table.

She thinks she might be on her way when a stranger shows up to assassinate her.

But instead of murder, Ned and Cecilia embark on a mad caper and indulge in some very meaningful glances.

I loved this from beginning to end. This is a fabulous alternative Victorian England. And India Holton has peopled her world with fabulous characters.

The romance between Cecelia and Ned is charming with a palpable tension between them. but there are no steamy scenes. So, if you’re looking for something that’s a gentle read, as gentle as it can be with swashbuckling pirates, this would be a good choice.

Even the villains of the piece are fabulous. Their main downfall is that they recite some appallingly, bad poetry.

That’s as terrible and dark as it gets. And this is the first book in the Dangerous Damsels series. So fast-paced, fun, laugh-out-loud funny, utterly and totally charming.

Laughing out loud

Andrea: [00:09:23] So my first question is you said laugh out loud. Did you?

Laura: [00:09:27] Some scenes were just so zany that I did actually out loud. 

Shayna: [00:09:34] Lady pirates…that is like a dream. If I could go into another dimension, like another life, I would hope it would be Shayna as a lady pirate and I have my own ship and I’m just as cool as Jack Sparrow.

That’s great.

Laura: [00:09:50] They have these houses that just happen to fly around the countryside and then they can land if they want to do things.  They’re flying around and they have guns and they chase each other over the countryside.

Choosing books by their covers

It’s really a lot of fun. It’s a good read. And it’s got a lovely cover. I do choose a lot of my books based on their appearance.

Shayna: [00:10:12] Oh, I do too!

Andrea: [00:10:14] many of us do.

Shayna: [00:10:15] And I’ve seen that cover and that’s one of my favorite colors. That real, pretty purple? I’m kind of wearing it today.

Laura: [00:10:23] Well, it’s funny because if you’re not paying attention, it looks like just a regular historical romance or –

Shayna: [00:10:30] It reminded me of Bridgerton. I thought it would be a fancy, historical romance, you know, like ladies having tea.

Andrea: [00:10:39] Proper not so swashbuckling.

Laura: [00:10:43] These ladies have tea but they’re pirates so there’s swashbuckling involved.

Shayna: [00:10:48] Yeah. Cool.

The book cover for The Invisible Husband of Frick Island
The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley

The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley

Andrea: [00:10:49] All right, Shayna, what’s next on your list.

Shayna: [00:10:52] Next is a really unique story.  I got the book in and sometimes I read the summary. Well, I obviously read the summaries when I request them, but I put so many on hold and they come in at different times that I forget.

This one came in and I just started reading it. I had no idea what it was about. And then once I started reading it, I was like, “Oh yeah!”.  It was really, really good. It’s called The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley.

Summary of The Invisible Husband of Frick Island

And I’ll just start with the summary because it’s a little long:

Piper’s life on Frick Island is nearly perfect. She and her husband, Tom, are living that serene island life and are happily married. Piper works multiple jobs on the island from waitressing at the crab restaurant to volunteering at the local museum while Tom is a local fisherman.

One day Tom’s boat doesn’t return. After the locals and police search for his boat and for his body, they eventually find his boat sunk into the ocean. No body to be found. This turns Piper’s world upside down. And to get through her grief, she does a peculiar thing. She carries on as if Tom is still alive…

Not only does she act like Tom is still alive, she acts like he is right there beside her…Cooking breakfast, attending church, having dinner on a Friday night at the restaurant.

The townspeople know Piper is grieving. So what else is there to do except go along with her delusion.?

Anders Caldwell’s career is not going so well. A young, ambitious journalist, he would rather be a national award-winning podcaster by now. Rather than writing a story about a cakewalk on an island that has a population of less than 100.

While attending the boring annual cakewalk on Frick Island, Anders finds a much more fascinating tale. An entire town, pretending to see and interact with a man who isn’t there…

Cakewalk interlude

Andrea: [00:12:38] Wow a lot going on there. I have a question right off the bat. Have either of you been to a cakewalk before?

Shayna: [00:12:44] I have.

Andrea: [00:12:45] You have? I’ve never heard of anyone going to a cakewalk. I’ve heard about it but never been. Tell us about your cakewalk experience.

Shayna: [00:12:53] So I went to one when I was in college. They had a big cakewalk. You bake a cake or you can buy a cake and you bring it. And then people come and they donate money for a cake that they want to win.

There are different ways to do a cakewalk. Either you can keep buying tickets and then they’ll pull a ticket and they keep the money for whatever cause. Or they actually do musical chairs, but with cake. You walk when the music plays and then when the music stops, whatever cake you’re in front of, you can take.

Andrea: [00:13:29] Lot of fun. And the book sounds fantastic too. I like the premise of it.

Back to the premise of the book

Shayna: [00:13:34] Yes. It’s really, really interesting. So, Anders is the main character. He kind of tells the story. He’s the journalist-wanna-be-podcaster.

When he finds out about Piper and the husband that is dead, he does his podcast on it. The people on the island, they’re very loyal to each other and to their island and the island is remote. They don’t have cell phone service; they don’t have internet out there. So, he’s like, “They’ll never find out about this podcast.”

He ends up getting closer to Piper because he’s trying to get more information for his podcast because it ends up becoming really popular. And then he ends up falling in love with Piper, and then he also finds out that they’re building a cell phone tower on the island…

So, then all the residents of the island are like, “We can’t wait for that tower to be built, so then we can listen to your podcast!”…

I don’t want to give anything away but…Piper acting like Tom’s still alive and people going along with – it may have been murder.

There’s a lot to it. And it’s fast-paced, which I think was a good thing. Because on a small island, it could have been slow, but it wasn’t. I really enjoyed it.

Laura: [00:14:51] Sounds really good.

Andrea: [00:14:53] I love it. I mean, out of all the books you’ve read this year, you know, it’s hard to probably narrow it down to just two to share

Shayna: [00:14:59] I struggled. I emailed Laura that I was feeling indecisive.

The book cover for The Charm Offensive
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Andrea: [00:15:04] Yeah. All right. Well, anything else to share book-wise for this go-round?

Laura: [00:15:10] So many good books coming out!

Andrea: [00:15:14] Fall publishing season.

Laura: [00:15:16] There’s one called The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochran. Anyone who loved Red, White, and Royal Blue is going to be mad for this book.

It is heartwarming, charming, absolutely delightful.  If witty banter is your sweet spot, you’re going to love this.

Andrea: [00:15:40] Thanks for the sneak peek.

In conclusion

Andrea: [00:15:43] All right. Well, thank you for joining us on today’s episode of the Booklovers Podcast. Remember that you can subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

And you can follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, have a good day.

These are our four favorite books of 2021. At least, so far. There are still so many more on our To Be Read lists!

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