Miranda Crites’ Top Reads From 2021
Good ol’ 2021. What a year! I had set my Goodreads challenge goal to fifty books. I’m not sure who I thought I was when I came out of 2020, but I must have had a temporary moment of insanity or some kind of confidence boost. As 2021 progressed, I wasn’t even keeping up on Goodreads for the first time since I created my account. Some were books that weren’t added yet because they hadn’t been released, and some were just ones I forgot to add because my heart and mind weren’t fully dedicated to books, reading, reviewing, writing, or really anything. Also, I’ve become spoiled by technology. It’s so easy when you open your Kindle, and your books are automatically added to Goodreads, but when you read a physical book, I guess it’s easy to forget to track progress.
I sat down and tried to add anything I’d missed, and I actually did better than I’d thought! Unless I missed another one along the lines somewhere, I came out of 2021 reading twenty-eight books with two of those being audiobook rereads. I wish I could’ve read every single book on my TBR (that’s a to-be-read list for those who don’t know), but that’s okay. I’m pleased – and a bit surprised – that I found time to read those twenty-eight!! This year, I’m going for thirty-one.
My 2021 Top 13 in no particular order:
Eight Cylinders by Jason Parent
This one read like a Lovecraftian fever-dream with a Mad Max vibe. I had read some of Jason’s previous work (Victoria) and really enjoy his writing. Then, there’s also another little (huge) factor that piqued my curiosity. I mean, what girl isn’t crazy over a Hellcat Charger? And it’s right there on the cover, calling my name! I was pleased with how everything came together in this book. Sometimes you find friendship, or maybe it’s family, in the most unlikely places.
White Pines by Gemma Amor
Wow! What a journey! The protagonist returns to a home from her childhood that she can barely remember. Her inheritance is way more than she could’ve imagined and was definitely more than I had thought would be waiting for her. This one was full of twists and turns, and some of it is pretty dark and creepy like dreams (nightmares) that flow from one into another! This was my first experience reading Gemma Amor, but I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.
August’s Eyes by Glenn Rolfe
I still haven’t stopped thinking about Graveyard Land and the creepy killer in the van and the creepy kids in this book! Glenn is one of my go-to authors, and this one has a different flavor (to me) thrown in. This one is super-dark with a lot of sadness, and it reminds me that no matter how hard or how fast we run, we can’t outrun our past or our demons (but we can fight them).
Read Me: A Novella by Keith Minnion
Cy, a college student, is studying painting. A college professor has him doing some paintings of an unlikely subject which is extremely interesting and a little morbid (just the way I like it). This was a really haunting story with an ending that I was not expecting! I first discovered Keith for his fantastic artwork. His writing is just as beautiful!
The Patience of a Dead Man by Michael Clark
This is Mike’s debut novel. Here we find a recently divorced Tim who buys a farmhouse to flip so he can get back onto his feet. To add to his misfortune, the house and land is haunted, and the woman covered in flies appears to be dangerous. I had a lot fun and creepy moments with this book, and I haven’t looked at a goose the same since I read it. Sometimes the oddest things stick with me after reading a book.
Later by Stephen King
I’ve been behind on my Kings lately, but I decided to read this one sooner rather than later. (Of course, if there’s ever any room for a lame joke, I won’t miss the opportunity to insert it.) King is a master of many things, and his coming-of-age stories are some of my favorites. As with so many of King’s works, he’s given his young character, Jamie, a unique gift. It’s a gift that needs to stay hidden in order to protect Jamie but having such a power isn’t always easy to hide. I was pleased to see references to “IT” throughout this one! I love how Stephen King’s worlds are intertwined. Brilliant!
Gwendy’s Magic Feather by Richard Chizmar
Once again we return to Stephen King’s Castle Rock, but this time Richard Chizmar is driving solo. I think it’s amazing, really, how Richard takes the wheel so effortlessly and delivers us a beautiful story in King’s world. Trouble, as well as the button box, returns to Castle Rock so now an adult Gwendy must also return home. I’m looking forward to “Gwendy’s Final Task” and seeing how this entire trilogy plays out.
Ride or Die by James Newman
OOOOHHHH, boy! James does coming-of-age AND revenge so well. “Ride or Die” is written from the viewpoint of a group of teenage girls. Amelia found out her dad has been cheating on her mom, and she and her girlfriends set out to get rid of the homewrecker. Things aren’t quite like they seem here. This has been no ordinary affair… Also, there’s a 1970 Plum Crazy Plymouth Roadrunner in this book, and I had to worry about the car’s fate too! Excellent revenge story with a helluva twist.
Ghostland (Ghostland Trilogy, #1) by Duncan Ralston
This was my first experience with Duncan Ralston, and it most certainly won’t be my last. This was a wild trip to a haunted theme park full of ghosts. Things go very wrong thanks to a computer virus, and the ghosts become extremely dangerous. This is action-packed to the brim, and just when you think things are okay – BAM! – there’s another ghost waiting around the corner to kill you! It’s like if Disney and Jurassic Park were combined but filled with ghosts. I immediately ordered the second and third books in this series.
Mild spoiler: I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite girl, Christine, in Ghostland. That was a nice tribute to my favorite Stephen King book.
Ugly as Sin by James Newman
This is one I had been meaning to get to for some time now. Nick Bullman is a retired professional wrestler. Left disfigured by a couple of psycho fans, he now lives a quiet life alone. Then, his daughter calls for help, and he has to return home to kick some ass! Sometimes people only see a monster, but if you take the time to look a little deeper, you can find sadness and pain…and a big heart. I really enjoyed getting to know Nick Bullman.
Incarnate by Steve Stred
This is another beautiful coming-of-age tale by Steve. Ryan wants nothing more than to spend vacation at this supposedly haunted house. Unlucky for their family, his dad agrees! The demons leaked through the parallel worlds, and I could nearly hear the hooves on the wooden floors. Creep-fest! To add to my overall experience, I was reading part of this book while waiting alone in a parked car when there was a certain scene playing out in a car. I was glancing over my shoulder a lot. Then, at night, this was one that made every small noise sound like hoofbeats!
Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
I had a blast with the Boogeyman! I purposefully love to go into a book knowing as little as possible about it. Chizmar is one of my go-to authors, so I went in as blind as I could. I finally got to the point where I didn’t know for sure if this was fiction or nonfiction! We have our masked Boogeyman serial killer, and we also get to see the perspective from the detectives and the characters who are invested and trying to help catch the Boogeyman. This was definitely something different. Chizmar never disappoints.
Mastodon by Steve Stred
Have I ever told you about Steve Stred and his magnificent beasts and his ability to transport you into some of the most gorgeous outdoor locations? (I have.)
Tyler was born in the Rocky Mountains during hiking trip, and his mother disappears soon after. Seventeen years later, his father disappears in the same location. Highly skilled in the outdoors, like his parents, even though the area is off-limits and protected by guards, Tyler is determined to find him. What the hell are they hiding in there anyway?! Stred delivers all the beasts and the settings. He pulls me right into these worlds. And just when you think you’ve got something all figured out, forget it, you don’t. Steve’s a mastermind at work!
Miranda Crites is a reader, writer, book reviewer, photographer, artist, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia.
She has a Writing for Children and Teenagers diploma although most of her current work is horror fiction and poetry.
Miranda is a member of Team Kendall Reviews at www.KendallReviews.com where you can find her horror book reviews and her monthly feature, Miranda Snaps, which generally contains horror fiction and photography.
She has artwork, including paintings and/or photography, published in the following books: “Black Dogs, Black Tales – Where the Dogs Don’t Die: A Charity Anthology for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand” edited by Tabatha Wood and Cassie Hart; “The Boy Whose Room Was Outside” by Steve Stred & The Kids; and “Of Witches…” by Steve Stred.
Miranda is one of “The Thirty,” which is a group of thirty authors who have each taken a turn in writing a chapter of a horror novel. “He Has Stayed Too Long”
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You can find out more about Miranda via her website www.mirandacritesreadsandwrites.com