OMG I think R. Renee has become my book triplet (Tasha J. being my book twin 😉 ) I didn’t realize how much R. was into horror and creepy stuff like I am. And I will absolutely finish Whisper Down the Lane (I started it, and held off for something sweeter), and also, I LOVED “In Five Years” like she did… AND I just one-clicked “Still Beating”. YAY ME!!! Thank you R!!
Now… for some 2021 R. Renee comment highlights (she talks food, kitchen appliances, books, and skin care with us regularly and… she’s wonderfully worldly so we get her trip updates too!!) so anyone new here can get to know her better. She’s AWESOME. And also an awesome author. Just sayin’. 😉 Also she’s a fan of CereVe which is also MY new favorite!
R. Renee: Paris for our 20th anniversary. We still haven’t gotten our French health passes so we may not be able to do a whole lot, but I’m good café hopping with Bordeaux!
1. We arrived in Paris this morning!
2. We napped and woke up to a full double rainbow outside our apartment in Le Marais, which is fitting since Le Marais is the LGBTQ community!
3. Now we’re back at the apartment drinking bordeaux and listing to French café music, wishing I hadn’t forgotten the yahtzee 😆
R. Renee: I’m home from Paris and it was amazing. I can’t wait to go back. Our apartment was in the perfect location and really inexpensive so I’ll definitely stay there again.
R. Renee: Italy. We spent a month there touring small towns and hamlets, and it was night and day compared to visiting the cities (we had a similar reception in Rome as we did in Paris). That’s what I typically recommend, no matter where you travel. Spend a few days exploring the major metropolitan areas, then immerse yourself in the rural heart of the country. I’d love to do that this time, but being in a pandemic, I don’t want to stray far from our embassy, major medical access, or English speakers.
R. Renee: I’m considering transitioning to the Mediterranean “diet.” I already follow it somewhat, I mean, obviously, I have the wine part down! I’d just need to (mostly) cut out red meat and add whole grains and fruit. The carbs in those things has always dissuaded me, but I’m beginning to think the satisfaction I’d get from those carbs might be a plus in the long run. Life is just so much easier with bread, you know?
1. I’m home from Mexico. 😕
2. I don’t want to be home from Mexico. 😖
3. I’m already planning our next visit for late January. 😆
R. Renee: I can’t recommend Isla Mujeres enough. I could live here easily!
R. Renee: It was a fantastic trip. We stayed on 3 different sides of the island to see what we like best and the consensus is: everything but centro. It’s so easy here (almost everyone speaks English, and they’re all genuine and friendly), and it’s very safe. I *may* have had a little too much wine one night and got separated from my husband (with no phone or money), but I was rescued by a local singer we’d me previously who took me to her friend’s house across the street, gave me a beer, and let me use her phone. While waiting for my husband’s cab, she burst into song and did a mini concert for all the night owls still on the street. I think I’d marry her if I could! 😆
Playa Norte is as beautiful as it is in pictures, but it’s crowded with tourists and boats and the drinks are watered down, so we mostly stuck to the gulf side. When we weren’t lounging at beach clubs, we were exploring the island in a golf cart. That was our favorite thing to do. Hop in and go, with no directions or destination. We found some really cool places–one being El Borracho Burro Cantina (The Drunk Donkey) who had a Michael Jackson impersonator the day we popped in.
We can’t wait to come back. I think this will be a 2+ visits per year destination for us.
R. Renee: I have a new recipe for you! Low cal, low carb, low cost, and soooo good. I used flounder, 3 fresh tomatoes, seasoned the fish with Cajun seasoning (in addition to the veggies), and served it on baby spinach. Will probably throw the spinach in at the end next time. https://bit.ly/3d8FNnx
R. Renee: I’ve discovered quite a few winners lately since moving more toward Mediterranean. My current fave is pasta primavera with baked feta (feta is totally different when baked!) Plus just about everything I’ve tried on this website: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/
R. Renee: I think I’m raising a teenager instead of a dog. She sleeps in every morning and will eventually come into the kitchen after I’ve been up for a while. She’ll whine for her medicine (hidden in a treat) but won’t touch her food until dinner! Even then, I sometimes have to pick her up and carry her to it, and she’ll be like “oh, yeah, food!”
R. Renee: A friend got me to try Paula’s Choice skincare and so far I’m loving it. My flaky dry forehead (that prevented me from wearing foundation) is a distant memory. I just got a lip treatment that I’m hoping works just as well!
R. Renee: I just went with the whole line of Resist. I got the Resist Skin Restoring Moisturizer with SPF 50 for daytime and Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol for night. So far so good. The only thing I had to do differently was the toner since Resist was out of stock.
R. Renee: I got CereVe to put on my dry legs after showering and it’s life changing! Usually when whatever I put on *dries*, my legs are back to scaly. This lasts a long time!
R. Renee: I know you didn’t ask me but I’m making The Roast Sunday. I feel like I need to announce that here every time! 😆 “The Roast” is the pepperoncini one. I know that’s your favorite!
R. Renee: I LOVE fish and chips!!
R. Renee: I made my favorite go to “pantry” side dish tonight and it was so good! Drained and dried artichoke heart halves, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil sautéed until warm. We had it with sundried tomato pesto and mozzarella topped chicken breasts.
1. What are you reading at the moment? Thanks to Rochelle’s suggestion the other day, I’m reading Someday in Paris. It may just pull me out of my book slump! Thanks Rochelle!
2. What’s the next book you plan to read? Lord I have no idea. Nothing seems to be sticking right now. Maybe the latest Sarah Ready book? She’s new and I really loved her debut.
3. What’s been on your tbr pile for ages but you plan to read it soon? Sleeping With the Enemy. I’m determined!
4. Who is a new-to-you author you like that you discovered recently? Sarah Ready again. I’ve read a few new authors I’ve like recently but they tend to wrote YA or fantasy, which isn’t my thing.
5. If your next read had to be a comfort reread, which book would you choose? Probably Him on audio. *swoons just thinking of it*
MY TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2021
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman
I don’t remember much of the 80’s satanic panic, but this brought what little I did know back. I do remember being obsessed with all things occult, especially the made-for-TV-movies that I snuck-watched on my old black-and-white as soon as the parents went to bed. It was a fluke that I even came across this book, but I was too intrigued to pass it by.
It’s not necessarily scary, but it’s disturbing, and I found it extremely difficult to put down. I loved the writing style and the clever way the book is constructed. It would make a fantastic movie, and I have a feeling I’ll be seeing it on the big screen soon.
Tip: If you’re an old-school occult horror fan like myself, pay attention to the details, starting with “Professor” Howdy.
R. Renee: I picked up Whisper Down the Lane when it was on sale last week and I’m totally hooked. It’s very unsettling and I’m loving the nods to occult horror fans!
R. Renee: I finished Whisper Down the Lane over the weekend and LOVED it! Many of the reviews mentioned it being predictable but I don’t think it was intended to have surprise reveals so much as a lingering “what if.” If you remember the satanic panic of the 80s and are a fan of old school occult horror, this is a must read.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
I went in completely blind after being sold on a recommendation, and I suggest you do the same. Skip the blurb (and the reviews too) and fasten your seatbelt for an emotional, turbulent, beautiful ride. But if my warning reaches you too late, don’t expect the blurb’s promised love story in the traditional sense because you’ll be sorely disappointed. This isn’t a romance; it’s a tale of fate and friendship and one I strongly recommend.
R. Renee: …And after reading the reviews, I think it helped that I went in blind because there’s a line in the blurb that is very misleading.
The rest in no particular order:
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
I wasn’t a huge fan of Beach Read, but I liked the writing style enough to give this one a shot, and I’m glad I did. Alex filled my swoon quota for the year. Friends to lovers, opposites attract, a big, tragic (and mysterious) split…what’s not to love?
R. Renee: I loved People We Meet on Vacation! Beach Read wasn’t quite what I expected.
Still Beating by Jennifer Hartmann
Hartmann’s The Wrong Heart came highly recommended in my readers group, and while I liked it enough to immediately pick up another book by her—I absolutely loved Still Beating. It’s dark and tragic and everything that’s been missing from my TBR.
R. Renee: I just finished The Wrong Heart by Jennifer Hartmann and loved it. She seems to be a good fit for me. Starting her Still Beating tonight, which has a kidnapping theme. I think I may like it even better!
The Last Piece of His Heart (Lost Boys, #3) by Emma Scott
This was the perfect conclusion to the Lost Boys series and I’m so glad Ms. Scott saved Ronan’s story for last. It’s an emotional read from start to finish, but by the time you reach the epilogue (good luck getting through that unscathed), you’ll find your heart breaking for a different reason: It’s time to let them go. Prepare thyself. Stock up on tissues, chocolate, and perhaps a flask of Holden’s vodka. You’re going to need it.
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
I really liked The Happily Ever After Playlist, but this one topped it for me. Hooked from the very first scene, I could barely put it down. There’s a lot going on and if you have triggers, I recommend referring to Jimenez’s review where she lists them. All in all, it’s emotional, a little angsty, and swoony as all get out. Definitely recommend.
R. Renee: I started Life’s Too Short last night and could hardly put it down. Abby Jimenez has come a long way from The Friend Zone and I’m so glad I gave her another chance because that book is not my friend! 😆
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It’s no secret I prefer Reid’s old school romances to her women’s fiction, and this one is on the lower half of my TJR favorites list, so it says a lot that it still made my top ten. The woman can write. There was absolutely nothing about the Riva family that endeared them to me, and yet I couldn’t put their story down. It was fascinating, in the way watching an episode of True Hollywood Story would be. It doesn’t matter who it’s about—you just have to know what they did and why they did it and what happened in the end.
The Omen by David Seltzer
I downloaded this on a whim and listened to it on my flight home from Paris. I wasn’t expecting much (not sure why), but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s fantastic. The pacing is perfect, and the tension, brilliantly written. If you’re a fan of the movie, give the book a go.
Float Plan by Trish Doller
An inexperienced sailor hops on the boat she inherited and takes off for the Caribbean? If this hadn’t come so highly recommended, I might have passed based on the absurdity of the blurb. But Doller makes it work, and Anna’s inexperience had my heart in my throat the whole way through. Swoony AF Keane doesn’t hurt either…
After reading Final Serenade and One Last Verse, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Dante’s book. Britt doesn’t disappoint. Dante’s everything I hoped he’d be and then some. I knew from the blurb this one would be right up my alley, and it was.
R. Renee: I’m at 65% on an ARC of Red Hot Harmony by NN Britt and I can already predict I’m going to spend a good chunk of the day finishing it. It’s sooo good!
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Damn. This one hurts. I loved it sooooo much all the way through, but the last chapter just deflated me. Otherwise, it might have been my favorite of the year.
That said, it’s fun as hell, cheesy (in the best possible way), and sentimental. Though it had some spooky moments, this book is all about friendship. The eighties references were a blast, and if you were born in the early to mid-seventies, I think you’d enjoy it as much as I did.
But please trust me; curiosity will do you no favors here. Stop before that last chapter. You’ve been warned.
R. Renee: FLT (First Line Thursday): “The exorcist is dead.” My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires)
The only thing better than this book right now is its retro cover. If you were born around 1972, it’s like reliving your childhood.
MARYSE’S NOTE TO OUR FELLOW READERS: Have a Best of 2021 list for me? Send it to me here. 🙂
Love R. Renee’s book taste? Check out more of her favorites:
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s Top Ten for 2016
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s Top 10 Favorite Books for 2017!
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s Best Books of 2018 List
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s Top Ten Best Books of 2019 List
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s “Graduating Class” Books of 2019 List
- Reader Favorites – R. Renee’s Top 10 Best Books of 2020 List
➔➔➔ Looking for more recommendations? Browse all of the reader favorites lists here on the blog. 😀