20 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalists We’ve Read & Loved in 2021

December 23 2021
Share 20 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalists We’ve Read & Loved in 2021

The winners were announced for the 13th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards, and we have thoughts! Did you read through the results and find yourself overwhelmed with the new books that you just had to read? Well, we’ve combed through our articles and compiled some what we had to say about certain books on the list. While not all of them reached that coveted “winner” spot, they’re all winners in our hearts.

The Spanish Love Deception
by Elena Armas

Best Debut Novel

When Catalina Martín’s insufferable colleague, Aaron Blackford, agrees to be her plus one at her sister’s wedding, she expects to be miserable, but is willing to suffer through it to keep up the lie that she’s happily in a relationship. As the two fly from NYC to Spain and maneuver through Catalina’s boisterous family, they inevitably learn more about each other and discover that the wedding activities are a bit more enjoyable together. Complete with all the antics you can expect at a big international wedding, this enemies-to-lovers romance is so much fun and will give you all the feels.  

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The Spanish Love Deception
Elena Armas

A TikTok sensation, this rom-com about a young woman who agrees to fake date a colleague and bring him to her sister’s wedding has “everything you could want in a romance” (Helen Hoang, New York Times bestselling author).

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.

Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.

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The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave

Best Thriller & Mystery Winner

Reading THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave, I was immediately drawn in by the main character, Hannah Hall, who’s just so down-to-earth and no-frills, who gets thrown into this crazy situation. She’s been married for only a year when her husband, Owen, goes missing, leaving behind a note that says Protect her. It’s so vague; you feel just as confused and infuriated as Hannah does, which kept me reading and reading and reading. You accompany Hannah and Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, on this incredible investigative journey as they push the limits to figure out where he is.

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The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.

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The Rose Code
by Kate Quinn

Best Historical Fiction finalist

You may have heard of Bletchley Park when Duchess Kate Middleton visited to trace the footsteps of her grandmother, but Kate Quinn’s latest novel THE ROSE CODE brought us inside a fictional retelling of the war efforts and the women of Bletchley Park. Even more important, I think, is what their lives looked like after the war. A fifty-year gag order, and the threat of being declared insane, kept them from telling their stories until very recently. That’s where the PBS Series The Bletchley Circle comes in, telling the story of four seemingly ordinary women who have returned to their normal lives after the war.

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The Rose Code
Kate Quinn

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The Dictionary of Lost Words
by Pip Williams

Best Historical Fiction Finalist

Lexicography, the practice of compiling dictionaries, is not commonly discussed, yet lexicographers have the immense power of creating “definitive” guides to language, thus shaping vocabulary as we know it. Pip Williams’s debut novel THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS explores this idea through the eyes of Esme, a lexicographer’s daughter. It’s 1901 in Oxford, and Esme spends her days under the sorting table, as her father and a team of lexicographers attempt to assemble the first Oxford English Dictionary. One day, Esme catches a slip of paper with the word bondmaid written on it, and soon makes it her mission to collect all of the words discarded by the lexicographers. Esme’s journey takes her beyond Oxford as she meets the women and common folks whose words and experiences are often unrecorded, challenging the lexicographic status quo established by her father with her Dictionary of Lost Words.

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The Dictionary of Lost Words
Pip Williams

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My Heart Is a Chainsaw
by Stephen Graham Jones

Best Horror Finalist

If your extensive knowledge of horror films could help you save the day, would you use your powers for good or forsake those who have done nothing but harm you? That’s the dilemma Jade faces in horror master Stephen Graham Jones’s latest book, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW. Jade has been cast out by just about everyone in her town, seeking solace in scary movies, especially revenge stories. But when the same little town finds itself at the center of its own cinematic blood fest, can Jade put the past behind her, or will her trauma consume her? At once a moving portrait in loneliness and a gripping tale of murder, this is not one to be missed if you’re looking for a good horror read.

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My Heart Is a Chainsaw
Stephen Graham Jones

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

Best Fiction Finalist

Selected as a 2021 National Book Award finalist, CLOUD CUCKOO LAND is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. This dynamic novel is split among five different point of views and three different periods: Constantinople in the fifteenth century, a small town in present-day Idaho, and an interstellar ship decades from now. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anthony Doerr writes about children at precarious points in history who find solace in reading. Written with elegant, carefully constructed prose, this novel is a celebration of libraries and how books can connect us with the past, present, and future.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.

Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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Shipped
by Angie Hockman

Best Romance finalist

BEACH READ was the perfect summer escape, but who says we have to wait months to bask in the sun once more? Escape from the cold dreariness of winter with SHIPPED, another tale of what happens when archnemeses are forced together in close quarters. Angie Hockman’s novel takes off when two marketing execs, who have only ever exchanged words over email—harsh emails, at that—are plopped onto the same cruise ship and tasked with boosting travel bookings. The banter, the tears, the rivalry, and career stakes, all will have you engrossed in no time, in a dream landscape!

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Shipped
Angie Hockman

The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands...together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.

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The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
by Zoraida Córdova

Best Fantasy Finalist

I cannot overstate my love for this book. THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA is perfect for fans of PRACTICAL MAGIC, MEXICAN GOTHIC, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, and INFINITE COUNTRY. Orquídea is the matriarch of the Montoya family, and she’s always been a little strange, a little magical, and a little mysterious. The book follows her grandchildren trying to unravel the mystery of Orquídea’s past, while in the present day their family members are being hunted down one by one by some unknown adversary. It also follows Orquídea herself, as a young woman in Ecuador, uncovering magic and intrigue as she tries to find a place to fit in. This book is absolutely enchanting and the journey with the Montoya family will stay with you long after the book ends.

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The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
Zoraida Córdova

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.

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Malibu Rising
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Best Historical Fiction Winner

Doesn’t this evocative summer cover just make you want to dive in? I’m a big Taylor Jenkins Reid fan and was so excited to read her newest book. The story takes place in Malibu in 1983 and revolves around the four popular Riva siblings, whose accomplishments, good looks, and legendary singer father attract everyone’s attention at an end-of-summer party at their family’s mansion. But these famous close-knit siblings are not what they seem, and secrets threaten to burst to the surface. With a flash-forward to the Riva mansion on fire the morning after the party, this book pulls the reader into each story line with rising tension to find out just what happened and wonder which sibling reached their boiling point. This is Taylor Jenkins Reid at her finest, with expert pacing, evocative scenes, and characters who’ll surprise you at every turn.

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Malibu Rising
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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The Paris Library
by Janet Skeslien Charles

Best Historical Fiction Finalist

Odile Souchet begins her dream job at the American Library in Paris in 1939, just as the Nazis begin to occupy Paris. The library staff dedicate themselves to protecting the library and the precious books and lives inside. In 1983, Odile is far away from Paris and the library, but tragedy and pain remain with her. When a young girl who has herself experienced tragedy befriends Odile, together they will help each other to heal. This important story about courage, healing, and the power of words, is an absolute favorite of mine.

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The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

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The Night She Disappeared
by Lisa Jewell

Best Thriller & Mystery Finalist

Thrill master Lisa Jewell is never one to disappoint, with her multitude of characters and heart-stopping twists. Her latest novel, THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, only serves to further cement that reputation. What thrills and terrors could await in an idyllic English cottage? Newly-moved-in writer Sophie certainly isn’t expecting a dark mystery in her own backyard. But when she finds a note on a tree that reads “Dig here,” she gets sucked into the dark intrigue of what happened to a young couple, and what happened to them on these haunted grounds. The twists don’t stop coming until the very end, leaving your heart in tatters.

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The Night She Disappeared
Lisa Jewell

“I love all Lisa’s books, but The Night She Disappeared is her best thriller yet.” —Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of Win

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs comes another riveting work of “gloriously twisted” (Marie Claire) psychological suspense about a web of people whose lives are forever changed in the wake of a young couple’s disappearance.

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep on the edge of your seat until the final page.

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Infinite Country
by Patricia Engel

Best Fiction Finalist

INFINITE COUNTRY first follows fifteen-year-old Talia as she breaks out of a correctional facility in Colombia and races to Bogotá in order to board her flight to the United States. It then jumps to alternating perspectives, exploring the story of Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena. As they fall in love at a market in the midst of Colombia’s civil war, they flee to the US in search of a better life, but a new unique set of struggles emerge. Reese’s Book Club pick for March 2021, INFINITE COUNTRY is written in breathtaking prose, and highlights the tense reality of undocumented life in the United States, and the unbreakable bonds of family.

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Infinite Country
Patricia Engel

A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK and INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“A profound, beautiful novel.” — People * “Poignant.” —BuzzFeed * “A breathtaking story of the unimaginable prices paid for a better life.” —Esquire

This “heartbreaking portrait of a family dealing with the realities of migration and separation” (Time) is “a sweeping love story and tragic drama [and] an authentic vision of what the American Dream looks like in a nationalistic country” (Elle).

I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country “is as much an all-American story as it is a global one” (Booklist, starred review).

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Hour of the Witch
by Chris Bohjalian

Best Historical Fiction Finalist

It's hard being a Puritan woman in the New World. The second wife of a powerful but abusive man, Mary Deerfield is looking to escape her situation and make a better life for herself. But soon rumors start among her neighbors that Mary is a witch, especially as strange events keep happening around her. Will Mary be able to escape both her marriage and a death sentence, or will she join the many women hanged for witchcraft? THE HOUR OF THE WITCH presents a twisted historical thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the evidence mounts against Mary, with the truth darker than anyone could have imagined.

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Hour of the Witch
Chris Bohjalian

Sara's Pick: It's hard being a Puritan woman in the New World. The second wife of a powerful but abusive man, Mary Deerfield is looking to escape her situation and make a better life for herself. But soon rumors start among her neighbors that Mary is a witch, especially as strange events keep happening around her. Will Mary be able to escape both her marriage and a death sentence, or will she join the many women hanged for witchcraft? THE HOUR OF THE WITCH presents a twisted historical thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the evidence mounts against Mary, with the truth darker than anyone could have imagined.

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Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

Best Historical Fiction Finalist

Sadeqa Johnson’s YELLOW WIFE follows Pheby Delores Brown, a slave in the mid-1800s who is promised her freedom when she turns eighteen. A series of tragic events occur and Pheby has to make some choices. How she survives these choices makes for such a page-turner, I couldn't put it down. No spoilers here, but YELLOW WIFE is, quite simply, a must-read.

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Yellow Wife
Sadeqa Johnson

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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The Soulmate Equation
by Christina Lauren

Best Romance Finalist

Living in uncertain times like we do, it makes sense that we’d find comfort in the idea of destiny. Or, at least, that’s what I told myself earlier this year as I happily devoured Christina Lauren’s THE SOULMATE EQUATION, a romance novel with the appealing premise that a DNA-based algorithm can definitely (maybe) match you with your true love. While the book’s heroine, Jess, is highly skeptical when her GeneticAlly results indicate that her dream man is her nemesis, Dr. River Peña, she’s also a single mom who can’t turn down his company’s lucrative offer to play along for the press. Faking a relationship in front of the cameras turns out to be more enjoyable than either of them expects, however, and real feelings develop between them. Is it fate or free will that’s driving their love story?

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The Soulmate Equation
Christina Lauren

The New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners returns with a witty and effervescent novel about what happens when two people with everything on the line are thrown together by science—or is it fate? Perfect for fans of The Rosie Project and One Plus One.

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

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Billy Summers
by Stephen King

Best Mystery & Thriller Finalist

There’s only one name I think of when it comes to the reigning monarch of suspense—Stephen King. And his latest book only adds to that legacy of thrills and chills. Billy is a gun for hire, but with a very specific requirement: he will take the job only if the target is a truly terrible person. But Billy’s final job before retirement doesn’t go according to plan, and now he must give all he’s got to take down the worst target he’s ever faced. A nonstop roller coaster, BILLY SUMMERS will have you up all night wondering about a man and his gun.

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Billy Summers
Stephen King

From legendary storyteller and #1 bestseller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained,” (The New York Times Book Review) comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

You won’t put this story down, and you won’t forget Billy.

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
by Dawnie Walton

Best Historical Fiction Finalist

I love this novel for its astonishing originality, for the page-turning mystery at its heart, for the encyclopedic musical knowledge author Dawnie Walton brings to the page, and of course for the unforgettable and turbo-charged character of Opal Jewel. Walton’s book is written with such energy and authority, you may just find yourself googling the characters, wondering if Opal & Nev, iconic rock duo of the 1970s, were real—and wishing they were.

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Dawnie Walton

A kaleidoscopic fictional oral history of the beloved rock ’n’ roll duo who shot to fame in 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

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The Book of Magic
by Alice Hoffman

Best Fantasy Finalist

THE BOOK OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman is the breathtaking finale to her Practical Magic series. The Owens family has been cursed for centuries, denying them from their true loves. But at last, the existing Owens witches are determined to break the spell. In a frantic attempt to save one man’s life, three generations of Owens women travel from Paris to London to the English countryside, while uncovering long-held family secrets. This spellbinding and enchanting conclusion is the perfect way to end the cherished magical series that I, and so many other readers, have held so dearly for years.

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The Book of Magic
Alice Hoffman

Master storyteller Alice Hoffman brings us the conclusion of the Practical Magic series in a spellbinding and enchanting final Owens novel brimming with lyric beauty and vivid characters.

The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.

A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.

The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

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That Summer
by Jennifer Weiner

Best Fiction Finalist

You absolutely have to read this twisty story of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship. With a thriving career and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, Daisy Shoemaker should be content—but instead she can't sleep. While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women become friends. But as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Sutton Foster's authentic performance in the audiobook really put me in Daisy's shoes. This is the ideal read or listen for a sunny day—its combination of fantastic writing and immersive setting held my attention until the very end!

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That Summer
Jennifer Weiner

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship.

Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?

While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?

From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, That Summer is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.

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The Charm Offensive
by Alison Cochrun

Best Romance finalist

It’s easy to get invested in a story’s characters when they just so happen to fall in love with each other. Alison Cochrun’s debut, THE CHARM OFFENSIVE, is a heartwarming tale of Charlie Winshaw, a Silicon Valley icon looking to rehab his image by participating in a reality dating show, and Dev Deshpande, the show’s producer and die-hard romantic, who’s been through a few heartaches of his own. While Charlie has no intention of falling in love with any of the dozen female contestants he’s meant to interact with, he does begin to feel a different kind of connection with Dev, who kindly coaches him on how to be more open and personable. What ensues is a love story supported by a diverse cast of characters as the two protagonists negotiate their feelings. Heartwarming and hilarious, Cochrun’s novel is the perfect plot for readers to cozy up with.

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The Charm Offensive
Alison Cochrun

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

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Photo credit: iStock / thomas-bethge

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