Happy end of the year! I know I’ve been a bit MIA for the past few weeks, but it’s mostly to recharge the old blogging batteries before starting a new year. I’ll be back next year, but before I depart from 2021, I wanted to share my favorite books of the year. While this may only be a list of the top 20 books of the year, I do want to make a little shout out to all the books I read this year. Thank you for keeping me company while the world seemed to fall apart outside. You truly are the MVPs of this year and last year (and probably next year).
And thank you to everyone who’s reading this blog! You’re the real champs who have motivated me to keep reading, keep writing, and keep exploring this wonderful world of books. Here’s to another year in the books.
And in no particular order, here’s my top 20 favorite books of 2021!
This was one of the very last books I read this year and it honestly blew me away. Filled with dragons, magic, and even a love triangle, you’ll be swept away to a new world and wonderful adventures in this one.
I really enjoyed this one. I felt like Tracy Deonn really took her time to write this story and putting together this beautiful world that exists within the real world. It’s obvious from the way it’s written that a lot of research went into it. Everything from how King Arthur made his way to the Americas to even Bree’s family lineage all the way back to enslavement were well executed and breathed a real feeling into it. While King Arthur might be legend, this story really brings that legend to life.
I think the one thing that I can always trust from a book by P Djeli Clark is super rich descriptions and a level of world-building on the same level as the great fantasy writers. The depth of description even to include the backstory of that building or event or thing that’s being described is exceptional. It’s extremely visual, which makes me want to see this one on the big screen. I think that this would translate so easily with a story that will definitely keep you watching.
Get ready for space because there’s a lot of it and it’s non-stop. I loved traveling through space with Ryland and his friend, seeing what happens to Project Hail Mary and earth, and seeing what happens to Ryland. The ending was a bit bittersweet and a really wild ending, but it’s been such a magical journey so far that you’ll definitely be happy with it.
This wasn’t the typical YA SFF story that I usually read. I mean, it has the tropes. It has the bits and pieces of a YA SFF story that you want, but it was so much more for me. It read like literary fiction. It had that Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go vibe and it really surprised me. This was definitely one of those stories where it was less important how the world worked, how the science of everything turned out, and how Kasey eventually figured out how to save the world. It’s more about Kasey and Celia; their fractured relationship, their need to find each other, and the world that they grew up in and how that affected both of their lives in very different ways.
I had such a good time reading this book. It’s filled with such fun anecdotes, delicious foods, subway rides, and tons of romance. August and Jane were such a lovely couple and I wanted to follow them to the ends of the earth just hearing their stories. Their romance truly made the book and I honestly was on pins and needles worried that it wouldn’t work out for them. Granted, that wouldn’t make this book a true romance, but there was that emotional build up that maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t work out.
This was my first book from Susanna Clarke and after reading it, I have to say that it won’t be my last. The author was able to pack so much story into so few pages that it can’t even be considered a novella. No, this is a full blown novel that will whisk you away to a world that’s just so difficult to fathom. It was such a multi-layered story that you need to pay attention to otherwise you might find yourself as lost as Piranesi in the labyrinth. She also doesn’t give you any clues directly; it’s all subtle or underlying, so make sure to read everything she provides.
I wasn’t expecting anything in particular from the book, but when I started reading and seeing Ayla and Crier coming together and the tension between them both mentally and emotionally, it kept me reading. I loved the play of feelings here; there was the mental struggle to stay loyal to your cause, but then emotional struggle to not fall in love. Ayla’s feelings were so real and her push/pull from Crier really drove the story for me. That isn’t to say Crier didn’t do the same either. Her ignorance of growing up in a gilded cage and then meeting Ayla who questioned everything is literally what you want to see; someone strong enough to open your eyes to what’s around you and make you wonder why.
This was a wildly beautiful and breathtaking novel. I was so impressed by this book and it was my first from Elizabeth Lim. I can definitely see myself reading more of her books in the future. I loved how much excitement and adventure this book has. There was bit of suspsense, romance, fighting, and magic. It had a little bit of everything and it was so well done. I really appreciate a book I can fully immerse myself in and just feel like I’m along for the adventure.
Thanks, Becky Chambers, for triggering my anxiety. It takes an incredible author to write a 150-page novella and bring me down to the level. But I’ll get to that particular part in a minute. Let’s first clear our heads and discuss the other components of the book.
This trilogy featuring Jade City, Jade War, and Jade Legacy will absolutely blow you away. If you’re a fan of mobster style stories filled with political intrigue, magic, and the importance of family, then you’ll really love this series. While it’s action-packed, it also dives deeply into the stories of the Lan clan and how their family deals with not only being one of the most powerful gangs in this fictional world, but also how they survive together.
Yep, this book was ALL THE THINGS I was expecting it to be and then some. While this book is compared to Mulan, I think it’s far from it. If anything, this read more like The Poppy Wars. If you’re a fan of literary fiction, historical fiction, military fantasy, stories with gender identity, queer relationships, or even stories that will flip you on your head, then I invite you to read this book. This is THE book and it was massive and lush and powerful and so damn surprising.
This was the first book I read from Erin A Craig, and I have to say, color me impressed. The story was beautiful with a dark and haunting vibe all throughout. From the cover, I was imagining this story to be a bit more light-hearted, but the town’s descent into madness, definitely gave you a completely different vibe. It didn’t take long for the atmospheric writing to set in and I was creeped out by things at night. It’s not a scary book, per se, but it’s definitely got the atmosphere. I might have had some goosebumps.
I love a book with great world building and this one delivers so much of it. I felt like Jordan Ifueko put in a lot of effort into this part because if the lore and world-building didn’t make sense, then the story wouldn’t make sense either. It’s always great to read YA fantasy books that have much more depth to it. The lore itself is also incredible. I was telling my husband how the systems of government worked with the 12 ruling parties, the sacrificial children to the Underworld, the political struggle to keep everyone happy, but everyone isn’t. And then on top of that, a massive overtaking of people’s culture and traditions all in the name of unifying the country. There’s so much that this book deals with and does it so expertly that I’m really shook by how this is just a debut!
I could gush about this book for forever. It was funny and dark and sweet and filled with magical ideas and gruesome endings. It was everything I really love about a good fantasy story; a little magic, a little dark, and extremely beautiful. I’m also surprised with how little book there is and how much story was told. I love it when a short book packs a punch!
This story was definitely a stunner and I had so much fun reading it and getting to know The Montoyas. I’m so blown away by the writing, the story, and the characters. I’ve read Zoraida Cordova before, but this felt like nothing I’ve read from her in the past. Well, mostly that’s also because I was reading her YA fantasy fiction and not her adult novels. And this delivered! The writing is gorgeous, the pacing is beautiful (up until the end where it got rushed), the mystery was mysterious (albeit a bit predictable), and all together such a great read. It was not necessarily a fantasy book, but I wouldn’t call it magical realism either. There was magic, for sure, but it definitely felt more like a fantasy. I would go as far as say science fiction, even! But this genre blending book definitely gave me all the feels.
If you’re a fan of shows like The Bachelor, then get ready for this one. Seriously, I’m pretty sure Alison Cochrun watches the show because the mentions were spot on. “Can I steal you away for a sec?” is probably one of the most iconic lines of Bachelor ever and it was in here! Not only that, but the timeline of the show, the iconic parts that make up the show, the behind-the-scenes scripting of the characters (even how they made someone into a villain), and the best part is that this was the running theme throughout the book. Sometimes you read these romance books and they just drop off on the main plot of the book to focus on the romance. I’m so glad that you basically see until the final episode what happens on the show.
This book is incredible. Full stop.
Beautifully written and smartly displayed. It gave me TJ Klune and Becky Chambers vibes. It gave me donuts and so much delicious Asian food. It made me think of my violin-playing youth. And it was a massive love letter to the Asian communities of LA. I honestly was so astounded by the beauty, the embrace, and the creativity this book provided. It’s definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
What were your favorite books of the year?