2021 in Review: Highlights

Well, the world may still be crazy, but in terms of reading, 2021 ended up pretty great! I blew my Goodreads goal out of the water (though I had deliberately set it low so that I wouldn’t stress over it this year) with 98 books read, and so many of them were fantastic! 😆 I finally got around to starting a bookstagram account in April, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going so far… and if I do say so myself, my 2021 My Year in Books page is looking pretty neat. 😋

As for some specific book stuff, I started some excellent new fantasy series last year. Notably, The Stormlight Archive (which has been a very long time coming); Black Sun (which has left me on tenterhooks for the sequel); and The Tiger’s Daughter (a sapphic, Mongolian-inspired fantasy with a heavy focus on its central love story – though I’m very much looking forward to more demon-fighting in the rest of the series).

I also did a lot of re-reading this year, and I’m pleased to say that a couple of the books I re-read, I liked even better than the first time around, those being Komarr, which I now rate among my all-time favourites, and The Edge of the Cloud, which was a burst of nostalgia that came at the perfect moment. And speaking of nostalgia, I managed to end the year on a real high point with Terciel & Elinor, a new prequel to a series that’s been one of my favourites since I was a teenager. ☺️

This was a great year for romance, too! It’s not a genre I’ve ever been super-into, but (like many people, I think), I’ve been appreciating it a lot in the last couple of years, and am definitely hoping to read more in 2022. Some of my favourites were Kulti (a slow-burn sports romance), Beach Read (a fun rivals-to-lovers story), as well as the political sci-fi romance Winter’s Orbit, and the Regency-inspired fantasy romance The Midnight Bargain.

… And my summer in general somehow ended up being very Regency-themed, with me (kind of accidentally) participating in #JaneAustenJuly. At long last, I read Persuasion, the last (completed) Austen novel I had left – and it was well worth the wait. 😁 I re-listened to Pride & Prejudice on my summer holiday not long after, inspired by a couple of spin-offs and continuations of that story that I’d been enjoying; namely Longbourn and The Other Bennet Sister.

And last but not least, an unexpected favourite (though also somewhat Austen-adjacent) was the Mean Girls inspired Regency rom-com Reputation. I was nervous to pick this one up, as I’ve historically had pretty bad luck with authors who I initially liked for other reasons (Lex Croucher, who wrote Reputation, is also a youtuber), but it was absolutely hilarious, and the perfect book for the moment in which I read it. 🎶 I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for their next release, Gwen & Art Are Not in Love, which should be out in early 2023. 🤞

(ROUGH) TOP 10:

  1. Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold* [REVIEW]
  2. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson [REVIEW]
  4. Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix
  5. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
  6. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
  7. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  8. The Edge of the Cloud by K.M. Peyton*
  9. Reputation by Lex Croucher
  10. Longbourn by Jo Baker [REVIEW]

(*Re-reads included only where I’ve changed my rating.)

October & November Wrap-Up

Some more really great reads in the last couple of months (including what  might be a new favourite)! 😁 I was a little bit slumpy at the end of October/beginning of November, so there’s not a huge number of books here, but quality-wise, it’s been a really great autumn! 🍁🍁🍁

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater.

A sequel/companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, following Isabel and Cole as they attempt to put their lives back together, and sustain a relationship. I don’t remember the original trilogy super-well at this point (it’s been literally years, and I could definitely do with a re-read), but despite (or maybe because of) her general antagonism towards the protagonists, Isabel was always my favourite character. And happily, I still loved her in Sinner! Which is a good thing, as it’s a pretty character-driven book.

The story mainly revolves around Cole moving to LA in order to be closer to Isabel, and the chaos that follows him wherever he goes getting between them, which I might have found annoying if it’d been written by a less skilled writer (or about characters that I cared less for)… but as it is, Sinner was a pretty enjoyable ride; the romance was great, the conflicts realistic, and the characters compelling… and it was really lovely to be back in this world. 😊

Kulti by Mariana Zapata.

Successful soccer player Sal Casillas is astonished to find that her former idol Reiner Kulti is about to become her team’s new coach… and seems determined to be a complete dick to her. I loved this book so much (and must now devour every other book Mariana Zapata has written)! It’s a very slow-burn enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance, with two great lead characters, and enough going on beyond the romance that I was never bored (which tends to be a problem for me with romances), even though it’s a pretty long book. 💕

Lusus Naturae by Alison Goodman. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the world of The Dark Days Club, which re-tells Lady Helen and Lord Carlston’s first meeting, but from Carlston’s perspective. I liked this; it was quick, and a little nostalgic, but Carlston’s thoughts and feelings upon meeting Helen weren’t anything unexpected, and I don’t feel like the story really added anything to the series.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.

The first book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which centres around three kingdoms on the brink of war, and the search for an ancient magic that will restore the continent’s dying land. Re-reading this wasn’t part of my reading plans for November, but I’m glad to have picked it up anyway; I kind of hate the storyline of this series, as well as the world and most of the characters, but somehow it’s weirdly addictive? Cleo and Magnus (who are two of the three primary characters), though not at their best in this book, are definite bright spots of the series, and it was fun to revisit their beginnings – even though my general opinion of this book hasn’t changed.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

The two Owens sisters grow up under suspicion of witchcraft, and desperate to escape their hometown – but life away from their childhood home comes with unexpected challenges, and the more that they try to stay apart, the more that they find that they need each other.

I liked the almost dream-like writing in this, and found both Sally and Gillian (as well as Sally’s younger daughter Kylie) to be compelling leads, but wasn’t hugely invested in either the plot or the romances, unfortunately… The book seemed to wander kind of aimlessly through the sisters’ lives without coming to any real point until near the end, and all the love interests were introduced really suddenly, and neither they nor their relationships were ever really fleshed out much. I found myself wondering if this book is only so famous because the film (which I’ve heard is very different from the book) was very popular? Because I liked it, but didn’t think it was really anything special… And I probably won’t be revisiting this world for the sequel/prequels.

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Grover Gardner; SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of three of Miles’ adventures, framed by an original story for this collection in which Miles recovers from bone-replacement surgery – an important episode in his life, even if the tale in itself isn’t the most gripping. The three short stories were all ones I’d read before, but I enjoyed revisiting them a lot, and bumped up my individual ratings for both The Borders of Infinity (which I was much more invested in this time around), and The Mountains of Mourning (which I honestly thought I’d given five stars already… but apparently not). Labyrinth is my least favourite of the bunch, but still an entertaining read (/listen).

Red at Night by Katie McGarry. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the Pushing the Limits universe, in which the popular Jonah begins to spend time at the graveyard after a traumatic accident, only to find that it’s “Trash Can Girl” Stella’s favourite spot. This was cute, and I liked both the main characters, but it was too short, and moved to quickly for me to really feel like I’d got to know either of them, or (consequently) for me to get invested in their future. My favourite scenes: their first graveyard-talk, and when Stella took Jonah to volunteer with her.

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher.

In a dystopian near-future where the birth rate for girls has drastically declined, Eve – the last girl to be born – is humanity’s only hope for survival. No rating for this one; I DNFd it almost halfway through, because whoever came up with the plan to save humanity was clearly an idiot, and I was so frequently reminded of the fact that I was unable to enjoy any other part of the book. I’ve been informed (by a friend who did read the whole thing) that some of my issues with the plot are addressed in the second half, but regardless, I have no plans of picking this up again.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Moira Quirk]

Beatrice plans to restore her family’s fortunes by summoning a greater spirit of luck and becoming an assistant to her father, while her family is banking on her making an advantageous marriage – which would mean sealing away her magic until widowhood. But when she meets Ianthe Lavan (handsome, charming, eligible, and – most astonishingly of all – understanding of her plight), her choice becomes that much more difficult.

This book was barely even on my radar this year, but I’m so glad that I decided to pick it up; if not an all-time favourite, it’s definitely one of my favourites of the year! 💕 I don’t want to say too much here, as I’m planning to write a full review soon, but my favourite thing about The Midnight Bargain was the gradual shift in so many of Beatrice’s relationships, from mercenary to respectful, then to genuinely affectionate. And there were so many wonderful characters (my favourite was Ysbeta, though)!

#BotWathon Update 2

JUST FINISHED: Beach Read by Emily Henry.

Still reeling from her father’s death and the simultaneous discovery that he’d been having an affair, along with an awkward breakup and a serious case of writer’s block, January Andrews has absolutely lost her faith in happy endings… which is a problem, as she needs to submit a draft for her newest romance novel ASAP. But her new neighbour/former college nemesis may have a solution: switching genres for the summer! And forcing the jaded Gus to write a cheerful rom-com is almost as appealing a prospect as indulging her own new worldview with something distinctly the opposite…

This was such a cute romance! I wasn’t expecting (& didn’t get) too many dramatic turns to the plot, but Henry’s subversion of the grumpy/sunshine trope was really interesting, with jaded-but-wanting-to-believe-in-a-better-world Gus, and sunny-but-questioning-everything-she-ever-believed January… and I really loved both characters! January was a sympathetic lead, and Gus was an endearing love interest… and even though I never really doubted that things would turn out well for them in the end, the ups and downs of their relationship were very gripping.

The concept of their writing competition was a lot of fun, too, and I really wish that I could read both of their books! (Though maybe Gus’ more, as we learn less about it over the course of the novel…)

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Not actually behind – I finished this and The Kingmakers (review to come!) at more or less the same time, so I only actually have one book left to read – but I feel behind. 😓 This book was for the Divine Beast Vah Ruta challenge, to read a book with a water-related word in the title, and also fulfilled the Duelling Peaks Tower bonus challenge, to read a book featuring a rivalry or competition. 😊 My next (& final) read will be The Second Sleep.

Books Read: 4
Pages Read: 1640
Hours Listened: 10:13
Main Challenges Completed: 4/5
Bonus Challenges Completed: 2/3

Breath of the Wildathon: Vah Ruta Quest TBR!

As if two readathons at a time wasn’t enough, I’ve decided to add a third with the next round of the Breath of the Wildathon, which started last Monday, and will be running until Wednesday 20th October. This round is the first section of the main quest, during which we’ll all be making our way to Vah Ruta and hopefully defeating Waterblight Ganon! 🤞 I’ve joined Team Revali 🦅, which will be taking me on a path around the Southern edge of the Faron Grasslands and East Necluda.

1) THE GREAT PLATEAU – read a book that’s out of your comfort zone – This first book is the one I’m most torn on; it’ll either be The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, a post-apocalyptic thriller, or Cod by Mark Kurlansky, a non-fiction about, well, cod. The Second Sleep is the one I’m most drawn to, but I just played my TBR game for October and landed on a non-fiction square, so reading Cod here would combine those two, and thereby slightly increase my chances of getting to Empire of the Vampire next month? (Which is definitely a priority.) Let me know what you guys think! 🐟/🐎?

2) BRIDGE OF HYLIA – read a book where a character crosses between worlds – I’m stretching this prompt somewhat in order to fit in something that’s not fantasy (for those pesky bonus challenges), but I’ve decided to go with Nightwing vol. 4: A Darker Shade of Justice, in which Dick has to go undercover to infiltrate Blackgate Prison… which is kind of another world?

3) LURELIN VILLAGE – read a 5-star prediction – This one was a pretty easy choice, since this is also one of the Magical Readathon prompts that I haven’t fulfilled yet: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson! I started this on day 1 of the readathon, and am currently almost halfway through, and really enjoying it, even though I was definitely not looking forward to fitting a 1000-page book into an already busy reading month. But oh well, it seems to have worked out. 😅

4) BLOOD MOON – draw a blood moon card – The card I drew told me to pick a book over 500 pages, but I will be cheerfully using my Team Revali perk here to ignore that card and read whatever book I want instead… And that book is The Kingmakers by Clay & Susan Griffith, the final book in the Vampire Empire trilogy, which is decidedly less than 500 pages, and is essentially a romance between a human princess and a vigilante vampire hunter with a lot of secrets. 💕 There’s an interesting plot, too, but to be honest I’m mostly into this series for the romance.

5) DIVINE BEAST VAH RUTA – read a book with a water-related word in the title – Last up is Beach Read by Emily Henry! A romance between two rival authors, who decide to switch genres in order to combat their writer’s block. I started the audiobook of this a couple of days ago, and am really enjoying it so far! 😁 I was initially going to pick The Ocean at the End of the Lane for this challenge (because I didn’t realise that we could double up with the bonus prompts), but am really happy with the change – and not just because I now have something to listen to while I knit!

6) BONUS CHALLENGES – I’ve doubled up for all of these, so Beach Read will be counting for the Dueling Peaks Tower challenge (to read a book with a rivalry or a competition), and I will be attempting to read A Darker Shade of Justice in one sitting to fulfil the Eventide Island challenge. And the final challenge – weapon connoisseur – is for every book on my TBR to be from a different genre, which I’ve just about managed: I’ve got either a thriller or non-fiction, a superhero comic, a high fantasy, a steampunk/urban fantasy, and a romance! The only potential overlap is between The Second Sleep and The Kingmakers, which are both post-apocalyptic, but they each blend in other (different) genres as well. 👍

Luckily, I managed to complete all the rune trials during the Great Plateau round, and earned myself the glider perk, so I’m allowed to read these in whatever order I like – and I’ll be starting with (have already started with, in fact) The Way of Kings and A Darker Shade of Justice, as they overlap with my Bookoplathon and Magical Readathon TBRs. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what I’ll be reading.