My Favorite Reads of 2021

Well, 2021 bit the dust, and now we’re on to 2022. New year, same me, so here’s brief wrap-up.

Writing-wise, I wrote book two of the Satura trilogy, which hopefully will be published in 2022 (slight delay due to my editor leaving Ninestar and not giving the publisher the manuscript, and me being in the middle of on my own edits and needing to get it to the publisher right snappy but also the holidays), wrote 12 (really 11 and a half, but who’s counting?) short stories, and published nine short stories (which can be found here). Total of 141,943 words that I wrote and agonized over.

Blogging-wise, I wrote 225,221 words over 161 posts (holy shit) and had almost 10k views, which is really amazing to me.

Reading-wise, I read 207 books, for a total of 71,819 pages and an average length of 346 pages, and no I’m not going to break down books, audiobooks and graphic novels because I am exhausted.

With that being said, there were a fuckton of five-star reads (my average was a blisteringly high 4.0), because I DNF like crazy and generally only finish books I dislike when the book hits a certain scale of I might be wanting to rant about this a little. And no, before you think it, I will not be posting a “most disappointing reads of 2021” because I’m just not feeling like it. I want to celebrate books I loved, not the craptastic algae-infested disaster that somehow received a Goodreads Choice Award in a category that had literal groundbreaking releases.

So here are the books I’m going to gush on about! I am going to try my hardest to limit to no more than five books per category, so wish me luck as I fail in a spectacular way!

Sci-Fi

I already did a post about the Best Sci Fi of 2021 (for me) for Top Ten Tuesday, so this will be brief(ish).

These were my top five reads, the ones I can’t stop talking about and the ones I have recommended to friends over and over and over. I loved them, I lived them, they all hit my soul in various places. And come to think of it, I think all of them made me cry?

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold (reread)
  • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
  • The First Sister by Linden Lewis
  • Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
  • Winter’s Orbit by Evarina Maxwell
  • Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Fantasy

Of course the Sapphic Trifecta made its way onto my favorites list. These three books are much hyped, and they very much deserve all of the hype!

She Who Became the Sun and The Unbroken were the military fantasies I needed—gritty, honest and filled with heart and political machinations and so many twists, turns and betrayals that I now have whiplash. The Jasmine Throne was just so beautifully written, with characters faced with tough decisions, none of them good. In addition to being sapphic as fuck (although not necessarily romantic), there’re heavy themes of anti-colonialism and anti-imperalism running throughout.

Which is funny, because The Goblin Emperor is literally alllllll about imperialism, and I loved it so much! This is a backlist title that had slipped past my radar because of that blah cover (and honestly kinda boring blurb), but I saw it show up on so many recommended lists from people who share similar tastes to me that I had to read it—and I loved it. Like two other books (The Bone Shard Emperor and Soulstar) I loved, this book deals with the practicalities of ruling, governing and finding a way to heal from the systemic injustices of the past.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina was one of those books where I fell in love from the first sentence. It’s another gorgeously written book, with prose I dream of and magic that literally oozes from each page. Not an easy read, in that it dives into hard subjects, but this book was everything I wanted in The Night Circus (and did not receive because I did not like it).

Honorable Mentions:

  • The King of Faerie by AJ Lancaster
  • Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
  • The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
  • Soulstar by CL Polk
  • The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Young Adult

This was a year of both absolutely amazing and utterly blahhhh YA releases.

I didn’t read many of the blaahhhh ones, mainly because they did not interest me, and I was only disappointed by a few that I ended up finishing.

However, these books were fantastic. Last Night at the Telegraph Club was remarkable, well-written and so beautifully researched that I spent every waking minute reading and thinking about it. I couldn’t stop, and the book has lingered with me ever since. Tokyo Ever After was a delightfully silly and also incredibly heartfelt book about royalty, family and love, and I devoured it in one day, practically one sitting. I love Izumi. I love her parents (this has become a theme for me while reading YA—I also loved the parents in This Poison Heart).

The Gilded Ones was one of the first YA fantasy books I’ve ever read that captures the essence of military service in a way that had me curiously researching Namina Forna’s background, because there were elements there that I have never seen before but that many military folk will get. It’s the same reason I loved Year of the Reaper so much—the way Lucier so perfectly captured writing a character with PTSD and the aftermath of a world-changing pandemic was so hopeful and warm and I love both of these books with my heart and soul.

Until I read Iron Widow, which took my fortified heart and soul, ripped them out, shat on them and sent them rocketing up into the sky to be devoured by the cloud dragons. Which is not quite hyperbole, since as much as I adored this book, it did not shy from going there. What is there, you ask? Let’s just say that any subject YA tends to tiptoe around with gentle little hems and haws and euphemisms, Iron Widow dives in with a battering ram and a scream of rage.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
  • This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
  • Bruised by Tanja Boteju
  • The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland
  • Grown by Tiffany Jackson
  • Luck of the Titanic by Stacy Lee
  • Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Miscellaneous

Literary

If 2020 was the year I fell headlong into romance, then 2021 was the year that I was bit by the literary bug! I read more literary fiction than I ever have, since this was a genre I have long avoided. But I read several, and liked all of them—although these were my favorites.

I love reading about women pilots (I wanted to be a helicopter pilot for many years, but do not have the aptitude), and absolutely adored the writing style and ambitious scope of Great Circle, which took a decades’ long story and masterfully spun and spun all these little threads into a web that could only be seen in the distance.

Afterlife was a book I would never have picked up except it worked perfectly for a reading challenge prompt, and I ended up really loving it! It was sad but also hopeful, which I really liked. And in addition to Deesha Philyaw’s beautiful writing, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies was sexy, sapphic and breathtaking.

Romance

I read a lot of romance novels in 2021, and while quite a few of them were four stars, there were only three that really made a huge impression and that really spoke to me. One Last Stop was amazing, but just like Red, White and Royal Blue I was more invested in the secondary characters than the leads, and I loved the world-building and little threads of how Jane touched everyone’s lives.

Act your Age, Eve Brown was the third book in the Brown Sisters trilogy, and quite possibly my favorite! I loved Eve and Jacob and their relationship, and I loved the sex positivity running throughout this book! I also cannot wait for the spinoff series…

A Royal Romance was so. damn. good! I really, really loved it. A butch Queen and her femme friend, dancing around each other, feeling the connection, but maintaining a will-they-won’t-they-just-fuck-already! vibe, while also maintaining the etiquette and decorum of the Firm. I need to read the next books in the series!

Thrillers and Mysteries

Thrillers and mysteries are another genre I generally don’t read, but after reading Karen Slaughter’s Pretty Girls last year, I found myself diving a little deeper! I read my second Agatha Christie book and loved it, which was surprising because I remember haaaaating the first one (which I read in high school for fun), and also met my favorite octogenarian serial killer in Maud.

And, of course, I could not leave out Dial A for Aunties, which takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to mystery writing and I could not be more thrilled and delighted by Sutanto’s fun style. Oh, and there’s The Siren, which is the closest thing to hitting that Evelyn Hugo vibe that I’ve come to, although the two books are quite different.

Nonfiction

Four radically different but amazing nonfiction books hit my favorites in this genre: three from authors I have read before and loved, and one because it was everywhere and I just had to know, you know?

Caste is a hard read, but one that is important in understanding how far down the rot goes in the American system. Four Lost Cities was an engaging read into the history of urban lifestyles: why people join together to form a community, why they leave, and what happens after. It breaks down a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding collapse theory and white-based anthropology. Broken was a book I knew was going to be five-stars based on how much I enjoyed Furiously Happy and Jenny Lawson’s stream-of-conscious style of writing, while Crying in H Mart was a book I wasn’t sure I’d love as it dealt with grief and strained parental relationships, but ended up really, really loving.

Graphic Novel

If there’s an unintentional theme to my graphic novels, it’s this: they’re all queer!

I read a lot of great graphic novels this year, and yes, I finally read Fence, which is 100% my jam because I love queer sports graphic novels with a wide cast, like Check, Please!, Cheer Up! and The Avant-Guards.

For middle grade graphic novels, I really enjoyed Displacement, a time-traveling tale of a girl journeying between her contemporary time and the Japanese internment camps in World War II. I also enjoyed Artie and the Wolf Moon and The Girl From the Sea, which were two great takes on shapeshifters and sapphics, and so wholesome and full of love (although the latter is an absolute tearjerker).

Power and Magic is a second anthology of comics from queer comics of color, and it is really, really great. There was not a single story I didn’t like, and quite a few I loved with all my heart! Okay, I would love it with all my heart, except that Iron Widow ripped it out and it’s now covered in poop.

Webtoon

This year I joined Webtoon, which is a free source for digital comics (there are pay options if you want to get the episodes faster, but I’m cheap and I can wait), and found so many stories that I really, really love (and several that I have not started, like Lore Olympus).

Anywho, I loved The Remarried Empress and Like Wind on a Dry Branch, which have gorgeous illustrations and epic storylines of unrequited love and main characters who wouldn’t realize someone was in love with them (or that they were fabulous) due to their past relationships. And Crumbs was just so wholesome and wonderful, and I’m thrilled that it’s coming out in a physical edition next year. I cannot stop thinking about this quiet story and how much it spoke to me, in very similar ways to how I felt about A Psalm for the Wild-Built, although the two are completely different.

And that’s it! That’s my 2021 favorites!

What books did you enjoy?

8 thoughts on “My Favorite Reads of 2021

  1. This is an awesome amazing post full of some of my most favorite books of 2021 and I’m so glad you enjoyed them all too… Hope you have an even better 2022 😍😍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dead Space was not on my radar at all and then I received it in a book raffle and suddenly, it’s on everyone’s favorite sci-fi lists of the year. Where was I? Oh well, I get to join in now. 😉
    You had a fantastic year in reading! I DNF my last book of the year because it just bored me to tears.

    Liked by 1 person

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