Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag: 2021 Edition!

Time doesn’t feel real.

I was honestly so consumed by school for the first half of 2021 that it feels like those six months were a fever dream (more so than this whole time period of COVID already feels like). But I genuinely can’t believe we’re already halfway through this year, and though I want COVID to just disappear already, I really wish time would slow down because it feels like we’ve lost so much of it.

Just like in 2020, books have been my savior this year. I say this literally every year, but the Mid-Year Book Freak Out tag is truly one of my favorite posts to do as a book blogger! I love talking about the books I’ve read so far this year, positive and negative, and also my plans for the rest of the year. Even though I hate how fast time passes (this is my fourth time doing this tag… my god…), I always look forward to doing this tag!!

Note: I took out the prompt “newest fictional crush” because I really don’t care for it and I never have any fictional crushes!

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GENERAL

  • Read books: 45
    • Reread books: 3
  • Average rating: 3.6
    • Average rating without rereads: 3.51
  • Most read genre: fantasy (42.2%)
  • Most read age group: adult (40%)

This time last year, I was at 55 books read… BUT my average rating has drastically increased by .3 (yes that is drastic for me). Quality > quantity! I’m very satisfied with the books I’ve read this year, not just in terms of enjoyment but in terms of variety too. I’m actually reading nonfiction (as well as other types of books like comics and poetry), and this is the first time YA has not dominated my reading, which reflects my changed tastes!

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1. best book you’ve read so far

In the Dream HouseThe best book I’ve read this year is without a doubt In the Dream House. This is a memoir about the abusive relationship Machado was in, and it was written so… smartly? It is told in the second person and uses the image of a “dream house” as a metaphor for abuse, and throughout the book Machado also uses allusions to other things to compare to abuse as well. It’s just so creative and is written in a way that makes it feel like a horror novel instead of a memoir. It touches on some really fantastic themes too, mainly what domestic abuse means when you are in a queer relationship. And actually, since I can’t stop gushing, here’s a chapter from the book talking about queer villains that I think about all the time.

Some other excellent books of the year that I’ve read and given 4.5 stars to are She Who Became the Sun, When We Were Infinite, Ace of Spades, and Mornings in Jenin!

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x. worst book you’ve read so far

(This is NOT in the original tag, and I just added in because I am mean and I want to talk about my least favorite book of the year so far!)

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, #1)My least favorite book of the year so far is, sadly, Gearbreakers. I was hoping to love this one and I’m truly so sad it did not live up to its potential. Long story short: I have over 100 Kindle notes for this and all of them are negative.

Long story: The beginning is torturous to get through, because the writing is… so bad. It tries way too hard to impress, and it seems like there are some unique choices from thesauruses without considering if those words actually make sense in context. The prose gets better later on, but the dialogue is still extremely cringy (so many versions of “you do not have my permission to die.” so many) and it really feels like it was written for the vibes. And because the book started off so rocky, it was REALLY hard for me to like/care for the characters, which made me not care about the book at all!

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2. best sequel you’ve read so far

I haven’t read a single sequel so far this year :]

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3. new release you haven’t read yet but want to

Dial A for AuntiesI really want to read Dial A for Aunties, especially before summer ends because it seems like the perfect light and fun book to pick up during this season! It sounds so chaotic and entertaining, from romance to murder to Asian mothers and daughters to Asian aunties, and I think I’m just going to get so much pleasure from reading it. I’ve also read the author’s note about her and her family’s Chinese Indonesian background, and it was so sweet and made me even more excited to read this!! 

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4. most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Redemptor (Raybearer, #2)I just did a whole post on my most anticipated releases, but if I had to choose one, I honestly am so excited for Redemptor! The first book was incredible and one of my favorite books of 2020, and I can’t wait to see how everything ends in this one. I feel like if the first book was already brilliant, this sequel will be even better, and I’ve heard from some early reviewers that my hunch is right. (I’m also very hopeful that this can get the 5-star rating from me that Raybearer didn’t get!)

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5. biggest disappointment

I’ve actually had a lot of disappointments this year, so I’ll choose my top three:

Honey Girl  You've Reached Sam  Amazon.com: The Chosen and the Beautiful (9781250784780): Vo, Nghi: Books

  • Honey Girl: After seeing so many friends gushing about this book and so many five-star ratings pouring in for this, I thought it’d be a new favorite (and I even bought a physical copy because of that!). Unfortunately, while it did emotionally affect me at some parts, this was just not a book for me, especially with its writing style, and I finished the book feeling unsatisfied.
  • You’ve Reached Sam: I think this will be a very hit or miss book with readers, and I’ve already seen some less positive reviews for this, but when I picked this up, I’d only seen people who loved it and were emotionally destroyed by it. And that was… not the case for me. This sounded like it would break my heart and it did not! And I am disappointed by that!
  • The Chosen and the Beautiful: I still enjoyed this one and gave it three stars, but it was honestly one of my most anticipated 2021 releases, so the fact that I only gave it three stars was very disappointing to me. I think it’s a story many people will love, but I just hate The Great Gatsby… So I’m not really sure why I thought I’d love this retelling of it!

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6. biggest surprise

The Girls I've BeenI expected The Girls I’ve Been to be good, especially since I’d read and loved the author’s debut, but I was really blown away by how Good it was. Everything about it is brilliant, from its portrayal of trauma and survival, to its character work in dual timelines. I think you only grow impressed with this book as everything slowly unravels and becomes  more suspenseful. What I expected to be a quick, entertaining read became a truly unforgettable book for me!!

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7. favorite new author (debut or new to you)

Kelly Loy Gilbert Talks About Representation, “Picture Us in the Light,” &  More | School Library JournalI usually wait until I read and love at least two/three books from an author before proclaiming them a new favorite author, and I read my second Kelly Loy Gilbert book this year (When We Were Infinite) and fell in love with it. She cemented herself as a new favorite author with that book, and I can confidently say she’s probably my top favorite author of YA contemporary! Her books genuinely feel like a punch in a gut, and I love it.

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8. newest favorite character

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)Shelley Parker-Chan is truly a genius for making me love the—quite frankly—disturbing main characters of She Who Became the Sun. Both Zhu and Ouyang are honestly quite messed up, Zhu in her merciless journey to power and greatness and Ouyang in his revenge-driven mindset and misogyny, but god I adore (and hate) them both so much. You can’t help but root for them, and they’re also complex characters with brilliantly written arcs. Truly the morally grey gays I always love to see in books!

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9. book that made you cry

Mornings in JeninWhen I started Mornings in Jenin, I was surprised by how I was holding in my tears, especially as things were devastating from the get-go. And then the ending came and… I was full-on sobbing on my bed in the dark. I expected it would be painful, from things I’d heard from friends and also since it’s about four generations of a Palestinian family exiled from their own land, but it honestly just broke me. The story feels so real—because it’s truly what has happened to Palestinians, just with fictional characters—which only makes it hurt more.

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10. book that made you happy

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 1Looking back on the books I’ve read this year, there are… not a lot that made me happy? (Not counting rereads.) I knew I liked to hurt myself with the books I read but there’s literally nothing other than the Witch Hat Atelier books that gave me pure serotonin. First of all, the art is absolutely stunning and takes my breath away, but this is a series about a little 10(ish)-year-old girl named Coco who’s learning how to become a witch, along with other 10(ish)-year-old girls, and they are all SO CUTE.

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11. most beautiful book you’ve received this year

Night Sky with Exit WoundsThe Ones We're Meant to FindWhile I ended up not liking the book, the copy of The Ones We’re Meant to Find that I won in a giveaway is truly stunning! There’s gorgeous art on both the cover (which is probably one of my favorite 2021 book covers) and insides of the hardback. Even if I didn’t like the book… at least it can be pretty on my shelf!!

And if we’re talking about gorgeous writing, Night Sky with Exit Wounds is absolutely the most beautiful book I’ve bought this year. Ocean Vuong’s words are not only pretty but emotionally affecting, and I was honestly so overwhelmed reading this collection that I often had to put it down after reading only one poem.

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12. what books do you need to read by the end of the year?

First of all, I’ve already established that I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the year in general, but second, the fact that we’re halfway through and there are still so many books I want to read before the end of 2021?? Sickening.

Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)  Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad, #2)  A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)  Gods of Jade and Shadow

The books I’m making it a priority to get to are the ones on my 12 books, 12 friends TBR, from which I’ve read 5 so far (and will hopefully be starting the sixth in a few days)! I also would like to get to some sequels like Jade War and Not Your Villain because clearly, I am terrible at reading sequels. And finally, I’ve been slowly working through the books I own physically but haven’t read yet, and I’d like to continue to read those, especially A Memory Called Empire and Gods of Jade and Shadow!


shall we chat

what are your favorite / least favorite books of the year so far? what do you want to read before 2021 ends? and please recommend me books that will make me cry!!

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40 thoughts on “Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag: 2021 Edition!

  1. Aaaaaah I actually need to read Not Your Villain as well…I read Not Your Sidekick in February I believe and I keep telling myself I’m just waiting until closer to the release date for book 4 of the series to read books 2 and 3 because my brain forgets books so quickly, but really it’s just me being bad at reading sequels as well haha. Thank you for that reminder that I need to read it.
    Also I’m currently reading The Ones We’re Meant to Find and it’s…definitely very confusing? I’m maybe 80 pages in by now and there are some parts that I have no idea what’s going on. With the Kasey chapters I feel like there’s so many characters being introduced that it’s hard to keep track of them.

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    1. i’m the same way lol, i always think i’ll get to the sequels when the latest installment comes out but even when it releases, i sitll don’t read the sequels… i hope you enjoy not your villain & the other books whenever you manage to read it, though!!

      i was a bit confused with the ones we’re meant to find too, though i just tried to read it as fast as i could so maybe that was part of the problem lol. i’d say it gets less confusing but… it honestly doesn’t 😭

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      1. Haha yeah exactly. I hope you enjoy it too!

        Ah okay so I finished it and yeah…that was confusing. I mean I think I understand what happened by the end of it, but for most of the book I was like, ‘what on earth is happening’. And I’m still not entirely sure what happened at the very end of the book.

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          1. I have this terrible habit of skipping to the end of books to see how many pages there are in the book and then I almost always read the last page (it’s like I see one word and then I can’t stop reading…) so I read that halfway through the book and I was like WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED??? I feel like one of the reasons that that book is just so confusing and not satisfying at all (the ending definitely left me feeling dissatisfied) is because people are so used to humans getting the upper hand in the end over the AI, the AI are always powered down or whatever. But then also, here we’re reading Cee’s thoughts through the entire book and when we learn that she’s actually an AI (I really hope that no one is reading these comments who hasn’t finished this book) it just leaves you so conflicted. And still, by the end I expected her to give in or whatever and get Kasey out because she’s just…a machine.
            I do feel like there were a few plot holes by the end, though? Like, she just decides to live the rest of her life on an island with only one other person (AI but you know what I mean) and also did we ever resolve the ‘sometimes Hero tries to kill you’ thing??? Or did I just miss parts.

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            1. i actually liked the plot twist with cee being a machine and thought it was cleverly executed (leading up to the reveal), but i honestly did not understand a single thing that happened at the end… i wish i could craft a thoughtful reply to what you wrote but i’m confusing myself by trying to make sense of what the ending was LMAO

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              1. Yeah, overall it was a good plot twist, it just left me feeling extremely conflicted because I got to know Cee over the book but then she just did that to her sister, who is a human…and I kinda wanted to root for the humans because I am one (shocking, I know) even though they’d basically destroyed the earth. But I guess that was kinda the author’s goal, to make us feel conflicted. Haha it’s okay, I’m still confused too.

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  2. While I didn’t love In the Dream house as much as you did (the writing style was not my fave), I loved the discussion on queer villains!!
    Honey Girl didn’t blow me away either. I gave it four stars but it would be a 3.5 now. I enjoyed parts, and how it discussed mental health, but it wasn’t really memorable tbh.

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    1. machado’s writing style definitely isn’t for everyone so i get where you’re coming from! but i’m glad you were still able to enjoy the queer villains discussion, it was really so good. and honestly i feel the same way about honey girl, even though i just finished it i feel like i’m already forgetting what happened lol

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  3. Yes I want to read Dial A for Aunties too, it just looks so fun!! I’m glad you had a good reading year so far. I’m sorry you didn’t like Honey Girl! I actually want to read most of these books but the entire premise for The Girls I’ve been has me so hyped up??? And I wholeheartedly agree that the cover for The ones we’re meant to find is gorgeous😍

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    1. i hope we both love dial a for aunties whenever we get around to it!! the girls i’ve been is truly fantastic — the premise is really great but the book is somehow even better than what you expect. and joan he gets blessed with all the prettiest covers, truly!

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  4. “(This is NOT in the original tag, and I just added in because I am mean and I want to talk about my least favorite book of the year so far!)” the sound that left me…. i loved this a lot, i love you a lot, and i am gonna love reading the next book to make your 4.5 and up stars list after this weekend (hopefully)! <3

    also… i will for sure read in the dream house before the end of the year (extra) now!

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  5. loved reading this post as always, May! 🥰 lmao i am so sorry that you did not enjoy Gearbreakers, but proud of you for getting thru it 🥳 at least it’s over now haha :’)) i’m also SUPER excited for Redemptor bc Raybearer was one of my favorite reads of 2020 too, and i have faith that Redemptor will be one of my faves of 2021 🤩 excited for us to read it!! and ahhhh i also can’t wait to read Dial A for Aunties, it definitely sounds super chaotic and fun LOL – when i first read the synopsis, i did a double take cuz i was not expecting a murder lmao.

    i think my favorite 2021 reads so far are Cemetery Boys, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, and Perfect on Paper!! both of those books made me feel alllll the emotions and i just loved reading them a lot 🥺

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    1. thank you dezzy!! <3 and LMAO i am proud of me for getting through gearbreakers too. and !! if we get the chance to buddy read redemptor we should totally do it, i think i'll be overflowing with thoughts as i read. (and the buddy read offer also stands for dial a for aunties! — though it won't be available at my library for like 2 months lmao)

      i really need to get around to cemetery boys and a song of wraiths and ruin! i think the fact that they're so popular is making me more reluctant to read them haha, but i'm so happy you loved them <3

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      1. omg i’d be so down to buddy read Redemptor and Dial A for Aunties with you :)) haha no worries about the wait for Dial A for Aunties, i also have it on hold at my library and have to wait a while lmao 🥲 so just message me whenever your hold arrives 🥰

        yay i’m so excited for you to read Cemetery Boys and ASOWAR!! lmao i totally get that, the hype can be scary sometimes :’) but i still hope you like them whenever you get around to reading them!!

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  6. Oh but I am The girls I’ve been trash so YES for that being your biggest surprise! Truly did not expect to love that book this much, lol! As for your disappointments, ehm, I’m gonna go cry in a corner because I was really excited for all of them…This was so much fun to read though!! (also…over 100 notes??? Damn May)

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    1. it was one of the first books i read this year and i still can’t stop thinking about it! i’m glad you loved it as well. and omg no, i still did enjoy the chosen and the beautiful and the other disappointments i mentioned were really just me problems lmao! thank you so much 💕 (yes it was truly that bad 😭)

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  7. I loved Dial A for Aunties and I hope you enjoy it too! Yessss Raybearer was so good and I loved Redemptor as well and I hope you do too! Off I’m sorry Honey Girl – didn’t work for you, it is one of my favourite books of the year so far :)

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  8. Oh, I keep hearing bad things about Gearbreakers, especially the writing, so I’m glad that I didn’t pick it up 😅 I was also a bit disappointed by Honey Girl after all the hype, I didn’t get along with the writing style and didn’t much care for the characters. I keep hearing good things about Witch Hat Atelier, I’ll have to check it out 🥰

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    1. i’m honestly surprised i haven’t seen more negative reviews for gearbreakers 😭 but yeah i personally think you made a good decision not to read it! and same about honey girl—the writing style was nice sometimes but overall it got repetitive and the characters felt eh too

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  9. i just realized, while thinking about what i should comment, is that i don’t have a favorite book of this year. my reading year wasn’t the best, to say the least.
    also, i’ve heard about THE GEARBREAKERS’ writing… 😬😬😬😬i don’t think i will pick it up, i don’t have the energy lmao.
    wonderful post!!!

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  10. I’m so excited for In The Dream House and Dial A for Aunties! I have the second one but i’m not sure if I should request In the Dream House on Library because my local indie doesn’t have it. But i really want it especially because of the horror aspects. I’m so curious how they do it with a memoir format

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