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!
- 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!
1. best book you’ve read so far
The 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.
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!)
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!
2. best sequel you’ve read so far
I haven’t read a single sequel so far this year :]
3. new release you haven’t read yet but want to
I 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!!
4. most anticipated release for the second half of the year
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!)
5. biggest disappointment
I’ve actually had a lot of disappointments this year, so I’ll choose my top three:
- 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!
6. biggest surprise
I 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!!
7. favorite new author (debut or new to you)
I 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.
8. newest favorite character
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!
9. book that made you cry
When 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.
10. book that made you happy
Looking 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.
11. most beautiful book you’ve received this year
While 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.
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.
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!
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!!