The year is up and while there is plenty to be read in 2022, one cannot fit anymore reading into 2021. So what were the favorites you have read? Which ones were published this year? Which ones did you wait to read until this year? Which ones did you re-read?
If you haven't checked out the books I enjoyed the most in the first half of this year, read my list of the best books.
The post has a list of the pre-requisites for the books that make the list. They are as follows:
These books have been finished between January 1st, 2021, and December 31st, 2021. They do not have to have been published in that time but they were read by myself during those months. Their publishing dates are listed below.
These books are not previous reads. While Marissa Meyer's book will likely always remain on my "Top Books List" they do not make today's list (despite being read in the first half of 2021) because I have read them before. This list is solely reserved for books I was able to enjoy for the first time.
These books are not required to stand out in any particular way. I'm not looking for the same characteristics in each book. These books may not even be books I would give 5/5 stars. While I did enjoy each of these books as a whole, the main requirement for each of them to be on this list is that they stood out to me in some way or stayed with me even after I put the book down. These are the books I remember reading and that struck me as interesting (good interesting) in some way.
Shadow and Bone (series):
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Date Published: Shadow and Bone: 5th June, 2012/Seige and Storm: 4th June, 2013/Ruin and Rising: 17th June, 2014
Page Count: Shadow and Bone: 358/Seige and Storm: 435/Ruin and Rising: 422
Summary: Shadow and Bone is the first of three series in the "Grishaverse," a universe created by Leigh Bardugo which is now being turned into a Netflix original TV series. The books center around a Russian-inspired country divided by "the fold" which is a nightmare to all who enter filled with terrible beasts who thrive in the darkness, killing most of those who attempt passage through the fold. Enter Alina Starkov: a young orphaned girl who accidentally reveals Grisha powers no one has ever seen before that might just be the country's salvation.
Why it stood out to me: I had my doubts. Shadow and Bone is quickly becoming the next Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Divergent, or Hunger Games. It is a book series with a new TV show and everyone (and I mean everyone) loves it and sings its praises. The problem with a series like that: most often the series is overrated. Shadow and Bone, surprisingly is not. I loved the worldbuilding of the series, (Leigh Bardugo clearly planned her butt off and knew what she was talking about) the well-thought-out characters, and the plot. I don't always see what will happen next (Which is impressive when you have read as many books as I have. I tend to be able to predict what the author will do next). It was also a very different world than what I had seen before with a very different culture—still fantasy but interestingly, Russian based. So don't be put off by long hold lines at your local library, check these books out!
Six of Crows (series):
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Date Published: Six of Crows: 9th September, 2015/Crooked Kingdom: 2016
Page Count: Six of Crows: 465/ Crooked Kingdom: 546
Summary: Six of Crows follows Shadow and Bone in the Grishaverse universe and is a duology. The characters of Six of Crows (Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Nina, and Matthais) are present in the TV show though the books follow a different storyline (read more about why in my review). The books revolve around a heist that the six-person crew (the five from the show plus Wylan Van Eck) must pull off. The characters each reside in Ketterdam (a city based on Amsterdam) for various reasons and for various reasons are the best people for a job based in Fjerda (a Nordic-based county).
Why it stood out to me: This book series took everything I loved about Shadow and Bone and added more humour, more culture and worldbuilding, and more lovable characters with questionable intentions. Need I say more? Honestly, next to Marissa Meyer, I think Leigh Bardugo's books are probably my favorite (though I'll admit I only have one of them on my shelves). If she releases more (inside the Grishaverse or not) I will definitely be reading them.
The Lost Apothecary:
Author: Sarah Penner
Date Published: 2nd March, 2021
Page Count: 301
Summary: In the 1800s, a secret apothecary exists servicing only women. The woman who runs the apothecary was once hurt by a man and now seeks to prevent other women from ever facing the same fate as herself by offering poisons hidden in foods and objects so that her customers may take their fates into their own hands. Of course, she sells medical aids as well but that's not what she is best known for. Penner writes an almost magical and entirely mysterious story of three powerful women stealing their own lives back. One deals in potions to cure the ill fates of women, one aids the first, and the final, living in this century, seeks to solve the mystery of the other women along with her own? Where will they all end up? How will they solve each of their problems? Can they learn to trust the men in their lives again and, given a second chance in life, who do they want to be?
Why it stood out to me: This book has all the best things. It has just a splash of magic but not enough to take away what makes the book feel real. It is mysterious and you never see what's around the bend. The plants, herbs, and other elements that the women use in their poisons gives the book a certain feel that I absolutely loved. And best of all, there are three characters that are each unique and loveable in their own ways. Each woman is searching for who she wants to be and learning to take what she wants without pushing others away. It is a story of identity, magic, and mystery as well as a story of powerful women in a time women weren't empowered to be so. I loved it with every fiber of my being.
The Botanist's Daughter:
Author: Kayte Nunn
Date Published: 31st July, 2018
Page Count: 400
Summary: This book is very similar to The Lost Apothecary (which is why I read it). Two women seize their futures and rewrite the past as they search for a mystical flower hidden in the mountains (or is it the canyons??) of Chile. In the 1800s, Elizabeth must travel from England to find the flower, completing her father's mission for him. He died and left the challenge up to her despite the deathly obstacles it presented thanks to the evil man who also chases the flower (for less noble causes of course). In present-day Australia, Anna (a gardener) finds a mysterious box in the walls of her late grandmother's house and decides to follow the trail it leads her on...all the way to England. With intertwined family trees, botany, mystery, and romance, this book is not one you'll want to pass up.
Why it stood out to me: The Botanist's Daughter stood out to me for many of the same reasons as The Lost Apothecary. It has strong women in a time where women were not challenged to stand up for themselves or take their lives into their own hands. Both of these timelines, however, follow powerful women who do take their lives into their own hands and stand up to anyone who gets in their way. The books are inspiring. I also love how these books (particularly The Botanist's Daughter) explore the idea of identity and purpose. As I read them, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life just like some of the characters. I was at a fork in the road wondering whether to take the harder (more exciting) path or the one I had been on for some time. These women challenged me to follow my dreams and go after what I wanted. Powerful characters in well-written books can do that!
House of Salt and Sorrows:
Author: Erin A. Craig
Date Published: 6th August, 2019
Page Count: 403
Summary: A twist on the story of the 12 dancing princesses, House of Salt and Sorrows follows Annaleigh and the 7 sisters she has left. Death after death has made suspicions arise in the household. People now believe that the princesses are cursed and as Annaleigh begins to investigate her last sister's death, suspecting it wasn't an accident, she starts to believe those rumors. Ghosts and horrible sightings invade the house as Annaleigh fights to get to the bottom of her sisters' deaths before she loses anyone else. The problem...she is not sure who or what she can trust. Including herself.
Why it stood out to me: House of Salt and Sorrows was unlike anything I have ever read before. Mostly because I don't really read horror and this definitely had a tinge of horror to it. But I loved the mystery, the characters (including their names), and the plot. In fact, when I was done with the book, I actually wanted something with the dark, spooky feel that this book had to it. Craig does an amazing job of taking a fairytale, twisting it without losing the tale, and throwing in enough new elements to make it entirely her own. This book is 12 dancing princesses plus little mermaid plus gore, ghosts, and other spooky phenomena all wrapped up in a mystery the reader can't hope to solve on their own.
Serpent and Dove (series):
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Date Published: Serpent and Dove: 3rd September, 2019/Blood and Honey: 1st September, 2020/Gods and Monsters: 27th July, 2021
Page Count: Serpent and Dove: 513/Blood and Honey: 536/Gods and Monsters: 624
Summary: In a society where witches are hunted because of who they are and the powers they are born with, one witch is forced to marry a member of the church society that hunts them down to escape death. The two begin to fall for one another, but the witch has to re-learn her magic to protect herself from her greatest enemy but knows doing so will alienate her from her husband. When more puzzle pieces fall into place and other enemies rise up against the witch, her family of friends, as well as the church and country, it becomes clear that the battle is between more than just one witch and the man she has married.
Why it stood out to me: This book series has been on my "to-read" list and I wish I had read it sooner because it is now on my "top-three" list. The series has the worldbuilding of the Grishverse series (with French culture), similar characters and feel to Sarah J. Maas books and the plot of The Talon Saga with witches instead of dragons and a dash of Mahurin's own imagination. It was slightly less explicit than Sarah J. Maas books (which I appreciated) without losing the humor and maturity. Plus I fell deeply in love with the characters, particularly the main ones. They played off one another as well as those in The Talon Saga and I loved the sarcastic stubborn protagonist. Plus the other characters were amazing as well. I didn't want to leave any of them behind. The books were done so well and I want to read them again next year!
Author: Margaret Owen
Date Published: 19th October, 2021
Page Count: 512
Summary: Vanja is the goddaughter of two goddesses: Truth and Death. She is also the penny thief that has been robbing many of the noble of late. And the Prinzessin Gisele (but only when she wears the magical pearls which she stole from the REAL Gisele). Oh... and her maid, Marthe. She has been playing "find the lady" with these cards for so long that when a prefect shows up at one of the nobles' houses looking for the penny thief with magic and training at his back, she is sure she can keep doing so until she has enough money to make her escape. That is, until she is also cursed to turn to gems in two weeks by a third goddess. But surely she can still do it all on her own right? Unless the fiance of the woman she's pretended to be (or more correctly, one of them) comes back into town demanding the wedding, and there happens to be more going on there than she originially assumed.
Why it stood out to me: Strong female characters are the best and Vanja is no exception. Vanja is stubborn and sarcastic and the source of great humor and inspiration but she is not the only reason to love the novel. The novel is also a great fairytale twist both close and far from the original tale with random elements from the tale included. It also has an AMAZING plot. There are so many things going on at once that the novel could have been terrible but Owen manages each of the elements really well and the novel comes out great. I never saw anything coming and for the first half of the book still thought the book was about Vanja's curse and connection to her godmothers. Finally, I really love the romance in the novel. There is a slow-burn romance between the two main characters that is done flawlessly and I love that it's not "sex, sex, sex!" There is plenty of reference to sex but often in connection to the protagonist's lack of knowledge which was hilarious and really enjoyable.
Honorable Mentions: Description ★★★★☆ by Monica Wood, Didn't See That Coming ★★★★☆ by Rachel Hollis, Gilded ★★★★☆ by Marissa Meyer, King of Scars ★★★★☆ by Leigh Bardugo, The Notebook ★★★★☆ by Nicholas Sparks, The Rose Code ★★★★☆ by Kate Quinn, A Walk to Remember ★★★★☆ by Nicholas Sparks, Water For Elephants ★★★★☆ by Sara Gruen, The Writer's Lexicon ★★★★★ by Kathy Steinemann