all my reads from the first half of 2021 | disappointments and actually enjoying a literacy fiction book

hello lovely people,

I hope you are all well and happy. I know I haven’t been active recently, but I am just going to slide past that, to be honest. But, thank you very much if you still decided to click on this post and give it a read. Hopefully, my next post will be about what’s coming up on my blog.

Anyway, as this may be a slightly lengthy post (what’s new?), I’m just going to go straight in with the books that I’ve read this year so far. I decide to get all organised by splitting them into different tiers to see my level of enjoyment for these books in defined groups. I am sure you will have seen the ‘tiers’ about on the internet as I feel like quite a few people did ‘tier rankings’ last year.

divider. In centre is a red and pink mushroom/toadstool, on the left and right are pink swirls.

top tier

my favourites of the year so far.
the fever king by victoria lee

the fever king by Victoria Lee // a book that gained this spot mostly for the characters with their complexities and endearing qualities. The villain is also extremely well delivered from their position in the novel and how they carry themselves. It is a heartbreaking read at times but very well-written and compelling through our main character’s perspective which adds mystery, emotion and social commentary.

jade city by fonda lee

jade city & jade war by Fonda Lee // the literacy power of this series. thank you. When first reading these books, I was almost put off by the kind of cold writing style until I adjusted to it, and I now think the style enhances the story. Please, can we just say, the plot is the most stunning thing ever? I may be thinking about it non-stop. The way the plot pushes the characters and the characters push the plot is the most intense, captivating example I’ve seen, and it is executed in perfect equilibrium between the two. Truly stunning. I am counting down the days to the third and final (😭) book.

i am the architect of my own destruction by juansen dizon

i am the architect of my own destruction by Juansen Dizon // a poetry book that I believed would be called Instagram poetry (oh, the lack of conviction I feel in the statement). I am a newbie to poetry (clearly), I had only picked up this book after seeing a quote online, but I am so grateful I did. The poetry heavily touches on mental illness, predominantly depression, in a very open and raw way which I don’t think I had ever experienced before. It felt like a very personal and touching journey which I am very thankful for being able to experience through the writing.

life as a unicorn by amrou al-kadhi

life as a unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi // my most recent read and an absolute gem. In this ‘memoir of a Muslim drag queen’, we experience what it was like growing up for them and the multiple facets of their identity. It is a profound look into their life, highlighting accepting all the different parts of yourself and the struggles that can come with that. It is a heartbreaking read at times and yet still carries a light tone that engages you as a reader. It was just one of those books that I think everyone should read.

image of red single line divider.

solid tier

I would 100% recommend these books.
the beauty that remains by ashley woodfolk

the beauty that remains by Ashley Woodfolk // a book following three perspectives focusing on grief and what music means to them. I loved how each character handled these themes. It felt complex, emotional yet, still hopeful. I think it did wrap up a bit too quickly, and I found one POV weaker than the others but, it was still a good read.

we free the stars by hafsah faizal

we free the stars by Hafsah Faizal // a marvellous sequel. I would even say it was better than the first book. I felt like the plot, pacing and relationships all felt richer establishing a satisfying and enticing conclusion. The writing was as stunning as ever. It is literally divine. Plus, this duology has the most natural and dynamic character interactions I have seen in a while, it just works for me. I am very intrigued to see what Hafsah does next.

dr wangari maathai plants a forest by rebel girls

dr. wangari maathai plants a forest by Rebel Girls // a non-fiction book written for children but, I stand by the fact that everyone can read and enjoy this. It is a quick read which contains absolutely beautiful illustrations (can we please admire the colour scheme??). The book gives a brief overview of Dr Wangari’s life surrounding environmental conservation. It is essentially a short shot of inspiration, kindness and beauty.

Manjeet Mann's Run, Rebel

run, rebel by Manjeet Mann // A story told in verse following a complex character dealing with a bad home life and how it has shaped her behaviour. The writing is very captivating and open. It was able to deal with lots of challenging topics in a short space of time whilst still giving them in-depth consideration.

cemetery boys by aiden thomas

cemetery boys by Aiden Thomas // buddy read with dezzy💕 // I honestly had such a good time reading this book. It had a great balance between heartfelt emotions and fun. The characters stood out to me as being well-developed and real. I think the mystery was a weaker element of the book, as it was developed a bit sporadically throughout the plot. However, as the characters were so captivating and it was smoothly written, you almost didn’t care.

raybearer by jordan ifueko

raybearer by Jordan Ifueko // this is definitely a stand out YA fantasy. I thought the plot was luscious and unique. Plus, I liked the characters a lot, although I would have liked to get to know them a little more, hopefully in the sequel. I can see why this book has been so well received and I think every YA fantasy fan should check it out.

curse of the divine by kim smejkal

curse of the divine by Kim Smejkal // ink in the blood was one of my favourite books from last year, so I was super excited to get to the sequel. I am happy to report I thoroughly enjoyed it. The focus was more on a solitary journey, so whilst I missed a wider cast of characters, it made sense for the story. I loved the introductions of the new location and villain. Plus, the themes, writing and characters were as extraordinary as ever. One of my favourite duologies, for sure.

luster by raven leilani

luster by Raven Leilani // this book is quite a striking, eyebrow-raising read as it discusses sex and our narrator’s destructive relationship with it. With sharp social commentary and the author allowing our main character to be constructed through contradictions and emotional responses to society, it creates a distinct read. It is a book wholly deserving of positive attention.

assembly by natasha brown

assembly by Natasha Brown // a book that only reaches about 100 pages but is easily impactful through a nameless narrator. With standout writing (I have honestly saved so many quotes) and commentary on British society through the eyes of a successful Black woman attending a party at her boyfriend’s resplendent family estate. I think it is best to go in without knowing too much and just experience Brown’s intentional choices in this powerful piece of literature.

image of red single line divider.

‘the good average books’ tier

these are good books. not great, but good. not bad, but good.
long way down by jason reynolds

long way down by Jason Reynolds // I liked the unique premise and execution of this book as it naturally allowed for a thoughtful and impactful story. It dealt with a difficult topic, allowing for discussions and a considerate conclusion. It was a good book but, for me, only good as it did not have a memorable effect on me to push it into that great category.

heroine worship

heroine worship by Sarah Kuhn // when picking this book up, I expected a romance story. This wasn’t necessarily the case. The focus was on friendship and dealing with personal issues. It unpacked a lot of Aveda’s problems centring around self-worth, her need for praise and perfectionism. I was surprised at the emotional depth this book uncovered but, it was a welcome surprise. I loved the complexity of Aveda’s character. The plot was just as fun and ridiculous as the first book but, it’s intentional, so I liked that. I do wish we got more from the romance though as it felt pretty average to me.

great circle by maggie shipstead

great circle by Maggie Shipstead // a deep and extensive look into our main character’s life. I would be tempted to recommend this book solely on the writing. It was elegant and detail-orientated, so you were able to reach intimate levels with characters in just a few pages. I admired the writing. The story itself was interesting. At times, it was hard to read in terms of the content but delivered well. It was slow-paced and, whilst I couldn’t read books like this all the time, I still liked my experience with it.

crier's war by nina varela

crier’s war by Nina Varela // the writing and the world was a real strength of this book, all the more impressive considering this is a debut. I felt like the plot was a little predictable and could have had more depth but, I was still happy to be on the journey. The only other thing was I ended up enjoying Crier’s perspective over Ayla’s so, I lowkey wish the entire book was from Crier’s POV. I think it could have added to the mystery more as well.

sorcerer to the crown by zen cho

sorcerer to the crown by Zen Cho // an interesting set up in Victorian London with an abundance of magic that felt so fairy-tale-like and just glorious. Plus, the social commentary and character traits did feel very well established and conveyed in the book. I felt like the only problem was I felt like I was experiencing the story through a window. I wasn’t entirely immersed in it, and it was a bit too slow-paced for me

image of red single line divider.

‘left me wanting more’ tier

I would still say good books, but for different readers, as 60% didn’t work for me.
the knife of never letting go by patrick ness

the knife of never letting go by Patrick Ness // I felt like I did not get this novel. Not because it was complex, but rather, there were obvious things treated like plot twists, and it took too long to get to points. Safe to say, I didn’t click with this story at all. The characters didn’t save me either, as I felt pretty emotionless towards them. I think the audiobook narrator affected my experience with the story as I didn’t really like them. I can see that there were cool aspects, but overall, it did not work for me.

the gilded ones by namina forna

the gilded ones by Namina Forna // I felt like this book would work for young ‘young adults’ as the writing style was very easy, which made it a fast read. Personally, I only got surface-level enjoyment from the majority of this book. I was missing that depth. I can’t pinpoint whether that was down to feeling distant from the writing or more about the plot. There were good moments still as I liked the relationships and themes. It was just lacking that wow factor.

more than this by patrick ness

more than this by Patrick Ness // this was an interesting book. A highlight was how it made you think about society differently and that you were invested in getting to the answers. However, I felt it could have been shorter and found the characters a little too weak. Sadly, it has not been the year for Mr Ness and me.

words in deep blue by cath crowley

words in deep blue by Cath Crowley // this book was a mix of the usual things I love in YA contemporaries*, but I felt like it was all done mediocrely, to be blunt. But because it was everything I felt like I liked, I don’t know what I would suggest for improvements. It was still a decent and quick read, but once again, no wow.

*This includes but is not limited to; bookshops, friends-to-lovers, coffee, emotions aka sad emotions, family themes and fun side characters.

image of red single line divider.

‘not for me’ tier

this category is quite similar to the above one. However, this one is less about faulting the books as they are good and more about saying they are not my type at all.
snow flower and the secret fan by lisa see

snow flower and the secret fan by Lisa See // this book was good at examining women’s roles in 19th century China. I did appreciate how it looked at how women’s positions affect their relationship with other women as well. It showcased a complex understanding of a woman’s experience. Plus, the historic setting felt vivid and well written. It was a good book, but I didn’t engage with the story strongly enough.

swimming in the dark by tomasz jedrowski

swimming in the dark by Tomasz Jedrowski // a look into being a gay man in 1980s Poland examining politics alongside first loves. A heavy and personal book that has a slice-of-life type plot. I didn’t connect to the characters or the plot therefore, whilst it is an important book, I don’t think I necessarily enjoyed it.

image of red single line divider.

nope. tier

books that I should have DNF’ed tbh.
the queen's rising by rebecca ross

the queen’s rising by Rebecca Ross // I still can’t get over the fact that the first 100 pages essentially felt like a pointless prologue. It continued to have a slow pace throughout. The lead up to the “event” dominated the plot rather than the event itself, which I didn’t personally like. Plus, the romantic relationship resembles too much of a teacher/student set-up that I found uncomfortable. The only redeeming qualities were the strong writing and the world. I thought the ‘talents’ were unique as well as the powerful approach to the queens. Still, a pretty big disappointment overall.

poisoned by jennifer donnelly

poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly // another pretty big disappointment as I enjoyed Step Sister by this author. The story for Poisoned did not captivate me at all and the amount of times ****** ****(or nearly) was ridiculous. It was just a bit painful, to be honest. The best bits were when we had different narrators, which were very few and far between. Overall, I was pretty bummed out with this novel.

the midnight library by matt haig

the midnight library by Matt Haig // I got this from the library (ayyy) to try out, but it just did not work for me. I was expecting a more fantastical approach, so I felt a little disappointed I didn’t get that. That expectation was on me though. The next disappointment was the lack of emotion and connection I felt. I wasn’t invested in our main character at all and felt pretty emotionless throughout, even though it is an emotional topic. Safe to say, I wasn’t invested in the journey, not to say it isn’t important. I am still glad people can get something from this book, even if I didn’t.

divider. In centre is a red and pink mushroom/toadstool, on the left and right are pink swirls.

The end.

Let’s hope the rest of 2021 is filled with lots of great books because my TBR knows I need to get cracking on.

Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts on these books? Are any of these books on your TBR?

Tell me your favourite and most disappointing reads of 2021 so far.

32 thoughts on “all my reads from the first half of 2021 | disappointments and actually enjoying a literacy fiction book

  1. I’m currently reading The Gilded Ones…I have to agree, it feels like it’s meant for a much younger YA crowd, but then at the same time, it’s so violent…the content and the writing level don’t really match, if that makes sense. But anyway, I feel distant from it too. I feel like the characters and the world aren’t really well-developed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you aren’t loving your time with The Gilded Ones either. It definitely does feel younger but you are right in terms of content it could be very intense. Some quite graphic scenes really so it doesn’t fit the best. I would have liked more from it, which is a shame as I feel like the potential was there. It might even make a great movie as you could correct the tone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. omg hello!! i discovered your blog recently but i did enjoy looking at your past content <33 im glad so many books made it to your top and solid tiers; i'd say about 5 books of my 2021 would make it till there haha. i haven't read many from this list tbh, but more than half of them are on my tbr. Im sorry the midnight library didn't work out for you, tho I wanted more fantastical elements too.
    loved reading your thoughts, hope you have a great month ahead ❤✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hellooo !! 🥰 aw.. thank you so much, that means a lot 🥺 Thank you, I have been pretty lucky with the books I’ve read this year. Aw.. well I’m glad you at least had those five and that you find some more books for those tiers in the coming months.
      Haha the TBR is always outweighing my read list too 🤣 Yeah, maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for The Midnight Library at the time but, sadly, not for me.
      Thank YOU so much for reading and your comment. I hope you have a great month too !! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We Free the Stars was simply immaculate. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite books? Life as a Unicorn looks so interesting! I should check it out.
    I…just realized that I bought Cemetery Boys a while back and then forgot to read it. Oops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I’m glad you loved We Free The Stars, it was such a strong sequel and stunning that it is one of your favourite books. Hafsah’s writing really is *chef’s kiss* !! If you do check out Life As A Unicorn (which I definitely suggest) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It was a good read.
      ahh.. I hope you get to read it soon. The characters are great !! Thank you for reading!! 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sophie!! omg i was so happy to see your post in my reader, ahhh i missed you sm 🥺💕💕 both the fever king and jade city are super high on my tbr, so i’m really glad you loved both of them!!

    i also have a copy of cemetery boys, but i was putting it off because i wasn’t completely sold by the synopsis – i’ll def check it out soon tho!! i literally ordered my copy of raybearer last week (the cover is GORGEOUS 😍), and i can’t wait to dive into that as well!! i enjoyed the gilded ones more than you did (probably because i AM a young adult 😅), but i’m sorry it wasn’t for you – and i’m also sorry you didn’t enjoy the midnight library, because – no – i haven’t read it myself, but everyone’s been raving about it lately hahaha.

    for me, some of my favourites this year have been these violent delights, the gilded wolves, ace of spades, heartstopper and hana khan carries on (oops that’s a lot of books). i also finished iron widow yesterday, and it was PERFECTION ahhh.

    i’m so glad you’re back, and i can’t wait to see more from you (hopefully) soon!! 💘💘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh.. thank you so much Ahaana. that honestly means so much 🥰🥰 I’m sorry I dropped off blogging without warning, I didn’t plan it, it just happened 😅 your support means the world though and I’ve missed talking to you!! 🥰

      I really hope you end up enjoying the cemetery boys, I thought it was well written and really engaging.
      Ahh.. Raybearer supremacy!! Hope you love it too!!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the gilded ones. I did like it on some level and I am kind of curious to see what the sequel is like so maybe if my library has it. I have been feeling a little distance with YA story lately which is only natural so like you said, that makes sense. The covers for this series are absolutely stunning!!

      The midnight library has been quite popular 😅 I just couldn’t connect at all. Glad the message of the book helps people though.

      Ahh.. These Violent Delights and Ace of Spades (just read it this month) are fabulous choices!! I need to check out the other though. Ahh… Iron Widow, I’m so excited for this book. It makes me soo happy to hear you loved it. I mean perfection… Wow 🥰 Not even surprised with the strength of its premise!!

      tysm again 🥰🥰 I definitely hope to get back into a routine with blogging and speak to you some more. I hope you are well 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. i’m always so happy to hear from you, sophie! i’ve been missing your posts!

    i had not heard of the beauty that remains a lot, but this premise makes me so intrigued. i love reading books with a music element to them and as someone who also sees music as something very important, i’ll definitely look into adding this one to my TBR.

    the midnight library was a pretty hyped book, but because i’m not much of an adult reader, i didn’t think it would work for me. it seems interesting and maybe since i’m not a fan of fantasy, i’ll prefer the more realistic approach.

    my favorite book of the year so far was concrete rose by angie thomas. i’m currently reading any way the wind blows though, and it might steal that spot, who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you sooo much Lais 🥰❤️ I didn’t mean to not post for so long but, honestly I’ve missing speaking to you and I hope you are well 💛

      I would definitely recommend the beauty that remains as I feel like most people can get at least something from it. Plus I do enjoy music being mentioned in books and I liked how it was done in this one. If you do check it out, I would love to hear what you thought on it!!

      the midnight library has been hyped. I feel like I am more negative as I forced myself through the last bit when I should have just let it go as I didn’t connect. I definitely think it focuses on the real side and a lot of people have loved it so it might be worth checking it out. If you do, I hope you connect more than me! ☺️

      I definitely, DEFINITELY have to check out Concrete Rose. So glad you loved it.
      Oh my… I just had to look up any way the wind blows. How did my brain forget that 🙈 I’m glad you are enjoying it so far as I remember neither of us loved Wayward Son, so glad this one is going better for you !!

      Thank you for reading and all your support 🥰🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  6. omg i was so happy to see a blog post from you Sophie 🤩💓 loved reading this post, and love how you used the tier ranking system!! i loved buddy reading Cemetery Boys with you (and then Ace of Spades, and then hopefully many more hehe 🥳), it was truly such a fun time!! and ahhh i can really feel your love for Jade City – it’s been on my TBR since *forever,* i really should check it out 👀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh.. Thank youuuu so much for all your support Dezzy 🥰💛 thank you, thank you!! The tier ranking system is slightly addictive… I could do it for everything now 😅
      Buddy reading Cemetery Boys (and AoS) with you was sooo much fun (thank you 🎉) I definitely look forward to more buddy reads!! 🤩
      Jade City was really good. My appreciation for the series grows the more I think about it. It lives in my mind rent free 😂 I hope you love it if you pick it up 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so lovely to read a blog post from you, Sophie ❤ I love the fever king so much, so happy it made it into your favorite reads!! I also really loved the beauty that remains, this book deserves more praise and love for sure 🙂
    Take care of yourself, sending you love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aw.. thank you sooo much Marie!! I hope you are well ❤️❤️
      Yes, The Fever King was sooo good. I’m glad I finally picked it up. I’m excited to see more from Victoria Lee!! Glad you loved it too.
      You don’t see a lot about the beauty that remains and it is a shame, I agree. It is a good book for sure.
      Thank you 🥺, sending love to you too!! 🥰


    1. Haha I used to be the same tbf, I thought 15 books a year was a lot 😅 but life changes and the majority of this year has been spent in a third lockdown for me so I had more time for reading!! 😊


  8. I adore this blog post so much. I love the way you structured it. I have to agree with you about Jade City/War. The cold writing style took time to get used to but I felt like it enhanced the brutality of this world. I can’t wait for Jade Legacy, but I know I’ll be crying by the end of it. I’ll admit the beauty that remains wasn’t on my radar, but I love books that explore the impact of music on the characters. I’ll be adding that book to my tbr for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aw.. Thank you so much Lois 🥺🥰 I found the tiers quite fun to do actually 😂
      I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to adjust to the writing in jade city. I do think it worked with the brutality like you said, like it was less ‘hollywood’ in a way. I am so ready to get to Jade Legacy, but also not ready for the end 😅
      Yay, I’m glad you have added the beauty that remains to your TBR as I loved the music theme and I thought it was a really solid read.
      Thank you for stopping by 💕


  9. Welcome Back, Sophie – so happy to hear from you again! ❤ I’m glad to see that you loved The Fever King, it’s such a well-written book and the second book is also great! Cemetery Boys was one of my fave books of last year, so it’s great to see that you liked it as well 🥰 I have The Gilded Ones as an overdue ARC but I haven’t been able to motivate myself to read it 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Caro ❤️❤️ The Fever King was sooo good, I’m glad I finally picked it up. So happy you like the sequel too. Definitely excited to see more from Victoria Lee. Ahh.. Cemetery Boys was a great reading experience. The characters are so likeable 😍 I am kind of hoping for a sequel 😅
      Aw.. I know many enjoyed The Gilded Ones and it is a very quick read either way. If you do pick it up, I hope you enjoy it more than I did 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sophie!! You seemed to have read some great books this year. I’m so happy you liked dr. wangari maathai plants a forest as it’s not very well known. I’ve been meaning to read Fonda Lee’s books for a while now, so I’m glad you liked Jade City. It’s cool that you have a different perspective on the midnight library as all the reviews I’ve seen have been more positive. You win some you lose some I guess haha. Lovely post!! ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been so fortunate with many of the books this year. I loved them 😍 I hope you have had a great reading year too 💖
      Dr. Wangari Maathai Planrs A Forest isn’t very well know but it should be, I agree. Glad you liked it too.
      Ahh.. I can’t recommend Jade City enough, it is a masterpiece 😍😍
      The Midnight Library has had a lot of positive reviews (I’m happy for them), I just really didn’t connect at all. Haha, true you can’t love them all.
      Thank you and thank you so much for your comment 💛💛

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Definitely agree with everything you said about Jade City – I adored that book and Jade War too. Sabrina and I are planning on rereading them before the final book is released at the end of November. I think it’ll be fun to experience the story as a whole. 😀 I also agree with what you said about Cemetery Boys. The characters made me love that book but the plot / mystery could have been much better. I’m sad you didn’t love Crier’s War and A Long Way Down, but still happy you liked them well enough, haha. Great post, and hope the rest of your year will be filled with great reads. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh.. Jade City and Jade War were ah-mazing. I’m just stunned by the quality of the books. That sounds like a great plan to read them all together. Hope you have a great time and that Jade Legacy is everything. I am definitely hoping to read it when it comes out. 😍
      Definitely, the characters are what made the Cemetery Boys for me!!
      I definitely still liked Crier’s War and A Long Way Down and happy I finally read them too. I’m glad lots of people love them.
      Thank you so much. I hope the end of 2021 is filled with lots of fabulous reads for you too. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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