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.
my favourites of the year so far.
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 & 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 // 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 // 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.
I would 100% recommend these books.
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 // 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 // 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.
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 // 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 // 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 // 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 // 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 // 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.
‘the good average books’ tier
these are good books. not great, but good. not bad, but good.
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 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 // 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 // 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 // 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
‘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 // 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 // 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 // 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 // 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.
‘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 // 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 // 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.
books that I should have DNF’ed tbh.
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 // 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 // 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.
Let’s hope the rest of 2021 is filled with lots of great books because my TBR knows I need to get cracking on.