My Favorite Reads of 2021

good morning, cyberspace!

It’s that time of year again, folks! December is the perfect time to reflect and review the year behind us, and all across the blogosphere, posts are popping up of everyone’s favorite (and least favorite?) reads of 2021.

So naturally I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and join them! I read some INCREDIBLE books this year–one of which isn’t even published yet, and I am MAD because it would SO have made it onto my top 5…–and I just really want to squeal about them for five billion years, okay. XD Don’t judge me, please. But DEFINITELY read these books if you haven’t already, because y’all. They were GOOD.

*while numbered, these are not listed in chronological order of favorite to least favorite. I unfortunately have a painfully hard time choosing among my children, and therefore they are numbered simply for ease of reading

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MY FAVORITE READS OF 2021

THE LIGHTNING THIEF – Rick Riordan

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Y’all. I am so excited to finally be reading this series! I’ve heard SUCH good things about it for years and years, but I never thought it was one that I should pick up and dive into.

But I’ve never been more happy to say that I. WAS. WRONG.

A very good friend of mine somehow convinced me to give this series a try earlier this year since he was–at the time–re-reading it, and I’ve honestly been hooked ever since. I breezed through The Lightning Thief within a single day, snagged Sea Of Monsters from my friend and devoured that one, too, and now I’m on Titan’s Curse! It took me a little longer to get into the third book with the same enthusiasm that I had with the first two, but I’m happy to say that after reading some other books begging for my attention, I’m fully invested in Titan’s Curse and am well on my way to finishing it before the week’s out!

UPDATE: Titan’s Curse has been completed. I am now resorting to bribery to get the fourth novel from said aforementioned friend.

AN ECHO OF THE FAE – Jenelle Schmidt

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I think I’ve mentioned this book on the blog sometime this year, but since I can’t remember which post it was in, we’re mentioning it again! An Echo Of The Fae was quite honestly one of the sweetest, gentlest stories I’ve read in a really, really long time. It has all the soft magic you could possibly ask for from a Middle Grade, while also diving into deep truths such as faith, family, and never letting go of those we love.

This book is beautiful in so many ways, both inside and out, and I HIGHLY recommend this one to anyone looking for a soft, whimsical read.

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE – Diana Wynn Jones

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I HAVE FINALLY READ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, GUYS!!! I’ve been screaming at myself for YEARS to read this book–and quite honestly I’ve had people (gently) screaming at me to read this, as well–but it wasn’t until this year that I actually picked it up and read it from front to back. And, once again, I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Howl is one of the funniest, quirkiest, cleverest books I’ve ever read. There’s a fantasticalness about the story and its characters that sucks you in and refuses to let go, and even now, months after finishing it, I’m constantly reflecting on bits and pieces of this story. How soon is TOO soon to reread a story which has stolen your heart, by the way? Two months? Three? I’m suffering from Howl withdrawal over here, folks. XD (I mean I know I could read the sequels but it’s not the sammmmmmmeeeeee)

GEMINA – Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

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…I honestly don’t know if I have any words for this book. It was everything that Illuminae was–creepy, horrifying, edge-of-your-seat-and-nail-bitingly soul-snatching–and yet… somehow it was so much more…?

If you’ve never read this series, I literally cannot recommend it enough. It takes a second to get into the swing of the storytelling–especially if you’re not used to an epistolary format–but trust me when I tell you that once the story grabs hold of you, there is quite literally no letting you go. Ever. You’re on the Illuminae ship for life, and there is no better place to be.

Also there’s t-shirts.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Neil Gaiman

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This book has been on my TBR for FOREVER, but I finally managed to get to it this year! And by golly, what a wonderful book it was.

Not gonna lie, the prose was a LITTLE slow at times, making it a little bit of a mellow-paced read compared to, say, Gemina (a.k.a. one that I binged in two days), but the gentleness of this story almost makes it that much more spooky once you start to read it. I absolutely LOVE Gaiman’s writing style. In fact, it’s kind of what I want to do with my own stories. It has a sort of Tim Burton flair to it that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, and the fact that this book was essentially The Jungle Book but in a graveyard just made the whole thing so much better. XD

IT WILL JUST BE US – Jo Kaplan

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This book was… interesting? I never thought I would be a lover–let alone READER–of Gothic Horror. In fact, had you told me five years ago that I would willingly pick up a book that looked like it was going to give me nightmares for days, I probably would have laughed and stabbed you in the toe with a spork. BUT. Here we are.

It Will Just Be Us was–again–a bit of a slower read. apparently 2021 was a year for slow-paced books?The prose was a little too purple for my taste at times, but more often than not, the writing pulled me in and made this eerie hollow tale even more chilling.

Of course, with this book technically being considered “adult”, there was some swearing sprinkled throughout (*insert intense eye roll here*), but for the most part, this book was captivating, haunting, and–more often than not–had me hanging on the edge of my seat. Nothing prepared me for that ending, either. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but it… decidedly was not that. Aha.

CONTENT WARNING: If you have a queasy stomach, I would highly recommend letting this one slide. This book is not for the faint of heart, and it definitely made me squirm uneasily more than once. There was also some cussing throughout, which was annoying. But other than that, this book was definitely among my favorite reads of the year, and a huge recommend to anyone who loves creepy mansions, ghosts, and mysteries behind locked doors….

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Despite not making it in my list of Top Favorites, these three Honorable Mentions made my reader heart so happy this year!

ENTWINED – Heather Dixon

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A reread, but still one of my favorite books of all time! I’m obsessed with the Twelve Dancing Princesses, as well as Bramble and Lord Teddy and just ALL of the members of this adorable cast… It’s also equal parts adorable and horrifying, and I love the complexity of that.

ROMANOV – Nadine Brandes

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This was my first Brandes, and, might I just say, I am hooked. Nadine’s writing style picks you up and transports you seamlessly to another world, and learning the true story behind the Romanovs (followed shortly by Nadine’s excellent interpretation of what may have happened later) was both sweet and sad all at the same time. I loved this book dearly, and I’m VERY excited to read more of her work in 2022!

A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER – Holly Jackson

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This book was definitely a surprise for me! I bought it on a whim (yay Barnes and Noble!) and maybe sorta kinda binged it within three days… (oops?) I honestly don’t know where my enthusiasm for murder mysteries and gothic horror came from this year, but I am LOVING the eeriness of it all…

This book, while definitely staying true to its fast-paced, page-turner YA brethren, was a wild roller coaster ride from start to finish, which was just what I needed to get out of my reading slump in October! I also wasn’t able to predict the ending, which was a bonus, AND, despite there being a small romance that blossomed in the middle of the book, IT DIDN’T TAKE OVER THE PLOT!!!

GUYS! FINALLY A YA BOOK WITH A GOOD PLOT THAT DOESN’T GET RUINED BY ROMANCE!! Do you realize how happy this makes my heart? DO YOU REALIZE????

It was incredible. I’m amazed. 10/10. 5 stars.

(actually only like 4 stars, but who’s counting. not me, clearly.)

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talk to me, peasants!

what sorts of stories did YOU consume this year? any genres you weren’t expecting to fall madly in love with? what’s a book you would highly recommend to literally everyone? (*cough* percy jackson *cough*) and most importantly of all…

have you read any of the books on this list?

Specifically Illuminae/Gemina and Percy Jackson. I need people to squeal with, apparently…

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE BOOKISH THINGS! down in the comments below! And until next time…

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

12 thoughts on “My Favorite Reads of 2021

  1. Just popping in to say that I totally understand the pain of reading a yet-unpublished book and LOVING it and not being able to officially add it to your ‘best of/favorites’ lists. :*( TORTURE.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EEP. YOU’RE READING PERCY JACKSON!!!! I adore that series! I’m so very, very happy you’ve joined the Percy Jackson bandwagon. And you are in for a TREAT. The 4th book is actually my favorite! :D

    I will be screaming in happiness to the end of time that you’ve read Howl’s Moving Castle. Because. Just. YASSSS!!! My word it makes me so ridiculously happy. And it is NEVER too early for a reread. Never. I’ve read it like…5 times? 4 or 5. Which, honestly, is not nearly enough. One can never get enough of Howl and Sophie. *nods firmly*

    An Echo of the Fae was definitely such a precious story. AND ENTWINED. Another favorite of ever! I am WAY past due for a reread of that myself. That’s thrilling you’ve read a Nadine Brandes book too! Funnily enough, Romanov is my least favorite of hers (though I still LOVED it), so you’re in for some serious goodness with her other books!

    I, too, have been meaning to read The Graveyard Book for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Seeing your thoughts on it has reminded me yet again that I NEED to take time to read this book! I’ve not read any of the others you’ve mentioned either but they sound funnn!

    Thank you for sharing all this goodness! I love posts like this!!! I’m so glad you had such a good reading year! :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • I AM!!! I absolutely ADORE it so far…. It is becoming a very bad obsession, but it’s FINE. Everything is fine. I am definitely fine over here. XD But legit I didn’t expect to fall so head-over-heels for this series! And eep!! So far, the fourth book has been INCREDIBLE. I can tell it’s going to be a favorite for me. XD

      UGH HOWL AND SOPHIE!!!! I miss them every single day… :(( DUDE. We should do a buddy read of it??? Like this year??? WE MUST READ IT TOGETHER!!!!!

      OHHHHHHHH!!! Okay, but is it weird that the fact Romanov was your least favorite actually thrills me?? This makes me want to read her other books immediately, though, and that’s pretty bad for my current TBR pile… XD

      YES!!! Oh my goodness, YES!!!! A friend from work and I read this book together, and it was just!!!! Oh my word. SO. GOOD. I highly, HIGHLY recommend The Graveyard Book! I’m also obsessed with Neil Gaimon now. It’s a problem and I refuse to apologize. XD

      Meep! Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Christine! You are such a blessing to me, I can’t…

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  3. Wait, Kenzie, you HADN’T READ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE? I am not doing my job, apparently, because I should have been poking you to read it… That book is one of my favorites AND one of my family’s favorites (my dad discovered it first, and my younger sister just read it to my youngest brother and sister, which was great fun) which makes it even better! So, tell me: favorite part? Favorite character? Did you LOVE the green slime and weed killer??? XD (Also: you should read the sequels. They may be better than you think…)

    Ahh, I remember loving Entwined, but I never reread it for some reason??? 12 Dancing Princesses retellings are my FAVORITE fairytale retellings, and I need to revisit that one.

    Also, I had no idea you hadn’t read any Nadine Brandes! Isn’t Romanov phenomenal? I’m looking at it on my shelf right now…along with A Time to Die, which series is my favorite of her writing, and I definitely would recommend!

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    • I HAD NOT!!! And I’ve had so many people telling me for so long how wonderful it is!! Apparently I’m just very good at avoiding the things that are good for me. XD BUT! I’ve finally read it!!! AND EEP! The fact that your entire family loves it makes my heart so happy. I love it when families are able to read together… (and also share book recs?? that sounds amazing?) OOF. Tough questions! Favorite part was probably Turnip Head showing up and everyone being terrified of him. Favorite character was probably…Turnip Head… (okay, apparently I just really really love Turnip Head?) And YES!! The green slime was hilarious. And the weed killer. And basically just Howl’s entire flamboyant character. XD (you know what? I’m gonna add them to my list now. I shall trust your opinion!)

      Oh, you should absolutely reread it! I adore that novel so much, and it’s almost better when you read it the second time! I currently have another Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling on my list–House of Salt and Sorrow, I think? I’m very excited to read it…!

      I’m definitely going to have to add A Time To Die to my list! I haven’t heard much about it, but if you love it then I’ll have to give it a try!

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  4. ACK! How had you not read Howl’s Moving Castle before!?!?!? Oh but I’m so jealous you got to read it for the FIRST TIME! I love re-reading books, but there are some few I wish I could forget completely so I could experience the wonder of them all over again. Like Lucy’s first trip through the Wardrobe into Narnia…

    Awww, I loved the Percy Jackson series. And I really liked the Kane Chronicles, as well!

    Romanov is my favorite Brandes book so far. I enjoyed Fawkes, but not as much as Romanov. I really need to read her Time trilogy, too… I seem to read one Brandes book a year, so maybe that will be my 2022 Brandes read. LOL

    Ahhh I just read Entwined for the first time this year finally and it’s sooooo lovely. Dark. But lovely.

    And I’m just sitting here grinning all the huge grins that my little Echo made it onto this list with so many major leaguers! Wow. I am honored.

    I am not familiar with the other ones you mentioned, but as you seem to have exquisite taste, I may have to add them to my TBR… ack…. gently… gently… and… phew. Hasn’t fallen on me and buried me alive yet! (If it does, I’ll just have a lovely excuse to sit in a cave until I can read myself out of it… win win) :) Unless it squashes me, of course… but… that’s just the sort of risks we book-dragons accept.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness, yes!! I’ve actually never read Narnia, either, so that will be another adventure I go on this year (if I can get my TBR in order!) XD

      The Kane Chronicles…. I don’t know if I’ve ever read this! I shall have to look into it and add it to my TBR!!

      YESS!!! I’m so excited for Fawkes and A Time To Die! And it sounds like she has some other projects in the pipeline that I am SO excited for!

      MEEP! Its place is well deserved!!! That little book made my heart SO happy this year! Definitely one of my favorite reads…!

      Oh, my TBR is definitely threatening to squash me this year… It’s only January and it’s already enormous. I’m scared. XD AND EEP! If you love sci-fi, I HIGHLY recommend Illuminae. There’s some stuff in there that’s definitely Young Adult, but it’s SO. GOOD. otherwise. I just…that book has my whole heart.

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  5. I haven’t read Gemina yet, but I read Illuminae this year and HOLY COW. The format was the coolest thing ever (plus the story itself was edge-of-your-seat stuff)

    I actually read a lot of historical fiction this year which I NEVER read and…..really enjoyed it???? (I used to love the genre as a kid so…I think I’m re-falling in love now)

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH MY GOODNESS YES!! Another Illuminae reader!!! Dude, that book was just…oh my. So incredibly good.

      Ohhhhhh! See, I’ve never really read Historical Fiction, but I’m not opposed to it if I found one that sounded particularly good. I read a bunch of everything, which is both good and also bad at the same time. XD

      Liked by 1 person

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