This tag, which needs no further introduction from me, was created by Ely @ Earl Grey Books and Chami @ ReadLikeWildfire. No one tagged me, but all the cool kids were doing it (and, as always, I am literally years late to the party).
Best book you’ve read so far in 2021.
Looking over my rating scores in this year’s books & blogging spreadsheet, it seems to be between Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan (13.25 / 15) and Know My Name by Chanel Miller (no detailed rating because I listened to the audiobook, but definitely 5 stars). More on that first one later, but Know My Name was quietly devastating. Miller is an incredibly eloquent writer and reader (she narrates the audiobook, highly recommend), plus she did an author event at my uni and seems like a really lovely person in general!
Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021.
Oh, it’s gotta be Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater, the second book in the Dreamer trilogy. (Though A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna put up a really good fight.) Since Call Down the Hawk did a lot of the heavy lifting as far as setup, Mister Impossible gets to really dig into where the characters are at — in multiple senses of the phrase — as well as explore the various implications and consequences of dreaming, forgery, and identity. Also, Jordeclan is unbelievably cute and you can fight me on that.
New Release you haven’t read yet but want to.
If we’re accepting a few months old (April) as new, then my answer has to be Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, which I have not only heard is absolutely fantastic but is also the most recent pick for a book club I’m in with some college friends. Asian-American memoirs are most definitely my jam and I’ve heard only great things about this one.
Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
Just one? This is hard … Top contenders include How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao (Asian-American dark academia murder mystery), When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles (sequel to Where Dreams Descend, covering the fallout of the magician competition), Along the Saltwise Sea by A. Deborah Baker aka Seanan McGuire (the second Up-and-Under book, a Middlegame tie-in novella), Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (something paranormal from the author of An Enchantment of Ravens and A Sorcery of Thorns).
But I suppose the winner — if I absolutely had to choose one — would have to be Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee: the finale of an intense saga of martial arts and crime syndicates and the mystical powers conferred by jade. I’ve been avidly following the series since I read Jade City in 2019 and participated in the blog tour for Jade War later the same year. I’m probably also due for a reread of the first two weeks, as a refresher and appetizer.
I try to keep it pretty positive on the blog, because I know that book preferences are not universal … and I prefer to focus on books I did like, since I am too often let down by overhyped books. Unfortunately, this was the case for You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell, which is an ownvoices nonfiction book about mental health from an LGBTQIA+ YouTuber I quite like and which shared some marketing promo with The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. Yet I just couldn’t get into Dan’s writing style — and I’d expected to, since I enjoy his videos and really liked The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire (co-written with Phil Lester) — and the tools mentioned weren’t particularly helpful to me personally.
The first book that came to mind was Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan. It’s apparently been on my TBR since 2014 and I have since forgotten how it got there, but it’s highly recommended by Maggie Stiefvater so despite the somewhat meh summary I was still curious. And I’m glad I tracked it down through my library, because it’s a stunningly atmospheric read , telling a darkly fascinating story with secrets and mysteries and metaphors galore.
Favorite new author (debut or new to you).
Generally it takes several books for me to decide an author is a “favorite” — and that’s unfortunately often not possible yet with debut authors — so I’ll go with R.F. Kuang, author of the Poppy War series, which I started and finished earlier this year. I purposefully limit my time on Book Twitter, but I enjoy her tweets when I come across them.
And I’m really looking forward to Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution (expected August 2022), which promises dark academia featuring language, translation, and colonialism.
Newest fictional crush.
Truthfully I’ve never been much for fictional crushes; I’m more likely to hyperfixate on a character because I think I’m a lot like them and/or I want to be a lot like them. Although Jordan Baker from The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo falls into that second category for sure, I’d also consider her a fictional crush: she could stomp all over my heart and I would thank her
in a heartbeat.
Newest favorite character.
To be clear, my current favorite of favorites is Declan Lynch, because each subsequent book in the TRC & Dreamer universe makes me love and relate to him on previously unimaginable levels. And Mister Impossible is the last book I read containing a character I’d consider a favorite.
Keeping to the letter and spirit of the prompt, though, it’s really not a sacrifice to change my answer to Roger and Dodger from Middlegame by Seanan McGuire. I relate so much to both of them, even though they’re presented as two-halves-of-a-whole twins separated at birth, including Roger’s affinity for languages and linguistics (not the same thing, but don’t get me started) and Dodger’s experiences as a girl nerd and tomboy. They’re absolutely OP, as my gamer friends would say, but that’s totally the point.
Book that made you cry.
Pulling from the Goodreads shelf that literally tracks this (aaaaaaa-made-me-cry), I feel like the most fitting answer option is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb. This was almost definitely a case of right book, right time since [overshare redacted], but the vulnerability and openness really got to me.
Book that made you happy.
Hm. I’ll give this one to Let’s Make Ramen!: A Comic Book Cookbook by Hugh Amano & Sarah Becan, because it has such lovely illustrations and amateur-friendly directions that make the incredible art of ramen a bit less intimidating, and also ramen just makes me happy.
Haven’t actually used the recipes yet, but I keep telling myself someday.
Most beautiful book you’ve bought (or received) so far this year.
Though I also have a whole Goodreads shelf (cover-art-gallery) to choose from here, my eye keeps catching on Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. I really like the limited color palette, use of depth and texture and negative space, the contrast between the photorealistic flowers and the gold silhouette and lettering. And the prose is kind of flowery too, making the contents beautiful as well.
Books you need to read by the end of the year
Because there’s so many months left in the year (or so I tell myself), I sincerely feel like it’s a little early to be setting my TBR. That said, I should definitely finish my ARC of Cazadora by Romina Garber (sequel to Lobizona), and I’d like to finally get to Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake and Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter.
anyone who wants to participate!