We’re back again today with Part 2 of my favourite reads of 2021 (part 1 can be found here).
I read a lot of books in 2021, and the majority of them were really good. But there were a couple that just stood out from the crowd. These are the five stars out of the five stars. The books that I know will be going on my reread lists in the coming years.
If you want to see a more comprehensive view of all the books (good and bad) that I read last year, you can take a look at my Year in Books . Also, I will note that I’m not including rereads on this list, even though all my rereads were five stars, simply because I’ve gushed about those books in other posts (such as 2020 and 2019) and this post is already monstrous.
Let’s get into it!
V.E. Schwab is an amazing woman, because not only did she make it onto my worst books of 2021 list with A Darker Shade of Magic, but she also made it onto my Best Reads of 2021. Because Addie LaRue was truly amazing and I absolutely adored it. In fact, it could be my top fantasy read of the year (but I’m not committing to that, because what if I forgot another book I really loved???)
As a young woman in 18th Century France, Addie makes a desperate bargain with the devil–her soul to escape a loveless marriage. And then promptly finds herself cursed to be forgotten the moment someone walks away from her.
She’s immortal now, but lives a life of cursed solitude. Until, one day in New York, she meets a man who remembers her. And so, the secrets and lies surrounding her, her curse, the newcomer Henry, and the devil himself begin to unwind, trapping Addie and Henry in their coils, perhaps forever.
But honestly, I could just rant about how good this book was forever. Addie and Henry were such believable and lovable protagonists. The magic of the curse was interesting and well thought out, the worldbuilding was really good. The twists were brilliant and the ending was unexplainably good.
I explained most of my thoughts about this book in my NaNoWriMo introduction post so I won’t repeat myself too much, but this is a super good book. I loved it with every fibre of my body, or something. It was such a good examination of illness and the stigma and complications surrounding it. It would have meant so much to me as a teen with fibromyalgia, but I’m very happy knowing that it will be there for the next generation of chronically ill teens.
This was the book that convinced me that becoming a vegetarian was simply not enough. Did you know that trees having feelings, and best friends, and mother trees? And they communicate and cooperate?? I am going to have to subsist on air (like a tree) from here on out, because this book made me feel bad for ever eating a plant ever.
For real though, this is such a fascinating glimpse into the secret and hidden lives of trees that we never get to see. It was short and sweet, simply written and thoroughly enjoyable.
But you will (and my mum agreed when she read it) feel bad for eating plants. Or using paper, or anything that harms a tree.
I read both of Sue Black’s books this year and they were both brilliant (I think I may have liked All That Remains just slightly more though). Sue Black is a forensic anthropologist and her books are a wonderful mix between science education, human anatomy, anthropology, memoir, and true crime. They are truly absolutely outstanding pieces of nonfiction and I would recommend them to pretty much everyone.
(They do need a trigger/content warning though. They obviously deal with some hideous crimes and natural disasters that Sue Black personally worked on. There is one story in particular about child sexual abuse that is harrowing. This content warning applies to both books)
I am in love with Evan Winter’s The Burning series and The Fires of Vengeance did not disappoint. It’s hard to talk about this one without spoilers, so I’ll keep my mouth shut and simply say that I am very excited for book 3.
This is a nonfiction book about whales and it is so brilliantly written. It is broken down into three sections, the past (evolution and history of whales), the present (where whales are at today, and how humanity has impacted them) and the future (how can whales survive going into a new era). And it was so good, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And it also had hand drawn illustrations! Hooray for beautiful illustrations in adult books!
I am a huge fan of retellings, both reading and writing them, and I think this book is the pinnacle of retellings. Somehow, Elizabeth Frankenstein manages to add enough new elements to the story to make the book enthralling, while also respecting the source material and adhering to it quite closely in some parts. It developed the character of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Victor’s wife, very well, creating such a sympathetic, strong woman out of her. And it also developed several of the other characters that were overlooked by the original story, Justine and Henry particularly. It also really delved into Victor’s cruel and obsessive nature and we slowly get to learn the extent of his abusiveness. It was truly creepy.
I think I might do a reread of this and write an article about how to write a retelling, based on the things I learnt from this book.
I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. Honestly, Frankenstein‘s concept had never really interested me, and I just decided to pick it up on a whim, because I’d enjoyed other Victorian/Regency gothic horror novels. And I LOVED it. Don’t let the pop culture depiction of Frankenstein put you off, because this is a very good book and I highly recommend it.
Shelley looks into a lot of different themes, but I think the main one is responsibility for the things we do/things we create. The main issue in the novel is that Frankenstein creates this creature, and then immediately disavows him and literally burns his bridges and runs. He takes no responsibility for the living being he has created, which in turn leaves the Creature feeling abandoned, even though he just wants to learn, and love, and be a human. Honestly, the Creature gave me Feels.
Also, the audio I listened to was read by Dan Stevenson, which is a huge plus.
This was my first read of 2021 and it was such a great way to kick off the year! the Night Circus is a mystical, low fantasy novel about the rivalry between two magicians, who’ve been raised by their father figures to hate each other…Only they fall in love. Think of it like Romeo and Juliet, but set in a magical circus that only opens at night.
I was initially a bit confused by the plot, since I listened to it on audio and kept missing the dates, etc which are crucial to understanding what the heck is going on. It took me ages to realise that the story is taking place in two different timelines. So just a little heads up. If you’re like me and your mind wanders, you might want to skip the audio version and read a physical book instead.
But overall, it’s just so good. Lyrical prose, likeable characters, a fascinating setting and a magical rivalry. Also a bit of soft romance. All the good things in life and literature.
Tell me, have you read any of these books? What were some of your favourite reads this year? Are there any new releases you’re looking forward to in 2022?