Comfort Reads

I have been in one of the worst reading slumps of my life over the past two months. I can’t tell if it is grief or being overworked or lack of sleep or a combination of all of these plus some. Truthfully, my guess is the later. I feel like I have tried everything to get out of it. I have been turning to comfort reads to have something to do and try to reignite that reading spark. This list felt really random until I began putting it together and then realized it was all stories of people settling into a new place. Let me know if you have a book you always return to that I can try.

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffery (Fantasy – Young Adult)

Eva Evergreen, the Semi-Magical Witch by Julia Abe (Fantasy – Middle Grade)

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (Fantasy – Middle Grade)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Historical Fiction – Adult)

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot – (Non-Fiction – Adult)

My Favorite Books of 2021

This year was a weird reading year. There were not a lot of bad books, but there weren’t a lot of stand outs either. In 179 books, most were three or four stars. I found that while I read a lot outside of my comfort zone, I found that there were fewer standouts. I found that I read a lot of epics and tried to keep things a little quicker and lighter, especially considering the year I had. I am including a breakdown of feeling and genre below from Storygraph. What was your favorite book of the year?

Adult

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This was a beautiful and haunting historical fiction. For lovers of books and tragedy.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Lacey Lamar and Amber Ruffin – I felt guilty about laughing, but it is a must read if you live in the United States. Witty and important.

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian – A character study of one of my childhood favorites. It gives a great understanding of the Arthurian legend while still being new.

White Ivy by Susie Yang – Dark, gothic, and shocking. If you aren’t sure you are into to thrillers this was so gripping and I have recommended it to everyone I know.

The Red Threads of Fate by Neon Yang – The Tensorate series is so high concept, but I loved the grounding of this book in love and grief. The whole series is excellent, but this was my favorite so far.

New Adult

The Princess Search by Melanie Cellier – Ugly Duckling retelling meets romance and politics. I loved that this was a story about processing trauma that wasn’t focused on forgiveness.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi – Sisterhood. Insurance fraud. Food-filled pages. You will cry but it is worth it.

The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce – This is the start to the third series following our young mages from the Winding Circle. I was so impressed by how authentically they grew up, their relationships when coming back together, the uniqueness of their magic, and how sex positive it was.

Young Adult

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas – A perfect coming of age story plus ghosts. It’s a super fast-paced story about love, death, and community.

The Emerald Sea by Richelle Mead – This is conclusion to the Glittering Court series. It was a great story of survival. There were a lot of safe choices that the author could have made, but they didn’t. I also deeply loved the relationship.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust – This dark, new fairytale was such a beautiful read. It was magical and traumatic.

Anna K by Jenny Lee – This modern day Anna Karenina has stuck with me for most of the year as a favorite. I was amazed at how authentically they modernized it, while still being true to the tragedy of the worlds then and now.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani – I think Goose Girl retellings are slowly taking over the favorite slot. I absolutely loved the world. Alyrra was my favorite protagonist of the year. Her sense of justice, kindness, and quick thinking made her so engaging.

Middle Grade

Eva Evergreen, Semi Magical Witch by Julia Abe – Purest little hearts. A perfect mix of Klaus, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Kiki’s Delivery Service (three already existing favorites). I cannot recommend this book enough.

The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett – I do have a full review of this book, but it was such a refreshing take on both the chosen one and magic school tropes. A great adventure of prophecy and family.

Fall Seasonal Wrap-up

The fall season (9/21-12/21) has officially come and gone. And at least in the northern hemisphere, winter is heavily upon us. The fall was a decent-reading time I completed 46 books in the last three monhs. I am practicing self-care by DNFing this season more than ever (those are not reflected in my review). Unfortunately, I felt like the special and engaging reads were farther between than I would have liked. Plenty were good and a lot were in my regular interests, but they just didn’t grip me. However, I feel like I am ending the year on a solid footing, ready to leap into a new year and new stories.

Target Level# of Books
Middle Grade14
Young Adult22
Adult10

Stand-Out Reads

  • The Emerald Sea by Richelle Mead
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani
  • The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
  • A School between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett
  • A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee

Summer Wrap Up

This summer was incredibly long personally. I did get a lot of reading done though despite work, memorials, and finally taking a break. This season I got through 36 books, which felt really good for me. I also was a little more liberal with myself and not finishing books after I had started them. I had a pretty solid reading month. I enjoyed most of what I read, but there were very few stand outs. Over the month, I averaged 4.04 stars in the books that I finished. This felt pretty solid. I enjoyed most of the books I read. They were solid, but there were very few standouts for me personally, even in the ones where the books themselves were excellent.

Genre Breakdown:

Rating Breakdown:

RatingNumber of Books
2.0 – 2.5 Stars 2
2.51 – 3.0 Stars1
3.01 – 3.5 Stars7
3.51 – 4.0 Stars8
4.01 – 4.5 Stars7
4.51 – 5 Stars11

Standouts of the Season

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Ash by Malinda Lo

Monstress Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takenda

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Books that focus on Education

Happy back to school season! School and education has always been such a major part of my life. For me there are a lot of aspects to an education, not just learning algebra and going to class. There is building a strong foundation to move forward, finding passion and deciding what you are excited about, and taking new opportunities through extra curriculars and chances provided to you. All the books below take place at a school, but focus in a different space of the education process.

Changing Your Life (Core Classes)

Princess Academy (series) by Shannon Hale – Middle Grade/Fantasy

We are Okay by Nina LaCour – Young Adult/Contemporary

Educated by Tara Westover – Adult/Autobiography

Following Passion (Field of Study)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells – Adult/Autobiography

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – Young Adult/Contemporary

Truly Devious (series) by Maureen Johnson – Young Adult/Mystery

Taking Chances (Extracurriculars)

Again, but Better – New Adult/Contemporary

Check, Please! – Young Adult/Contemporary/Graphic Novel

Smash it! by Francina Simone – Young Adult/Contemporary

Series Review: Beyond the Four Kingdoms by Melanie Cellier

Can you tell I have been hyper fixating on this author? This is the sequel series to The Four Kingdoms that following some of our familiar characters to explore new lands and expand relationships beyond the Four Kingdoms after a storm clears to reveal a pass into a heavily populated continent. The books are a companion series of fantasy retellings. Similar to the prequel series, we rotate through the kingdoms and young royalty as they go through their individual tale.

My Review: This series is highly magical and the fairy tales are much more quest based with romance thrown in to the stories. Still enjoyable, but a very different reading experience, especially by book 2. I think that the retellings were more inventive but I really missed how much relationship building and politics were present in the first series. This series was very romantic with high stakes. Personally, this was less my taste than the original series. On average this series was about 3.8 stars! If you have read this series, let me know what you thought!

Genre: Fantasy Romance that all focus on a general quest or curse.

The Books:

A Dance of Silver and Shadow (Twelve Dancing Princess)

A Tale of Beast and Beauty (Beauty and the Beast)

A Crown of Snow and Ice (Ice Queen)

A Dream of Ebony and White (Snow White)

A Captive of Wing and Feather (Swan Lake)

A Princess of Wind and Wave (Little Mermaid)

Favorite Retelling: One thing that I think was a bonus about this series was how inventive the retellings got. My personal favorite was Snow White or a Dream of Ebony and White. I don’t think I had ever experience a Snow White tale get this deep or political before. I liked how Snow White had to become a real political threat to the throne and a ruler in her own right. This was also the only retelling I have ever read that held the King accountable for some of the catastrophe that comes to kingdom and it was weirdly satisfying. The found family was a happy bonus.

Favorite Couple: Teddy and Isla (A Princess of Wind and Wave). This is my favorite version of a Little Mermaid couple I have experience so far. I like that they actively had to fall out of love with idea of each other and in love with the person they got to know. This was the couple that grew the most together throughout their story. Close second is Lily and Jonathan (A Dance of Silver and Shadow). They are so similar and dutiful. It lead to a fun back and forth of admiration and angst.

Favorite Kingdom: Eldon. I liked the more rigid and traditional kingdom more than I expected. Even though it ended up getting them more trapped in their curse than anything else I found the shift to be a nice change of pace.

Favorite Family: The Duchy of Marin (A Dance of Silver and Shadow). We didn’t spend as much time with them but the three sisters competed (and deserve a short story of their own) and the brother, Jonathan, is the featured love interest. The family is heavily featured as they are the ones who invited the Princesses from the Four Kingdoms to the new land. They are so sweet together and genuinely try to levy their roles as diplomat in every scene they are in.

Favorite Book: A Tale of Beast and Beauty. I think there was a great balance of the relationship and understanding the curse that was on the Kingdom of Palinar. There was a lot of misunderstanding when it came to the Beast (Dominic) and Sophie, but I loved how the relationship developed and that you got to see the type of rulers they would both be. Second place, A Dance of Silver and Shadow. I have loved Twelve Dancing Princess retellings since the Barbie Movie, but I thought the competition was a great introduction. I loved the balance between competition, getting to know a new land and new characters, and an incredibly tense romance.

Spring Wrap Up

I didn’t make it to everything from my Spring TBR (approx. 40%). My workload drastically changes plus I got COVID which sucked, and lead me down a few different roads reading wise. Specifically, I read a lot more middle grade and significantly shorter novels than I have previously leaned towards. I read 54 books this spring and enjoyed most of them! Definitely diversified my reading more than normal into different genres and was pleasantly surprised. The average rating of the season was 3.89 stars. What was your favorite book you read this spring?

Genre Breakdown:

Age Breakdown:

Age Range# of Books
Children4
Middle Grade15
Young Adult17
Adult18

Most Read Author: Mellanie Cellier (7 books across the Beyond the 4 Kingdoms series and the Return to the 4 Kingdoms series)

Standouts:

Anna K by Jenny Lee

Eva Evagreen: Semi-Magical List by Julie Abe

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Beartown by Fredrik Bachman

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Pride Reads – Recommendations

Happy pride month! For this month I wanted to highlight some of my favorite books and series that feature LGBTQIA+ characters and stories. Let me know what you are reading to celebrate Pride!

Fantasy

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. Lukens

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Science Fiction

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Pet by Awaeke Emezi

This Is How You Lose a Time War by Becky Chambers

Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Contemporary

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

George by Alex Gino

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Graphic Novel

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Series Review: The Twelve by Cindy Lin

The Twelve duology is an own-voices middle-grade fantasy series by Cindy Lin. In this world those born with Zodiac powers need to stay hidden in fear of death or being taken by the Dragonlord, a dictator that has torn apart the land. Personally, I think this is an older middle grade as there is significant brutality mentioned as well as both books are around 400 pages. We follow Usagi, born a wood rabbit, who after losing those closest to her must recognize her own power and realities of the her world. It is an adventurous story of community and rebellion.

The World: The magic that one is born with depends on the coinciding for the timing of ones birth in an element or a sign of the zodiac. We did get significantly more world building in terms of geography, species, and variation of powers in book two which I wish we could have seen more of in book one. Overall there was a lot of variety and it felt like a real country with history, economy, and culture. There are a magic bullet catch-alls called the “Treasures of the Twelve”; while these can magically save the day most are missing and our heroes don’t have access to them.

The Characters: There was a pretty large cast of characters, but we only followed one point of view, Usagi’s. Each character is traumatized from their world and still growing up. Our heroes all have reasonable character flaws and conflicts. While redemption arcs do happen they are not offered to every character that was ever liked during any point during the series. I found that nice to see especially in a middle grade series.

The Verdict: This is a darker middle-grade (TW: mass death, betrayal, neglect, indoctrination). I do think that it is worth it to read. The culture and characters are well developed and unique to a lot of other middle grade fantasies. In my opinion, there is a good split between nuance and good versus evil. It was a solid 4 star series and if there are ever any spin-offs in the world I will be first in line to read them.

My Spring TBR

Happy Spring! I hope you are all enjoying warmer weather and will have access to vaccines soon! I wanted to have a more targeted TBR for the season and make some progress in the books I own. These are all books I own that I just haven’t been making time for and want to get around to reading this spring. If you have read any, which should I get to first?

Fantasy

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile by Shannon Messenger

Each of Us a Dessert by Mark Oshiro

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Literary Fiction

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Punching the Air by by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Possessing of a Secret Joy by Alice Walker

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Mystery/Romance

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Non-Fiction

Pooh and the Philosophers by John Tyerman Williams