Kristen’s Best of 2021

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It’s been… a year.

But again, like so many other years before it… it’s been a good year for books. A great year for books this year, in fact!

Here is my list of my 15 favorites published in 2021!


54493401Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir 
I was expecting to like it, because I really liked The Martian, and even liked Artemis more than most other people that I’ve talked to… But I didn’t expect to love it so much. Rocky stole the show here, and this book was so hard to put down.

I went into this one hoping that the ‘nerdy scientist is alone in space doing science to stuff’ wouldn’t come off as too samey. I am happy to say that Ryland Grace and Mark Watney seem quite different, despite somewhat similar circumstances at times. This one goes an entirely different direction than The Martian does, and blasts right off.

 

54467051The Unbroken by CL Clark
Touraine’s Arms tho. If they aren’t a reason (maybe not the only reason) to pick this book up, I don’t know what is. This was the first book I read this year, and it still takes up some rent-free space in my brain.

This was a really great read. The world it depicted was one that I found easy to imagine. I mean, there are definitely parallels between France’s colonization of North Africa in our world and the one described here. But even aside from the parallels, it was just easy for me to picture Qazāl’s hot, desert landscape and the city within and its townhouses mixed with riad-style houses and old temples.

 

54898527The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
This one came highly recommended by a few friends of mine, and it sounded interesting AF so when I had a chance I started reading and couldn’t stop! I shouldn’t have started it immediately after finishing another book in the middle of the night.

This is such an evocative and immersive book that is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish folklore, and watching Évike, a child of two cultures that the rulers of the kingdom have no love for, try and find her place in the world, was very gripping. Even though it can be quite gory at times, and full of feels, I still read this book in just two sittings, because I could not put it down.

 

55167240._sy475_She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 
Another book that came highly recommended from a friend (who shall remain nameless but will shout about this book from the rooftops if you mention it).

I really enjoyed this book. It was fantastically written, and the world was well built. Many times, I felt like I was part of the world. I really liked Zhu as a character, and I found that it was very easy for me to cheer for her to win the day, and the war, and the… well everything else I guess. The themes of gender and gender roles are done very well in this novel, and I had a very hard time putting it down. While the fantasy elements were often not in-your-face, I still found it fantastical in many ways, and can’t wait to see what happens in the next volume!

 

57132760._sy475_The Dragon of Jin-sayeng by K.S. Villoso 
A fantastic, heart-wrenching, feels-smushing end to the series. I gobbled it up as quickly as I could.

This book broke my feels. But, not in any way that I didn’t ask for. I don’t cry for a lot of books, or media in general, but there were actual physical tears here. More than once, even. There were gasps, there were a couple out-loud exclamations that may, or may not have been in the middle of the night and may or may not have disturbed either a spouse or a dog. It was an intense read, but nonetheless a fantastic one that I will never forget. You should definitely read this book (after the two before it – this is very important).

 

50523477._sy475_The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
The second of the appropriately named ‘Sapphic Trifecta’ that I read this year, this is another book whose characters live rent-free in my head.

I loved this book quite a lot! Priya is a great character, and was easy to cheer for from start to finish. The antagonist was a very easy character to dislike, and so wanting Priya and Malini to succeed in changing their world was naturally super easy. Obviously I am also here for the Sapphic Longing. Watching their relationship develop and change over the course of the book was fabulous. It was paced really well and never felt overly bloated, even during the slower parts in the beginning. The world felt so real at times, it was a very immersive experience.

 

52238002._sy475_Subtle Blood by KJ Charles
Another conclusion to a fantastic series. Kim and Will in this final volume of the series were enough to very nearly knock The Charm of Magpies series out of my favorite KJ Charles book slot. I mean, they may actually be tied now for favorite, which is mindboggling, considering how much I loved the Magpie series.

This book was such an enthralling ride. I read it in one sitting, and would happily read it again in one sitting. It’s one of those. I love Kim and Will so much, even though they’re both idiots at times. The way that it dealt with Will’s feelings combined with his PTSD in this volume was really well done in my opinion.

 

53205979._sy475_Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
Beautifully written and just what I had hoped it would be. It has that same vibe as Cerulean Sea, and although there aren’t any children in this one to instantly latch onto, I still found myself cheering for Wallace although he doesn’t start out as a very good person. I loved Hugo and Mei almost immediately, and so this one was so easy to just get settled down with for hours. The last quarter or so kept me up into the wee hours as I had to find out what happened.

My feels were jostled several times, as this one deals with some tough topics at times, as a book whose theme centers around death would. I thought that these things were presented with care. This is another great example of the ‘found family’ trope.

 

44001255._sy475_The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft
A wonderful conclusion to the Books of Babel. While this one starts off following the exploits of Adam, one of my favorite characters in the series, the real enthralling story continues (for me) to be the story of Tom himself. Once again, I couldn’t put this one down. It is a fairly chonki book, but nonetheless, I was reading until two or three in the morning because I just couldn’t stop reading. The prose is so evocative, and the story so immersive that I just fell right into the book.

I love this book just like I loved the three before it. The world this series builds is so unique and fun to read about. I can’t wait to see what Josiah Bancroft comes up with next!

 

55096783._sy475_The King of Faerie by AJ Lancaster
This was a great year for conclusions, as it turns out. I absolutely love Hetta and Wyn and this conclusion to their story was wonderful. I read the entire thing in one night because I couldn’t bear to stop.

Also super excited that this isn’t the end of the story for this wonderful, magical world, but only the ending of Hetta and Wyn’s story in it. There is more to come, and I for one am squeeingly excited to read what comes next!

A wonderful book with a rich world that combines faeries and magic with humans that are just as easy to latch onto as the fae are.

 

56632501._sx318_Saffron Alley by AJ Demas
Technically both Saffron Alley and Strong Wine came out in 2021, concluding the series that Sword Dance started. I loved both of them, but I especially loved Saffron Alley because it gave a real look into life at Verazda’s home, and how Damiskos would fit in there. It was adorable, it made me laugh a few times, and made me smile even more.

This whole series has been amazing, but I have to say that this look into the sort of home life that Dami and Verazda share was absolutely my favorite part of the series, and everything I hoped  for in a sequel to Sword Dance. Love love loved.

 

59109627._sy475_Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher
Again, both Paladin’s Strength and Paladin’s Hope were released in 2021, and while I loved both of them, I liked Paladin’s Hope just a smidge more, because throughout this whole series, I’ve loved Galen as a character and wanted to hear his story. Wish granted!

Unlike the rest of the Book Threes I’ve put on this list, this is not the ending to the overall story of the paladins of the Saint of Steel. In fact, the last line of this book gave me Q U I T E a lot of hype for what will happen next.

I’ve never met a T. Kingfisher book I didn’t like, and I can’t wait for more paladinny goodness.

 

53205854._sy475_Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
There will probably not be a best-of list from me without Murderbot on it, as long as Murderbot continues to be a thing that comes out every year. So far, so good on that front.

I wished it were longer, because I just love hearing about Murderbot’s exploits, but I think that stories about it seem to just resonate with me better if they are just about this length. Just long enough to finish listening to in one afternoon of work. It’s just the perfect amount of time.

My favorite snarky Sec-Unit ❤

 

53217284._sy475_A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
I love, love, loved this book so much. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down for anything. I love getting sucked into books like that. I liked Robin a lot, and it was super easy for me to cheer for him to win the day. The relationship between him and Edwin and how it changes as the book went on was sweet, and often sexy, and I enjoyed the romantic element of the story a lot.

I also enjoyed the mystery of it, as it was one that I had not even a guess for until well into the book. I love it when a book can surprise me! It was well written and well paced and I didn’t want to put it down to do anything I had to be doing. It was one of those.

 

56589218._sy475_Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
If Gundam was based on Chinese history and mythology, it would look like Iron Widow. Wu Zetian spends a couple hundred pages here saying fuck you to the patriarchy with giant mechas. What more could you possibly want in a book? ‘A poly relationship’ you say? Well, check and double check, then. It was fantastic from start to finish.

It reads like Evangelion meets The Handmaid’s Tale with some Hunger Games sprinkled in, but while I can compare it to those things, it is its own unique story that has all kinds of twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. There’s swearing, torture, and giant mecha alien battling. I mean I looked at this book a few times and muttered an unironic ‘yasss’ at it. Smash the patriarchy, and then smash it more!


So there you have it. Another year of wonderful books that have largely kept my mind off what the world is like outside of books…. ^^;

On top of that, my blog turns 6 on New Year’s Day! Where has the time gone?!

Wishing you all the best holidays, and a very Happy New Year. I hope 2022 will bring us even more delightful books!

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