• Nichelle

Everything I Read in 2021 (Part 1: My Favorites!)


Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Aelin, Lysandra, Manon, Elide, and Nesryn are all on some queen shit all day every day, while the boys are out here trying their best.

Sarah J. Maas was my most read author this year after I finally decided to jump on the Throne of Glass bandwagon. I started the ACOTAR series last year and enjoyed it, but wasn't obsessed with it. Throne of Glass sounded like a commitment, but I loved how SJM wrapped up the original ACOTAR series so much, that I decided to give her OG series a try. I loved it! It's bumped ADOW as my favorite series of all time and Queen of Shadow was my favorite of the books. All the ladies in these books are badasses and there is nowhere this is more evident than this book.



Into the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

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Genre: Horror & Memoir

Summary: A memoir of Carmen's time in an abusive relationship and is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read.

This book is truly an incredible piece of writing. You know how you sometimes look at a statue carved from marble and you can't believe that an artist made it look soft. That's how I felt reading this book. I didn't know words could do that. Carmen Maria Machado wrote a storybook about her time in an abusive relationship and I felt privileged to have read it. Required reading for everyone.



Beach Read by Emily Henry

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Genre: Contemporary Romance

Summary: January is a writer who is spending the summer at her late father's secret lakehouse and falls for the next-door neighbor Gus, her college rival.

My love affair with Em Hen started with Gus and January! I read this book three times this year because I loved it that much. It's deeply emotional without feeling manipulative. I've read all of Em Hen's published works this year and this is by far my favorite. She made magic with this one!



A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary: Life sucks and even if it gets better for a moment, it will get worse again.

I hesitate to call this book a favorite because it was truly a miserable experience to read. I cried for days after finishing it and I will still cry if I think about Jude and Willem for too long. That being said, I'm not sure I've ever read a better work of fiction. Hanya creates vivid characters that crawl off the page and burrow their way into your heart. I doubt I will ever stop thinking about it.



This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

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Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Summary: Two time-travel agents on opposite sides of a war exchange love letters.

An unexpected favorite was this sci-fi romance. I don't read much sci-fi and to be perfectly honest, I didn't fully understand what was happening in the larger plot, but it didn't matter I was fully committed to the characters of Red and Blue.



A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The finale of the Court of series where Feyre, Rhysand, and the gang have to fight people to stop them from taking over the human world.

I read the first two books of the ACOTAR series and 2020 and I wasn't super impressed. The first book was on the boring side of average and the second book was good but didn't live up to the hype. (You can't turn around on Booktok without someone talking about chapter 55). This book was everything I could have wanted. Sarah did such a great job weaving in pieces from the first books and the sisters in this book were perfection!


Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Genre: Historical Fantasy

Summary: A retelling of Illiad focused on the tragic love story of Achilles and Patroclus.

I read and loved Madeline Miller's Circe when it was getting all the hype a few years ago, but I never got around to her previous works including SOA. This book made me ugly cry.


A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Elias, Laia, and Helene face off in the final battle against the Nightbringer. #justiceforhelene

I felt like this series was wrapped up so nicely with this final book. Sabaa did such an amazing job creating a villain whose motivations were both understandable and completely heinous.


From Lukov, With Love by Mariana Zapata

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Two rival ice skaters must team up and they fall in love and it's everything you could have ever hoped for.

Mariana Zapata's book hit different and this is my favorite that I've read so far! I loved the ice skating element, almost as much as the scenes where she's sick and he has to take care of her.



Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Aelin and the crew finally fight to get Terrasen back. Live Manon, Live!

The finale of the Throne of Glass series was everything I could have hoped for! I cried many times. My big question is what are Manon and Dorian up to these days...?



The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

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Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Addie LaRue is cursed with the ability to live forever, but no one can remember her.

“And there in the dark, he asks if it was really worth it. Were the instants of joy worth the stretches of sorrow? Were the moments of beauty worth the years of pain? And she turns her head, and looks at him, and says, ‘Always.’ “


Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Aelin calls in every favor she's ever earned and the girls continue their queen shit.

Oop it's another Throne of Glass book. Sorry, not sorry. This series is so good. The scene between Aelin in Rolfe in this book may be the best scene in the entire series. It's too good!


Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Chaol goes on a spa vacation and falls in love.

I read this book in tandem with Empire of Storms and highly recommend the tandem read if you can pull it off. There are a lot of Chaol haters out there, but not me. I love the silly boy. He's trying his best, even though most of the time he fails.



House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: A social worker goes to a home for orphaned magical children and warms my entire heart like a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup on a rainy day.

The coziest book!



Hello Girls by Emily Henry & Brittany Cavallaro

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Summary: Two best friends run away from a toxic home environment and start a fun little crime spree.

Why aren't more people talking about this book? It's a brilliant look at the deep and intimate friendship between teen girls. So good!!!



The Mothers by Brit Bennett

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Summary: In a small town in Southern California during the summer before college, Nadia makes choices that will affect her life for decades.

Brit Bennett is most well known for her book The Vanishing Half, but I loved The Mothers even more. The story weaves through all the lives of the people in this neighborhood so poignantly.


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Genre: Historical

Summary: TJR magic with the story of four siblings learning how to grow up while surfing.

TJR can do no wrong. Nina can join Nesta and me in the eldest sisters with "N" names club. This book made me desperate to visit Malibu! Such a gorgeous exploration of family.


The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

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Genre: Romance

Summary: When the grumpy Canadian football player needs a green card, he convinces his assistant to marry him and then they fall in love and it's so goddamn wonderful.

Slow burn football book sounded disgusting, but I loved every single minute of this book. It was everything I could ever want in a romance book and converted me into a Zapata fan.


Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

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Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Aelin meets Rowan and gets to training to learn how to control her magic, while we meet the baddest witch in town, Manon.

And this is where the Throne of Glass series goes from good to excellent.



Bluets by Maggie Nelson

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Genre: Prose Poetry

Summary: It's about the color blue, also grief.

💙





The Casanova by T. L. Swan

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Enemies to lover, but he's obsessed with art and the idea of soulmates, and you have really bad periods.

T. L. Swan's books are a little bit trashy, but this book tugged at every heartstring and gave me a solid mystery plot. I don't know if I could ask for more?


A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Genre: Fantasy Romance

Summary: Poppy and Hawke (aka Casteel) go on a road trip while fighting bad guys and "pretend" to love each other.

Guys, I would have read 10,000 pages of these two flirting on a horse. I'm a sucker. Does anything happen in this book? Not really. It's mostly a road trip until the last couple of chapters, but I'm not mad about it.



Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier

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Genre: Classic

Summary: An unnamed woman marries a guy who is kind of the worst and something sus happened to his first wife.

Sometimes a classic is just a good time. This is one of those cases. The mystery of what the heck happened to Rebecca is so intriguing. The guy is so sketchy. And the main girl (who is never named!) is so fascinated!


Luna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Grumpy guy falls for the nice girl with a troubled past but at an auto body shop.

I love a grumpy guy. I especially love a grumpy guy who gives excellent hugs.


From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Poppy and Hawke sitting in a tree K I S S I N G (also vampires and werewolves and also The Selection by Kiera Cass)

This book hits every dopamine receptor in my brain. I love it.


A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Nesta (Feyre's bitch of an older sister) has PTSD and so Feyre puts her on house arrest, but don't worry Nesta becomes a warrior and falls in love.

In this house, we believe in the Nesta supremacy. But seriously, I loved this exploration of an objectively unlikable lady and the way she processes the trauma of the war.


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Summary: A guy is kidnapped by himself and quantum realities.

This book legitimately scared me. Like I was suddenly worried my clones were going to be coming for me.



The Cipher by Isabella Maldando

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Thriller

Summary: A FBI agent who was kidnapped as a teen, now must find the kidnapper before he kills more girls.

We love a serial killer! This book gives Hannibal vibes, but make it modern.


A Million June by Emily Henry

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: YA Fantasy

Summary: June's family has a multi-generation feud with another family, but after her dad's death, she must learn how to use the magic of her home to get to the bottom of the feud (also fall in love with the rival family's son).

Em Hen is a queen! This book is sweet and cozy and sweet and magical!


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

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Genre: Contemporary

Summary: A young man writes a letter to his mom about his experience growing up as a gay Vietnamese kid in poverty.

This book is exquisitely written! It's meant to be read slowly and savored. You can tell that Vuong is a poet because the prose is lyrical.


A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: Who is the bad guy at this point? Everyone? No one?

This is when I started to really join up with team Helene.


All Rhodes Lead Here by Mariana Zapata

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Genre: Romance

Summary: A songwriter struggling with a recent break-up moves into the garage apartment of a grumpy man and his teen son, romance follows and the best hugs I've ever read.

Another Mariana Zapata grumpy man. I'd argue the best hugger of the bunch.




The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

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Genre: Romance

Summary: 23 and Me, but instead of catching the Golden State Killer, you find your soulmate.

Did I predict the entire plot of this book by page fifteen? Yes. Did that mean I enjoyed it less? No. It was a delight that I read in an afternoon.


The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Poppy and Alex were best friends who traveled together every summer until something happened that broke them apart. This trip to Palm Springs is their final chance to make things work!

I've never believed in the chemistry between two characters more. I hope they make it work long-term because there is no one in the world better for Poppy than Alex.


The Wicked King by Holly Black

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Summary: After a cute little coup, Jude must decide how to use her new relationship with Carden.

I loved this series, even though I was late to the party. Jude is the most fun.


The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Two people who hate each other have to go on a vacation where they pretend to be newlyweds.

I adore a good little enemies-to-lovers plot in the tropics. What more can you really ask for from this cute yellow book?


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Genre: Classic

Summary: Heathcliff loves Catherine, but she marries someone else (even though she also loves Heathcliff) and when she dies Heathcliff makes it everyone's problem.

Heathcliff and Catherine are both psychopaths.




Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Ghasi

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Genre: Contemporary

Summary: When a young women's mother moves home with debilitating depression, she relives her childhood.

Wow! This book did such an outstanding job weaving together so many complex ideas (religion, addiction, mental health, education, family, immigration) into a small but incredibly impactful book.


The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Summary: Carden and Jude are the power couple of the year.

I read this entire series in a weekend, so I'm having a hard time distinguishing between the three, but a good time was had by all.


November 9 by Colleen Hoover

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Genre: Romance

Summary: After an "accidental" encounter at a diner on November 9th, Fallon and Ben agree to meet up every year on the same day and fall in love.

CoHo makes me ugly cry. The premise was so good and I loved their romance. I did cry. A lot.


Wait for It by Mariana Zapata

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Single mom of two boys falls for the grumpy neighbor across the street and it's so sweet it'll rot your teeth.

Dallas is the sweetest. Also, her boys are too cute. Consider my heart all warm and toasty.


Holidaze by Christina Lauren

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Genre: Romance

Summary: Childhood friends fall in love at Christmas time, but it's Groundhogs Day a couple of times.

A Christmas rom-com. Do I remember the characters' names? Absolutely not. But I remember I had a good time.




The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: When a lady tries to kill herself, she ends up at the Midnight Library, a place where you can see every version of your life if you would have lived differently.

This was a little preachy, but great concept fairly well executed.


Heartstopper V1 by Alice Oseman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Graphic Novel

Summary: Two boys fall in love in high school.

I love these boys!


Heartstopper V2 by Alice Oseman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Graphic Novel

Summary: Nick and Charlie continue to be the cutest little nuggets!

These graphic novels are adorable and sweet. The perfect pick-me-up quick read.


The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Thriller

Summary: A group of college friends spend New Year at a remote hunting lodge in Scotland and someone gets murdered.

I wish I had posh friends to have an annual New Year's trip. Truly (besides the murder) it sounds like a dream.


The Whisper Man by Alex North

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Thriller

Summary: Your kid's imaginary friend might not be so imaginary...

I really struggled to find enjoyable thrillers this year, but this one was fun! I enjoyed the element of having the little boy as one of the POV characters.



Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Short Stories Horror

Summary: Being a woman is spooky shit.

A collection of short stories that take mostly familiar scary stories and warp them into modern echoes of the scary parts of being a woman and a creative person in the world. Carmen never fails to impress.


Kulti by Mariana Zapata

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: If your soccer coach is really mean to you, it might be because he's in love with you.

If you would have told me that multiple sports romances would have made it into my top 50 books for the year, I would have laughed, but Marianna Zapata really made me fall for these sporty dudes (and in this case ladies!)


Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: Dani Brown fake dates the university security guard and he is the literally best.

My favorite of the Brown sisters' books! Zafir is just the best and I loved Dani too! It was so much fun! I'm sad we've run out of sisters to follow, but I can't wait to see what Talia does next!


Part 2

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