Five Star Reads of 2021

Hello, reader!

Seeming as 2022 is literally right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to reflect on my reading in 2021. Now, last year, I made a top ten list for my top reads of the year, but I found that left out a lot of books that I truly loved. So we’re doing it a little different in 2021! This year, I’m going to include all my five star reads and I’m not ranking them. I read a lot of fantastic books and I honestly don’t think I could pick a clear winner out of the bunch if I tried.

So here, in no particular order, are my favorite reads of 2021!

Adult Fantasy lead the pack

If you’ve been around the blog any amount of time, you know how much I love fantasy. It is my top genre and I don’t see that changing any time soon. So it probably comes as no surprise that most of my five star reads this year were in fantasy. I was a little surprised that adult edged out YA, though I probably shouldn’t be. I am 39 years old, after all πŸ˜‚

  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse was probably my most recommended book this year. Anyone who asked for an adult SFF recommendation had me shoving this book in their faces πŸ˜‚ It was such a stunning read, I couldn’t help myself! It was vivid and lush, with masterful world-building and characters that immediately captured my interest. I read this book and instantly added Rebecca Roanhorse to my auto-buy author list, it was just that good! Also, give me more epic fantasy that isn’t Europe-centric, pleeeease.
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe might be another little cheat. I’ve already read the entire Webtoon series (at least what is out so far), so I knew I loved it. But there is something about reading the physical bind up of the first few chapters that made me fall in love all over again! The art is gorgeous, the story is incredible, and I can’t wait to have the other chapters in my greedy, little hands.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune was a book that I went into with a sprinkle of trepidation. It was just so hyped! Everyone was in love with this book. Well… almost everyone. There was some controversy about where the author got his inspiration for the orphanage featured in this story. As a non-indigenous reviewer, I highly suggest you seek out reviews from the affected community. All I can say is that this was one of the most heart-warming books I have ever read and it certainly made me want to read more of T.J. Klune’s work.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo was another hyped book that I was a little scared to pick up. All the raving gave me high expectations! Thankfully, this book not only matched, but far exceeding them. For such a short book, it certainly packed a punch! I adored the writing, the story-telling, and the characters featured in this novella. I can’t wait to continue the series!
  • Stones of Light by Zack Argyle did what not a lot of sequels can do: it far surpassed the first book! It was such a fantastic sequel that leveled up everything I loved about Voice of War! The world-building was top notch. The writing was even better than the first. And the character growth was just *chef’s kiss* There was definitely no middle-book-syndrome here and I cannot wait to see how this series ends. You can bet that the last book is high on my 2022 TBR!
  • The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang was my first five star read of 2021. Talk about starting the year on an emotional rollercoaster! This book absolutely gutted me, which could explain why I’m so nervous to pick up the last book in this trilogy πŸ˜… I certainly want to know how Rin’s story ends, but I know it’s gonna hurt so bad… Still, this was yet another sequel that was just as good, if not better than, the first book.

But YA Fantasy wasn’t far behind

Though I didn’t give as many YA fantasies five stars this year, the ones I did are not only favorites of the year, but favorites of all-time!

  • Little Thieves by Margaret Owen was a book that surprised me! I mean… I hate saying that because I feel like it implies I went into the book expecting less. What I really mean, though, is that I wasn’t expecting to experience the emotions that I did. I wasn’t expecting to be completely swept up in the story to the point that I ugly cried. This stole my heart (give it back, Vanja…) and I can’t wait to read more from this world!
  • Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is maybe cheating? It was my top book of 2020, after all. But I re-read it multiple times this yea and it was just as good (if not better) upon re-read! It’s a beautiful beginning to a beautiful duology that completely captured my imagination. I’m eager to read anything that Jordan Ifueko writes.
  • Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko is quite possibly one of the best ends to a duology that I have ever read. It’s so good, y’all! It wraps things up in ways that may not always feel satisfying, but strike a note of truth that leaves you with a wonderful feeling of completion. It’s intense, it builds more on a world that I already loved, and my goodness does it make me love this cast of idiots even more. You want found family done to perfection? Read this series.
  • The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna absolutely took my breath away. I love a book that feels like a cinematic experience and this definitely delivered! It’s such a vivid, action-packed story that pulled me in from page one. I’m clearly a sucker for good world-building (it’s one of the overarching themes of all my five stars) and this was one of the best of the bunch. I’m so excited to continue the series in 2022!
  • Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn is one where I’m not sure whether it is considered YA or adult. Goodreads certainly wasn’t much help, either. It’s tagged more as YA so that’s where I’m putting it for now! Either way, this is by far one of the best fantasy novels I read this year! And it’s all thanks to the Book Blogger’s Novel of the Year Awards! As a BBNYA panelist, I was introduced to a lot of incredible self-pubbed novels this year, but this was definitely the best of the bunch. It had me in my feelings, it featured a disabled main character, and it was just so captivatingly written. I loved every moment of this novel and I’m super excited to read more from this author.

The rest was quite the mix

Though I spent much of the year sticking to what my favorite genre, I did take time to branch out a bit. I have to admit that most of that branching came from signing up for blog tours and participating in book clubs! Which, honestly, has become my favorite way to read a new genre. I was lucky to discover a few five star reads among the books that didn’t fall under the adult or YA fantasy umbrella.

  • Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone was a book I read for a blog tour that blew my mind. This thriller was perfectly paced and kept me guessing at every turn! I loved the gothic vibes it had and how dark and twisty it became near the end. And it had been awhile since I tore through a book quite so fast! I love a good thriller but I don’t read them nearly enough. This book made me want to change that.
  • Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon was another blog tour read that took me by surprise! I’m not a big contemporary reader and even less so a YA contemporary reader. So it was quite a surprise to me how much I loved this one! It got under my skin and made me fall in love with the characters. It also made me tear up quite unexpectedly which was rude. Such is the power of a well-written book, though. It certainly made me want to read more books written by this author!
  • City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab is the only middle grade that broke into five star range this year. There were a few that got close, but this had that special blend of whimsy, writing, and wonderful characters that took it over the edge. I think it helps that it was a horror book, too. Well… depending on who you talk to, lol. I certainly thought it classified as horror! This is a middle grade novel that doesn’t shy away from the scary and I loved that about it. I’m excited to continue this wonderful series.
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson was another book where I cautiously jumped on the hype train. I kept hearing such stellar reviews for this YA thriller, but I wasn’t sure how I would get on with it. I’m not usually one for thriller series, but I could not avoid the hype. I’m so glad I gave in, though, because I devoured this book! It was tense, well-paced, and I loved the mystery involved. I loved the characters, I loved the Big Reveal… honestly, I loved everything about it. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I immediately bought the sequel! Don’t ask if I’ve read it… 😬
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers has cemented the fact that this author is one of my favorite in the science fiction genre. Everything she writes is just so cozy! I loved this novella so much that I found it hard to put it down. I would also fight anyone over Mosscap and Dex. MOSSCAP AND DEX DESERVE NICE THINGS! I mean… if they want them. If not, that’s cool, too. This was a beautiful story and I’m very much looking forward to the next installment in the series.

And there we have it! All of my five star reads of 2021. This has been a year of ups and downs when it comes to my reading, but it’s nice to leave the year with so many fantastic books under my belt. How many five star reads did you have this year? Or, if you don’t do ratings, what were some of your favorite books of the year? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, happy reading!


4 thoughts on “Five Star Reads of 2021

  1. Great list, Kerri! There are so many on here that are still on my TBR and I can’t believe I haven’t read yet, but you’ve got me super excited to pick them up in 2022! I also read and absolutely loved AGGGTM this year and I’m so glad I finished the seriesβ€”it’s SO good 😍 I hope you have an awesome reading year ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

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