We’re into the second half of 2021 now, which means it’s time for the Mid Year Book Freakout Tag! I’m probably a little late getting to this, but the exact halfway point of the year happened while I was still on my blogging break/hiatus, and mid-late July is still close enough in my opinion.
Without further ado, let’s move on to the questions and my answers to them!
Best book you’ve read so far in 2021
This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
This very quickly became a new favourite book of mine! This book features an aroace protagonist who stumbles upon and befriends an ancient automaton, who is somehow sentient and missing the memories that would tell him what happened to him and his creator that led to him shutting down all those years ago. There are also pirates, a non-binary side character whose introduction made me so happy that I immediately ran to my partner’s dms to yell about it, and a pleasantly surprising in-depth discussion of consent and bodily autonomy in a non-sexual/fantasy situation. Consent is something that always sticks out to me in stories, and it was so great to see it being treated as important here. Adding to this, the tv show that’s taken up a lot of my focus recently (that shall remain nameless in this post) has a major character who constantly has his bodily autonomy violated, sometimes in sexual situations and sometimes in non-sexual situations, to the point where it’s a running theme with him, and at no point does the show even attempt to address how utterly horrifying this is. Reading This Golden Flame while in the middle of rewatching that show was the perfect time for me to do it, because this book absolutely addresses how horrifying having control of your own body taken away from you would be, and at no point does anybody brush it off or treat it as unimportant. It felt very cathartic and validating.
Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
Aside from my huge Grishaverse reread, I haven’t read many sequels yet this year. As I’m fairly sure that this is my new favourite Grishaverse book, this one automatically has to be my favourite sequel of the first half of the year! I love Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina, and I adored all of their perspectives so much. I was constantly sending my partner lines that had got a reaction out of me. It seems that I show affection by infodumping about things that I care about, so if something that I’m reading sends me to my partner’s dms then that means that I’m really loving it, and this was the Grishaverse book that got me doing that the most out of all of them. This book followed the events of the previous book excellently, successfully wrapped up many loose threads, while still leaving the opening we need for the next book in the series.
New release you haven’t read yet but want to
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
It’s fantasy, it’s sapphic, I’ve been seeing a lot of comparisons to Sorcery of Thorns which is another one of my favourite books, and all the reviews for it that I’ve seen have been saying that it’s about love in all its forms. Love, and the many different ways that we can love each other, is a really great theme for a story to have, and I’m sure that when I do get around to reading this book I’m going to love it. It sounds like exactly my kind of thing. I own a physical copy of this one so it’s now sitting on my shelf and staring at me, and when I grabbed it while writing up this post to double check that I was spelling Adrienne Tooley’s name right the temptation to begin it right then and there was very real. Unfortunately, I have other things that I need to get to first.
Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi
Once again with the running theme of yelling at my partner about the things I love. The Silvered Serpents took over my life when I was reading it, and my partner ended up hearing all about it in great detail. I love every single one of the characters in this series, and I Need Them To Be Okay. Roshani Chokshi I am begging you to please give them the happy ending that they all deserve. Please!! Plus, when I finished The Silvered Serpents, I even ended up checking out ao3 to see what fic there was for this series. The answer, by the way, was barely any. Sad times. Anyway, I’m really excited to see how this trilogy ends, and I’m fully prepared for it to ruin me!
Skulduggery Pleasant: Dead or Alive by Derek Landy
My patience with this series ran out within the first few chapters of this book. Books 1-9 of this series, the series’ original run and now formally known as Phase One, are genuinely really good and remain a favourite series of mine. I don’t mind that Phase Two has a different vibe to it, the main character is older now and the events of the end of Phase One traumatised her, so of course things would feel different now. But every single topic that Landy tries to handle in these books is handled really clumsily, and while I do appreciate that he’s going to the effort to learn and include queer characters there’s only so long I can go appreciating that effort before the state of the rep makes me start to wonder if he’s ever actually had a conversation with a queer person before. And Twitter doesn’t count. All of the issues that I had with this book have been bubbling under the surface for the last few books, but this one was where it fell apart for me and I wasn’t able to enjoy myself despite the issues. It’s a huge disappointment for me, because the first run of this series is still a favourite of mine, and watching it become a shadow of its former self isn’t a fun experience. One day I might sit down and write out and interrogate all of my issues with Phase Two, just so that I then have it written down somewhere.
Sing me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson
I’ve never seen Phantom of the Opera and only one song on the soundtrack is really memorable to me, so I was unsure about how much I’d enjoy a retelling of it, especially as it wasn’t even a queer retelling. I ended up loving this book! I enjoyed reading from Isda’s perspective a lot, her relationship with Emeric was lovely to read, the magic system is so fascinating and has so many implications that I still think about it from time to time even all these months later, and the entire second half of the book was intensely satisfying to read. It kinda gave me John Wick vibes. She snapped and it was glorious. It was absolutely not the morally right thing for her to be doing, but she didn’t give a shit about the morally right thing to be doing anymore, and besides, it’s not like anyone else could claim to be saints either. They reaped what they sowed.
Favourite new author (debut or new to you)
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is an absolute delight! Picking this option is kinda a cheat, because I watched the anime for this series a few years ago, but enough time has passed between now and then that I’d forgotten most of it anyway so this can totally count. This series is loads of fun and it’s so much more queer friendly than I’d expected while going into it. I love every single one of the characters, and the series feels effortlessly funny. I haven’t read any of Tsubaki’s other series yet, but a glance at what people are saying about one of her other series tells me that her making her stories casually queer friendly isn’t unique to just Nozaki-kun, and that makes me really happy to hear!
Newest fictional crush
*Laughs in ace and demiromantic.* This isn’t something that I experience, and there aren’t any characters who really stick out that I’d want to be friends with who I wasn’t already aware of prior to 2021, so there isn’t anything I can substitute this question for. Skip!
Newest favourite character
Alix from This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
I’ve already talked about this book, so I’m not going to go over it all again here. I love both Karis and Alix from this book, but with a few months’ distance from my original reading of the book I think that Alix just pips her to the post.
A book that made you cry
The only ‘book’ that’s made me cry so far this year was a fanfic, and that fanfic had to pull out the big guns to make that happen. I had never cried over the-tv-show-that-shall-not-be-named before reading that fic. But also I’m not surprised that it was that particular fic author that broke me. Notably, I wasn’t crying over a death or a breakup. In a weird way they were kinda happy tears. I don’t know, there’s just something about someone reassuring their kid that they love them and want them around and are going to do all they can to be a better parent from that point on that got to me.
A book that made you happy
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
This book made me really happy!! The sibling relationship between Nishat and Priti was really lovely to read about and it made me wish that my relationship with my own sibling was better. The romance between Nishat and Flávia was so sweet, and this book also managed to capture the nuance that’s required when there’s a relationship between someone who’s closeted and someone who isn’t. I ended up reading this whole book in only two sittings, and finished it in the middle of the night having completely lost track of time. I wouldn’t consider myself the greatest lover of YA contemporary, but this is one that I’d recommend wholeheartedly and without hesitation.
The most beautiful book you’ve bought or received this year
Across The Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
The entire Wayward Children series is consistently beautiful, and this installment is no exception to that. Look at it! It’s even prettier in real life, the picture doesn’t get anywhere near to doing it justice. And this isn’t even the most beautiful book in the series. If anything, I’d say that this is the least beautiful in the series, and considering how pretty this one is, that’s really saying something about how pretty the rest of the books in this series are. I’ve spent probably too long just staring at the covers for this series, but can you blame me? No. No you cannot. If you don’t agree that these books are beautiful then get well soon I guess.
What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
Hahaha there are So Many books that I want to have read by the end of the year, listing them all would be impossible. Really, the only books that I need to read are the stack of arcs that I’ve managed to accumulate. My Netgalley feedback ratio has never been lower than it is now and I need to get on fixing that.
What about you? If you haven’t filled this out yet this year then you can go ahead and say that I tagged you! Or you tell me some of your own answers in the comments ❤
About the Blogger
El is a 21 year old from the UK who loves to read and loves talking about what they read. They particularly like to focus on books featuring lgbtq+ main characters.