⭐️ Top 25 Reads of 2021 ⭐️
I’ve had an amazing reading year this year (mostly due to the super-boost I got last January from starting my reread of The Saddle Club) so I wanted to highlight some of the best books I had the pleasure of reading. Feel free to ask me questions about any of these books or you can find my reviews of them by searching the title or author on my blog 😊
I’ve listed the titles below in the order they appear in the collage above (which is no particular order lol) and I’ll mark them with rainbow flags and wheelchair symbols to denote queer and disability rep!
The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk ♿️
Social Queue by Kay Kerr ♿️ #LoveOzYA
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones ♿️
The Boy From the Mish by Gary Lonesborough 🏳️🌈 #LoveOzYA
(US release March 2022, also titled “Ready When You Are”)
Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton & Aśka ♿️🏳️🌈 #LoveOzYA
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
Growing Up Disabled in Australia (ed.) by Carly Findlay ♿️🏳️🌈
The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks 🏳️🌈 #LoveOzYA
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent
The Degenerates by J Albert Mann ♿️🏳️🌈
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi 🏳️🌈
Burden Falls by Kat Ellis (also titled “Wicked Little Deeds)
The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa
Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson ♿️🏳️🌈
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero 🏳️🌈
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare 🏳️🌈
Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller #LoveOzYA
Echo After Echo by AR Capetta 🏳️🌈
Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs-Waller
Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan 🏳️🌈
Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron ♿️🏳️🌈
These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling 🏳️🌈
This Is Not A Ghost Story by Andrea Portes
I Kissed A Girl by Jennet Alexander 🏳️🌈
I’m switching over to StoryGraph in 2022!
I tried to do this last year but SG was still a bit buggy and wonky and my Goodreads import just made a mess of my shelves. so I’m starting again with empty shelves and I’m just gonna add the books I read as I read them. so if you want to keep track of what I’m reading, add me or follow me or however it works lol
I’ll still be using Goodreads to track upcoming releases but my current reads, reading updates and reviews will be exclusively on StoryGraph!
Review: The Heartbreak Bakery by AR Capetta
AR Capetta books are the balm for my tired soul and this one came at just the right time. It was so easy to fall in love with Syd, the agender magical baker, and Harley, the trans demisexual delivery person, as they try to repair the damage done by an accidental batch of break-up brownies. I absolutely loved this book and I can't wait to try some of the recipes from it. A wonderful, uplifting queer read for anyone who needs a smile right about now.
upcoming LGBT+ release! Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White!
A furious debut novel from Andrew Joseph White about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Perfect for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him — the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.
Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its powers to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms … until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
Find preorder details on the author’s Twitter here and add Hell Followed With Us on Goodreads to support this trans-tastic, monstrous debut releasing June 7th 2022!
Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A Craig
"Flushed with starlight and moonlight drowned,
All the dreamers are castle-bound.
At midnight’s stroke, we will unwind,
Revealing fantasies soft or unkind.
Show me debauched nightmares or sunniest daydreams.
Come not as you are but as you wish to be seen."
House of Salt and Sorrows is the kind of eerie, horrific fantasy that I just love! With similar vibes to To Kill a Kingdom, this was a spooky little fairy tale retelling that really breathed new life into the story it was reimagining and wasn't afraid to get its hands dirty. I absolutely loved Annaleigh in all her compassion and it was heartbreaking to see how that was used against her. And the seaside setting with a rich mythology and several interesting deities hanging around was exquisite. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Craig's other books!
“If I can survive the Witch Hunters, I can survive high school.”
I absolutely loved the These Witches Don’t Burn duology by Isabel Sterling! the worldbuilding is awesome, the characters are vibrant and hilarious, and the queer rep is the perfect topping to this witch-a-licious dessert! be sure to read the digital short story, This Spell Can’t Last, too!
... when humanity protects the frail among us, and works to ensure their survival, the human project as a whole gets stronger.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Rating: 5/5 (reread)
"I am disappearing inch by inch into this house, I am going apart a little bit at a time because all this noise is breaking me..."
Every time I reread this, I discover something new. In my 2018 reread, I realised it was a story about experiencing abuse more than anything else. In my incomplete 2020 reread, I realised how incredibly vulnerable Eleanor is. And in this reread, I realised just how much Hill House takes from her.
Eleanor is Hill House and Hill House is Eleanor and it hurts so much to watch her lose herself to it. The house feeds on her trauma and her guilt and she lets it because she's found the home she's been searching for all her life. Her family messed with her head so badly and I'm in awe of how carefully Jackson weaves the results of that through the story.
I'll never be tired of this novel. It is absolutely my favourite book.
everyone else was posting these so I thought I might as well too lol how many have you read? 👀
Series Review: A Tale of Magic series by Chris Colfer
A Tale of Magic... - 5/5
A Tale of Witchcraft - 5/5
A Tale of Sorcery - 5/5
If you’re looking for a diverse middle-grade series with amazing covers, captivating characters and a wicked sense of humour that isn’t afraid to tackle big issues, you need to pick up this series.
Set in the same world as his Land of Stories series (just a couple centuries earlier), each book in the series uses a different branch of magic to explain a certain kind of prejudice in a way that kids can understand while going on an exciting adventure full of twists and turns.
I’ve absolutely loved these books. They’re comforting, easy reads and I love the characters so much - especially Brystal. Watching Brystal discover her powers, develop her leadership and problem-solving skills and learn how to cope with anxiety and depression was an amazing journey to go on.
I really hope Colfer returns to this world in the future but if this is the last we see from the Land of Stories, I’ll be one happy bookworm!
TBR Buster Challenge
I wasn’t gonna make a post about this, I was just gonna quietly participate but I thought it’d be better to make a lil announcement so that I can hold myself accountable 😅
I’ll probably be reading a lot from my backlog TBR this year but the ones I’m including in the challenge are these ones, that have been on my TBR since 2019 or before:
Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi
Permanent Record by Mary HK Choi
Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo
City of Spells by Alexandra Christo
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos
Meat Market by Juno Dawson
The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Meet Me In Outer Space by Melinda Grace
We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
Meg and Linus by Hanna Nowinski
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Windfall by Jennifer E Smith
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E Smith
Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Bright We Burn by Kiersten White
The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young
fingers crossed I can cross most of those off, even if I don’t read them all. here’s to busting those TBRs! (and thank you to @bookbandit for hosting 😊)
The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks
Rating: 5/5 #LoveOzYA
“I’m still hurt by you, and mad at you — but I can forgive you. Because you are more than just your worst moments, Bubbe. And we had so many good ones too.”
My greatest love, after books, is movies, so a book about movies was already a win. Add in a lovely wlw romance and a beautiful family story and you've got yourself a marvellous little book. The Monster of Her Age is about the wonders and horrors of love of all kinds and how films shape our world and our lives; how they connect people from all walks of life - all abilities, all cultures, all sexualities. If you loved Mara Wilson's memoir Where Am I Now? or Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, definitely track down a copy of this gorgeous Australian YA.
Warnings: death, grief, references to emotional and psychological abuse.
🔎 YA Under the Radar Part 5 🔍
Spring has sprung down under and I am back with 50 more books that are flying under the YA radar! We’ve got new releases and backlog beauties, fabulous fantasy and stunning sci-fi, romance to make you squee and horror to make you wanna pee - this list has it all! I’ve popped rainbow flags next to LGBT+ books and wheelchair symbols next to disability rep so be sure to check out a few of these gorgeous novels that haven’t hit 10k ratings on Goodreads (yet).
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi 🏳️🌈
The Weight of the Stars by K Ancrum 🏳️🌈
Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks 🏳️🌈 ♿️
The Crooked Mask by Rachel Burge ♿️
This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender 🏳️🌈 ♿️
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare 🏳️🌈
Fin and Rye and Fireflies by Harry Cook 🏳️🌈
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis 🏳️🌈 ♿️
Coral by Sara Ella ♿️
Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
Burden Falls by Kat Ellis
Tell Me Agan How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan 🏳️🌈
How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox 🏳️🌈 ♿️
The Gaps by Leanne Hall
The Devouring Gray duology by Christine Lynn Herman 🏳️🌈 ♿️
The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa
Monuments duology by Will Kostakis 🏳️🌈
The Greatest Hit by Will Kostakis 🏳️🌈
Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee 🏳️🌈
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
The Lost and Found by Katrina Leno ♿️
You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
The Boy From the Mish by Gary Lonesborough 🏳️🌈
The Degenerates by J Albert Mann 🏳️🌈 ♿️
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith 🏳️🌈
Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
Before the Beginning by Anna Morgan 🏳️🌈
Pumpkin by Julie Murphy 🏳️🌈
This Is Not A Ghost Story by Andrea Portes
Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate 🏳️🌈
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate 🏳️🌈
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig 🏳️🌈
The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig 🏳️🌈
I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan 🏳️🌈
When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson 🏳️🌈
Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo 🏳️🌈
Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve 🏳️🌈
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
That Weekend by Kara Thomas
Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent
Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent
Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson
More of my recs are available in my “book recommendations” tag!
Review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
"He has taken too much from both of us. From the world. He cannot be allowed to win."
Why, oh, why did I leave this languishing on my shelves for so long! This was marvellous! Kiersten White has done exactly what a Frankenstein retelling should: paint Victor in his true monstrosity and make clear the harm he does to everyone around him.
I was mesmerised by this book, by Elizabeth's side of the story. I know Frankenstein well and White spoke beautifully to the truths and themes of the original while filling in the gaps Mary Shelley's place in time didn't allow her to. The focus on the women of the story was exquisite and truly builds on the story rather than simply retelling it.
An incredible novel that honours its source material as well as enhancing it. I highly recommend this one!
Warnings: blood and gore, violence, animal violence and death, murder of a child, period typical attitudes towards women, forced hospitalisation, mistreatment from medical professionals.
The Boy From the Mish by Gary Lonesborough is being published in the US in March 2022 with the new title Ready When You Are!
this is an amazing #OwnVoices book about two Indigenous Australian teenage boys falling in love over the summer holidays while working on a comic book together. it’s laugh-out-loud funny and superbly sweet and I highly encourage everyone to add it to their Goodreads, wishlists and TBRs ASAP!
The 2022 Australia YA releases are here! I’ve been hanging out for this list and can’t wait to see what wonderful novels Aussie writers have in store for us this year :D
if you’re outside Australia & New Zealand but are still interested in some of the books on the list, consider recommending them to your local and/or school library! I know how hard it can be to get physical copies of OzYA in the US and UK but please consider supporting Australian YA because there is some incredible stuff being written here and it deserves worldwide recognition <3
Series Review: The Veronica Speedwell Mysteries by Deanna Raybourn
“Stoker, as you well know, murders happen,” I told him.
“But why must they happen to us?”
A Curious Beginning - 4/5
A Perilous Undertaking - 4/5
A Treacherous Curse - 4/5
A Dangerous Collaboration - 4/5
A Murderous Relation - 3/5
An Unexpected Peril - 4/5
An excellent series full of murder and mayhem with two of the most dramatic (but wonderful) characters I’ve come across for a long time. I absolutely fell in love with Veronica and Stoker’s adventures the last few weeks and can’t wait to see where the series goes next in An Impossible Impostor which releases in February 2022. I also really love that our two leads have disabilities - which does count as diversity, thank you very much.
If you love the TV series Bones or a good bit of historical fiction, definitely acquaint yourself with Miss Speedwell and Mr Stoker.
Read in December 2021
12 books to round out the year! I totalled 170 books read which is my second biggest total ever! I had hoped to top that elusive 175 but reading slumps have minds of their own, don’t they? at least I got through 3 of the longest books on my TBR this month and managed to cross off a few old reads that I’ve had waiting for ages. here’s to shrinking TBRs and finding new books to love in 2022 😄
Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton & Aśka - 5/5
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison - 4/5
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare - 4/5
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare - 5/5
Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare - 5/5
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A Craig - 4/5
Clean by Juno Dawson - 4/5
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - 5/5 (reread)
Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor - 3/5
A Tale of Sorcery… by Chris Colfer - 5/5
Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker - 4/5
Along the Saltwise Sea by A Deborah Baker - 3/5
If you liked To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, try Social Queue by Kay Kerr
They both include:
revisiting and revitalising past crushes
romance fanatics finally experiencing romance firsthand
diverse writers writing diverse characters
More recs like this are available in my “book recommendations” tag!
Review: Social Queue by Kay Kerr
Rating: 4/5 #LoveOzYA
“Living each day in survival mode doesn’t leave a lot of space for contemplation.”
Zoe Kelly is tired of only experiencing romance second-hand but dating is hard when you combine a complete lack of experience with autism and anxiety. Writing about this struggle at her internship for an online magazine, Zoe discovers that there have been times in the past when people have been interested in her, she just didn't quite notice. So she's taking a stroll down memory lane to figure out how she missed the signs and what she can do to make sure love doesn't pass her by again.
All aboard the Kay Kerr train! This was leagues ahead of her debut, Please Don't Hug Me, with a much tighter plot, a wonderfully well-developed protagonist and a much more confident stance on how disabled people deserve to be treated by the people around them.
What struck me most about Social Queue is that it’s a perfect reminder of how much extra effort and work disabled people have to put in just to meet the (usually pointless) standards of able-bodied people. To navigate social situations, to meet expectations about how to present yourself, to cope with negative emotions and experiences. The world weighs so much more heavily when you experience it differently and Kerr does an excellent job of portraying that with Zoe.
But having said that, I did wonder why Zoe never figures out - on her own or with guidance from her supposedly supportive friends and family - that she doesn’t have to live up to the standards of able-bodied, neurotypical society. She doesn’t have to have the perfect dates and meet “the one”. She doesn’t need to shower and do her make-up and dress perfectly for every single occasion. She’s allowed to say when something or someone bothers her. She’s allowed to be daunted by the idea of conflict or arguing. She’s allowed to get things wrong and not be made to feel foolish or ashamed. I was waiting for her to realise that but the turning point never came.
Another turning point that never came was that Maia, Zoe's colleague who keeps writing ableist articles, never acknowledges and apologises for the articles she wrote and then made Zoe read and fix. If I was in Zoe's position, being forced to read and edit ableist news stories for a colleague, I would expect my corrections to lead to some sort of actual change but we never hear Maia's thoughts on Zoe's notes and attempts to educate her. I really would've loved a scene where Maia even just thanks Zoe for her help and apologises for her mistakes but instead, Zoe is loaded up with this emotional labour and never gets to debrief about it.
Luckily, the romance is pretty cute even if Zoe and her beau getting together is a little rushed and convoluted. I also loved that Zoe questions her sexuality for the first time during the course of the book! I really related to the whole "I just said I liked boys because I thought I was supposed to" situation she experienced as a teenager and I loved seeing her open herself up to the idea of being something other than straight (even though that little story thread kind of got lost in the dust as well).
An engaging, thoughtful novel about navigating the world of romance with some important disability rep and a lovely romance. I just wish all the storylines had been tied up a bit more neatly.
Warnings: misogyny, ableism, anxiety, panic attacks and one scene involving police brutality.