Best Books So Far in 2021

The following are the best books I’ve read so far this year. They are a combination of favorite reads and ones so entertaining that I HAD to rate them highly and include them on this list. I wanted this to be a nice, round 10 books, but instead I have 9 with some honorable mentions.

The variety of books here reflects my reading taste, so you’ll see novels but also comics and picture books as well. They are listed in order of what I most recently read.


Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
★★★★★

Summary

The third book in the Diviners series, a YA paranormal historical fiction series with a hint of horror. The story is about a group of teens in 1920s NYC most of whom have supernatural abilities. In addition to protecting the city from ravenous ghosts, they are also trying to discover how/why they possess such abilities.

Why I like it

I think Libba Bray did a great job with this series. The writing is so immersive and atmospheric that I feel as if I time travelled to 1920s NYC whenever I read the books. The mystery regarding the supernatural has me hooked and the characters all keep me entertained. I also like that Bray includes both what’s alluring about the 1920s as well as unappealing aspects of it, and that her cast of main characters are diverse.

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s a contemporary children’s picture book about a little boy named Milo riding the subway with his sister. While on the train, he draws what he imagines the lives of the people around him to be like.

Why I like it

It’s a story that celebrates children using their imagination and exercising their artistic talents yet still communicates the message that people’s lives often aren’t how we assume them to be. I liked the illustrations as well. I thought they were playful.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

A historical fiction novel set in 1819 about a notoriously talented chef who is kidnapped by a female pirate, who’s the scourge of an English trading company that pumps opium into China and deals in slavery.

Why I like it

The prose. Oh! I love how this book is written, so it was an immediate favorite. I also love the characters, especially the protagonist, Owen Wedgwood. And the humor! So much sarcasm from Owen and Mad Hannah Mabbot, the pirate. I had such a good time reading this.

Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel (illus.)
★★★★★

Summary

An illustrated children’s book that condenses the epic Hindu tale the Ramayana, which is about how Rama, an avatar of the god Vishnu, defeated the demon king Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita. The book is about 200 pages long but contains over 100 stunningly detailed illustrations.

Why I like it

It’s such a beautiful book! The illustrations alone would have made me highly recommend it, but the story is interesting and told in a way that would appeal to modern audiences. I think this is one that both kids and adults will like.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s the second novel in the World of Five Gods fantasy series, which begins with the Curse of Chalion. However, in this book the story focuses on Ista, dowager royina of Chalion who’s tired of the gods and their antics.

Why I like it

It took a while for my interest in the story to build, but once it did, I was hooked. I just love the story and how Bujold tells it. I love that the protagonists so far tend to be older (early to late 30s, it seems) and have a wry sense of humor when dealing with their gods.

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham, illus. by Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s the first volume in a fantasy comic book series about fairytale creatures and characters seeking refuge in our world, specifically in New York. This volume is a whodunit: The big bad wolf (named Bigby Wolf) is investigating who killed Snow White’s sister, Rose Red.

Why I like it

It sounds a bit silly when I write it out like that, but trust me — this is SUCH a good read! It was interesting; it was entertaining; and it was totally unexpected to me. I can’t wait to read more!

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s a standalone novel, but it’s set in the same world as Unnatural Magic, which was published first, and includes some of the same characters. It’s a gaslamp fantasy novel. It’s about a poor fire witch who lucks into a good gig to protect a young woman from being assassinated before her wedding. From there, a mystery unfolds, which the protagonist helps to solve.

Why I like it

Because of Delly Wells, the protagonist! She’s the best and is one of my all-time favorite characters. She made this book such an entertaining read. I hope she pops up again in another book set in this world.

In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s a historical thriller set in the Midwest in the late 1800s about a female serial killer.

Why I like it

Again, it’s the protagonist. This time it’s Bella, who’s originally from Norway but emigrated to the U.S. for a chance at a better life. The story is gripping and so character focused that it’s like a character study. It was such a good read, both shocking and surprising, and it blew me away when I learned it’s based on real person. I ended up recommending it to everyone I know.

Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
★★★★★
(FAVORITE)

Summary

It’s the second novel in the Phèdre trilogy, which begins with Kushiel’s Dart. They are fantasy novels set in a world that resembles ours in the past, in some aspects. The story mostly focuses on a country where the people are said to be descended from angels and their courtesans are held in high regard. The story follows Phèdre, a courtesan turned spy.

Why I like it

The gods! I mean… I like the characters and how events developed in this one and all the speculations I made and all the adventures Phèdre went on, but having the divine actions be more apparent was a huge reason why I loved this and had such a great time with it. I’m SOOO looking forward to reading the next book.


Honorable Mentions

DCeased by Tom Taylor, illus. by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, Laura Braga, Richard Friend, James Harren, Darick Robertson, Trevor Scott, Neil Edwards
★★★★☆

Summary

Set in the DC universe, it’s about characters like Superman and Batman contracting a virus that basically turns them into zombies.

Why I liked it

ZOMBIEEESSS!!! 😀 (And if you know me, you understand that.)

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
★★★★☆

Summary

Contemporary dark satire about a young Black man who gets a job in sales at a tech startup in NYC.

Why I like it

Woooo! Man! This one took me for ride. It was an uncomfortable read but so interesting and gripping that I couldn’t break from it long. It was so good, and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next. It’s his debut novel, btw.


THAT’S ALL MY BEST READS FOR NOW.
LET ME KNOW BELOW WHAT’RE YOUR TOP 2 BEST READS SO FAR.

20 thoughts on “Best Books So Far in 2021

  1. What a lovely variety of books! I’m not sure what my favourites of the year so far are although I am aware I’ll have a few to choose from at the end of the year when I traditionally make my list …

    Like

    1. It’s so hard to choose sometimes. I make another list at the end of the year too. Sometimes it’s way different from what I have listed at the halfway point. So interesting to see how it changes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. HOWL

    Best Two so far would Be :

    “the annoying toying in the Temple and other tales”

    “How to Become a taller reader ”
    (This has a whopping 9000 pages!)

    Thanks for the recommendations

    Like

  3. Ooo, I love the sound of Cinnamon and Gunpowder!
    Heartily agree with you about Fables (such an awesome series) and Kushiel (naturally).
    You’ve had a pretty great reading year so far, huh?! ❤😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you love it! 🙂
      Yea! And thanks to you and Mogsy I tried it and end up having it as a fav too! Lol! Now my mom wants to read it because I keep telling her about it.

      Like

        1. I forgot the guy’s name, but he was good. I think Reading also did the Wheel of Time books. I actually didn’t like the audio version of the books but it could have been that I was losing interest in the story, so not the narrators’ fault (Reading narrated for the women and a male narrator did the male characters).

          Like

  4. I’m glad to see In the Garden of Spite here. I’m currently listening to the audio of it. Very good so far, but also very brutal in at least one scene.

    Like

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