Yearly Wrap Up

Top 10 Reads of 2021

Happy New Year Friends!!

I can’t believe we are nearly mid-month of January already!!! Where has the time gone? … Well at home social distancing mostly, and reading. A lot of reading. 96 books to be exact so although I didn’t meet my secondary Goodreads goal of 100 (was originally 52) I’m still pretty happy with my year of reading in both quantity and quality.

So in saying that, it was really hard to narrow down my read to a Top 10 but I get there in the end. I could probably do a top 10 per genre but I resisted the urge and only made one list. It was harder than you think ok. Haha.

#10 – Recursion by Blake Crouch

This was one of the first books I read in January and it has held up. I absolutely loved it. A sci-fi action thriller with a touching love story. What is not to love.

It was so well written and if you’re going to pick up a Blake Crouch book, I highly suggest this one. I also read Dark Matter around mid year which was also a best seller but it just had nothing on Recursion and only got 3 stars from me.

Synopsis:

Memory makes reality.

That’s what NYC cop Barry Sutton is learning, as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face to face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds, but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

At once a relentless pageturner and an intricate science-fiction puzzlebox about time, identity, and memory, Recursion is a thriller as only Blake Crouch could imagine it—and his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date.

#9 The Magic Of Discovery by Britt Andrews

I had never heard of Britt Andrews before she was one of the authors drawn for the Babe Book Club, which is a book club I run with two other amazing romance lovers. The goal is to read as many authors, attending the 2023 Ballgowns & Books Event in Sydney in 2023.

The Magic of Discovery was voted in June and it has stuck with me. When I saw this had everything I want in a PNR, I’m UNDER exaggerating. It’s beautifully written, has magic, shifters, prophecy, and SPICE!! Like level Habenero level 10 on the Scoville Scale spicy.

Chapter 8!!!! That’s all I’m gonna say 🥵🥵💧💧

Growing up in Emerald Lakes, population six hundred and eighty-two, had been safe and comfortable. Running my own magic shop and making a living off my green witchcraft, I have no complaints. Sure, there’s my ex, who never understood the word ‘no’, but there’s also the lovable and eccentric townspeople who feel more like one huge extended family, and let’s not forget my boy-crazed Gran who keeps us all on our toes.

…But something has apparently been missing, and the stars take it upon themselves to correct the problem, dropping four sexy men at my door. Well, not literally. They move into the apartment above my shop, so I’m their landlord. Drawn in by these mages who blew into town on a work assignment, a whole different kind of magic starts to grow between us, but my powers are doing things they shouldn’t, and there’s also a pesky prophecy to unravel.

Strange, unnatural things are brewing in Emerald Lakes, and I can’t ignore the sinking suspicion that something life-changing is headed my way.

Discovering a whole new world of magic, I can only hope I don’t lose myself in the madness.

This is a full-length RH romance, which includes MMFMM content. It ends on a cliffhanger and contains brief references to domestic violence and other themes that readers may find triggering

#8 Nightmareland Chronicles by Daniel Barnett

I’ve only read the first two in this series in 2021 but plan to binge them all before the 6th instalment ‘Lilly‘ comes out on ebook 18 January. The Nightmareland Chronicles is an amazing genre mashup of Dark Fantasy and Horror by Indie author Daniel Barnett. It’s well written and so freaking compelling and unsettling .

If you can remember and enjoyed the 2008 film The Happening by M Night Shyamalan, staring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel then you will LOVE this. If you loved Birdcage this is also the series for you. The first book definitely gave me similar vibes but lullaby took it to another level and is just so so good.

“Tomorrow died on the last morning of May. There were those who saw it happen, who watched the shadow fall, who felt the chop of the guillotine as the world lost its head. Everyone else witnessed only the aftermath, for the event itself lasted no longer than a moment. They stepped outside from windowless rooms, they climbed up from crowded subways, they pulled back the blinds to let in the sun, and found the nightmare waiting for them.”

But the dark is only the beginning.

Nightfall is the first volume of the Nightmareland Chronicles, an ongoing serialized adventure horror epic following one man’s journey to reach his estranged daughter in a world claimed by eternal night

#7 Voice of War by Zack Argyle

There is a reason this book won Fallbrandt Press Independent Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Battle 2021 and Indies Today 2020 Best Fantasy Award, as well as being a SFPBO Award Finalist for Best Fantasy Book 2020.

My review was so chaotic because at the time, I really just couldn’t calm my brain enough to form proper coherent thoughts. 😅

I highly recommend this novel to ANYONE that loves fantasy. Fast-paced, full of action, intrigue, a great ensemble cast with amazing relationships (no miscommunication tropes here), an awesome magic system, and multiple POV’s which I thoroughly enjoy.

Their child will save the world…if they can keep the damn kid alive.

While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers—those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.

A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea, never expecting that her journey would end in chains.

Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.

When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the growing voice in his mind.

Together, these three will change the world—whether they intend to or not.

#6 The Space Between Worlds

I read The Space Between Worlds as part of the Space Sirens Book Club in August and was blown away by how much I enjoyed it.

I was intrigued from the first page and then with an early plot twist (with so many more), I was hooked and literally couldn’t put this book down. It was beautifully written. It was dark and raw and brutal at times but it was a hell of a ride. There are so many twists and turns. I felt like every scene was purposeful in developing the characters, relationships and/or plot further. There was little to no fluff or filler.

This book has stuck with me weeks after I read it and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys SFF and go into it knowing NOTHING!!

An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

#5 The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

I read this with the Space Sirens Book Club and was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. I read initially with audiobook and library loan and HAD to have a physical copy. It will be a re-read before and have already received the sequel ‘The Bone Shard Emperor’ .

The audio is incredible and multi-cast for the different POVs, there is mystery, suspense, and Mephi!! Mephi is my favourite character and animal side kick of the year for me. I love the magical animal side kick trope.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

#4 Amari & The Night Brothers by B.B Alston

Hands down my favourite MG of the year!! This was a realistic inclusive urban version of HP and Artemis Fowl that we all wanted without the problematic douche author (HP). I absolutely loved it and bought it for three different friends so they could experience it too. No surprises they all loved it.

The sequel ‘Amari and the Great Game’ expected release is 30 March 2022 and I am SOOO excited for it.

I did a dedicated review for it here if you want to check out all my thoughts

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing older brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she discovers a ticking briefcase in his closet containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organisation holds the key to locating Quinton – if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense scrutiny and doubt – especially once her own supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed ‘illegal’.

With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …

#3 Jade City/ Jade War by Fonda Lee

OK, I loved these so much and am currently reading Jade Legacy and it is living up to my expectations. I did slightly prefer Jade War because I already knew the world but I couldn’t have one and not the other they are both that good.

JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

#2 The Sword of Kaigen by M.L Wang

The Sword of Kaigen’ BROKE me. I have never cried so much in one book, especially a standalone. This Indie darling is so so amazing and I wish I could read it for the first time all over again.

Asian inspired high fantasy at its best. I read this 559 paged book in 2 days. I could not put it down. It is so fucking well written, I cannot even begin to tell you how good this book is. Just please read it.

A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father blind to the danger that threatens them all.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

#1 The Bear & The Nightengale by Katherine Arden

The Bear & The Nightengale Cover

A new all time favourite. This was the perfect dark fairytale I needed in my life. I loved this so much I read it TWICE last year and am continuing the Winternight Trilogy in Jan and Feb of 2022.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Honourable Mention – Gunmetal Gods by Amil Akhtar

Gunmetal Gods by Amil Akhtar

Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar was described as ‘Game of Thrones’ and the crusades set in the Middle East. I could not agree more. The world was familiar, in its complexity of characters and their motives.

“War urged savagery, but vengeance oft demanded it,”

It was fast paced, brutal, rife with political backstabbing and plotting, religious zealotry and hypocrisy (it is inspired by the crusades after all), and mans need for power and revenge.

This was a 5 star read for me and though I didn’t specifically have it in my top 10 (I missed it initially as it was on the next page of my notes) it would be around number four or five. If you enjoy fast paced Grim Dark fantasy. READ THIS BOOK

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

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