2021 End of Year Book Survey #AMonthofFaves

Prompts, as always, by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 38
Number of Audiobooks: 9
Number of Rereads: 1
Number Unfinished/Abandoned: 1


Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read This Year?

Daisy Jones & The SixDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Believe the hype. This book is phenomenal.

Fun fact: I started this as an audiobook but couldn’t stand the Daisy Jones narration but ultimately that’s what I heard every time Daisy Jones spoke in the book. So what I’m saying is: the voice Jennifer Beals picked absolutely fit the narrative (and is exactly how Daisy’s voice is described); I just couldn’t get into it even though I love a full-cast audio.

So anyway, yes, I loved this mostly because it’s a great character study and I love character studies. My favorite character is probably Pete (who doesn’t even do any narration)–(view spoiler)–and my second favorite is Warren because they are legit the only ones that are all, “I mean, I’m just here to play music.”

I had so much to say when I first read this, but I don’t want to say too much to ruin the experience of reading it for anyone else. I will say, though, that this is a very different kind of love story, and I really liked the exploration of what love can look like and that it is not always a fairytale. I also am super into oral histories and since this is in the style of an oral history, it 100% worked for me. Also also also, I love the cover because it looks like an album cover and perfectly captures the mood of the entire story.

I also love Karen, but you knew that already. And Camila was also awesome. Okay, I loved all the female characters except Daisy–except that’s not even true. Daisy is a great character. I just wouldn’t want to be her friend is all. (I also wouldn’t want to be any of the guys’ friends except maybe Warren.)

View all my reviews

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Returning this to the library at the beginning of chapter 9 (pg. 86) because I won’t have time to finish before I leave for my trip.

5/23/21: I never thought I’d read “It be your own people” in a middle grade book published by a major publisher but I also hadn’t expected to read a middle grade book about the mythology surrounding Black/African-American folktales so here we all are.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I like the characters generally speaking, but I thought this book was too long–especially for the first book in a middle grade series–and the pacing was kind of relentless. The book didn’t really slow down until the climax (which…ironic, I know) and there were some moments where I felt like I missed some development in the relationships because I didn’t understand the characters’ reactions to each other.

THAT SAID, I did read this during a very stressful move, so it’s possible that I wasn’t in the right head space to enjoy the book (aka it’s not you, it’s me). I also enjoyed the deft commentary on race, slavery, grief, friendship, and the inherent hypocrisy of adults. Plus, we all know I love the talking book trope and books about the power of storytelling, so all of that was very nice.

LOVE the cover.

2.5 stars

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3. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I nominated The Midnight Library by Matt Haig for my book club, and it won, so it would have to be that one.

4. Favorite cover of a book you read in this year?

5. Most memorable character?

Daisy Jones from Daisy Jones & The Six, Gum Baby from Tristan Strong, Evelyn Hugo from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Joe from You.

6. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book?

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on WholenessGoing to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness by Mark Epstein


The most useful part for me was honestly all the descriptions of the people who are unable to let go of control because, you know, they fear doing so will kill them. Anyway, it was nice to see so many depictions of myself in this book is what I’m saying.

There’s also a lot of psychological theory in here that I was a little less interested in, but mainly because it didn’t hold my attention.

I’m going to post a much longer, in-depth review on the blog.

I don’t know what to rate it, so no rating.

View all my reviews

 7. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL this year to finally read? 

Juliet Takes a BreathJuliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

10/9/16: So, I liked the opening of this book, but I feel like it’s requiring too much thinking from me, and I am just not in the headspace. Maybe later. Made it to pg. 54.

6/25/21: I thought the opening of this book felt familiar.

First, let me just say that I listened to the audio version this go ’round, and it’s narrated by the author and that was an excellent choice. I truly loved her narration, the obvious joy she took in narrating it, and that, of course, it felt so very authentic.

I also love the (yellow) cover, obviously.

Otherwise, I have mixed feelings about this book. The book felt very Feminism and Queer Studies 101, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for the target audience. The issue I had with it, though, is that almost all of the feminism/queer studies stuff was delivered in huge info dumps that didn’t feel organic to storytelling so much as “let me explain something to you about feminism and queer studies.” And when I say feminism and queer studies, I mean that it felt textbook in its inclusion of the text and not organic to the plot.

I struggled a lot with about half of the book because of that–and because Rivera does this thing where she summarizes a lot of important interactions between characters that I felt should have been scenes. Or the scenes were very brief and then Juliet pontificated on and on about whatever just happened in a way that slowed all of the momentum of the book.

There were also some other issues I noticed like Juliet saying she had never been outside the Bronx, but then talking about all the trips she had taken to Miami. Oh, and that she was the first person to leave but her aunt and cousin live in Miami? Plus, I dunno, I guess every queer person in Portland and Miami is woke af, talks like an academic, and is also a social justice warrior.

That said, the moment Juliet truly encounters white feminism made me gasp out loud and got me re-invested in the book (this was a book club pick, so I promised myself I would power through). There are some good character moments throughout, and I appreciated how fully drawn Juliet’s relationship with her family was. Those things plus the narration were enough to keep me plugging away until the end. However, a good deal of the book did feel like work. I’m sure the book club discussion will be fruitful, though.

2.5 stars, rounding up for the awesome narration

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8. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read?

Yes. Everybody is a person.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Knowing you did the right thing doesn’t mean you’re happy about it.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

9. Shortest & Longest Book You Read?

Whole Whale by Karen Yin (32 pgs)

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh (519 pgs)

 10. Book That Shocked You The Most

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best LifeDear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a book club pick and a nice reprieve from the kinds of books the group has typically been picking (depressing). I only knew Ali Wong from Always Be My Maybe and so was unfamiliar with her stand up comedy before reading this so didn’t have any expectations going in. I will say I was unprepared for how many p-bombs she dropped (how many times she used the p-word? whichever one of those sounds better) (also p stands for p*ssy, in case that wasn’t clear), and that was the biggest shocker. But, honestly, on the whole–besides her use of that word–this was no vulgar than any other memoir I’ve read.

The favorite parts of the book for me were her discussions of her time abroad and her family of origin. She talks a lot about how visiting Vietnam and seeing how her mom grew up helped her understand her more and resent her less. I didn’t know she was of mixed Asian heritage so I especially liked that she shared her thought process of choosing Vietnam over China for study abroad.

I also related very deeply to this bit from her author bio from the back:

“She aspires to lie down but somehow keeps getting pressured into more shit that gets in the way of her lying down.”

There’s an afterword at the end by her husband that’s good if you’re interested in hearing from a supportive, feminist husband. I did like him talking about what it means/feels like to be featured in her comedy.

Three stars because this was a slow read for me, and I wanted to be more invested than I actually was. But to be fair to Ali and the book, I did watch both of her comedy specials after I finished it, so there’s also that.

View all my reviews

11. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

None

12. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

My girls from Giant Days, of course. The siblings in Far From the Tree.

13. Favorite Book You Read From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Far from the TreeFar from the Tree by Robin Benway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hey, so this book has everything I love about realistic YA fiction. It’s compulsively readable (I think this is the fastest I’ve finished a book post-move and since school started), and the characters are fully drawn and believable. There are a lot of small moments here with big feelings, but there are also some really big moments here that are given the care and attention they deserve. I also appreciate that, though the characters have boyfriends and girlfriends, this is very much about family and Benway doesn’t allow those romantic relationships to hijack the narrative as so often happens in other YA novels. The novel is very much about Grace, Maya, and Joaquin and how they feel and think about family the whole way through.

4.5 stars, rounding up

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14. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

The Black KidsThe Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let this book serve as your daily reminder that Black people are not a monolith and there is no one African American experience.

It took me a while to warm up to this story, but I wound up really liking this book. I liked the backdrop of the 1992 LA riots and how Reed used them because it’s such a great reminder that when history is happening, teenagers are still very much just…going to school and dealing with the immediate dramas that make up their lives even as they’re aware that Big Stuff is going on in the world. I also liked that Ashley–unlike her sister and even some of her other peers–didn’t know exactly what to do in part because her feelings were so big that she wasn’t even sure how to process them so she just kept on going to school and trying to sort out her friendships. And isn’t that just the way it is?

This is very much regular stories about regular teens, which is a thing I am very much into. There’s a lot of female friendship stuff layered in here as well as sister relationships with a hint of family secrets. Also, this is very realistic in the way that Insecure can be, which makes it painful to read at times because of the realism. But there’s humor and heart, and Ashley wound up worming her way into my heart.

I should also note that I was annoyed by the title at first on GP, but it makes perfect sense and totally fits the story, so I was wrong to hate it on sight. I like it now!

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15. Newest fictional crush from a book you read?

Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a romance that doesn’t FEEL like a romance, which is not a good or bad thing. I mean, it has a romance and that drives quite a bit of the action, but it felt more like plain old contemporary fiction with a romance included, if that makes sense. I think because this is ultimately about both characters dealing with some big family stuff and trauma stuff (Katrina has an anxiety disorder and Jas has PTSD) and there isn’t nearly as much kissing as I would have expected.

It’s a solid read, though, and I really liked both characters. Alisha Rai is quickly becoming a go-to author for me.

View all my reviews

16. Best debut you read?

We Love You, Charlie FreemanWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost quit this book around the 50-page mark and then kept reading because it intrigued me, but I honestly couldn’t figure out how I felt about it as I was reading. Now that I’m done, I still don’t really know, which I guess means I like it because I didn’t hate it and certainly found it intriguing.

I have a lot of feelings and opinions but none of them about the book itself except that it’s so different and strange that I don’t know how I feel. The book is well-written and engaging (and includes two of my faves: complicated family relationships and focus on a teen narrator) but it is also sad and unsettling. I was hoping for a happier ending but am not surprised there wasn’t one.

I do wish there had been an author’s note because I had a lot of questions.

3.5 stars, rounding up because I DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT IT but I also want other people to read it so we can talk about it

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17. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Hollywood Homicide (Detective by Day, #1)Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was super cute, and a lot of fun. I loved all of the characters (even though main character Dayna was driving me a little nutso in the middle). One of my favorite things about the book is how Dayna describes the other people she encounters based on what part she thinks they’d play in a movie or TV show.

There’s a lot of humor throughout and, surprisingly, one of the funniest moments was a confrontation with one of the witnesses.

Did I mention I really liked all of the characters? I LOVE THE TWINS. I didn’t expect them to be so amazing, but they totally were. Also, Sienna is a hoot. And I did like Dayna a lot, even when she was driving me nutso.

The story also includes a very light romance if you’re into that sort of thing. (Full disclosure: This is part of why Dayna was driving me nutso.)

I also though the mystery came together well in the end, so. Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin whose narration I’m pretty familiar with. I thought she did a fine job. All of the characters had very distinct voices and their personalities came through clearly in the narration.

3.5 stars, rounding up.

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18. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst (Kingdoms and Empires, #3)The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was super cute and fun, and I appreciate that the focus is on both how dispiriting (and manipulative!) a cruel teacher can be and also how connecting with the people you love and who love you can turn that around. I love the world building in this series, and I also love how feminist it is at all times.

3.5 stars, rounding up

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19. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

No soul crushing books this year.

20. Most Unique Book You Read?

Good Talk: A Memoir in ConversationsGood Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, this book is…interesting. There’s a lot I like about it. I love the conceit of the book: Mira Jacob shows key moments of her life through a series of conversations with family and friends, toggling between 2016 and moments from the past.

I like the idea of the artwork…most of the time. The style seems to be hand-drawn paper dolls placed on tops of photographs of specific backgrounds. I thought that was very cool, in general. My only problem was that the characters’ facial expressions don’t change, which is sometimes used to great effect (like Jacob’s husband being a detached white dude for many of their exchanges about race) but at other times, like when they’re talking about their son, it’s just weird and doesn’t seem to fit.

The other issue with this book I had is that at some point, it turned into a straight bathroom book and I was uninterested in reading it outside of those very short chunks. I don’t know if it’s because the topics covered were heavy or if I just wasn’t that interested in the book itself. And I also found myself wondering why I wasn’t finished with the book yet, which is never a good sign.

All in all, though, I liked it and found it a worthwhile read and would recommend it, especially if you’re interested in unconventionally told narratives.


View all my reviews

21. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

You (You, #1)You by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is really well-written but, you know, it’s from the point of view of a psychotic serial killer, so.

My favorite thing about this book is that Kepnes really drives home how casually and cavalierly we use terms like “crazy” and “stalker” because Joe is…yikes. Also, this line is something else because, again Kepnes skillfully highlights how emotional (esp in women) usually equates to crazy:

Anyone who walked in here right now would think you’re nuts, Beck. Anyone would try and protect me and as you to lower your voice as you assault me with accusations.


And you probably won’t be surprised to know that Joe gets most of his best moves from rom-coms. Make of that what you will.

I also have to point out that the version I read is the original hardcover, which has a Rorschach inkblot in blood red, and it is creepy and perfect.

4.5 stars, rounding up

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Blogging/Bookish Life

1. Most popular post you wrote?

Depression, part III #SOL21

2. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

See previous answer.

3. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

All of them? Honestly, all of my posts got about the same amount of views, so I think I’m okay on this one.

This is the year I found out about StoryGraph, and I am planning to use it next year.

5.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I revised my Goodreads goal, so yes. Yes, I did.

I originally planned to read 50, I think, but, well, it’s a miracle I got to 35, honestly.

This post also fulfills the following prompts for A Month of Faves:

MON | Dec. 27 – #AMonthofFaves – Best Books Read in 2021⁠

FRI | Dec. 31 – #AMonthofFaves – This Is How We Read & Blogged (How was your reading year? Share some stats!)⁠

GirlXOXO

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