July was when my Greek Mythology binge ended for the year (or so I thought at the time). And in August I started my theme of Ocean related stories - be that mermaids, pirates, islands, sea creatures, and whatever else. A lot of these books definitely made it to my fave shelf for 2021.
The Enemy | Sarah Adams | Contemporary Romance | Ended my Rom-Com binge back in August with this easy and fun story about childhood rivals who meet again over 10 years later. A misunderstanding trope that lasts a decade usually isn't my favorite, but in this case, I think it was handled well. I loved Ryan & Jude's banter and chemistry and how it was palpable from the start.
The Covenant Series | Jennifer L Armentrout | YA Urban Fantasy & Mythology Retelling
The Covenant Series is JLA's first series and is still, in my opinion, one of her best series. It is a Greek mythology-inspired story and follows the story of Alex, a Hematoi (Demi-God), who finds herself taken back to the institution she and her late mother escaped from. She continues her training to become a sentinel, soldiers who hunt and kill daimons, all the while trying to figure out who and what she truly is. The world, lore, magic systems, as well as the political and hierarchical dynamics, are immensely intriguing and fascinating. I’m not entirely too fond of the prose, especially the dialogue, but I found loved the banter with the characters a whole lot, especially the adults.
Half-Blood (Book 1) | While there aren't any groundbreaking elements to the story and it is full of the typical tropes plaguing its genre, Half-Blood starts out really well and lays out a great foundation of the world. I was immediately sucked in. I had many questions but the good kind.
Pure (Book 2) | I enjoyed book 2 way more than the first one, despite how it was inundated with tropes very common in this genre. But much like Armentrout’s other series, the story is so very addictive and entertaining that I couldn’t stop reading it. Even though I hate the love triangle trope think Armentrout navigated it very well in this series and I loved how it turned out. The Angst and the push and pull between Alex and Aiden were so well done. It kept me hooked.
Deity (Book 3) | I think this has deviated from the classic cliches and tropes very common in YA books and I appreciate that a whole lot. This was my favorite from the series (at the time). I think this was less predictable and overloaded with cliches than FBAA. Although there are some parallels to that series, such as character reveals and developments, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. I loved the introduction of new (and old) characters and how they fit into the story. This book was action-packed. It was a whirlwind of a story and kept me on the edge of my seat. Alex is still not my favorite character in this series but I enjoyed her growth in this story. The lore was wonderful as well.
Apollyon (Book 4) | My favorite from the series. The gods have become bigger players in this story and it has only added to its addictive nature. The rest of the characters have grown so much in this one including their relationships / dynamics with each other. However, Alex has grown on me in this one and I appreciated her loyalty and how she refused to waver on some things while accepting she was wrong on others. I am completely amazed by how JLA weaved Greek Mythology so brilliantly into this story and made it her own.
Sentinel (Book 5) | A brilliant end to this series. There were some plot and consistency issues but they weren’t deal-breakers. Such as the colloquialism of the Titan who was supposedly asleep for millennia and the fact that Alex wasn’t really all that different when she was possessed by the twins. Alex also reminds me of Poppy even more in this book, especially with the scars.
Dearest Josephine | Caroline George | Historical Fiction | One of my fave reads this year. It is about a girl who falls in love with a man from another lifetime through letters he penned to a girl who has her namesake. I am amazed by how beautifully George describes mundane/common emotions so poetically without it being pretentious or too ornate. Not the happy ending I initially wanted but as I read on I was infinitely glad of the turn of events. This book reminds me of the magic/beauty of being able to relate to another’s story and feelings. It seemed so meta in so many ways.
While the plot leaves a lot of holes and no explanation, I know realism isn’t what the story is about. George made me relate to nearly every single person in this book at some point or another. Most days I am Faith, others, I am Josie. It isn’t just a story about finding love but finding ourselves and fighting for who we want to be even if is uncomfortable.
Throne of Glass Series | Sarah J Maas | YA High Fantasy
Celeana is Adarlan's most famous assassin, but she has a past no one knows about and a kingdom riding on her shoulders.
Assassin's Blade (Book 0.5) | A series of novellas that occurred before the beginning of our story. These short stories follow Celeana and the events that lead her to be captured and enslaved in the mines of Endovier.
Throne of Glass (Book 1) | Admittedly, Throne of Glass isn’t the best book in the stories but it set up the series very well and gave us just enough to want more. It laid out the foundations of the series well. While the story is riddled with cliches and tropes very common in YA, it is still a very addictive story. And much like when I first read it, I am still fascinated by the world and lore.
To Love & To Loathe | Martha Waters | Historical Romance | A widower and a bachelor make a bet in this wonderful Historical Fiction. Diana and Jeremy’s dynamic and chemistry were cute and fun to read. Jeremy and Diana are great characters individually and even better together. I still love book one more but one of the winning qualities in this book is the secondary couples. Helen is so smart and I feel bad for her. She is crafty and bold especially for a woman in that era. I’m also more curious about the third couple that Waters set up in this book.
Lore | Alexandra Bracken | YA Urban Fantasy & Mythology Retelling | Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games. I am yet again amazed by Bracken’s writing. Her prose is just so beautiful and her Main Characters are different from one another and are well thought out. And somehow, she always comes up with new, unique, and very interesting concept for her worlds. This is one of the best Greek Mythology retellings I have ever read. It was a beautiful balance of a compelling plot and complex character relationships and interpersonal development. Even her villains are well fleshed out and have so much depth to them.
From the bloodlines and the games to the intrigue of why they were after Lore, and the reason behind the games and the glory that most people desire. It was a brilliant story from start to end even if the beginning was a tad confusing. It answered most of the questions that I had and gave me the words for why I feel the way I do about certain tropes and character arcs. The ending seemed a bit rushed though, and I wish it was just as fleshed out as the rest of the book.
Sea Witch Duology | Sarah Henning | YA Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
An interesting take on the classic Little Mermaid story and I love that it is from the perspective of Ursula’s equivalent. As much as I wasn’t in love with the storytelling, I appreciate that Henning isn’t afraid to write difficult and heavy scenes. It, overall, was a, pretty good “villain” origin story.
Sea Witch (Book 1) | I didn't feel connected to the characters and perhaps that had more to do with how they were written, but it was an interesting back story to the sea witch. We see her humanity, her humble, albeit sad, beginnings, and her pure heart.
Sea Witch Rising (Book 2) | This story went different from what I expected and I am not sure how I feel about it. There were some elements to it that seemed to come from out of nowhere. Though the ending is still dark and unsatisfactory for the most part, it is relatively still a happy ending for our heroines. I loved the unlikely connection and camaraderie between Evie and Runa if one could even call it that. This book is better than book 1 in a lot of ways but I particularly like how it involved the other kingdoms and how the story arc’s are wider in scope.
The Storm Siren Trilogy | Mary Weber | YA High Fantasy
Nym is a seventeen-year-old girl who has been found to possess the storm-summoning curse and has been given to either train as a soldier or be killed.
Storm Siren (Book 1) | It had an interesting premise and lore but I wasn’t fully attached to the characters. the world-building was a tad bit confusing at times. I had hoped it would get fleshed out in later books. The prose/narration wasn’t as engaging as I wished it could be especially with such interesting lore. And I am unsure how I feel about the relationship development between Eogan and Nym as it felt so rushed and instant. However, the cliffhanger made me eager to read book 2
Siren's Fury (Book 2) | Book 2 is more action-packed and emotional and has been darker than the last one. The end is a cliffhanger yet again. However, I enjoyed the new/added characters and what they added to the story. Although the pacing is slow for most of the book, I appreciate the twists and turns in this one. I sadly am unsure if I want to continue the series as I had no emotional attachment to it save two of the minor characters.
All The Stars & Teeth Duology | Adalyn Grace | YA High Fantasy
Pirates, mermaids, unique magic system, and adventures - this series delivered. Amora is the princess of Visidia and has been training all her life to become the next High Animancer - the master of souls. However, when her demonstration goes badly, she is forced to leave her island. She charters the help of a few individuals to help prove she is the one and only worthy successor.
All The Stars & Teeth (Book 1) | The beginning was a bit slow but I appreciate how Grace she isn’t afraid to write the gory and gritty details and scenes. It is violent and dark but is balanced out by many wonderful moments in between. I thoroughly enjoyed and was fascinated with the lore and the unique system of magic.
All The Tides of Fate (Book 2) |
How dare this book? I bawled my eyes out. It was a wonderful end to this sea epic adventure. This was a beautiful found family story and why it hurt all the more.
I appreciate authors who are not afraid to write the difficult parts even if it means it the happy ending we wanted. There were so many wonderful themes that were tackled in this book and although I wish some characters’ fates ended differently, I appreciated how their individual arcs turned out. I also love that we get to see more of the other islands and the different cultures and magic.
The Bridge Kingdom | Danielle L Jensen | NA Fantasy
This was my first series from Danielle L Jensen and I am already very excited to dive into the rest of her works. Lara is a warrior princess, trained from birth to infiltrate and destroy an enemy kingdom and its people through marriage with their king.
The Bridge Kingdom (Book 1) |Bridge kingdom was a wonderful journey and an instant fave. The first chapter alone was so attention-grabbing that I was immediately hooked. Jensen’s writing style is simple, easy to get immersed in, and oh-so-addictive. While it isn’t ground-breaking and is filled with the usual tropes popular in its genre, Jensen executed them in a brilliant and addictive way. The slow burn and angst are top-tier and very well done. Lara as an MC is incredible and relatable. Her self-awareness is so refreshing especially for being a female lead in its genre.
I had expected and wished there to be more fantasy elements to it especially since it was marketed as a High Fantasy story. I also found the world building a bit lacking which is a bit of a letdown because I wish we got to know more about the other kingdoms and cultures.
The Traitor Queen (Book 2) | I don’t know Jensen was able to do it, but The Traitor Queen was even better than its precursor. The plot and world were wider in scope and I am thoroughly in love with the characters she introduced/re-introduced in this book and what they added to the story. Reading their dynamic was a load of fun.
I loved how Aren & Lara's relationship developed in this story. I appreciate the realness of it and the tension. Much like the first book, the angst in this one is just right up my alley and it broke and re-built my heart in the best way possible.
Jensen also set up the rest of the series brilliantly. She gave me just enough and yet not enough because I truly cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment to see what happens to my favorite characters.
House of Salt & Sorrows | Erin A Craig | NA Fantasy | A roller coaster of a plot and story. I have to admit I was confused for a good portion of this book and struggled to finish it but the intrigue kept my attention. I needed to know who was truly behind all of it.
The gothic and horror elements in it are probably my favorite thing about this book and I’m gonna be quite honest, they did scare me a bit. Hah
The start was slow but the horror and gothic aspects were so good. I can’t say that I loved the story but I enjoyed the last quarter of it. There was a point when even I believed/ questioned the soundness of the main character’s mind.
A tad bit disappointed by the god-lore. I don’t hate it but it seemed like an easy fix to all the questions. The relational development between the characters also seemed so premature - the relationship and feelings developed too quickly and unrealistically.
Monstrous Heart | Claire McKenna | Na Fantasy | Monstrous heart had a very unique and intriguing concept and that was what drew me in. Prose-wise it was too flowery for my liking and I did struggle with it, but I was very much intrigued by the premise of it. It had a lot of potential and I’m curious as to where it is going to go. I wanted to love this, but sadly it did not deliver on all of its promises. The plot and lore were confusing most of the time. I wasn’t sold and on board with the romance as I didn’t see a strong connection between them. I wanted to love their connection but there wasn’t much there to work with. Yet somehow I am still very much invested in how this story is going to end. And I did like how it ended, enough for me to maybe want to read the next book.