Monday, January 3, 2022

End of the Year Book Wrap Up

Happy New Year! Wishing nothing but the best for everyone reading this, including myself. I just read an Instagram post saying "In 2022 I just want to read lots of books and be hot" which doesn't sound like such a bad resolution to have. But, before we start planning our TBRs, I thought it'd be best to recap some of the books I read in the second half of 2021 in hopes of giving you an idea of what might be your next favorite read. 

My personal reading list consisted of a lot of borrowed books, both from friends and the library, as well as a rekindled love for reading after a summer-long slump. Overall, I'd say 2021 was a great year of reading - I found new favorites, a few not-so-favorites, and got to read books that I've had on my TBR for ages. As for 2022, let's just say I've got my eyes set on specific authors as opposed to stand-alone books, which is my personal challenge for the year. More on that in some other post (book-related, or not). Anyhow, here are some of the books that left an impression strong enough for me to write a whole blogpost on. 

Malibu 1983. Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of one night, each of their lives will be changed forever.

This is my first TJR book (shocker that I didn't start with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones and the Six, I know), and I am well aware of the hype her stories always gather. This book wasn't one that I was intentionally on the lookout for, but when I saw it just sitting pretty in the library, I knew I had to give it a go. Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book. It's full of intrigue, fast-paced storytelling, and interesting characters. If I had to describe it in one sentence, I would say that reading this book feels like watching a soap opera unfold in written form. This was a relatively quick read and a nice refresher after weeks of struggle-bus reading slumps. 

Abandoned by her family at the tender age of six, Kya is forced to fend for herself from her home in the unforgiving setting of the North Carolina marshes. Ostracised from the surrounding community, she’s lived alone in her shack for years on end until suddenly, she finds herself the sole suspect in a local murder case. 

I've had my eye on this book for the whole 2021 ever since the friend I borrowed it from said she really liked it and couldn't stop reading. Naturally, I was intrigued and decided to finally give it a go. The first half was definitely a bit slower, and I didn't really feel connected to the characters. As the chapters progressed, the characters began to take full shape, and I was really invested in the story - especially the last 100 pages. I also heard the book is adapted into a movie, which is something I will definitely be watching once it comes out! 

Linus Baker is a by-the-book caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

Oh my! This book grabbed me from the very first chapter and I never wanted it to end. Innocent, sweet, funny, natural, wholesome, and magical are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe it. The dialogues here felt so effortless that I completely forgot I was reading a book and not watching a cute Ghibli film. If you're looking for a comfort read that will make you feel all warm and snuggly, I would highly recommend checking this one out! 

Hailsham is a school that has, for many years, kept a secret within its walls. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are just three of its very special pupils. We travel with them through their school lives to adulthood as the reason for their existence is gradually revealed. 

When I say I had BIG hopes for this book. I've heard nothing but praise and it has been on my TBR ever since I got back into reading a few years ago. This is why I was so desperate to like this book, it was like a nod to the days when reading felt all new and shiny to me. Ultimately, I think what made me feel disconnected from the plotline and characters was the slow-paced storytelling. This is a completely personal preference as I know readers that love this type of pace, but sadly, I am not one of them. Even though I think the plot itself is intriguing and promising, I ended up feeling like I was never given what I was promised. I also watched the movie afterward and felt the same bored/always-waiting-for-something-to-happen-but-then-it-doesn't-really-happen feeling I felt while reading the book. 

The work, a thinly veiled autobiography, chronicles a young woman’s mental breakdown and eventual recovery, while also exploring societal expectations of women in the 1950s.

I feel stupid for not having read this book earlier, but HERE I AM! I absolutely breathed in The Bell Jar and Miss Plath's brilliant mind. This book felt like I was reading journal entries from a friend, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that Sylvia and I would have been very good friends. I loved how messy-structured the book was, with run-on sentences galore that somehow explain the very core of how the main protagonist was feeling without it reading like a hot mess train of thought writing. Complex and beautiful, there are no other words to describe it. 

Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.

This book felt like a fever dream but the good kind? Each chapter was like a puzzle piece, but somehow all the puzzle pieces have different edges and none of them fit, but in the end, you have a vague idea of what the final image of this puzzle is supposed to look like. Kind of like that meme of the horse puzzle (iykyk). Anyhow, I found all the characters gripping and totally unique to themselves. I had a soft spot for Mr. Nakata, and quite liked the whole idea of not having to know what you’re supposed to do next, but just going by your gut feeling and simply accepting the fact that you’re not supposed to know. I spent a while after finishing it on some due diligence to try and work out what I missed and how everything is connected, I was definitely not disappointed. I still have more research to do, but even the little I already know is enough for me to give this one a high rating. 

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Let me mash the two books (King of Scars & Rule of Wolves) into one short and sweet review because the books themselves were neither short nor sweet. I don't know if it's because I'm not really as attached to the whole Nikolai storyline or simply due to the fact that there was just so much happening, that I ended up feeling quite neutral about the whole duology. Just... too many characters, too much fan service, and too much battle scenes for my liking. There were parts that I liked and disliked in both books, so I can't really say that one left a better impression on me than the other. If you're a fan of the Grishaverse, I'd say to read this duology if you were a previous fan of Nikolai and Zoya's characters. 

Spanning the 1950s to the 1990s and from the Deep South to California, Bennett’s stunning novel follows the journeys of two estranged twin sisters leading very different lives – to the extent of adopting different racial identities.

Another book that I've had on my TBR thanks to the overall hype I've heard in the book community. I didn't really know what to expect going into it, and even though the first third felt a bit underwhelming, I really enjoyed the turn it took when it did. I enjoy stories framed by multiple perspectives, which is the case here as well, and ultimately I think it added a lot more depth to the story and made the whole reading experience more suspenseful. The only remark I have is that none of the characters left a big impression on me, which made me feel somewhat alienated from the story as a whole. 

And that wraps up my 2021! If you haven't seen the first edition of the 2021 book reviews, click HERE and get double the book recommendations. Fun, I know! 

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