I’m following the same format from last year with some tweaks, because was 2021 really that different from 2020? It’s all been just one continuous “year” hell state so let’s talk about books once more!
This book hit every single one of my buttons: fallen angel/general turned slave/assassin with a half-human, half-fae lady is just the jumping (falling?) off point. It really made me wonder if there was just a satchel of tropes that come with fallen/dark angel characters because I’m noticing patterns between this, Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series, FFVII, my own writing, Constantine (the film), and a slew of other narratives with them. Like wtf is going on? It’s something I definitely want to research down the line.
There was a little bit of competition for my favorite book, but in the end nothing is going to beat a well written paranormal romance involving angels with topical social justice commentary.
Okay so it took me like twenty minutes to find a decent site to combine these two photos and I’m really annoyed about that. You used to be able to do it on Pixlr, but they either removed that ability or made it too damn hard to find 😤
Anyway….I initially had another book/series picked Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire, but I’ve only read one book in it Every Heart a Doorway, which was delightful, but I don’t want to say it’s my favorite series after only reading one novel in it when I’ve completed the one by Nina Varela. It’s possible I’ll like McGuire’s series more than this, but they’re both LGBTQ+ stories, though Crier’s War is more casually queer i.e. it’s not a hot topic in their world. What’s brilliant is there’s still an excellent metaphor for homophobia with regards to humans and automae.
And Varela does a wonderful job aligning this as well as other concepts with ones in our own.
Last year’s was a book about Norse Mythology, too; this year’s is Norse Mythology with the added bonus of Final Fantasy VII. I…almost didn’t finish this, going a few months with it on hold when I got to the recap of the plot of FFVII. I decided to just skip that part and was then able to continue on. Not only was this spectacularly insightful and connective for the game’s narrative and the Norse myths, but reading it strengthened my resolve to continue writing my own comparative essays and eventually publishing them.
Okay, so I just spent ten minutes on the author’s Goodread page and he wrote (or collaborated) an unofficial novelization of FFVII, which is…on Goodreads. Now granted he states that it’s available for free download on his Patreon or on Fanfiction.net, but…can you put fanfiction novels on Goodreads??? I’m a living my life wrong. I’ll need to do some more research into this, too…
Favorite Comic/Manga/Graphic Novel
*sigh* So I didn’t finish a single, solitary one of these last year. I started My Little Pony/Transformers: Friendship in Disguise, but didn’t finish until early 2022 so it doesn’t count. I’m going to try to do better this year. I have a ton of graphic novels and manga to read, and I think the new Saga should be out soon if it isn’t already. I pulled out the next installment of Black Hammer, so I don’t really have any excuses.
This is easily the best Lovecraft I’ve read so far, and I see why it’s one of his higher rated tales, though I don’t have many to compare it to. The only other two were The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Mountains of Madness. CDW wasn’t terrible, but it took a while to get to its point; Mountains was plodding AF. Colour is literally about an alien that arrives on a meteor and feeds off of people. No way I’ve ever heard of THAT before /s
I have notes for this saved in for my research. One day I’ll put it all together.
Favorite Classic (2020)
I can’t believe I didn’t do a favorite classic for 2020. I only read two others, but even if they weren’t both kind of meh, I think Bram Stoker’s classic still would’ve gotten the top pick. This book was excellent. Usually with classics I have to push myself to read/finish them if I even do. This is not to say I don’t enjoy them, but it’s less common for me to look forward to the days I read them than other books. With this, I wanted to keep reading. It was engaging, exciting, action packed, suspenseful, and there’s a lot of foundational vampire lore. The cultural significance of this novel cannot be overstated, and it’s yet another research resource for me.
Favorite Standalone Fiction
I do not know how to talk about this book. I’ve never read anything like this. It has aspects of so many other stories, but I can usually pinpoint some one to one comparisons, and I…just…can’t. It’s apotheosis. It’s trauma. It’s revenge. It’s rebirth. It’s horrifying. And this is the author’s first foray into fiction. He literally wrote about Linux before. Even though House of Earth and Blood was my favorite, The Library at Mount Char may be the best one of 2021, but I don’t know how to talk to you about this book. I do know that Carolyn won the pick for my Favorite Character. I was going to do that as a separate category, but since I already have this book here, it’s just easier to throw that distinction in there.
Favorite New Author
- What Alice Forgot
- The Husband’s Secret
- Big Little Lies
- Apples Never Fall
I read four of this woman’s books in the past year after I fell in love with What Alice Forgot. She definitely has a style/formula, but for the most part her books aren’t completely predictable. She leaves enough that you’re surprised by the “twist,” and is the master of leading you to believe one thing while formulating an entirely plausible other explanation. Alice really struck me because even though it focused on the titular character, her sister Elizabeth was the emotional core of the story. The author just absolutely nails the emotions she went through due to her infertility, and I wonder if Ms. Moriarity has some experience with that. Not that you have to in order to write about things, but even though it’s not my experience, I do know something of grief, and there’s just a certain language used that makes me wonder.
What’s really surprising is this is not my normal novel fare. It’s not fantasy or even fantasy-esque (aka magical realism or something like that). I don’t even know what this type of fiction is called lol. Contemporary? Women’s lit? Upmarket? It seems like the type of book no one would ever question me for reading whereas my fantasy books might get a side eye.
Not only did I read four of her books, I watched Big Little Lies on HBO Max thanks to my BFF clueing me into the series. It adds more to the story, but the additions were author approved and well done. I also watched Nine Perfect Strangers, and I’m glad I did instead of reading the book. I was iffy on the premise, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the novel. The show as okay, but it was a bit of a departure from even the Moriarity’s typical; however, I think it’s good for authors to do that.
She definitely has certain beliefs about marriage that come across in her writing or at least that’s what I picked up, and while I didn’t agree with some of the decisions her characters made in the end, I still understood why they would.
Book With the Best Characters
I really wanted to mention this book, so it’s a win-win to have a new category and a reason to talk about it. The characters in this are absolutely fantastic. They all add something of value to the story, and they’re all so unique with their reasons for being where they are. I love a good character growth/development story, and who cares that it happens after death? Some of the best people don’t do anything important until after they die anyway.
I had another T. J. Klune on my To-Be-Read list but I had to buy this one after just the sample, and it wasn’t cheap either lol. It was around $10-$11, which is usually way above my limit for an impulse book buy, but it was way too intriguing to be ignored. The other book The House on the Cerulean Sea is available at the e-Library.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas was a close second, but I’ve gushed about it enough (nah…I really haven’t lol, I could always say more).
Least Favorite Book
This is one of those situations where the first book was damn near a masterpiece but the second in the series is a bit of a scattered mess. I think the author was trying to expand on the strangeness of the situation presented in the first by making the second a sort of meta narrative on it, but it’s difficult to do that and keep the story coherent for the reader. Also the Signalman is barely in this, and he’s the most interesting character. It just seems like Kiernan made some bold, creative choices that didn’t pan out as well as they could have. I still intend to read the third book at some point, which returns to the Signalman, a wise choice in my opinion.
And that’s it; that’s my 2021 book assessment. If you’re curious about all the novels I read in 2021, check out my Goodreads profile. I’m still catching up on reviews from 2018, so I’m four years behind because I insist on reviewing almost everything I read.
What were your best/worst of the year? What would you recommend? What should people stay the hell away from? Book talk in the comments is always welcome!