I just realised it’s almost July when I saw a whole bunch of bloggers posting the Mid-Year Book Freak Out tags. I swear, it was March two days ago??
Speaking of the mid-year, how has your first half of 2021 gone? For me, it’s been a lot of working and playing video games, mixed in with a couple of state-wide lockdowns as I live in Melbourne. The video games have definitely gotten me through this year, especially The Legend of Zelda!
Now onto the books!
Here’s how my reading has progressed for the first half of 2021:
1. Best book you’ve read so far
I’ve read a lot of good books this year, but by far the best is Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid. I adore this contemporary sport m/m romance between two hockey rivals. It has everything I love in romance: enemies to lovers, angst, humour, hiding the relationship — absolutely amazing. I highly recommend the whole Game Changers series but definitely Heated Rivalry! I love this book so much, I’ve read it twice this year!
Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far
Definitely Fence: Disarmed by Sarah Rees Brennan, based on C.S. Pacat’s Fence comic series! Not only is this book so freaking funny, but it’s so addictive as well. I just have so much fun when I read the books and this sequel really improved upon the first!
The boys of Kings Row are off to a training camp in Europe! Surrounded impressive scenery and even more impressive European fencing teams, underdog Nicholas can’t help but feel out of place. With the help of a local legend, though, he and the rest of the team finds it within themselves to face superior fencers, ex-boyfriends, expulsion, and even Nicholas’s golden-boy, secret half-brother, the infamous Jesse Coste. Will Aiden and Harvard end up together, though? En garde!
3. New release you haven’t read yet but want to
Definitely The Wolf and the Woodsman! I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Jewish mythology inspired fantasy and I can’t wait to get into it. Also, look how stunning the cover it!
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
1000% DARK RISE! I can’t wait for this book, I am trying everything I can to get an ARC! C.S. Pacat is my FAVOURITE author ever and I’m so freaking excited for his YA debut! Please, please, please someone give me an ARC 😭
The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.
Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.
As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.
5. Biggest disappointment
Let’s be honest, I knew I wasn’t going to be enjoying this book all that much — I don’t like contemporary literary fiction. But I still read it because it’s on my annual readathon that I do with my friend. But even so, this book was ridiculously boring. I can see a lot of people hated this book because of how horrible the characters are (which, to me, was the point) but the reason I hated it was because it was soooooooo boring. I don’t care about some faux Irish communist’s love affair with a rich guy, I just don’t. But at least the main character was bi.
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex ménage-à-quatre. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.
6. Biggest surprise
Honestly, I thought I was going to rate The Gospel of Loki 3 stars based on the blurb, so no one was more surprised than me when I rated it 5 stars! I think that was because of how amazing the audiobook was, but also the story itself was so fantastic and Loki was an INCREDIBLE character — he’s such a little shit, but he’s honest about it.
With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.
From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.
7. Favourite new author
Absolutely Rachel Reid! I’ve read all five of her novels this year — they’re the books in the Game Changers series — and I adore each of them! I binged four of the books in 4 days (literally a book a day) and read the newest one as an ARC in 2 days (Role Model is out in August).
8. Newest favourite character
For sure, my favourite newest character is Ouyang, the eunuch general who was once a slave to the ruling royal family before becoming a powerful name in his own right. Ouyang is such a bitch — he’s ready to burn the world down to get what he wants and he does. You are not ready for She Who Became the Sun! The book will be out late July!
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
9. Book that made you cry
Giovanni’s Room is a deeply moving novel that really touched me! I cried quite a bit reading this book, and I still think about it weeks after I read it.
Baldwin’s haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.
Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.
10. Book that made you happy
One Last Stop! I had so much fun reading this book. The sapphic romance is incredible, and the plot so interesting. It was just really, really fun and I had a huge smile on my fave the whole time I was reading it.
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
11. Most beautiful book you’ve received this year
I was super lucky to receive The Councillor by E.J. Beaton … from E.J. Beaton! Yep, I won a give-away which has literally never happened !! And The Councillor is absolutely stunning, I can’t wait to read it.