Just like that, we’re halfway through 2021. This year has been a lot better than last year! Even the slate of books I’ve been reading has been better overall. I’ve also been blessed with a lot of time to read lately, so I have a ton of books to review for you this quarter. I’m continually trying to add helpful information to these book review posts, so I’m trying out some “if this then that” style recommendations for my top rated books. I love writing these posts, so I hope they’re useful for finding your next read! Let’s start the ratings:
Rating 11/10: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Am I allowed to give a book 11 out of 10 stars? This is my blog, so I’m going for it. This is hands-down the best book I’ve read in the last 15 months. It’s a modern twist on the Knights of the Round Table, where students at UNC are descendants of the original knights tasked with hunting demons. This book is unputdownable. It handles racism, sexism, and classism gracefully in a way that enhance the overall story. I cannot wait for the second book to come out.
Rating 10/10: Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan
Queen Move is the third book in Ryan’s All the King’s Men romance trilogy. It follows Kimba, the best friend of the first two books’ main character. It’s a heart-melting friends-to-lovers romance about Kimba and her childhood best friend. This is definitely my favorite book of the trilogy.
Read this if you love contemporary romance
Rating 10/10: Find Me by Andre Aciman
Find Me is the sequel to Call Me By Your Name. It picks up the characters’ stories ten, fifteen, and twenty years after Call Me By Your Name. I love the way Aciman writes about his characters’ love stories. He has a gift for capturing the depths of how it feels to fall in love with someone, not just the butterflies. Somehow he always manages to make me feel seen, and I love this book for it.
Rating 10/10: Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
All the Bridgerton books are fun reads, but this one is my favorite so far. I love the dialogue in any scene where you have multiple members of the Bridgerton family interacting with each other. This one follows Colin and Penelope’s story, and since Penelope is basically an adopted Bridgerton sibling, the dialogue is hilarious. Plus I’m a sucker for a friends-to-lovers story (see Queen Move above).
Rating 10/10: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Bringing Down the Duke is another historical romance, set in Victorian England amongst a group of women advocating for women’s voting rights. It’s basically Bridgerton with suffragettes. Could you ask for anything more?
Read this if you loved: Bridgerton! (At the risk of sounding like a broken record)
Rating 9/10: An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
This one is the third book in the Bridgerton series. It follows Benedict and is basically a twist on the classic Cinderella story. I love Benedict’s character in the show, so I’m excited to see this get adapted for an upcoming season.
Rating 9/10: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Y’all know by now I love me some Sarah J. Maas! This is the second book in the Throne of Glass series (third if you count the prequel). It has everything I love about Sarah J. Maas: a love triangle, a badass female heroine, some big plot reveals, and a great fantasy setting. I’m excited to continue this series.
Rating 9/10: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
This book is being adapted into a movie by Netflix, and will star Millie Bobby Brown. It’s about the daughter of a con artist who gets caught up in a bank robbery and has to use her con skills to survive. It’s a great examination of identity, trauma, and chosen family. It was fresh and different, and a great vacation read.
Rating 8/10: The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair
The Secret Lives of Color is a non-fiction book that dives into 70+ shades of different colors. It covers the history of the colors, when they were popular, how they were developed/manufactured, and social and political drama surrounding them. It’s really interesting and well written. I’m a design nerd, so I thought it was really fun.
Rating 8/10: Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
Sex and Vanity takes place in two parts. The first covers the week of an ultra-lavish wedding in Capri. Lucie is a guest at the wedding and meets George. She loathes him immediately, but still feels a spark. Then the story picks up five years later. Lucie is engaged to another socialite when George renters her life. The spark between them reignites as well, and Lucie has to sift through her thoughts about her life and her relationships. I enjoyed this novel. It’s kind of a predictable rom-com, but I really like Kevin Kwan’s satire. The main characters are all really likeable, the settings are beautiful, and it has the same dose of lifestyles of the super wealthy which I loved about the Crazy Rich Asians series. There are a couple moments where Lucie is annoying and self-centered, but overall I wanted to root for her. I’m knocking this down a star because of the predictability. Added bonus: there are a few little nods to Crazy Rich Asians which are fun easter eggs.
Rating 8/10: Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout
This is the second book in the Wicked trilogy, which is a paranormal romance following a fae hunter named Ivy. The series is fun, bingeworthy, and laugh-out-loud funny, but some of the plot points are a stretch to believe so I knocked it down a few points.
Rating 7/10: Brave by Jennifer L. Armentrout
This is the third book in the Wicked trilogy. It’s less good than Torn because we get emo Ivy and the plot meanders until a sudden and incomplete resolution at the end. It’s still fun to read though.
Rating 7/10: The Crown by Kiera Cass
The Crown is the fifth book in the Selection series (see The Heir below for book four). It follows the daughter of the first three books’ main couple as she completes her own Selection competition. The character development was decent, but there were some shaky plotlines that needed a better timeline to the story to make them make sense.
Rating 7/10: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
If I’m being honest, up until the last 75 pages or so of this book, I didn’t think I was going to continue the series. It’s kind of like Wicked-another paranormal romance series where Fae (nasty fairies) are doing shady shit and invading the world. It was pretty slow to get going, and the main character is a stereotypical “not just a pretty face” blonde girly girl who gets a lot of word count describing her pretty face. I’m really intrigued by the storyline the ending set up, though, so I’m at least going to read the second book.
Rating 6/10: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love is a Christian fiction retelling of the book of Hosea from the old testament. As a retelling of a book of the bible, it’s well done. I read it for the first time when I was finishing college and loved it. After rereading it now that I’m thirty, I had some issues with its depiction of gender roles. We covered it on an episode of the podcast I cohost, Lit Sh*t. I think it’s worth a listen if you’re interested in our deeper thoughts.
Rating 6/10: Two Kisses for Maddy by Matt Logelin
Two Kisses for Maddy was another Lit Sh*t read because Netflix just made it into a movie starring Kevin Hart. It’s a memoir by a dad whose wife died of complications from giving birth to their daughter, Maddy. Depending on what season of life you are in, it might be more meaningful than other seasons. I’m in a season where trying to start a family is on the horizon, so the idea of leaving behind my husband and baby after dying in childbirth kind of freaked me out.
Rating 6/10: Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Surprise Me follows a married couple, Dan and Sylvie, who are so in tune to each other they think they can’t surprise each other. They decide to try to regularly surprise each other to spice up their marriage. This book is an okay pool read. It’s cute, but predictable. I have a problem with books where the main conflict could be resolved if the characters just sat down and had a conversation about it, and this one definitely falls into that category. The whole “Surprise Me” concept that gives the book its title only spans about fifty or so of the 400 pages. There is an attempt at character development, but it really doesn’t go very far. There are some funny moments that I’ve come to expect from Sophie Kinsella, but this is one of my least favorites of her books that I’ve read. It’s fine if you’re looking for something mindless for vacation, otherwise skip it.
Rating 6/10: The Heir by Kiera Cass
This is the fourth book in the Selection series. It follows the daughter of the first three books’ main couple as she begins her own Selection process. The main character is not very likeable, and clearly out of touch with the needs of the people she supposedly serves.
Rating 6/10: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
This book is about a Hollywood writer/producer who is photographed on the red carpet joking with her assistant. Rumors begin that the two are dating. Eventually the two women grow closer and start to realize there may be something there. It’s a sweet story, but slow to get off the ground. I think it also needed some character development up front. By the end of the story it’s clear the two characters are likeable and a strong match for each other, but I wish the author had shown me why they are lovable instead of just telling me they are.
Rating 5/10: Aesthetic Intelligence by Pauline Brown
This is a business book about using what the author (a former LVMH executive) calls “aesthetic intelligence” to build and strengthen a brand/product. I feel like it could be summed up in one sentence: Delight your customers by creating intentional, multisensory experiences with your brand. The rest reads like a book written by someone who wants to be a tastemaker but doesn’t have the clout, so they wrote a business book instead.
Rating 5/10: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagencrantz
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a continuation of Stieg Larssson’s Millennium series, which was picked up by another author. In this book, investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist gets a call in the middle of the night from a computer genius developing a powerful AI program. A series of crimes and events follow involving the computer genius, his autistic son, an organized crime syndicate, and the NSA. Lisbeth Salander returns to the series as a key link amongst all these factors.
I felt like this book was kind of all over the place. Between the AI programmer, the crime syndicate, and the NSA there was one too many dramatic players. It made the story feel disjointed and forced. The book clearly tried to pick up several of the elements of the original trilogy, but in a way that felt derivative rather than true to their spirit. I enjoyed reading this book and was really excited about it until the last quarter or so, but then the action kind of went off the rails. Ultimately, it just felt like the writing was missing a clear understanding of its own main plotline.
And there you have it! What have you been reading recently? Do you have any recommendations? I’m really excited about the books I have slated for the next few months. I’m finishing out reading for season 4 of Lit Sh*t (a romance themed season!) and then I’ll be digging back into the Throne of Glass series. What’s on your list? We’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or on social media. You can also check out past book review posts here.
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