YEAR IN REVIEW: 2021

Hey everyone!!! I haven’t posted much this month because I have been busy with exams and also in a sort of slump. I did finish a couple of books and will review them soon but for now, let’s talk about my top 15 books this year. This year has been worse compared to last year, both in general and in terms of reading but I have found quite a few favourites. So without further ado, let’s go! You can click on the titles of the books to read my full reviews and links to buy.

泾渭情殇 (Jing Wei Qing Shang)/Clear and Muddy Loss of Love/JWQS
by 请君莫笑 (Please Don’t Laugh/PDL)

So I discovered MXTX novels last year but this year PDL has taken over my heart. JWQS is one of my absolute favourites of all time and the best enemies to/and lovers stories I’ve ever read. If you love sapphics in ancient Chinese setting, with revenge, falling for your enemy’s daughter, power couple dynamics and more, definitely check this out. It’s also the longest book I’ve ever read. I also read the author’s another novel, Female General and Eldest Princess, which was equally amazing! Now that MXTX novels are finally getting official English translation, hopefully we’ll get PDL novels too!

“In order to fool your enemies, you must first fool yourself.”

Synopsis 

A natural moat called the Luo river split the great land into two. Jing of the north, and Wei of the south.

One was the Prince of the grass plains who had no worries nor sorrow. One was a lawful Princess who received exclusive favour of the Emperor.

A war turned the Prince of the grass plains into an orphan, she who had laid dormant for ten years had originally planned to become a sycophantic official, to manipulate the enemy kingdom into chaos, but was appointed as Fuma at the Chionglin banquet.

Wait and see, how this debt of grudge from a fallen kingdom and devastated home will be settled.

The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert

Now for a cute and wholesome holiday romance! Grumpy/sunshine done in perfection! I love that both MCs are older (in 40’s) and it’s perfect if you are looking for some holiday cheer.

Synopsis 

His grumpy neighbor needs some holiday sunshine…

Gideon Holiday is the perfect neighbor. Need a cup of sugar? Spare folding chair? Extra batteries? He’s always ready to help. And he’s waited years for his hot, grumpy, silver fox neighbor, Paul, to need him. For anything. But this December, Gideon would be happy if he could just get the Scrooge-like Paul on board with the neighborhood holiday lights fundraiser.

Paul Frost has no intention of decking his halls or blazing any Yule logs. Even if his spunky bowtie-clad neighbor does look perfect for unwrapping, Paul would prefer to hide away until December is done. But when his beloved younger brother announces an unexpected visit, Paul needs all the trimmings for a festive homecoming—and fast.

Luckily, Gideon is there with a color-coded plan to save Christmas. Soon Paul’s hanging lights, trimming trees, and rolling out cookies. And steaming up his new flannel sheets with Gideon. How did that happen?

It’ll take some winter magic to preserve their happiness and keep these rival neighbors together longer than one holiday season.

The Geek Who Saved Christmas is a low-angst m/m holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending. This grumpy/sunshine, neighbors-to-lovers, found family tale features two heroes in their forties figuring out that maybe their sexily-ever-after was right next door the whole time. It stands alone and is not connected to any of the author’s other universes. However, it does contain a heaping helping of the same emotions and steamy moments readers have come to expect!

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This book was fantastic and the writing just blew me away! Zhu is honestly one of the best characters ever, especially in terms of complexity. Ouyang, the other main character will make you frustrated one second and then break your heart in the next. Ahh, the sequel is so far away!! Also obviously, including the two PDL novels, this is the third one with hidden identity and I absolutely love that trope. Please let me know if you have more recs.

Synopsis 

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

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.

Tiān Yá Kè (TYK) and Qiye by Priest

Ever since I’ve watched the drama adaptation Shan He Ling (Word of Honor), I’ve been completely obsessed over them. I would recommend reading the prequel Qiye before TYK because the main couple, Wuxi and Bei Yuan, are important characters in the second half of TYK. This is chronologically a prequel and Zhou Zi Shu is a side character in this novel. We understand a lot more about his background too.

You can check out my detailed review of the novels and drama with all the necessary links HERE.

Synopsis

A story about the former leader of a special organization served under royalty, now leaving his past life behind and unwittingly getting involved with the martial world.

Zhou Zhishu is the leader of the emperor’s special organization, Tian Chuang. After three years of bloodshed, he leaves the organization and travels the Jianghu Mountains to lead a peaceful and leisurely life.

However, with virtuous intentions in mind, he engages in a war in jianghu, where he meets Wen Kexing, a valley master who likes “beautiful people”. Wen Kexing follows Zhou Zhishu closely and the two eventually reunite during their journey through jianghu.

•Status: Complete English translation ~ 78 chapters (4 extras)

TYK has two morally grey characters, the best found family, wuxia and historical tropes with fantasy and a TON OF FLIRTING! Wen Ke Xing takes shamelessness to a whole another level! It also has an audiodrama (it’s next on my list)

A-Xu had a harsh tongue, but his heart was soft.

A-Xu had already grown so big but he did not dare to eat walnut.

A-Xu was someone who poured alcohol, good or bad, down his throat like an ox.

A-Xu was…..

Someone that he only met by chance, his soulmate, his best friend, his beloved.

Dearest Milton James by N R Walker

This was absolutely hilarious and has a swoon worthy romance!!! Malachi and Julian are perfect together and I love the friendship between all the coworkers, especially their own little quirks. If you’re looking for a funny novel with no angst, pick this up.

Synopsis

Malachi Keogh finds himself in a job he neither wanted nor asked for when his father, boss of Sydney’s postal service, sends him to the end of the business line, aka The Dead Letter Office. Malachi expects tedious and boring but instead discovers a warehouse with a quirky bunch of misfit co-workers, including a stoic and nerdy boss, Julian Pollard.
Malachi’s intrigued by Julian at first, and he soon learns there’s more to the man than his boring clothes of beige, tan, and brown; a far cry from Malachi’s hot pink, lilac, and electric blue. Where Julian is calm and ordered, Malachi is chaos personified, but despite their outward differences, there’s an immediate chemistry between them that sends Malachi’s head—and heart—into a spin.
To keep his father happy, Malachi needs to keep this job. He also needs to solve the mystery of the pile of old letters that sits in Julian’s office and maybe get to the bottom of what makes Julian tick. Like everything that goes through the mail centre, only time will tell if Malachi has found his intended destination or if he’ll find himself returned to sender.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

A twist on reality dating shows with great mental health rep. I loved both the main characters and I enjoyed every second of this novel. Definitely recommend it to everyone.

Synopsis 

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Indian inspired novel with morally grey lesbians, need I say more?? We have a budding romance with Priya and Malini with fantastic world building. Also look at that cover!! Can’t wait for the next book.

Synopsis

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once
the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to
clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the
dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a
vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family.
Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

黄金台 Golden Stage by 苍梧宾白 Cang Wu Bin Bai

This danmei has so many of my favourite tropes and it’s also the first danmei I’ve read with a canon vers couple! If you love arranged political marriage, disabled MC, flirting ever chapter, childhood friends to rivals to lovers, enemies in public, lovers in private, tons of bickering, pining, unconditional love and political intrigue, I’d highly recommend this one.

“Did you not understand what I said just now?” Fu Shen said resolutely. “It’s enough for me to have you, what would I be wanting a fake reputation for?!”

Synopsis

The notorious imperial court lackey and the meritorious military general were well-known for their mutual dislike, a pair of arch-enemies set in stone. Who could have foreseen the unexpected change in the winds of heaven: the general injured on the battlefield, both legs disabled, and even forced by the emperor to marry his nemesis.

With one marriage edict, two people with mutual hostility are forced to marry and live under the same roof. Yet after these long days together, they come to the realization that the other is not truly devoid of any saving grace nor is high out of reach.

All for The Game by Nora Sakavic

I love this entire series so so much!! I was art baited into reading the Foxhole Court but I was goner since the beginning. The romance is a slowburn at it’s best and you’ll fall in love with the entire team. Do check the trigger warnings though.

There are so many dialogues that make me swoon but this one is the best.

“There is no ‘this’. This is nothing.”
“And I am nothing,” Neil prompted. When Andrew gestured confirmation, Neil said, “And as you’ve always said, you want nothing.”

Synopsis for The Foxhole Court

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

A Veiled and Hallowed Eve by Hailey Turner

I’ve been in love with this series since the beginning and what a stunning finale to an absolute EPIC adventure filled with romance, magic, werewolves, dragons and gods!!! This is the 7th book in the Soulbound series and I highly recommend this series as a whole.

Synopsis

Death is the last lover you will ever know.

SOA Special Agent Patrick Collins has lived a life full of lies, and it has finally caught up with him. There’s no denying his past any longer, not after giving up the truth to save himself from a murder charge. But truth alone can’t set Patrick free, and time is running out to stop the Dominion Sect from turning his father into a god.

Jonothon de Vere knows survival isn’t a guarantee, but he’s desperate to keep Patrick safe, even as hope slips through his fingers. With the future unknown, Jono will follow Patrick wherever he goes, even to Salem, where a family reunion reveals a bitter secret that was never going to stay buried.

With New York City under control of their god pack, Patrick and Jono must fall back on every alliance they’ve brokered to fill the front lines of a war coming directly to the city streets. The veil is always thinnest on Samhain, and what awaits them on the other side is the stuff of nightmares. For when it tears, all hell will break loose, and the gods will be summoned to face a reckoning the world isn’t ready for.

The stakes have never been higher, failure has never been so deadly, and the Fates have never been kind to heroes. Patrick knows that better than anyone–because everything has a price, every debt always comes due, and it’s finally time for Patrick to pay his.

The Witch King by H E Edgmon

If you love childhood friends to enemies to lovers and fated mates, this is the book for you! I loved it so much and I cannot wait for the sequel! It also has fae magic, queer found family and Emyr has WINGS!

Synopsis

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.

In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

This book is for everyone who’s every shipped people in a music band! I love rockstar romances in general but this one hits all my buttons, especially because the relationship is within the band. So yes, a queer boyband romance for the win!!!It has best friends to lovers, strong friendships and a forbidden love setting.

Synopsis 

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

Gone but Not Forgotten by Charlie Cochet

Finally returning to the THIRDS world!! I love the THIRDS series and I’m ecstatic that we are getting a new series with the same cast. This book is the first in the sequel series and cannot be read as a standalone. I’m so hyped for the upcoming novels, especially Wolf’s book!

Synopsis

Codename: Chaos.
Former THIRDS agent turned TIN operative Dexter J. Daley is a legend. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. Chaos isn’t so much a codename as it is Dex’s state of being. As a spy for the Therian Intelligence Network, Dex has spent the last four years bringing down the bad guys. Hell, his middle name is literally Justice. But a new mission brings him face-to-face with a different kind of monster, one with a weapon that can alter the course of history. Failure is not an option, but as the mission goes from dangerous to deadly, Dex finds himself up against a far more terrifying force, and this time, there’s no escape.

Codename: Atlas
As former team leader for Destructive Delta and now a TIN operative, Sloane Daley knows what it feels like to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But no matter the challenge, Sloane knows that together, he and his husband, Dex, can overcome anything. When their latest mission takes a personal turn, Sloane is forced to confront the very thing that created him. Looking back to a past he thought he’d left behind is the least of Sloane’s problems, because the greatest threat he’s about to encounter … is his own husband.

Puck Drills and Quick Thrills by Eden Finley and Saxon James

I love the entire C U Hockey series but this one is my favourite out of all. While it can be read as a standalone, I’d suggest at least reading the previous book for a better understanding. Opposites attract at it’s best with a hockey coach and nerdy professor. These authors never disappoint!

Synopsis

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise

I loved this cute sapphic graphic novel with a trans MC. The art is gorgeous and it’s a sports romance! Highly recommend if you’re looking for a fun lighthearted read.

Synopsis 

A sweet, queer teen romance perfect for fans of Fence and Check, Please!

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

And that’s it for my favourites this year!!! There were so many great books and it was too hard to choose 10 which is how it ended up being 15 but I still had more! What about you? Did I mention any of your top reads this year? Did you find any new recommendations from my list? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you to all my readers and a Happy New Year!!! May you all have a wonderful year ahead!!

2 thoughts on “YEAR IN REVIEW: 2021

  1. That’s a very interesting collection of books Athira 😍😍😍
    Now that over read Golden Stage too, I guess 2022 is time for me to pick up PDL’s books… and I’m glad we have other English book favorites in common too… SWBTS and TJT are so good and I hate waiting for their sequels 😂😂😂
    I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve read an Eden Finley or Charlie Cochet or NR Walker books… maybe soon… but I’ve been completely away from contemporary and romance for a while, so let’s see how that goes…

    Like

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, definitely check out PDL’s books! Waiting for sequels is so hard but I’m also very excited for them! Hope you enjoy the contemporary romance if you do decide to pick them up. I usually read romance and they are some of my go to authors!

      Liked by 1 person

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