The Best Books I Read In 2021 pt. 1 // not quite five stars…but still favorites

So! I have spun countless thoughts around my head, desperate to figure out how to organize this post. And the consensus? Well, I’ve concluded that I will divide this concept into two posts; the first, discussing the books that I loved that didn’t quite get 5 stars; the second, discussing the books that did get 5 stars and are very much favorites. So without further ado, let’s talk about the not quite 5 star favorites! And because I’m slightly masochist, these will be ranked from “least favorite” to “most favorite”. You’re welcome. And before you ask, Beasts of Prey almost made this list. Almost.

#8: The Sands of Arawiya Duology

This duology is incredible. It’s beautifully written, insanely atmospheric, and the banter is on-point. We Hunt The Flame has so much good banter, but We Free The Stars just has such high stakes. Nasir, Altair, Zafira, Benyamin, and Kifah are all complex, memorable characters. I couldn’t quite give this duology 5 stars because I found it to be a little too slow at times, but it has cemented Hafsah Faizal as a favorite author.

#7: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

click here for my review

These Violent Delights left me speechless. Lovers to enemies back to lovers? Themes of Western imperialism? Rich worldbuilding? THAT ENDING? Be still, my barely beating heart. This 1920s Shanghai Romeo and Juliet retelling gave me almost everything I could have ever asked for. The only reason it’s not 5 stars is that I felt like the second half exceeded the much slower first half by a lot. And I understand that the slow first half is needed. It just took away some of my personal enjoyment of the book. Nevertheless, I still need to read the sequel (and I’m scared send help pls).

#6: Fable/Namesake

Fable and Namesake were both surprises and also not. I knew they’d be atmospheric (it’s Adrienne Young so duh) but I didn’t realize all the subtle elements that would contribute to me liking this duology this much. Fable’s dynamic with Saint, a found family crew, and beautiful names made me really love these books. The ending of Namesake made me cry a lot too so there’s that. The reason they’re not 5 stars? I don’t know, I didn’t totally love Fable and West? It just didn’t give me that 5 stars feeling unfortunately. They’re still great books though!

#5: A Sky Beyond The Storm

Moving into the 4.5 stars, A Sky Beyond The Storm finished out one of my all-time favorite series, An Ember in The Ashes. I laughed, I cried, I screamed (Helene deserves the world okay) and I’m just so happy that this series exists. I feel like it doesn’t get the same amount of hype as some of the other big fantasy series (or maybe I’m just salty about Sarah J. Maas). It’s a good series though. The major flaw this book has is that the pacing is just meh. There were some really slow chapters and others that just breezed by with no explanation for what was going on. I still really enjoyed it though!

#4: When You Get The Chance

I just finished reading my ARC of Emma Lord’s latest, and holy crap was it good. All I want to do is listen to musical soundtracks and go see a Broadway show and rewatch Mamma Mia. Millie Price’s goal of finding her mom by doing a LOT of shenanigans is so much fun to watch. The rivals to lovers romance is only the icing on top of this fun cake.

#3: Good Girl Bad Blood

I actually forgot to include Good Girl, Bad Blood until I finished writing every other installment in this list. But now that my goldfish memory has remembered it, I’m this close to crying all over again. Pip and Ravi’s relationship is so wholesome, and the discussion of harder topics is so well-done. The mystery isn’t my favorite but the ending? Wow. I still need to read the last book because I swear the audiobook has been on hold from the library for hours.

#2: Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark was one of the most surprising reads of the year for me. I love how you’re not sure if it’s a thriller or a paranormal horror book until the very end, leaving the majority of the time you spend reading it on the edge of your seat. The audiobook was especially great to listen to because it actually scared me at times. The direct parallel between Maggie reentering the house of her childhood nightmares that she can’t quite remember and her dad’s excerpts from the book that may or may not be real are very well-done. Overall, I really enjoyed this one!

#1: Legendborn

Legendborn reminded me why I love YA so much. Its Shadowhunters meets King Arthur with a Black girl lead. It has Selwyn Kane. I really just can’t get over how much of an info dump the beginning is. Other than that? This book is very nearly perfection. The plot is so unique and the magic system is incredible and I’m very excited for where the romance is going to go in the sequel. Speaking of the sequel, I think its been pushed back to November 2022, and part of me is heartbroken but that also means it comes out during my birthday month so yay I guess? Either way, I adored this book and it’s my favorite non-5 star read of the year!

So that’s it for part 1! Next time I’ll be back with my favorite 5 star reads of the year which should be considerably shorter. Tell me: what’s a favorite book you’ve read this year that’s not a 5 star read?

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29 thoughts on “The Best Books I Read In 2021 pt. 1 // not quite five stars…but still favorites

  1. omg kaya you have some great picks there! we hunt the flame duology! tvd! (i also am yet to read the sequel and I’m so scared)
    I haven’t read good girl bad blood, but I did read the first book in the trilogy and it was pretty decent! AEITA though, i found the first book a little meh so I never continued the series haha.
    Enjoyed the post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES omg we hunt the flame is SO good! and yes i’m terrified.
      yesss, i love that series! i think the second book isn’t as good as the first though.
      AEITA isn’t for everyone for sure, I think a lot of people don”t love it haha!!
      Thank you!💜


  2. ahh… so many great books. As mentioned before, I loved Sands of Arawiya and These Violent Delights too. Plus, both duologies and I love that!! A Sky Beyond The Storm was a good finale- I’d probably rate it 4.5* too. Helene does deserve the world. I wish the ember quartet had the same hype as the biggest YA series too. I love it a lot!!! I’ll have to check out When You Get The Chance and Legendborn (of course). Great post, I look forward to your other (top) favourites post! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list! I mention all the time about how much I live These Violent Delights lol, and so far the sequel is amazing too ✨ I didn’t love Good Girl, Bad Blood as much as the first one, but I’m excited to read As Good As Dead!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. a sky beyond the storm and legendborn being on this list makes me so happy ngl. also i totally agree with you, that series doesn’t get the attention it deserves. i hope you have a great reading year in 2022 !! i was going to pick up when you get the chance soon as well it sounds so good.

    Liked by 1 person

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