❀ Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag ❀

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I wanted to take some time to reflect on my reading journey and share the books that I have been loving, hating, or looking forward to reading. 

This is the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag created by Chami. I will be answering questions that have to do with books I’ve read this year so far and what I look forward to for the later half of the year. 

So without further delay, let’s get started with the questions!

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Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021

Title: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Release Date: March 29, 2020

Genre: Adult Fantasy 

Pages: 500

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

A Maiden...

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy's life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty...

The entire kingdom's future rests on Poppy's shoulders, something she's not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom...

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Reason: This book was the first adult fantasy book I have read this year. I practically devoured the whole book in two days. I fell in love with Poppy’s character and how fierce of a female lead she is. I also enjoyed Hawke and Poppy’s relationship and how much they care for each other despite their romantic tension. I am not usually into charismatic, flirty male leads (much prefer the brooding, mysterious type), but Hawke’s character was refreshing and exciting to read. My favorite scene is definitely the willow scene; it was beautifully descriptive and romantic. Although there were some questionable scenes (e.g. Poppy and Hawke having sex while people were dying), it was still overall a very enjoyable read. I definitely was not expecting the vampire undertone, but I am excited to continue on with the rest of the series to see how the characters grows and what journeys they will go through.

This book is perfect for those who enjoy steamier romances with strong main leads and great action scenes.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2021

Title: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Pages: 368

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Reason: The Folk of the Air series was the series that renewed my love for reading. I was in a years long reading slump until I started this book (I blame it on majoring in English). I picked up The Cruel Prince in January and proceeded to finish the rest of the series within the week. I specifically loved The Wicked King because I was able to see Jude and Carden’s character start to develop as well as their relationship. I loved the plot twist at the end; it really threw me off and unlike other people, I did not get the riddle so I basically felt the same anger that Jude did. I will always appreciate this book and this series for allowing me to redevelop my love for reading. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you enjoy Young Adult Fantasy that has a lot of political intrigue, a well-written enemies-to-lovers romance, and unpredictable twist, then this series is perfect for you.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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New Release You Haven’t Read Yet but Want to

Title: These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

Release Date: July 20, 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 

Pages: 448

Synopsis:

Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she'll do whatever it takes to get her back—including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie's only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.

Reason: The selling point of this book to me was the love triangle between two faerie court with an enemies-to-lovers trope. I was excited to read another fantasy about magic and action, especially since it was advertised to be similar to the Folk of the Air series as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses. I am really excited to support Lexi Ryan’s first Young Adult book and I am excited to see what this book holds. There is not much I can say about this book yet, since I haven’t read it yet, but I am looking forward to seeing Lexi Ryan’s work.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Most Anticipated Release For the Second Half of the Year

Title: Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (LGBTQ+)

Pages: 528

Synopsis:

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

Reason: There are not enough words to describe how excited I am about this book release. I first read (or listened as a audiobook) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in my first year of college. Now, three years later, I still remember the love between Aristotle and Dante. I enjoyed their growth throughout the book and how much more confident they have grown in themselves and in one another. I am not someone who tends to gravitate towards Young Adult Contemporary, but this book was an exception. I am excited to pick up the sequel; it’ll give me an excuse to reread the first book again.

This book is perfect for those who enjoy character-driven coming-of-age stories with a simple, yet fulfilling queer romance.

Purchase (Pre-Order): Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Biggest Disappointment

Title: The Cursebreaker Series by Brigid Kemmerer

Release Date: 2019 – 2021

Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy  

Pages: 416 – 512

Rating: 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis (A Curse So Dark and Lonely):

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Reason: I’m sure there is a big fanbase out there for this series and Brigid Kemmerer, but I personally did not enjoy this series. I could not find myself shipping any of the couples; neither Rhen and Harper or Grey and Lia Mara. My favorite book in the series was definitely the first book, but as the series continue, I started to dislike the books and the characters. I personally couldn’t understand any of the character’s choices or their growth. I also did not enjoy the writing style of Brigid Kemmerer in this series, although that might be because I enjoy descriptive writing and Kemmerer is known for being straight forward with her writing. I do appreciate the inclusion of a disabled protagonist. I just wish the characters were more developed and their interactions with one another could be deeper. I am hoping to pick up her next series to see if my mind changes, but so far this series has been a huge let down for me.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Biggest Surprise

Title: The Altas Six by Olivie Blake

Release Date: January 20, 2020

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Pages: 468

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation. Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person's inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality-an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications. When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society's archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will. Most of them.

Reason: I have heard a lot about this book from Tik Tok. I have heard the premise before I picked it up and I was intrigued by the idea of a secret society protecting the “lost” knowledge from the Library of Alexandria. Although I picked up the book without much thought, I fell in love with plot, the world, and the characters. I especially loved Libby’s character because of how similar she felt to my own personality. I loved the magic system and the plot twists at every corner; some of which I am still trying to wrap my head around. I cannot wait for the second book to this!

If you like dark academia, complex/morally gray characters, with a unique magic system, I would recommend you check this book out.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Favorite New Author 

Chloe Gong

Chloe Gong is one of the most talented, funny, and inspiring authors I know. At the age of 21, she published her first young adult novel These Violent Delights with its sequel Our Violent Ends coming out in November 2021.

Not only is she a talented writer, she is extremely funny on her social media. She inspires me to explore writing because no one is ever to young or old to explore their hobbies. I hope to continue to see her growth as a writing in the future.

Chloe’s Website: Link

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Newest Fictional Crush

Nasir Ghameq (The Prince of Death)

Art by Arts By Hoodoo

Books: Sands of Ariwaya (We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars)

The reason I enjoy his character so much is his growth throughout the Sands of Arawiya series. He went from a traumatized lonely assassin prince to someone who is capable of giving so much pure love to his family and his love, Zafira bint Iskandar. He has grown so much throughout the series and I appreciate seeing him stand up for himself and learn to embrace his darkness. He also delivers so many beautiful lines throughout the book; my favorite is “Every color that makes you”.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Newest Favorite Character

Nesta Archeron

Art by Gabrielle Ragusi

Book: A Court of Silver Flames

Controversial opinion, but Nesta Archeron is my favorite Archeron sister. There are many readers who do not like her character because of how cruel she treated Feyre and the inner circle. I disagree. I like her because of how cruel she is. She suffered so much trauma and her way of coping with it was unhealthy and harmful. But her character was flawed and that made her perfect. There were so many moments where I cried for her. Because the way she felt about herself and the world reflected my own thought process. She is a good reminder that protagonist do not need to be perfect. I enjoy seeing her grow as person throughout the book and I excited to see more of her character in later books.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Book That Made You Cry

Title: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Release Date: June 26, 2014

Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction 

Pages: 297

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Lydia‚ the middle and favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee‚ inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill dreams they were unable to pursue — in Marilyn’s case that her daughter becomes a doctor‚ in James’s that she is popular with a busy social life. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake‚ the balancing act that has kept the Lee family together tumbles into chaos.

Reason: If you like books with happy endings, this book is not for you. This is not the usual book that I would choose to read for fun. I read this book for my English class on Asian American Novels. However, this book is a gem. Celeste Ng has a beautiful way of crafting complex family dynamics. Throughout this story, I couldn’t help but relate and empathize with every single character in this book. Celeste Ng has a way of making each character flawed, yet also realistic. This book has provided so much depth into the Asian American narrative. It provided commentary on racism, feminism, and other social concepts. By the end of the book, I was shedding tears for everything that these characters went through.

If you are looking for a book that will hurt you in the best way, check out this book or any of Celeste Ng’s books.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Book That Made You Happy

Title: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 

Pages: 358

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold—a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite—and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. 

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems. 

Reason: I picked up the while Shadow and Bone trilogy in preparation for the T.V. series and it made watching the show so much more enjoyable. I came into this series with the worst possible background information. I heard about people chipping Alina and The Darkling quite a bit and I was expected that to be the main romance. Well I was VERY wrong. When The Darkling turned out evil, I was waiting for his redemption arc, which never came. So, I was very confused throughout the whole series, wondering why the male lead was so evil. Overall, this was still a beautiful series. The magic system and world-building was great. It was a series that was predictable, where you knew the main characters would prevail, but in the best way possible.

If you enjoy a classic Young Adult fantasy with a reluctant protagonist, found family, and captivating villains, check out this book and the Netflix series.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought So Far This Year

Title: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 

Pages: 464 

Synopsis:

Shiori'anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she's been taught all her life to forswear—no matter what the cost.

Reason: This is the Fairyloot edition of Six Crimson Cranes (UK version). It is by-far one of the most beautiful books in my collection. This version features a re-edition of the main cover with a more cool tone palette. It has purple spray edges with six cranes stenciled on the side. I also owned the US edition (which was beautiful as it was), but I knew I needed to own the UK edition as well because of how beautiful it was. I am so excited to read this book and stare at it on my bookshelves.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year

Title: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Release Date: November 20, 2020 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 

Pages: 449 

Synopsis:

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love...and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Reason: Although Chloe Gong is my favorite author, I admittedly haven’t read her book yet. These Violent Delights have been on my TBR (to be read) list for so long, but I have been putting it off, reading other books. I know I will need to read this before the sequel Our Violent Ends comes out in November. I am drawn to the premise of a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai. I am looking forward to reading the lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers story between Roma and Juliette.

Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Bookshop.org

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That’s it for my tag! Thank you for joining! I hope you are able to find something that intrigues you or if you agree (or disagree) with any of these tags. Have a great day!


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