recommendations, Uncategorized

Hit or Miss Reads of 2021

I know a lot of posts like to focus on the BEST of the best reads we’ve had in the year as a way of reflection, but I don’t want to only focus on that. Don’t worry, I will do one of those posts soon, but for this one at least, I want to look back at books I unexpectedly LOVED and those I also unexpectedly didn’t.

The “hit” books may not have fallen into the BEST books I read, but they definitely were memorable and deservedly gets the attention. Likewise, the “miss” books I don’t quite hate, but these may be an unpopular opinion or worthy of discussion.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (review)

I’m sure this one is by no means a surprise, but I rather enjoyed this Romeo & Juliet retelling with an Asian spin. The characters were delightfully complex and the mysterious ailment impacting the city of Shanghai in the early 1900s surely drove me straight through the book as fast as I could get through it.

Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey (review)

I wanted to love this book so badly since it’s a story about rival bookstores – one being an indie bookstore struggling to survive facing a larger bookstore branch – but it was so hard to keep picking up. I wanted something cute, but I got something akin to pranks gone wild instead. The cover is gorgeous though so I will give a brownie point for that.

Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund (review)

I loved Cameron Lund’s debut and her second contemporary likewise just hit the mark for me. The protagonist was empathetic even though we know she kissed her best friend’s boyfriend (while in a relationship herself), leading to both relationships ending. She didn’t always make great choices, but I loved her character development. Plus, the fake dating trope was *chef’s kiss*.

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (review)

Perhaps it’s just that I don’t love the celebrity-meets-civilian trope in romance as much as others, but for some reason, I couldn’t get into this book as much as Jasmine Guillory’s other novels. The chemistry was on fire, but the believability of the romance outside of the bedroom was harder to swallow. There needs to be more in a good contemporary romance, right?

Perfect On Paper by Sophie Gonzales (review)

One of THE most unexpected reads I fell in love with this year, I love the bi representation in this book and the message it carries. The romance angst and chemistry were absolutely delightful and the characters drove this story so well! I’m also a sucker for romance advice columns and this teenage high school version was super intriguing to read about.

Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie (review)

Unfortunately, I was so let down by the conclusion to this duology, especially after loving book 1 so hard last year. The story just fell flat, with so many POVs alternating and impacting the pacing of the story. I wanted more of a romance between the 2 supposed new romance leads for this book but it only randomly happened in the MIDDLE which is never a good thing.

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu (review)

Also another super unexpected love, this story on immigration and the immigrant experience was eye-opening. I loved the ESL class here, especially the creative ways the teacher taught it, and following the protagonist’s journey learning a new language and settling into an unfamiliar American culture. The romance that brewed from it was also incredibly sweet and heartwarming.

A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown (review)

Likewise, this was another duology conclusion that ended on a bitter note. Maybe I just have super high expectations for duologies where book one was great? The world building was lacking and I expected wayyy more from it now that the protagonist escaped into the wider world. The romance was…weird? And the pacing was just awfully slow.

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le (review)

The Asian story I loved to read! This dive into Vietnamese culture through its food was amazing (and made me soooo hungry). Its authenticity and genuine love for the culture shone through. Plus, this was a Romeo & Juliet story with rival restaurants fighting it out for customers that made it all the more enjoyable.

Ten Rules for Faking it by Sophie Sullivan (review)

Honestly, I can barely remember much about this book except I did not like the romance one bit. Which is rather problematic when it’s a romantic contemporary. I know the synopsis claimed it had a fun radio show version of The Bachelorette going for it, but that was barely covered at all, so really, it was nothing memorable or fun.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch (review)

Pure escapism bliss! I have always wanted to travel to Ireland (at the very top of my bucket list!), but until that can be a possibility, this book took me there. I mean, it was fabulously detailed, and was made better following the protagonist’s exploration of the country as a method for dealing with heartbreak. Ingenious!

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (review)

I don’t mind a good enemies to lovers story, but this one about high school rivals just took it way too far. They seemed more like enemies than anything remotely friendly, so the turnaround to a romance of all things seemed super unbelievable. It wasn’t cute or lovely…so I guess there was a lot to not love.

Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan (review)

Fake dating with a bad boy gets turned on the head a bit with the Asian representation in this cute debut. I loved exploring the Bangladeshi culture here, and seeing how that impacted our protagonist’s decisions and perspective, particularly the familial expectations placed on her. It was insightful and full of heart that made me flip through these pages in almost one sitting.

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows (review)

Maybe I’m running out of a good sense of humour? While I adored these ladies’ very first collaborative book together, I’ve had a hard time loving the others since the humour feels like carbon copies of one another. Sometimes the shenanigans the characters get themselves into are so ridiculous that I don’t know if I should laugh or roll my eyes. But knowing me, I’ll probably still pick up the next book….just because.

Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho (review)

This is kind of a reverse situation, where the first companion novel to this one I didn’t love as much but I absolutely ADORED this book. Perhaps the romance between these two leads made more sense to me. But perhaps my lower expectations for this book made it surprise me all the more. Either way, this continuation into the world of supernatural Seoul tied up some loose ends from book 1 and gave me all the feels!

Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin (review)

And lastly, my most unpopular opinion I think this year, I just couldn’t get through this well-known and beloved series conclusion if I hadn’t gotten an audiobook to read it to me. I can’t stand the two lead protagonists and this series does not get better with each entry. It also wasn’t very epic for my longest read of the year, and the climax just did not hit it for me.

And that wraps up this year’s Hit or Miss. I may do this again as separate mini series next year, but I hope you enjoyed it. If you loved something I didn’t like, I’m always open to discussion! And if you are looking for some interesting reads for 2022, please feel free to explore the in-depth reviews for the ones I enjoyed.

14 thoughts on “Hit or Miss Reads of 2021”

  1. What a cool premise for a post! I’d love to see more like this. I’m also really happy to see you spotlighted Love in English; I felt very similarly about it and I would definitely put this among my top 10 2021 releases. She used language — and not just the English one — in such incredible, creative ways that really made me understand what the main character was going through and made me look at my native language in a whole new way. I listened to the audiobook (incredible), but had to revisit in a print copy just to appreciate the poems.

    Also, I DO mind enemies-to-lovers so What’s Not To Love, despite its gorgeous please-read-me cover, sounds like I would have an even more terrible time with than I feared. Warnings noted.

    I read Love & Gelato this summer and meant to read Love & Luck, but my reading tastes shifted and by the time I was ready for YA romance again, summer was over and I didn’t feel like it would have the same impact. Definitely gonna read it next year, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! Love in English is so underrated but such a precious gem! I’m sure the audiobook was incredible. The print version was also lovely to read and I wish more people would find a copy.

      I’m glad the warnings helped! I hate it when the enemies to lovers trope just push together two people who couldn’t be cordial to one another even if their lives depended on it. Makes NO sense!

      Can’t wait to hear how you’ll like Love & Luck! It’s like traveling the country’s tourist sites in a heartwarming story


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