MK Pagano

Last year I read the fewest amount of books I’ve read in a year ever since I started keeping track. I forgive myself. It was A Year.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t come across some great ones. Here is my very eclectic list of five-star reads of 2021:

The Fifth Season (and its sequels)

Not the most on-brand book for me, but I am SO glad I gave it a chance and discovered the genius that is N.K. Jemisin. This is full-on post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy, with violence of the kind I don’t usually allow into my reading world. It’s funny, I have “absolutely nots” when it comes to books, but if something is good enough, I’ll make an exception. This is good enough. Bizarre and wonderful. Read this trilogy

The Girls are All So Nice Here

This is one of the most disturbingly twisted books I’ve read in … ever? A college thriller about the toxicity of some female friendship, mixed with classic thriller twists, a horrible protagonist — so well done — and an ending I never saw coming. I don’t have a photo of it because I did something I almost never do, and read it on Kindle — after reading the sample I couldn’t wait for the book to arrive, I had to keep reading!

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

This was the weirdest, most charming little book. It has old-school contemporary YA vibes mixed with a mystery (what happened to Lizzie Lovett?), a ton of humor (Hawthorn, the protagonist, is hilarious), and classic coming-of-age, who-the-F-am-I vibes. It doesn’t sit neatly within any one genre, which I absolutely love. Read it!

If We Were Villains

Comp anything to The Secret History and I’m down. This book, about a group of theater students who may or may not have murdered their friend ten years ago, is chock full of Shakespeare, angst, messy friends/lovers relationships (my favorite kind) and unrequited love. I flew through it. More like this, please.

A Lesson in Vengeance

More dark academia, please. This one takes place in a boarding school dorm that may or may not be haunted, with a narrator who may or may not be able to do magic and may or may not have murdered someone. I love the ambiguity of it all (are there really witch-ghosts hanging around?), the prep school girls, the sapphic romance, the fact that there is not a single man anywhere in this book. The ending is also mind-blowing. Go read it.

Rule of Wolves

Another fantasy on the list. But it’s Leigh Bardugo, so guaranteed to be good. It’s funny because King of Scars was not my favorite. But this book was wonderful. It satisfactorily tied up the three POVs of the previous book, keeping me engaged the entire time. It also brought in some of my FAVORITE characters from earlier books — with the promise of more of them in the future! Coupled with the Netflix show coming out last year, I am all in on the Grishaverse and very excited for what’s to come.

Where It All Lands

I’m biased, because Jennie Wexler’s my critique partner, but even if she wasn’t, I’d be telling you this was the best contemporary I’ve read in a long time. It has a true love triangle — in which all three parties care deeply for one another — along with two beautiful romances, entirely different from each other. Jennie’s amazing at really setting you inside a scene, and the fact that this book takes place in Jersey?! Everything.

There were also a decent amount of good 4-star reads last year — I got really into Jennifer Lynn Barnes and actually read Sarah J Maas’s ACOTAR series finally, and really enjoyed it. I haven’t been the best at book reviews lately, but to see what I did like, hit up my Goodreads!

Image taken by me

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