Round Up: Top 5 books read in 2021

Hello to all my wonderful readers!
I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and the holidays are treating you well.
This is my first Round Up post for the year. I would like to highlight my favorite books of the year which honestly were 5 star reads and beyond for me!

I am listing the books in no particular order, but they really made a difference to my choice of books to read and authors to follow this year!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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The author has done a brilliant job and the story is gripping until the very end! There are so many twists and turns that it is impossible to stop reading once you start! This book is a must read!

The Wrath of the Hellfires (Book 4 in the Vikramaditya Veeragatha series) by Shatrujeet Nath

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In conclusion, this book is worth the read as is the entire series! The Vikramaditya Veergatha proves to be a treasure trove of mystery keeping the reader guessing until the very end! The readers are in for a treat and eventually arrive at a conclusion that will satisfy everyone with strong characters fighting to save humanity against all odds!

The Last Queen by Chitra Baneerjee Divakaruni

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This book is well-researched and very well-written. The author brings to us a story that is long forgotten, but one that should be known. It shows us what a woman can do and how much she is capable of dealing with, both physically and emotionally.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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This is a wonderful story that is told in a manner that will leave the reader spellbound. The author casts a wonderful web of magic on reader that carries them along until the end. I loved reading this book and am looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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I am yet to post my review for this book but I thoroughly enjoyed the duology and the concept of the book. I highly recommend this series to everyone!

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Do share your best books of the year or any book recommendations for me for next year!

Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

About the Book:

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Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely adored this book and couldn’t put it down once I started reading it! Fable is one of the most talked about books this year and I must admit to being quite intrigued by it. So many people were reading it and talking about it and I finally decided that I had to know why. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the book and the plot and the characters.

Fable is strong willed and with a unique set of skills that sets her apart. We follow her as she tries to navigate the island where her father left her after her mother died and their ship sank. No-one knows who she really is and she has made a promise to keep it that way. As she works for a chance to get off the island, we are given a glimpse into her life and the world around her.

With a plan to get off the island and reach her father’s place, Fable enlists the help of West and by extension his crew on the ship. This leads to a fast paced adventure filled with secrets, villains, dangers of the sea, trust issues and eventually fast friendships that mean more than anything. I would also like to mention the budding romance that adds more flavor to the plot making it worth reading.

All the characters have their own story to tell and their own agenda, but when brought together, it feels as though the story is complete. The author has a wonderful way with words painting a picture of the seas and islands that the characters visit. It is also easy to imagine the scenes as they unfold and this is the kind of story telling that reminds me of reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings all over again. The story is rich in detail and brings to us a new plot and world that any reader would be pulled into.

I was invested in the book and highly recommend it for all fans of fantasy fiction out there! This is worth it! I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the second book too!

Book Review: Running from the Pack by A J Connor

About the Book:

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What would you do if the wolves came for you?

A month ago, all I cared about was finding my next party, but then a werewolf bite changed me. Now I’m being hunted by the wolf queen of the south, the fate of the city hangs in the balance, and the hot guy in the local coffee shop is teaching me to fight naked (it’s a wolf thing).

Learning that there are werewolves in the world is amazing, and all I want is to find out more, but it’s hard to relax and enjoy your new body when a tyrant’s out to get your friends. Sure, I could give up on nights out to focus on mastering my powers, but what’s the point in winning if you can’t have fun along the way?

The world’s weirder than I thought, and a lot more dangerous. The question is, do I run from the danger the wolf pack presents, or is it time I learned to stand my ground?

A brand new British urban fantasy series, full of power, politics, and passion, set in the bustling streets of Leeds.

My Thoughts:

Running from the Pack is an urban fantasy fiction story set in the time where werewolves live among humans (in secret) and still thrive. The protagonist is new to the city and only wants to have fun. Little does she know how her life is going to change with just one bite. The story follows her as she discovers and navigates life as a new werewolf and establishes new relationships with people.

I found the writing to be average and the characters pretty one dimensional. I was not able to fully relate to them and the plot. However, I think that the author had a good idea and it could have been executed much better. The tensions between packs and the bonds of friendship that develop are something to note in the book.

Overall I think that this is a one time read for fans of the paranormal fantasy fiction genre. I think that it was not my cup of tea but I am sure it would still be worth reading for many readers out there!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

About the Book:

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Emmie let out a huge sob – “It’s not a film set”, she cried. She held onto Jack for a moment, then took a step back, closed her eyes and shouted – “WHERE AM I?”

When Jack and Emmie suddenly find themselves transported back to London in 1940, they find a world both familiar, yet very different. As they dodge falling bombs and over-zealous policemen, they befriend Jan – a lonely Polish refugee. Together, they must work out if the shadowy figure they keep seeing is a spy and unlock the secret of getting home again…

My Thoughts:

The Blitz Bus is a delightfully quick read targeted at middle graders that takes us into 1940 and gives us a glimpse into England during the Second World War. Even though I am outside the actual target audience, I enjoyed this book and the adventure that Jack and Emmie find themselves on. While learning about the Second World War at school, Jack finds it difficult to picture the events and life of the people in his mind. Through this book, the author brings to us some of the historical facts in a way that would be easy to visualize for children.

Imagine reading about children your age who travel back in time and experience something that they are studying about. The whole idea is unimaginable, but is enough to keep children hooked. I like how the author stuck to a few specific facts and brought to us a view of the world through the eyes of children. Jan and Stan’s stories were well portrayed and it really brings home the hardships of the time. I also enjoyed reading about how the children found a way to stay there and survive until they could find their way back.

Through the book, children can learn about the situation in England, how people lived, the night raids, bunkers and even the food situation. The book is both educational and enjoyable and I think will be a wonderful adventure for all children to go on along with the main characters! I definitely recommend this book for middle graders and for anyone who loves a good historical fiction adventure mixed with time travel!

Book Review: Ivy League Liars by Grace Costello

About the Book:

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Teddy Jones is a one-upper. We grew up across the street from each other, always competing. When I got into Brown, he got into Harvard. When I dropped out early, he went on to law school. And when I ended up in a string of bad relationships, he started dating my old high school bully.

Now we’re all grown up and my sister’s getting married. Strangely enough, Teddy and Anika never dated, and now she’s marrying the perfect man and has insisted Teddy and I share the maid-of-honor duties. I’d rather stick a fork in my eye, but here we are.

So when Teddy challenges me on bringing a suitable date to Anika’s wedding, I decide it’s my turn to be the one-upper. My date is a sexy, rich, successful Yale alumni. We met on Legacy, the exclusive dating app for Ivy Leaguers, and now we’re madly in love. And he’d be perfect, if he actually existed.

That’s right, I made the guy up! Now I have to download the app and find this man before Teddy catches me in a lie.

My Thoughts:

Ivy League Liars is a fun-filled light and quick romance read that is based on the enemies to lovers trope. Emme is forced to share maid-of-honor duties for her sister’s wedding with Teddy. Everyone always thought that there was something between Teddy and Emme’s sister, but they are just best friends. Emme and Teddy have always tried to one up the other, always at opposite ends. They try to get along for Anika’s sake, but everyone can see that it is futile (or maybe not :D)

The story follows them as Emme finds a fake boyfriend from a dating app exclusive for Ivy Leaguers and tries to show everyone a side of her life that does not exist. What follows forms the crux of the plot as things start to unravel. Tell one lie and it can be managed but continue building on it and this leads to a whole bunch of lies whose story is difficult to sustain.

This is a fun read that has just the right amount of humor and romance that readers will enjoy. I also enjoyed the banter between the characters and how the author brought out their feelings in different situations. Though I was not able to fully connect with all the characters and some situations felt a little too unreal, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it to all fans of romance!

Book Review: The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

About the Book:

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The perfect daughter…

Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.

The perfect boyfriend…

So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?

The perfect mother….

But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?

Or the perfect liar?

Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.

Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Daughter is a gripping thriller that follows the relationship between Jess and her mother. Jess tries to live up to her mother’s expectations and is always in touch with her or around her. When she starts a relationship with Adam, a plumber, she also has to deal with her mother’s disregard for him. As she tries to maintain and nurture the new relationship and keep her mother happy, she finds herself sandwiched in between, trying to reconcile who she is and who she wants to be.

I found Jess’s character to be quite interesting. The author has done a good job in trying to portray her thoughts and feelings. The first half of the story goes back and forth between the past and present day where Adam is missing and presumed dead. As the police investigate, we follow Jess as she deals with the on-going police investigation and tries to come to terms with everything. In parallel, we also get to know how she met Adam, the nature of their relationship and the role her mother has always played in her life under the pretext of protecting her.

I found the first half of the story to be a little repetitive in the thoughts and feelings that were portrayed. However, as you progress to the second part of the story, the plot intensifies and takes a huge turn. The author has done a wonderful job with the story here, bringing to us many twists and key characters who change the course of the story. Though the story focuses mainly on Jess, her mother and Adam, there are some characters who feature in the story to shape it’s course. I appreciate how the author brought them in and handled their roles in the story very well.

What intrigued me was Jess’s mother’s nature and her thought process. I found her actions and thoughts to be interesting and I think the author handled the mother-daughter dynamics very well. As you read, the questions of what it means to be perfect and what can a person believe are raised in the minds of the reader. When secrets are revealed and lies are caught, the plot takes a big turn. This is indeed a roller-coaster of a read taking us through some pretty twisted minds and toxic relationships, but coming together very neatly in the end with a well thought out conclusion.

This book is definitely worth the read for all fans of a good thriller or mystery with a psychological angle filled with a few unexpected twists!

Book Review: Granted by Kendra Thomas

About the Book:

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Sabeara Aigoviel, princess of Aveladon, wants nothing more than for her heart to glow. The Stone-Hearted power that is received at the age of eighteen is her ultimate wish. With a grim curse looming over the realm and a neighboring kingdoms conspiring plans, contentions arise. Moments of danger summon evil forces, sending Sabeara into a whirlwind of adventure, captivity, and even love.
Rescued by a handsome stranger in a brown cloak, they navigate the kingdoms to bring her safely home. When her rescuer arrives betrothed to her beloved older sister weeks later, it is all she can do to erase their memories. Will Sabeara be able to defeat the curse on the Stone-Hearted race? And will she be able to forget the memories of her epic ventures with her cloaked rescuer?

Book Review:

Granted is Book 1 in a refreshing new tale that follows Sabeara, princess of Aveladon as she navigates her life in the Kingdom and outside it. A rebel at heart and wanting nothing more than to be Stone-Hearted, Sabeara has a restless need to escape and do more than what she does inside the Castle. She wants to restore peace to the Kingdom. Her father, the King is barely there, dealing with the grief of her mother’s death and a lot of the decisions to take fall on her older sister Jasper.

I love how the sisters have a very strong bond and are supportive of each other. In this first book, we follow Sabeara’s journey as she gets kidnapped by Obscurum soldiers and is then rescued by a very handsome stranger, Mid. As they navigate their way back to Aveladon, we follow along on an adventure filled with obstacles, new friends, new enemies and a budding romance, the reader is in for a treat! Little do they know that there would be further obstacles to their romance and secrets that reveal who they are which changes a lot of things the readers initially thought they knew.

I liked the concept of the Stone-Hearted, having different kinds of powers, reading about a supposed curse and how to end it. The author has brought to us a whole new fantasy world that is well thought out. The story is rich in descriptions and character building with likeable characters who add a lot of new dimensions to the plot.

I loved this book and am definitely looking forward to reading more of this series! This is definitely worth the read!

Book Review: When We Were Sisters by Cynthia Ellingsen

About the Book:

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Two sisters who haven’t spoken for twenty years. One summer to bring a family back together.

Jayne Winters hasn’t seen her sister Charlotte since that last childhood holiday at their grandmother’s North Carolina beach house. Separated after that summer by their parents in a bitter divorce, Charlotte has never forgiven Jayne for not fighting to stay together.

So when Jayne discovers that they have both inherited the beach house, and that their grandmother’s last wish was for them to renovate it together, it feels like a miracle: one last chance to win her sister back.

At first Charlotte will barely speak to her. But slowly the memories of swimming races and storytelling in their attic bedroom looking over the sea start to break down the wall between them. With the help of photographs and letters left by their grandmother for them to find, the two women begin to restore not just the creaking mahogany staircase and the faded antique wallpaper, but their own relationship.

But then Jayne discovers that Charlotte has kept a heart-stopping secret from their past from her. Can she find it in her heart to forgive her sister and keep their grandmother’s dream of reuniting them alive—or are some wounds too big to heal?

An emotional and uplifting read about sisters, secrets and the family bonds that hold us together no matter how complicated they are, from the bestselling author of The Lighthouse Keeper. Fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Alice Monroe will love this.

My Thoughts:

When We Were Sisters is a heart-warming story that follows sisters Jayne and Charlotte as they come together to honor their Grandmother’s last wishes. As per her will, the sisters have to stay together at their grandmother’s house and work on it’s renovations. Separated from each other as a result of their parents divorce, the sisters have a lot to work through, if they give each other a chance.

I loved how this book takes you on a roller coaster of emotions with a strong focus on the bond between the sisters. The love for a sibling is one of the most basic and the author captures the yearning to connect and be a family, very well. At first reluctant, the sisters are forced to confront their feelings and try to talk to one another. As the story progresses, the reader will find out more and more about their past, the circumstances behind their parents decisions and some hidden truths which have the strength to break a person.

In the midst of all this, we see stability in Charlotte’s life, not without it’s own problems but those which  can be worked out together. Jayne deals with the beginnings of a new romance as well as the chance to finally connect with her sister and her family. As their lives mix, Jayne tries to form bonds with her nephews and bring back some light into her sister’s eyes reminiscent of their childhood.

This is a story of love, loss, summer fun and a second chance at a relationship that could help to heal old wounds and even some new ones. Secrets are never good and they have the power to destroy everything. However, I think that the strength of the characters and perseverance bring this story together with a conclusion that is tearful and full of joy. I definitely recommend this book that is filled with all kinds of emotions and is beautifully written until the end!

Book Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

About the Book:

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In a kingdom where sickness stalks the streets and only the richest can afford a cure, King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick are forced to rule with an iron fist.

Tessa Cade is a masked outlaw marked for death, but she likes it that way. Together with the mysterious, handsome Weston, she robs from the rich to help the poor, distributing food and medicine to those who need it most.

As it becomes clear that the only way to save her people is to assassinate the King, Tessa must face a deadly mission that will take her to the dark heart of the kingdom … and force her to work with the very people she intended to destroy.

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a brand-new blockbuster fantasy series about a corrupt kingdom, a star-crossed romance and a girl who will do anything for justice.

My Thoughts:

Defy the Night is the first book in a new series by Brigid Kemmerer, author of the Cursebreakers series. This book follows Tessa, a masked outlaw as she steals moonflower petals, converting them into medicine to distribute to those in need. Only the rich can afford to buy the cure and take it regularly. This gave me quite the Robin Hood vibe as Tessa embarks on her journey along with a friend, the mysterious Weston.

On the other side, we have King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick. They are not very well-liked but do their best to serve the people. They are weary of everyone around them due to the circumstances behind their parents death. The author does a good job in touching upon the impact of this and how it shaped the characters and their personalities thereafter.

I enjoyed reading about Tessa, though I felt that her story was just a little cliché. She is a force to reckon with and handles herself quite well throughout the book keeping a level head most of the time. Weston on the other hand is shrouded in mystery, but I guess I kind of saw where the story was going with this character before the big reveal.

The story is well-written and fast paced, thus keeping the reader hooked until the end. I enjoyed reading about the issues raised and how the various council members had differing opinions. This was handled well. The author also brought out the contrast in thinking among the people and showed us quite subtly how one strategically uttered comment can turn into something quite big. In addition to this, I quite enjoyed reading about Kandala. The author has done a great job with the world building and the map included at the beginning was quite helpful.

This is a story filled with adventure, romance and the quest for justice. Though the book had it’s ups and downs for me, I enjoyed it overall and am definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

Book Review: A Lesson in Murder (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 7) by Verity Bright

About the Book:

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When Lady Swift is invited to her old school, she walks through familiar classrooms, finds her favourite books in the library… and surely that’s not a body? Time for a lesson in murder!

Autumn, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift is invited to her old school, St Mary’s, as a guest speaker. Her favourite teacher, Mrs Wadsworth, has asked that Eleanor talk about her intrepid travels around the globe – travelling the Silk Road by bicycle, crossing the Himalayas and even befriending the Maharaja of India. But in the circumstances, perhaps it would have been a good idea to talk about her career as a daring detective…

Because no sooner has Eleanor brushed up on her times tables then she is greeted by terrible news: Mrs Wadsworth has been murdered. Eleanor is utterly devastated but she owes it to her dearest teacher to find out who killed her and why. So, alongside Gladstone the bulldog, it’s best paw forward to track down a villain.

But when the art teacher is also found dead, Eleanor is sure someone is trying to do away with the people who taught her everything. As Eleanor delves into possible motives, she discovers a clue in the most unlikely place: her mother’s old school diary. Does the route to the murderer lie within a secret passageway her mother uncovered? Can Eleanor nail the culprit in time or is the killer coming for her next?

A totally gripping and glamorous 1920s cozy! Fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Rhys Bowen are in for a treat.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book by author Verity Bright that I am reading and once again I must admit that I loved it. I first met Lady Eleanor Swift in ‘Murder in the Snow’, Book 4 of the series. Surprisingly or maybe not, I was able to dive right in and connect with all the characters in the story. Having missed some of the books in between, the current one is no different. I was instantly transported back to the 1920s along with Eleanor, Clifford the Butler and Hugh the Police Inspector.

I quite liked how the author shows us a different aspect of Eleanor’s life in this book, bringing to us a glimpse of her past while also showing how she could be an inspiration to the younger generations. For the time period in which the story is set in, Eleanor’s ways were indeed quite progressive and it was heartening to read about her ability to share some of her experiences with the children at the school and with us too!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the strong bond between Eleanor and her butler, Clifford. This is unique and endearing. The hint of romance in the background with the Police Inspector made the story all the more interesting. Even though the death of an old teacher was quite saddening, I enjoyed reading about how Eleanor conducts her investigation and tries to bring the killer to justice. Sometimes the reader is torn between exasperation and laughter at the main characters and this just adds to the appeal of the plot. The other characters in the book including the children under Eleanor’s temporary care were engaging and made me feel a part of them as the story progressed.

This book is definitely a must read for fans of cozy mysteries or any mystery in general! I highly recommend the author’s books and this entire series (even though I have not read most of the books in the series! I hope to rectify this very soon)

A huge thank you to Bookouture and netgalley for the advance copy of the book. The review is my honest opinion.