Dai’s Top 10 Read in 2021

I read a lot of great books this year so it was really hard to select my top 10 and I had a harder time since most of my top books were read at the start of this year. I had to re-visit my goodreads list or I would never remember everything that I managed to get through in the past few months. Here’s my top ten books of the year in no particular order except for The Love Hypothesis being my number one book for 2021. You can click the titles of the books to see my full review for these books.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

What Beauty There is by Cory Anderson

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, this is a riveting and irresistible take on love, life, and identity — both online and off.

CeCe Ross is kind of a big deal. She and her girlfriend, Silvie, are social media influencers with zillions of fans and followers, known for their cute outfits and being #relationshipgoals.

So when Silvie breaks up with her, CeCe is devastated. She’s lost her first love, and now she can’t help but wonder if she’ll lose her followers as well.

Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online. CeCe isn’t surprised to be falling for a guy; she’s always known she’s bi. And Josh is sweet and smart and has excellent taste in donuts… but he has no idea that CeCe is internet-famous. And CeCe sort of wants to keep it that way.

But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life, and figure out what it really means to speak her truth.

Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Modavsky

New York Times –bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

An unforgettable story of trauma and healing, told in achingly beautiful prose with great tenderness and care. —#1 New York Times-bestselling author Karen M. McManus

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

The Half-Orphans Handbook by Joan F. Smith

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

The Passing Playbook by Issac Fitzsimons

‘A sharply observant and vividly drawn debut. I loved every minute I spent in this story’ – Becky Albertalli

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

June Wrap Up 2021

I didn’t really get through a lot of books this month since I spent a lot more of my time watching tv and movies than anything else. I did read a lot of non fiction and books for younger readers this month that I really enjoyed. I also didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as I usually do which is why the amount of books that I got through this month is lower than others.

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson 

Set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood, this heart-stoppingly romantic fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Rachel Hartman and Rae Carson.

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

Dino-Gro by Matt Myers 

From the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Battle Bunny comes a laugh-out-loud story of a little sponge dinosaur that keeps growing…and growing…and growing….

Cole is very excited about his new Dino-Gro toy. He can’t wait for it to reach its full size! But when Dino-Gro becomes much larger than intended, Cole goes so far as to put Dino-Gro on a liquid-free diet and an exercise regimen, which don’t seem to make a difference! As Dino-Gro becomes so big that he can’t fit in the house, Cole learns that growing up and getting bigger can have advantages too, even if you’re not a dinosaur.

For fans of Tiny T. Rex and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, this sweet and hilarious read-aloud is fun for kids to learn the importance of growing up big and strong.

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong

My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna 

An informative, blisteringly funny, somewhat cranky and always spot-on guide to perimenopause and menopause by the award-winning sex ed/health educator and author of S.E.X.
If you don’t know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
“I’m going to do what I’ve done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I’m going to do this in a similar way I’ve done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life’s work and if your family also didn’t always apparently forget to invite her to everything.”

Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It’s a companion for everyone who’s reached this “what to expect when you’re not expected to expect anything” time of life. It’s a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what’s going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause.

Impacted by Benji Carr 

With every trip he makes to the dentist, Wade’s pain only gets worse. His smile has faded. He’s clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth more, not because of bad oral hygiene or any mishaps in orthodontics. Wade’s teeth don’t need straightening out, but the rest of his life could use that kind of adjustment. Wade has fallen in love with handsome Dr. Emmett, and their office visits in the afternoon have become decidedly more personal than professional. And poor Wade is sure his girlfriend Jessa would punch him in the mouth if she found out.

After all, Jessa did just abandon her church and her family to be with him. And she did just have Wade’s baby. So their relationship has already caused enough gossip in the small Georgia town of Waverly.

When Wade tries to end the affair, the breakup takes a brutal turn, leaving Wade in a state of panic. His life is under threat. His secrets could be exposed, and his family may fall apart before he realizes what kind of person he wants to be. 

Zombies for Everyone: A Jenna Sutton Supernatural Cozy Mystery – Book 1 by Kimberly Wylie 

Jenna Sutton is nothing like the iconic vampire slayer of TV fame.

She’s the antithesis of a cheerleader. She’s not peppy. And she sucks at gymnastics. She has nothing in common with the fictional Buffy, other than being blonde and in high school…

Oh, and occasionally she kills vampires for a living as well as other things that go bump in the night

Following an attack on an English teacher at a nearby school, it becomes clear this wasn’t an ordinary coyote bite. The gray-green Lichtenberg-like webbing of streaks making their way up Ms. Pruett’s arm can mean only one thing—zombies.

But this isn’t a normal zombie attack. The victims seem to be hand-picked.

Can Jenna complete her investigation without the school administrators figuring out she’s actually a high school student from another school? Will Jenna be able to find out who’s behind these attacks before a full-scale zombie outbreak overtakes the town? And, perhaps most importantly…

Why did her best friend kiss her after all of these years? 

The Fashion Lover’s Guide to Milan by Rachael Martin 

Milan is the European fashion capital with one of the world’s most unique luxury fashion districts where the leaders of some of the most exclusive fashion houses are still living and working today. It’s the Italian city whose skyline has changed more than any, and whose fashion industry has extended to encompass the worlds of design, restaurants, bars, exhibition spaces, hotels and more. Whether you’re looking for designer labels within the city’s luxury fashion district, prefer to browse the city’s boutiques or pick up some quality vintage at the city’s vintage shops and markets, this is the guide that will tell you where to go.

Split into geographical sections along with relevant maps, cultural highlights and suggestions for where to eat and drink, it places Milan as the city of fashion within the context of Italian fashion history and a city, and brings the stories of its people to life. Why did Milan become Italy’s fashion capital? And what does it offer the fashion lover as a city today?