Life is currently a mess and I really wanted to get a lot more end of year posts out this month, but alas, 2021 will just have to close on the messy path it was already on.
I have no idea what I’m writing but we’re rolling with it *nervous laughter*
Apologies as I did have a fun idea for a Christmas recommendations list, but I just had no motivation to get it done. You’ll have to wait until next year folks. As usual, lowkey doing this post is stressful because I leave it till the very last day of the year JUST IN CASE a new favourite needs to squeeze on here. There hasn’t been one but it’s okay, at least I’m wrapping up all the books.
Today I have 15 books in total to talk about, 7 are honourable mentions and 8 are the top favourites. I’m chuffed with this selection, though I’ll try and keep this post short and sweet so we can zoom through them. Very excited to talk about them, so let’s get into it!
in no particular order (maybe least to most surprising idk roll with it)
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
I was debating whether or not I wanted to just have 6 books in this section, but ultimately decided I needed one more book for the sake of the number 15. I’m just kidding, I do really love this book and I’ve been going back to it quite often since I read it, so it had to get a mention. I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since it came out in 2019, mostly due to Cait raving about it, and I’m so glad I finally did. Not only did I branch out from my adult romance addiction as this is YA romance, but I just think this book did so much and is one I really want more people to read so we can sigh in cuteness together <3<3<3
Marriage For One by Ella Maise
This book would be a lot higher on the list if it wasn’t for a few things that just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. However, apart from that, this book truly gave me the shock of my life as I had every expectation that I wouldn’t like it all that much, but it’s become a standout adult romance for me. Please, be shocked with me. It gave me every impression that it would be fairly cliché and over dramatic, but I was genuinely enjoying every second with this one. The pacing was just right and I loved the characters and 100% fell for the romance, and it really ticked basically all of the boxes. My only issue was with the writing, otherwise this would perhaps be higher up on the list. A stunning marriage of convenience that I highly recommend!
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
This book is one of those that if I perhaps read it on another day, I might have a completely new opinion on, because seriously this book has everything that I love. I really want to read it for the first time again and I think I’d love it more? That makes no sense but anyways. If you have not heard of this book until now, I don’t know where you’ve been. A moment of silence for this stunning cover, even though my rainbow shelf had a bit of an identity crisis when I added her to the shelf. Anyways, this is a book about chronic pain, being a writer, being a single mom and second-chance romance and it’s beautiful and you should all go read it. Though do read the trigger warnings because it deals with a lot. K bye.
Blog review here
Kulti by Mariana Zapata
Hello and welcome to the Mariana Zapata stan club hosted by yours truly. If you haven’t heard me obsess over this author yet, then I guess you’ll hear about it now. Technically my rating of this book is 4 stars BUT it’s my second favourite MZ and mentally she’s 4.5 stars, I just need to adjust the rating.
Truly thought this would not be my cup of tea but boy did I fall for this age-gap SO hard. This one truly pulled at the heartstrings and I was doused in cold water when I found myself loving it as much as I did. Mariana Zapata JUST GETS ME AND I LOVE HER SO MUCH HAVE I CONVINCED YOU TO READ HER YET???? If anyone has a spare Kulti lying around, send my way please and thank you!
The Risk by Elle Kennedy
Yes I am eating Christmas chocolate to aid me in explaining this very weird explanation that both places emphasis on the tricky relationship I have with this author and also my weird rating system. With that established, I’ve only read 3 Elle Kennedy’s, this being one of them and I,,, like her but it’s more like a fun time that boosts my serotonin and that’s about it. She’s slightly problematic and her books are in no way masterpieces and I… think you get what I’m saying?
However this one DID THINGS for me and I don’t know how to explain it but the vibes were just there and I super loved it. It’s closer to a 4 than a 4.5 even though 4.5 is the official rating, so please do try and figure out what I mean with that. But yeah, apparently I’m trash for the bad girl, enemies to lovers, fake dating, forbidden relationship, new adult sports romance dish that this book served and I have nothing more to say.
Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli
I’ve talked quite a lot about this book by this point but today is not the day that I shut up about how surprised I was by it. I got to participate in the blog tour and I read it all at the beach and it was honestly such a wonderful reading experience that I did not expect to have. I hadn’t read a Becky Albertalli in a while and idk maybe I slightly fell out of love with her? Not for any particular reason, but I just forgot how good a writer she is. Anyways, this adorable YA contemporary about theatre kids and platonic friendship really did things for me and you should read it.
Blog review here
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Took me about 3 tries to finally get into this book, but once I was in, I WAS SO FREAKING IN!!!!! Ugh this book is absolutely marvelous and it would 100% be a 5 star if not for the fact that I think the first idk maybe 100 or so pages, is hard to get into. After that, it’s just pure magic and I want to bathe in its glory. If you want a book that is so on-the-nose hilarious, even when its not even trying to be funny, but still manages to be then you need to drop everything and read this book. I’ve never read a book, let alone DEBUT, that I had so much admiration for purely because the writing is absolutely genius.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Sarah Hogle has magic in her veins. And I mean, the romance is also adorable and everything. This book is so genius GO READ IT NOWWWWW
Blog review here
TOP 8 BOOKS OF 2021:
8. Always Only You by Chloe Liese
By now, you’ll have probably heard me talk about this book and are not surprised it made the list. If anything, let’s be surprised how low down on the list it is. Though this is in no way a testament to my love of this book, only that I’m surprised by how many books I actually loved this year.
Anyways, I adore Chloe Liese and have such admiration for her as a writer. This book just gave me everything I needed in an adult romance and I didn’t know I needed it in my life until I randomly decided to start this series. If you’re looking for a diverse romance that has slow-burn, an own-voices autistic main character as well as chronic pain rep and did I mention that the hero is a hockey player? This book is for you and I want more people to love and appreciate it with me *wink wink*
Blog review here
7. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Wowza am I glad that I loved this book because 2021 was kind of a weird year in terms of being let down by faves. But also, this book got a lot of mixed reviews and whilst I get it, I also thoroughly enjoyed my time with this and thought it was a stellar read.
I listened to this book as an audiobook, which is narrated by Julia Whelan, and was just fantastic. Honestly, I don’t quite know how to describe how amazing she was but I will say that if I get the chance to read a book through her narration, then Imma choose the audiobook because she’s amazing. Anyways, this story is absolutely intoxicating and fast-paced and whilst maybe not as mind-blowing as Evelyn or Daisy, it still knocks your socks off and I would personally like to hug all of the Riva siblings. This is a perfect beach read that you can absolutely fly through and there’s a 99% chance you’ll be googling the Riva name. Read it? Keep an eye out for my blog review at some point btw, I’m terribly behind but getting there.
6. You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry
Yo I read this book TWICE in a year and I honestly feel stupid but at least I rectified my mistakes and had a year of Emily Henry (keep reading and you’ll see why). I had the priviledge of taking part in the blog tour – sidenote: which has been great overall and fingers crossed I can do so next year also. Emily Henry may perhaps be my favourite romance author? I hesitate because my mind is always changing about romance BUT she’s definitely the only author who gets the pacing, chemistry, build-up, etc perfectly right. And to my taste lmao. But apart from that, the characters and writing are just astoundingly real and easy to love and I would protect them with my life. Not exaggerating.
Second sidenote of this post is a funny story and maybe you should be scared of me idk. But I saw some people reading this book recently and they weren’t liking it, and I genuinely got so mad because I disagreed so badly about what they were saying. I was ready to show hands for my faves. So go read it and you better like it otherwise you’ll have to fight me *cue evil laughter*
Blog review here
5. Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson
“Good” segue into the next book because at least it gives me a reason to show you my evil pose alongside excusing myself for not having a picture of book two slash a review up yet. Shame me in the comments, I can take it. Hopefully soon I’ll get it done. Anyways, look at me starting a new series that is not an ensemble group of romances in 2021. We’re all shocked. I’ve been meaning to read this series for ages but the scaredy-cat that I am takes ages to start thrillers. Until I had to watch CSI for class and thought it would be a grand idea to find a version of that show in book form. So here we are, I have one book left and absolutely no brain cells but in a good way.
Absolutely blown away by this author and the amount of attention to detail that has gone into these books and I just,,, love them so much and I highly recommend. Gimme a second to gather my wits because I’m not prepared for the 500 page finale and I mentioned scaredy-cat right? Bring back #prayforruby
4. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Before I yell about how good this book is and how ashamed I am that I left catching up with TJR’s backlist until now, I want to cry about how annoying it is that this book is out of stock for some bizarre reason. I’m trying to buy it but aghhhh it’s on back order and its annoying me. Rant over. Saw someone on TikTok (!!) of all places talk about this (which is also shameful if we’re being honest) and I guess I was just reminded that I needed to read this book? Let’s try and focus on the fact that I’ve finally read it AND ABSOLUTELY ADORED THIS WTF
Really did not think I’d be here utterly obsessed and in awe of a book about a marriage in crisis but here I am and I will eternally bow down before Taylor Jenkins Reid. She can do anything and I’ll love it. But yeah, picked this up on a whim and I found myself so enamored with this story, so much so that I was ready to let the romance go? Like have them break up??? I’m a hopeless romantic WHAT IS THIS WORLD?! The answer is that this is TJR’s world and we’re just living in it. Now go forth and read this book, it’s amazing.
3. The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry
Yet another double author feature on this list and I actually reread two other Emily Henry books, so technically I’ve now reread 3 of her books in total, but I also read 4 EH books this year!!! Those may have been confusing numbers so all you really need to take away is that I adore Emily Henry quite a lot and that I now have an obscure desire to create a shrine… we’ll work on that.
This is Emily Henry’s debut that I already had an inkling would be very good but I did not think I’d leave this book with a new favourite character. I very rarely encounter books where I can relate so much to one specific character but apparently Emily Henry entered my brain and went copy-paste on a character. It’s an exhilarating experience my friends. Aside from my emotional connection, you need this YA fabulism sci-fi in your life that might leave you with an empty feeling in your gut. Is that an effective recommendation? I hope so.
2. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
I’ve been talking about this non-stop but it’s just THAT good and I still don’t understand the negative reviews? You all are just wrong and it’s as simple as that. My copy of Ms Choi’s sophomore book literally just came in the other day and ugh I’m so excited to read all of her books and weep forever. Enough with the rambling, as I want to yell about how this is probably the only other book where I’ve truly seen myself in another character. Choi even more so copy-pasted my being because PENNY IS LITERALLY ME AND IM STILL CRYING
I’m not exaggerating, we have the exact same personality and it’s kind of scary if you think about it. That aside, I also just read this book at the exact right time. I was 19 (literally turned 20 last month so “was” is misleading lmao) and also in college and it just spoke to me on so. many. levels. The book just gets the teen experience, it gets young people, AND ITS JUST EVERYTHING. It’s funny and clever and everything I look for in contemporary. If you haven’t read it and have been skeptical about this book, please just go read it. It would literally still be my top favourite if it wasn’t for the below book *hides*
Blog review here
and drum roll, please…
1. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong
Ta-da!!! Is this honestly a surprise to anyone? Did we really expect any other book to be here??? Because I didn’t. Though what I did not expect was the utter devastation this book left in its wake and the severity of my reaction to the ending. Devastation and severe are words that struggle to truly describe the experience. I BROKE DOWN SOBBING BY THE END OF THIS FREAKING BOOK AND I’LL NEVER RECOVER,,,,,,,,,,
My heart did not beat the entire way through and then E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G came out all at once when I’d finished. I remember the night I was reading this book, my family was going to dinner and I was about 90% in or something. We went out and naturally my Kindle went with me, but it was about to die and I had to charge it at the restaurant or else I’d get home and have to wait for it to charge. Let’s just say that story was a metaphor for the emotional turmoil that this book took me through.
*deep breath* If you have not year read this mind-blowing YA duology yet, you’re obviously in for a wild ride but also I actually cannot emphasize the phrase “mind-blowing” enough. I haven’t read a series that radiates the nostalgic feeling that all of our OG faves give in what feels like a very long time and absolutely no-one is doing it like Ms Chloe Gong. I don’t know how she did it and I want to give her all the praise. And my therapy bills.
We’ll be here for years so blog review here
And that’s it folks!
I hope you give yourself a round of applause because this post was 3k words long. But you all know the drill, don’t pretend you’ve ever read a short Ruby Rae Reads post.
I hope you all have a wonderful 2022. This is a blog so when do we read posts on time, but technically this is out on New Year’s Eve, so if you’re reading on the day it’s posted, happy NYE!!!!! I love you all and I’m thinking we’re all ready to put 2021 behind us. Even though the books were great, they were also my lifeguard through this very hard year.
Before I turn dark, hugs to ya xoxoxoxo