2021 Books in Review!

It’s the end of the year and you know what that means! Time to review my favorite books from 2021! Let’s jump right into it, I hope you enjoy reading all about my favorite books and I would love to hear from you what your favorite books were from 2021.

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City of Secrets

First up we have a really fantastic graphic novel called City of Secrets by Victoria Ying.

This book revolves around Ever Barnes, an orphan that has been tasked with guarding a secret located in one of the city’s strangest buildings – the Switchboard Operating Facility. The young women that work at the Switchboard, connect the city of Oskar while turning a blind eye to Ever roaming the building. As the owner of the building is touring it with his young daughter Hannah, she spots Ever and decides that he needs a friend. Hijinks ensue and Ever and Hannah are put to the test. Can they run from the bandits chasing them and save the city? You’ll have to read it and find out!

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. The story was fantastic but the artwork was just amazing. I loved the illustrations of the Switchboard building and the city itself. There was so much detail! I also enjoyed the characters. Ever starts off not wanting a friendship but we see him grow and come to really cherish his friendship with Hannah. I hope that we see more of that in the next installment as well.

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Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier

Did I cry while reading this book? Yes. Mostly because the older I get the more frustrated I am at how women were/are treated in most STEM fields. Like, oh you’re a lady you can’t possibly do complicated math. It’s math dude it’s not easier because you have a dick. Math doesn’t have a gender. But anyway… back to the astronauts. Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier is written by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks. I’ve read one other graphic novel by Jim Ottaviani and hated it so I was hesitant to give this book a try, but I’m very glad that I did. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.”

Astronaut Mary Cleave is the narrator throughout this book. She and the author’s do a great job of taking us through the history of the space race, the shuttle program, and how women fought to go to space. I enjoyed the book immensely and I would recommend it to anyone. But I would especially recommend it to young girls who love space and want to see the stars some day.

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Patience & Esther

The next book I absolutely adored was Patience & Esther by S.W. Searle. I got this as a Kickstarter reward and it was so worth the wait! Here is the description from Goodreads:

Patience is a kindhearted country girl, eking out a living in Edwardian England as tremors of social change rock the world around her. When she starts her employment in formal service on the grounds of an opulent country manor, she has no idea that her own personal revolution is about to begin.

Selfless, dutiful, and just a touch naive, she takes to both her place as a parlor maid and to her new roommate, the bookish and progressive lady’s maid, Esther. In another time, the two women would have kept one another’s company forever in their little attic bedroom, living out their days in the employ of a Lord. But it’s now the dawn of a new age. The expanding empire has brought with it not only plundered wealth, but worldliness and new ideas. Suffragists agitate in the street, idle-rich bohemians challenge sexual mores, and Patience and Esther slowly come to realize the world is wider and full of more adventure and opportunity than they ever imagined . . . so long as they find the will to seize it.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. There’s so much different representation that’s portrayed which was so awesome. We’ve got a lesbian interracial couple where one of them is fat and has stretch marks. There are also other gay people shown throughout the book. There is mention of the suffragettes and secret meetings, giving the right to vote to women, class inequality, and a whole bunch of other stuff – I don’t want to give to much of the plot away here though. I want you guys to read it and experience it for yourselves. This has been one of my favorite graphic novels so far this year.

TW for this one though: there is mention of disordered eating, there are very graphic (not in a bad way) sex scenes where you see everything that’s goin on, and mentions of racism.

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Tender is the Flesh

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica is one of the best written and most disturbing books that I’ve ever read. Content warning here: this book is about canibalizism and it is VERY graphic. Don’t read this if you’re squeamish.

Now, onto the book. We start off by getting a run down of the current situation in the world, which is that all of the animals have a virus which makes them poisonous to humans. With no animals to eat, people resort to cannibalism. It eventually becomes government sanctioned and processing plants crop up that breed, raise, and slaughter the head. If you’ve ever seen or been around a processing plant then you’re probably aware of how they work. But for those of you that don’t know I’ll give you a brief and very broad run down. Usually animals such as pigs or cows would be brought to a processing plant via a truck. They would then be stunned, hung upside down, and drained of their blood. After that they would get butchered into small cuts of meat and shipped out to various grocery stores or butcher shops. Essentially, this is the same thing that they’re doing in this book, but to people. Our main character is named Marcos, and he works at one of these processing plants. He tries to ignore how he makes a living as much as possible. He works at one of the most premier processing plants in the country. Because of this he is sometimes given gifts from vendors and breeders. One day he is given a very special gift – a live specimen with the finest of meat. A special grade is made for these head and they are very expensive and highly sought after. At first Marcos doesn’t know what to do with her. He finds the idea of killing and eating her abhorrent so he just keeps her. Eventually, as he teaches her how to be a human, he starts to develope feelings for her. Now it is strictly forbidden by the government to have any kind of physical relationship with the human livestock. But that’s exactly what happens. She becomes pregnant and Marcos is over joyed. His son died and his wife left him. To have another chance at a family is all he’s wanted ever since. If you want to know how the book ends I would highly recommend that you check it out.

There were times that I thought that I couldn’t finish this book. But I’m glad that I did. I feel like it’s a cop out to say the characters are complex. They are. But the way that the story is told, with an almost clinical detachment to what’s actually happening is the most fascinating part. You realize that if Marcos thinks about what’s going on too long he’ll lose it. Read this, you won’t be disappointed.

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The Delicacy

One of my favorite graphic novels last year was The Delicacy by James Albon. At the end of this review I am going to put something in all caps that will spoil the whole book. You’ve been warned.

This graphic novel is about two brothers, Tulip and Rowan, that live with their mother on a small Scottish island where they farm the land. After they are left a house and land when their aunt and uncle die, the boys move to London and open a restaurant featuring Rowan’s fresh grown produce including, a mysterious mushroom that seems to only grow in one patch on their land. These mushrooms bring in the diners by the drove. As the restaurant gets more and more popular, the brothers steadily grow apart. Tulip relies on Rowan to provide the restaurant with the popular mushrooms but Rowan is having trouble growing them. He’s tried everything to get them to grow but nothing seems to be working. (SPOILER INCOMING) He eventually figures out that THE MUSHROOMS GROW ON THE GRAVES OF PEOPE. Of course he goes to immediately tell Tulip and things go wrong. To find out how wrong they go you’ll have to pick up a copy yourself and find out.

I’m not gonna lie, the art style takes a little bit of getting used to. But honestly, as I read more and more I didn’t care about the art style anymore I just needed to know what happened. This graphic novel was one of the few 5 star reads that I had in September. I absolutely loved this one. I highly recommend checking this one out.

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Nightbitch

Next up is Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. Now this book was a trip. It took me forever to read even though it was relatively short at 256 pages. I would read a few pages and then put it down and the repeat for about a month. But I did enjoy it. It’s all about the nameless Mother who thinks that she is turning into a dog. Her husband is gone most of the time on business trips and she’s left along to take care of the house and her 2-year old son. She’s bored, burnt out, lonely, and fed up with being left home to take care of everything. She notices that her canine teeth are getting longer and sharper. And then she starts growing a tail… Her husbands reaction to this is to just tell her she needs more sleep, to go see a doctor if she’s worried, ect. After trying to ignore what’s happening she eventually goes to the library to try and do some research. She comes across a book that has reference to wild women in other parts of the world. This book soon becomes her bible and she writes emails to the author although they go unanswered. She eventually tries to make friends with the other mommies at the library and their leader Jen, seems to be different from the other mommies. Is the Mother turning into a dog? Is Jen as nice as she seems?

This was a strange book. I did end up liking it and I’ve recommended it to a few people already. I’d love to know someone else’s thoughts if anyone’s read this.

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Several People are Typing

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke was such a fun and fast read! This whole book takes place with in a company’s Slack messages. The format is just like you’re reading someone’s Slack messages – hence the reason that it goes so fast when you’re reading it.

Gerald is an employee at a public relations firm located in New York. He’s working from home just like a lot of other people, communicating with his bosses and coworkers through Slack. Over the course of the day, something strange happens and Gerald’s consciousness gets somehow uploaded into Slack. He tries to tell his coworkers but they just think he’s joking around – and taking advantage of the work from home policy. His productivity goes up though and his bosses are impressed with how much he’s getting done so no one cares to much that he’s spending so much time working from home. Eventually though, Gerald begins to feel the strain of being trapped in Slack. He’s slowly starting to lose his mind. He enlists the help of one of his coworkers, Pradeep to help him keep up with his body until he can get back to it, whenever that may be.

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix was another great book that I read last year. It’s about two high school girls – Abby and Gretchen – that have been friends for most of their lives. Ever since a fifth grade E.T. themed birthday party the two have been inseparable. As they grow older and start high school, Abby starts to notice changes in Gretchen – she becomes mean and distant. Abby can think of no other explanation than Gretchen is possessed by a demon. Abby is determined to save Gretchen – at any cost. Will Abby and Gretchen’s friendship survive this possession and subsequent exorcism? Or will Gretchen succumb to the demon inside her?

This was a fantastic book. We all know that I love Grady Hendrix. I will read anything that he puts out (I’m currently reading his latest book, Final Girl Support group). I love the characters that he writes. They make mistakes and usually end up paying for in some way, shape, or form. If you are looking for an interesting horror read then I would definitely suggest this book, or anything else by Grady Hendrix.

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Squad

Next is one of my favorite books that I read in October of last year, Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. This graphic novel was so great. I loved every second of it and I’ve already added it to my personal collection.

(SPOILERS!) We start off with our MC, Becca moving to a new suburb in San Francisco. Moving not only means a new house but a new school as well. Becca is nervous that she may not fit in at her new school, but she soon befriends a group of the most popular girls in school. Marley, Amanda, and Arianna seem like the perfect group, but Becca soon finds out that they have a much deeper bond than one of friendship. During a party under the full moon Becca sees the girls turn into werewolves and eat one of the sleezy guys at the party. At first she is shocked by what she’s seen but the girls tell her that they have a system. They lure gross guys into the woods (the kind that don’t take no for an answer) and then eat them. No one knows they’re missing for a few days and the girls have already eaten the body so what could go wrong? They ask Becca to join them and become a werewolf as well. She agrees and finally feels like she belongs. The girls only have one other rule – no boyfriends. But that rule doesn’t seem to apply to their alpha, Arianna. At another party Arianna’s boyfriend (I really can’t remember his name. Bryce? Bryan? Something like that), tries to get handsy with Becca and she accidentally kills him. They can’t just eat him – he’s a popular boy and people will notice that he’s missing. So they decide to ditch him body in a creek and forget about him. That is until the police find his body. Because of all the other boys that have been disappearing, the cops think that they have a serial killer on their hands. The girls have to decide if they want to keep eating slimy boys or go back to being human again – which you can apparently do if you eat your alpha’s heart.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. It was a great read for spooky season (or anytime), and I would highly recommend that you check it out!

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We Sold Our Souls

What’s that? Another Grady Hendrix book? Why yes, I did read three of his books last year. This one is We Sold Our Souls which my friend got me at our local used bookstore a few weeks ago. This book follows Kris Pulaski who was a part of the heavy metal band Durt Wurk in the 90s. After playing together for years, the band was about to take off. They were finally gaining traction and getting the attention they deserved. But their front man Terry Hunt had other ideas. Terry made a deal with the devil and sold his band mates out – literally selling their souls in order to sky rocket to success. Now twenty years later, Kris is the night manager of a Best Western and she hasn’t spoken to her band mates in years. Kris finds out what Terry did and decides that she needs to confront him. Get closure about what happened on contract night and possibly get her soul back. She reunites with her past band mates and deals with many obstacles along the nightmarish journey. Can a girl with a guitar save her soul? Or will Black Mountain win again. You’ll have to read and find out!

This was another fantastic book by Grady Hendrix. I really enjoyed these characters, especially Kris. She was a deeply flawed individual and she had a great redemption arc. After all the carnage that she left in her wake on her way to confront Terry, I’m not sure if she was really fully redeemed in the end.

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Bubble

Bubble by Jordan Morris was such a great read! Apparently this is based on a popular podcast?? I had never heard of it going into reading this so all the characters were new to me.

This book follows a group of friends who live in Fairhaven a literal bubble. The Brush is a harsh wasteland filled with aliens and groups of ruthless humans. Morgan was born in the Brush but raised in the Bubble. She can fight off monsters during her morning jog and then go into her job where she works doing social media. She loves her easy and fun job and she loves killing Imps and taking them home to her roommate Annie who turns them into drugs as a side gig. During turning one Imp into drugs a delivery guy gets nearly murdered by said Imp and accidentally gets Brush mutant powers. Annie and her friend’s must go on an adventure to try and fix everything that’s happened. Along the way Annie has to confront aspects of her Brush past and her current Bubble life. Can they save the delivery guy (and possibly their world)? You’ll have to read and find out!

Overall, this was another one of my favorites graphic novels that I read last month. The artwork was amazing, the story was fantastic, and the characters were relatable. I really want to check out the podcast and see if it’s as good as the graphic novel. I would highly recommend checking this one out!

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Horrorstor

Next up we have Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix.

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

We start off following our main character Amy as she’s going to work. She’s got a lot on her mind – like thinking she’s going to get fired, trying to figure out where she’s going to get the rest of her rent money this month, and why her car is making weird noises – you know, just everyday normal adult stuff. As she gets to work she immediately starts trying to avoid her boss, Basil. But she can’t escape him for long. He’s finds her and tells her that he needs to speak to Amy and another of her coworkers, Ruth Anne as soon as possible. We they sit down together he asks them if they’d like to make some off the books extra cash that night. It’s obvious to Basil that someone is breaking in to Orsk and vandalizing the place after hours. His plan if for the three of them to stay in the building overnight to try and catch the people responsible. Amy reluctantly agrees because she needs rent money and this sounds like an easy way to make some extra cash. Little does she know that tonight may be the last night that she sees her coworkers.

Ok so this book was just so good. Even the design of the book was on point. It looked exactly like an IKEA catalog – down to the order form in the front and the product depictions throughout the book. I loved that the products started out normal and then got creepier and creepier as the book went on. I did see a few reviews saying that this book was lite-horror but I don’t think that’s the case. There are a few scenes where the characters are getting tortured and they are super graphic and detailed. If you’re not a fan of body horror then you may want to skip this one. But overall, I think this was a fantastic book and one I will be adding to my personal collection as well.

That is it for my year in review! I hope you all had a good year (as good as it could be with the circumstances). I’d love to hear your thoughts about these books or what your favorite books were from 2021! See you in the next post!

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