Mid-year Check-in: Mid-year Book Freak Out Tag

Is it seriously July? This year has flown by, but I managed to read 24,983 pages so far and am somehow 20 books ahead of my 2021 goal. I am horribly behind on posts, but I thought I’d take advantage of this book tag to do a little recap of my reads this year. (Some categories may have multiple books because I’m super indecisive and horrible at choosing favorites.)

Best Book You’ve Read so Far

Happily Ever Afters (Elise Bryant) / Instructions for Dancing (Nicola Yoon) / Lost in the Never Woods (Aiden Thomas)

It was hard to pick books for this category because 2021 has been surprisingly good reading year for me so far! I’ll spare you from my gushing and let you read my reviews, but these were definitely some of the standouts. Happily Ever Afters was a great way to kick-off the year and reminded me what I love about YA. I’m super excited Elise Bryant recently announced an upcoming companion novel! (The year isn’t even over yet, and I already have a ridiculous number of books on my TBR that’ll be released in 2022. Send help.) I love retellings, and Lost in the Never Woods was definitely a standout. And what can I say about Instructions for Dancing but that it was the perfect love story for a skeptical romantic like myself.

Reviews: Romance, She Wrote (Happily Ever Afters – Elise Bryant)
Peter Losing Wendy (Lost in the Never Woods – Aiden Thomas)
Dancing Through Life (Instructions for Dancing – Nicola Yoon)

Best Sequel You’ve Read so Far

Between Burning Worlds (Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell) / A Conjuring of Light (V.E. Schwab)

I’ve started a bunch of series this year, but actually haven’t read that many sequels so far. I wasn’t a huge fan of the System Divine trilogy after Sky Without Stars, but Between Burning Worlds was one of those rare sequels that was better than the first book. No Second Book Syndrome here! I joined The Critiques of a Fangirl’s Shades of Magic readathon and still can’t get over the amount of feelings the finale gave me.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet but Want To

Tokyo Ever After (Emiko Jean) / Made in Korea (Sarah Suk) / Crying in H Mart (Michelle Zauner)

I’d been wanting to read Tokyo Ever After long before I won a copy from Kal (Reader Voracious) but I’ve been distracted by some over-enthusiastic book requesting (libraries are a dangerous place). Tokyo Ever After has been called a Crazy Rich Asians x Princess Dairies mashup, and I’ve only heard good things since it’s been out!

Made in Korea is one of the 2021 debuts that has been all over my feed pre- and post-release. The book features one of my favorite tropes (rivals-to-lovers) and, apparently, Hi-Chew. What’s not to love? A copy recently popped up in my mailbox thanks to Subtle Asian Book Club and Simon and Schuster and I can’t wait to read it!

I read the article that eventually inspired Crying in H Mart and knew I had to read this memoir. The book deals with family, terminal illness, and the Asian American experience, so it’s basically right up my alley. The last food-inspired memoir I read didn’t disappoint, and I’m hoping Zauner’s book will be just as good.

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Incense and Sensibility (Sonali Dev) / Not Here to Be Liked (Michelle Quach) / Jade Fire Gold (June C.L. Tan)

I’ve been talking about Jade Fire Gold since 2020 and may or may not have done everything I could to try to get my hands on an ARC, but with fall just around the corner, I guess I won’t have to wait much longer what was pitched as a role-reversed Zutara YA fantasy. I was able to get a copy preordered through a giveaway hosted by lovely people over at the Asian Author Alliance, so I at least won’t have to wait in a library hold queue.

Not Here to Be Liked came up on my radar a while back and now keeps popping up on my dash. I love a good rivals-to-lovers story, and Eliza seems like the kind of prickly protagonist that I’d love.

Incense and Sensibility is another book I’ve been waiting for since last year. The Rajes are one of my favorite fictional families, and I’m so excited big brother Yash finally gets his own book. I can’t wait to delve back into Dev’s world and reunite with some familiar faces. A bonus about this upcoming release is that we’re one step closer to Emma x The Rajes. (I’ve seriously been waiting since 2019 for this.)

Biggest Disappointment

The Dating Plan cover: Light purple with vines and flowers surrounding the title, an illustration of a man proposing to a woman on the bottom

The Dating Plan (Sara Desai)

I don’t know why, but the fake relationship trope is one of my favorites (I read 4 fake dating books in June, alone.) I was so excited about The Dating Plan and kept seeing so much hype around the book. When I saw the gorgeous cover and found out the story featured a giant Indian family, I thought I found a book to cure my Sonali Dev hangover. Unfortunately, despite including some of my favorite tropes, The Dating Plan turned out to be a mess of a book. (Expect to see a long rant-review in the near future.)

Biggest Surprise

The Mary Shelley Club - dark cover featuring a side profile of a girl with short hair looking up, fingers reaching around her neck, title in all caps and red as if written in blood

The Mary Shelley Club (Goldy Moldavsky)

I hate horror and would’ve never picked this up if I hadn’t won a copy from Fierce Reads, but Goldy Moldavsky had me on the edge of my seat with her suspenseful horror-thriller. I was surprised by how disappointed I was when I got to the last page and realized we weren’t going to have more (mis-)adventures with the Mary Shelley Club.

Review: Of Monsters and Of Men (The Mary Shelley Club – Goldy Moldavsky)

Favorite New Author

June Hur / Suzanne Park / Julie Trieu

I’m pretty much going to read anything these authors publish from now on. You had to know Suzanne Park and Julie Trieu were going to be on this list after I would not shut up about their books in May. I love their flawed heroines, cute love interests and–most importantly–realistic family dynamics. They somehow managed to capture the Asian American experience so perfectly.

As for June Hur, I absolutely fell in love with her gorgeous prose and immersive worldbuilding in The Forest of Stolen Girls. I still haven’t gotten around to reading her debut novel yet, but she has another historical mystery–The Red Palace–coming out next year that I’m so excited about!

Reviews: Dusk and Fog (The Forest of Stolen Girls – June Hur)
Umma Approved (So We Meet Again – Suzanne Park)
Sprinkled with Love (The Donut Trap – Julie Tieu)

Newest Fictional Crush

This is a hard one…I’m not a huge fictional crush kind of a reader. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have my squealing fangirl moments, but I’m more of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of a gal. I’ve read a lot of contemporary romance this year, so there are certainly many contenders for Newest Fictional Crush (Nathan Chan from Dial A for Aunties, Bao Nguyen from A Pho Love Story, Ace Clyde from Counting Down with You…), but I think I’m going to have to go with Window Guy of The Donut Trap. There’s just something about nicknaming stalkers that speak to me 🤷🏻‍♀️

Newest Favorite Character

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

Kell Maresh – Shades of Magic series (V.E. Schwab)

Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.

V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

This is another hard one. Out of all the new characters I’ve met so far, Kell is who currently comes to mind for “new favorite character.” There’s just something about this peculiar boy and his peculiar coat that I can’t help but love. Despite being a powerful magician and a (not-quite-)prince, he’s really just a teenager who longs for love and adventure–his relationship with Rhys is one of my favorite things in the series 😭 I also really want to know about his secret past. (Honorable mention to Holland Vosijik who I don’t quite love and don’t quite hate but definitely find compelling.)

A Book that Made You Cry

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers cover featuring a black and white photograph of a young girl holding up a chalk board that reads Ung Loong 3/3 T-590023, her eyes and part of the chalkboard is covered by red stripes bearing the book title in white text

First They Killed My Father (Loung Ung)

Because I am a cold-hearted person, fictional things don’t make me cry. (Kidding, I’m just not a big crier in general.) But, if I had a little more active tearducts, First the Killed My Father definitely would’ve made me cry.

This memoir recounts the Cambodian geocide under PolPot from a child’s perspective. Loung Ung was five years old when she and her family of nine were forced out of their home. Her childhood was instantly transformed from one of carefree luxury to one of backbreaking labor. Ung doesn’t shy away from the horrors she and countless others have survived, and the fact the story is told through the voice of a child makes the account that much more harrowing and heartbreaking.

A Book that Made You Happy

Rule of Wolves (King of Scars, #2)

Rule of Wolves (Leigh Bardugo)

I recently finished Rule of Wolves, and I have FEELINGS. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it hit all the emotional notes I wanted it to and, as a finale, worked well as a satisfying goodbye to the Grishaverse. You could say I’m biased because it’s a series about my favorite fictional character of all time, but I also went into it with high expectations because of it. I didn’t want to be obnoxious and list Rule of Wolves in multiple categories, but it’s also one of the best sequels I’ve read so far (especially because I was less than impressed by King of Scars) and made me want to cry (I’ll avoid spoilers, but WHY, LEIGH, WHY?! 😩)

The Most Beautiful Book You’ve Acquired this Year

Rule of Wolves - Illumicrate Edition
Red branches with the Grishaverse symbol in the middle against a silver backdrop

Rule of Wolves (Leigh Bardugo)

I know I said I wasn’t going to spam you with Rule of Wolves content, but the Illumicrate edition is really the prettiest book I bought this year. I generally don’t buy books because I’m cheap and because I would end up on one of those hoarder shows if I purchased every book I read (yay libraries!), but I caved a bought the Illumicrate exclusive of Rule of Wolves because…well…look at it! With Bardugo making a big deal about this being The End, I decided to splurge and treat myself. I still don’t have my copy yet since I was too cheap to pay for international shipping and had my book shipped to a friend in Europe and COVID travel restrictions have prevented us from getting together 😬

What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

SO MANY. I’ve always had a ridiculously long TBR, but joining the online bookish community (and NetGalley) has only made it worse. I also got a little overzealous with my library hold requests which has resulted in a giant pile of books on my desk. As you can see, that’s more than enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year. This month, I’ll be focusing on getting those library books returned and joined Myth Take’s Path or Pantheon Reading Challenge to motivate me to finish. *I’m buddy reading Luck of the Titanic with some other readers, so I used my “power” to substitute it for a “book with fire on the cover/in the title.”)

I’m also planning to reread Shadow and Bone and restart my Great Austen Adventure at some point, but we’ll see whether or not that happens this year.

P.S. shameless plug for a friend who has impeccable taste and rounded up a list of the Top 10 Classics You’ve Never Heard Of! over on Buzzfeed.

How has your year been so far? What are some of your answers to the questions in the mid-year freak out?


  1. 20 books in front of your GR challenge??? WOW… ahh instructions for dancing and the forest of stolen girls are both on my tbr, i’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed them! and ooh a sky beyond the storm, it is going to wreck you but i hope you’ll love it haha! wishing you a lovely 2nd half of the year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s because COVID gave me an excuse to social less and read more 😅 Ooh I hope you enjoy! They’re super different but both good 😍 Ahh that’s what I’ve been hearing. I’m scared but excited 😱

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading The Shades of Magic series, I am on the last book and it’s so damn intense

    Instructions for Dancing was such a good book and that ending 😢 was just wow!

    I too love Kell, he is such an amazing character and also Lila Bard, she ended becoming one of my favourite characters I’ve read about this year

    Have a great day and happy reading 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have added so many books to my TBR! I love these mid-year book posts because I find all the amazing books bloggers have been reading in one easy place. Hope you have a great second half of 2021!

    Happy reading!
    -Megan @ Bookstacks & Golden Moms


    • I’m so glad; I hope you enjoy reading them! I totally agree. I loved seeing what other book bloggers have been up to this year. This was my first time doing a mid-year post, and it was so much fun 🙂 I hope the rest of your 2021 goes well, too!


  4. Lost in the Never Woods is such a lovely book and I adored it so much. Plus such a stunning cover!?!!? I hope you enjoy Tokyo Ever After whenever you get around to reading it – I know what you mean about overenthusiastic requesting ahahaha.


    • I know, right?! It’s such a great design – I didn’t even notice the silhouettes until I saw a post outline them! Thanks ♥ It’s such a weird problem to have all these books I want to read but also not enough time to read them haha


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