second half of twenty twenty one | my shelf

by - 8:45 AM

Hello there! It's time to welcome in 2022 and reflect on all the reading that happened in 2021! In terms of numbers, this was definitely a slow year and I ended up reading a total of 45 books which is lower than my original Goodreads goal. Despite that, I think this is my highest year in terms of rating since I'm ending with an average of 3.5 which feels low compared to how many books I gave 4 stars and above. 

If you haven't checked out my favorites from the first half of the year, be sure to click here to see which five books blew me away from January - June, but without any delay here are some of my favorite books from the second half of 2021.

light from uncommon stars by ryka aoki
review to come    |    B O O K S H O P *
Dare I say that this was my favorite book of the year? And to think that I read it towards the latter half of December kind of blows my mind. Light From Uncommon Stars had two factors that I was super on the fence about: music and space. For some reason, I always feel wary picking up books about music because it's something that I've studied so much to the point where I have a love/hate relationship with it. But honestly, this book makes music so beautiful. It left me feeling haunted and filled with this longing to just play music again and I already want to go back and reread the story.

the wolf and the woodsman by ava reid
read my review here    |    B O O K S H O P *
The Wolf and the Woodsman is one of those stories that I knew I was going to enjoy but didn't anticipate how much it would stay with me. At the time, I gave it a 4/5 stars but it didn't stand out in the particular. Fast forward to the end of the year and I'm still thinking about the characters, the themes, and the gorgeous atmosphere which solidified it's place as one of my favorites for 2021. Ava Reid has another novel coming out this year called Juniper and Thorn (*) so if you love gothic/horror retellings then definitely check it out!

picture us in the light by kelly loy gilbert
review to come (?)    |    B O O K S H O P *
I should have written a review for this months ago but simply couldn't put my emotions into tangible words so here we are. Picture Us in the Light solidified Kelly Loy Gilbert as a favorite author because she once again managed to use her characters and storytelling in a way that seemed to peel back and reveal so much about myself that I wasn't expecting to read. Danny's experiences with his friends and more specifically, his family, felt so personal and the writing style made it feel like you were experiencing everything right there with him. I honestly cannot stop thinking about this book and how it just made me feel.


under the whispering door by tj klune
B O O K S H O P *
I guess we're starting a tradition because this is the second year where I've concluded my reading with a T.J. Klune novel and tears of some sort. Under the Whispering Door deals with the death and redemption of Wallace Price when he finds himself at Charon's Crossing Tea Shop. The novel tackles the difficult conversation of death and the impact it leaves on the departed as well as the idea of fairness when it comes to losing one's life. TJ Klue's writing style as a way that just envelopes you in a blanket and makes you feel so appreciative of all the little details of life. For a story about death, this story makes you fall more in love with life.

Edit: As much as I enjoy TJ Klune's writing, I do want to note the information that his previous work The House in the Cerulean Sea was inspired by the trauma of the Indigenous people of Canada's experience in residential schools. If you'd like to learn more or donate, I encourage you to match my donation of $30 (price of book) to IRSSS (Indian Residential School Survivors Society).
If you'd like to find other places to donate, check out this list here.

a cuban girl's guide to tea and tomorrow by laura taylor namey
read my review here    |    B O O K S H O P *
This honestly made the list because it put me on the biggest contemporary kick ever and it deserves the spotlight for being such a trendsetter. While I do read a considerable amount of contemporaries each year, I wouldn't call it one of my favorite genres and never quite felt the urge to pick them consecutively. A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow changed that because after finishing this book, I picked five other ones right after. This story just felt so warm and comforting from the delicious descriptions of Cuban cuisine to the relationships that just fills you up with happiness. I think I usually pick up contemporaries that are a bit more hard hitting so the fact that this one feels like sunshine in a book made it stand out all the more.

- H O N O R A B L E    M E N T I O N -

piranesi by susanna clarke
read my review here    |    B O O K S H O P *
I debated including this because it's probably one of the strangest books I've read in a while but it also left me feeling full of wonder. Piranesi isn't a story where it grips the reader based on specific characters or an engaging plot but uses it's unique premise and writing style to completely envelop you into the world. It makes you feel like you're surrounded by magic even if the actual text is talking about fishing and birds. It somehow manages to make the mundane fascinating and despite only being published less than two years ago, already feels like a classic.


My biggest goal moving into the new year is to continue expanding the voices that I pick up. I've spent the majority of the year reading books by Asian authors (particularly East Asian) which have given me a sense of happiness that I couldn't find in books before and really reinforced the power of representation in literature. I'm hoping to step outside that comfort zone and read other BIPOC authors to continue learning more about other cultures and the powerful stories they have to tell.

On a different note, my sister recently started her own book blog - Booked with Boba so if you love dark academia, mystery/thrillers, lots of Greek mythology, and a dash of K-drama & K-pop, definitely check it out!

What are some of your reading highlights from 2021?

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  1. I need to read Under the Whispering Door! T.J. Klune really is a great writer, I have yet to find a book by him that I haven't loved. Also, I'm glad you enjoyed A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow! I loved it as well.

    1. I'm still hungry from reading about all the food from A Cuban Girl's Guide! And please tell me your thoughts for Under the Whispering Door when you get to it!!

  2. HAPPY NEW YEAR RIV!!!! Ahh it's been so long since I have been online in the blogging world/visited your lovely blog but I so enjoyed reading this post! I also had a slower reading year in 2021 -- I think I read 41 (?) books -- but I'll be aiming for more in 2022 and adding some of your favorites to the to-read list. I'm intrigued by The Wolf and the Woodsman in particular (plus that gorgeous book cover !!) Hope that you are well :)

    claire @ clairefy

    1. Claire!! It's so good to hear from you, I hope you've been well! If you end up picking up The Wolf and the Woodsman please let me know what you think! Here's to a brighter 2022 💕

  3. I need to read the wolf and the woodsman, after you recommend it to me I started to see it everywhere and it seems like everyone is loving it. Under the Whispering Door and Piranesi are both on my tbr as well. Hopefully I'll like them as much as you did.

    1. Fingers crossed, please let me know what you think when you get to them!! ❤️