It feels like forever since I last posted and it feels good to be back! I am once again here to inform you that time is fake because HOW IS IT JULY ALREADY? I can’t believe it has been more than a year since this pandemonium started and I’m still a stressed university student drowning herself in fiction to drown out thoughts. Still, congratulations to me for surviving another semester of uni despite feeling like I have learned absolutely nothing! Go, me!! 🤸🏽🤸🏽🤸🏽
Now that all the bleak thoughts are out of the way, I can finally share my midyear reading recap through this evergreen tag. I have always enjoyed writing the Midyear Book Tag because it’s a great refresher to all the stuff I read for the first half of the year. My pea brain can only remember so much and it’s even harder to keep track of everything this time, since I’ve read quite a lot in just six months. Like, a lot.
Let’s check how well my reading has been so far, shall we?
According to Goodreads, I have read 283 books as of July 1 and my reading spreadsheet says that more than 60% of those are manga volumes 😌. This means that I read an average of 47 books per month. Nowadays, I tend to read more when I’m stressed so the numbers are not really surprising (haha). For me, there’s no better coping mechanism than binging manga and seeing my Goodreads reading goal number rise up (no I’m not increasing my goal I want to feel like an overachiever).
I also have to thank audiobooks because I would not have been able to read so many books without them. After some mathing, I found out that I have listened to 423 hours’ worth (approx. 17 days!!) of audiobooks for the first half of the year alone. I feel powerful. Take that, miserable thoughts. You don’t have any space in my brain. Manga and audiobooks are my lifelines and I’m so grateful they exist.
Enough with the sappy sentiments! Let’s now proceed to the Midyear Book Freakout Tag!
BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR
I can’t choose just one so I’m giving you one backlist title and one 2021 release. The Rise of Kyoshi is not only the best backlist book I’ve read so far this year, but it has also climbed its way up my most favorite books of all time list. Set in the same world as Avatar: The Last Airbender, this fantasy masterpiece chronicles the origin story of fan favorite Avatar Kyoshi. You know a book is good when it reminds you how much you love reading, and that is exactly what I felt when I read The Rise of Kyoshi. My short attention span did not even rear its head when I was reading this. It was that engrossing. If you’re a fan of ATLA and great books in general, you should definitely pick this up if you haven’t yet.
I have read a handful of good 2021 releases but She Who Became the Sun shone out to me the most. Shelly Parker-Chan’s words are akin to a knife to the chest, mercilessly leaving you hurting and bleeding. The portrayal of the characters was also very impressive. Their vivid emotions added more gravity to the prose as a whole. Watch out for this book when it releases on July 20!
BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR
Granted, I haven’t read a lot of sequels so far since I’ve been reading more standalone books but I doubt others would be able to top The Shadow of Kyoshi even if I had a wider range of choices. With its heart-stopping action scenes and well-written character arcs, this finale to a masterful duology is something that will stick to my mind for a long time. The Kyoshi duology is undeniably a great addition to the Avatar universe. Crossing my fingers for an animated series adaptation! Kyoshi, Rangi, and my other faves deserve to be known by more people.
NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO
I haven’t been reading a lot of Adult SFF this year and that must be rectified ASAP. At the top of my head, here are some new releases I haven’t read yet but I badly want to:
MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR
I’m looking forward to a lot of releases! I also have ARCs of almost all of these books and I really need to read them soon. Just look at their breathtaking covers. I am in love (I’m also most terrified of Jade Legacy but let’s not think about that).
I’m sad to report that I didn’t love Lost in the Never Woods as much as I thought I would. Although not a badly written book, it didn’t meet my expectations so I was disappointed by the end of it. I expected more from the mystery aspect and the characters did not leave a huge impression on me. I did appreciate the anxiety rep, and I can still see how people would love it. This book was not for me, but maybe it will work for you!
For this prompt, I’m shining the spotlight on a manga and a manhua! My biggest surprises of the year so far are The Spirit Queen by TUTU and Blue Lock by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yuusuke Nomura. The Spirit Queen is a historical fantasy manhua (Chinese comic) that blew me away because of its smart plot twists. This manhua serves god-tier political intrigue that is full of betrayal, scheming, and angst. Loving it came as a surprise for me because I really didn’t expect this much attention to detail in both the storytelling and the art. I also like the ruthlessness of the characters as they struggle to survive in a court where everybody hungers for power. It’s so well-written, okay?? You have to trust me on this. I highly recommend it if you love angsty romance and bloody court politics. You can read the official English translations of The Spirit Queen on Tapas, Copin Comics, and Web Comics (you can also read it on scanlating sites but you can support the creator more if you read on official sites).
Now, here’s my biggest surprise of the year: Blue Lock by Muneyuki Kaneshiro (story) and Yuusuke Nomura (art). You don’t understand. I am obsessed with this manga series, which is surprising because I don’t give a damn about football (soccer?? idc the important thing is they kick a ball) and yet I will risk it all to see this series animated. Blue Lock is unlike any of sports anime/manga I’ve seen or read. It offers football battle royale that basically raises a middle finger to the usual “friendship and teamwork overcomes all” storyline that is common in the genre. This series has its flaws, but I can’t help but be enthralled by the masterful storytelling that pumps a lot of adrenaline into my veins. I can talk all day about Blue Lock but I’ll stop here for now 😭
FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR (DEBUT OR NEW TO YOU)
This honor goes to Gail D. Villanueva who is the author of a new middle grade favorite, Sugar and Spite. The book really felt like home, because it’s unapologetically Filipino. It’s a story about a kid who used a gayuma (love potion) on her bully, and the subsequent friendship that developed after the spell took effect. I admire Villanueva’s talent to conjure images that remind me of my own childhood. She’s also good at writing emotional scenes that tug at the heartstrings, which is why I teared up when I read her book. Reading books by Filipino authors just hits different, and I can’t wait to read more from this particular author. My heart will never get tired of loving middle grade, and I have so much love to give to Gail’s books.
NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH
I will not be elaborating on this, lest I make an embarrassment of myself. Let the pictures of these fine men speak for themselves. Free me from the shackles of dark-haired, brooding, two-dimensional men.
NEWEST FAVORITE CHARACTER
I’m sorry to my other beloved fictional characters but Anya and Xie Lian are the frontrunners this time (also I’ve consumed too much fiction and it’s too hard to decide so we’ll stick with these two). Anya is a character from Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo and she’s my precious child. Her expressions are peak comedy and I love her wit, so it’s no surprise that I adore her with all my heart. If we don’t get an official Spy x Family anime announcement this year, I may just animate it myself. I want to see Anya and her chaotic family animated!! I deserve this 😭
Another new favorite character is Xie Lian from Tian Guan Ci Fu (Heaven’s Official Blessing) by Mo Xiang Tongxiu. The first time I saw him smile in the donghua, I immediately knew that I would risk my life for him if he told me to. He’s a disgraced god of misfortune, but I admire his heart and his tenacity. I can’t stop reading the TGCF novel and I don’t think 2000+ pages are a lot at all, because I love the characters (Xie Lian especially) so much. This brainrot will last a long time for sure.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY
Thinking about this book makes my heart ache. I have always craved for love stories that remind me of an asymptote, which is a line that a graph keeps getting close to but never actually touches (I haven’t studied analytical geometry in a while so excuse any mistakes regarding that definition I’m just vibing here). The Stationery Shop delivered that. Tragic love stories always speak to me, so it’s no surprise that I was wrecked by the time I finished reading this book. The Stationery Shop has the makings of a timeless masterpiece. If you want to feel pain, read this one.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY
This book is so chaotic, but in a very good way. Listening to the audiobook was a great experience that had me laughing out loud every five minutes. Dial A for Aunties mixes murder, romance, and family drama into one hilarious book with a lot of heart. If that doesn’t encourage you to pick this book up, I don’t know what will. Its high entertainment value alone makes it one of my most favorite reads of the year.
MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT SO FAR THIS YEAR (OR RECEIVED)
I haven’t really bought a lot of books this year (see: international shipping chaos in the midst of a pandemic) so this question is a bit difficult to answer. I do have several books in shipping purgatory and one of them is the gorgeous B&N special edition of The Ones We’re Meant to Find that my lovely friend Breana gifted to me. I can’t wait to finally have the book in my hands. Help me pray that it won’t get lost in the sea of monsters or something. I just want my books to be here I AM BEGGING. I’m asking for divine intervention at this point 😔
WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?
There are…a lot. Let’s not even talk about my unread arcs or else this world will drown with my tears. Below are some titles I need to read by the end of the year. I want to include more but I don’t want to be overwhelmed thank you very much.
There you go! I’m actually amazed that I managed to cobble enough brain cells to write this post. I struggled with it at first because I haven’t written a blog post in so long, but the words eventually came to me. In the end, I had fun writing this one! I hope you missed me during my absence but if not, I won’t hold that against you. Just miss me next time. *wink wink*
I don’t know when I’ll be back again but by now you’re used to my sporadic posting so I bet nobody is surprised. I promise I have post ideas. Sometimes, I just don’t have time or energy or both but I will try my best to write something when I’m able. Again, I love y’all and thanks for the continuous support. I hope your first half of the year has been great and full of wonderful books. Keep spreading bookdragon fire!