Books That I Read in 2021

I cannot accept that it’s already 2022, what happened to 2021? I guess most of us felt like 2021 was gone before it even began. Last year felt like a blur to me and in between those fleeting days I somehow managed to read twenty books. Before I start my journey with books in 2022, I am sharing the books that I read last year along with a brief summary for each of them (without any spoilers). I will also mention some of my most favorite books and I hope that this post helps you find interesting books to consider reading this year.

  1. Midnight Library by Matt Haig:
    The book is about a woman named Nora Seed who finds herself in a library lingering between life and death. There are innumerable books in the library that allow Nora to undo her regrets, explore parallel lives, and choose a life which she would love to be in. Will she give up her present life and choose one that she always dreamed of? Midnight library was one of the most read books in the year 2020. There were mixed reviews about this one, I cannot say I loved it but it wasn’t bad either.
    It’s a good book and you can read my full review here, Midnight Library.

  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik:
    Uprooted is a fantasy novel that will take you on a magical journey through a homely village, a Dragon’s cold tower, warring kingdoms, and the corrupted Wood. I recommend that you definitely read, Uprooted, if you want to escape reality and enter into a realm of fantasy. Somehow, it even feels real and believable. It’s easy to get absorbed into the story. I loved the character growth of the protagonist, Agnieszka, and the fantastic world-building.
    Loved this book and you can read my full review here: Uprooted.

  3. Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas:
    This book was more like a rom-com movie. It’s a feel-good, emotional, and inspirational kinda dreamy love story which is centered around fate. The two protagonists in this book are Jonathan Grief and Hannah Marx. Hannah fills a New Year journal for her boyfriend with a list of things to do for every single day of the year. But Hannah’s boyfriend suddenly goes missing on New Year and her Filofax planner is found by Jonathan Grief on his bicycle handle.
    Not highly recommended but good read if you are in the mood for something light and easy. You can also find my full review here: Your Perfect Year.
  1.  The Girl in the Tree by Şebnem İşigüzel:
    A very uniquely powerful story of a girl who has given up on the world and decides to live in the trees. This book is an emotional tale of a teenage girl who talks about Gezi protests in Turkey, constant war in Istanbul, bombing attacks, political realities, and violence in society. The harsh realities and the tragic events leave her with no hope of a better world. So, she runs away and climbs one of the tallest trees in Istanbul’s Gülhane Park.
    I recommend this book if you are in the mood for a uniquely interesting story about war. You can read my full review here: The Girl in the Tree.
  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama:
    Becoming is a memoir about Michelle Obama’s personal experiences from childhood to becoming the former First Lady of the United States. It’s about her journey, her successful journey, that was not just rosy but also about taking the rough with the smooth. What makes this journey so amazing is that it’s relatable and at the same time inspiring. I absolutely enjoyed reading this autobiography because it was very inspiring and that’s what leaders are supposed to do.
    Highly recommend this one and you can read my full review here: Becoming.

  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:
    Loved this book, it’s a classic after all! The protagonist is Holden Caulfield and the book is narrated in the voice of this sixteen-year-old boy. The character of Holden is simple yet complex, it’s kind of hopelessly attractive. The Catcher in the Rye is a book about teenage angst, alienation, rebellion, and depression. The style of writing is extremely unique and the narration is in the form of a stream of consciousness. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this classic book of literary realism and definitely recommend the literary aficionados to give it a read, if you haven’t yet!
    You can read my full review and my personal thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye here. 

  3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
    An incredible novel that tells us about the Biafran civil war of Nigeria and how the lives of people are affected by the turbulence of war. It is a powerful and impactful story about Nigerian history that also discusses relationships and love. Half of a Yellow Sun is a book that highlights topics like postcolonial traditions, racism, and different ethnicities. Amongst all of this, love is also a prominent theme that remains in the book right till the end, even though it gets a little complicated and twisted due to the complexities of the characters and situations.
    It is a great book that I highly recommend you read if you are in the mood for a love story in a war background. You can read my full review here, Half of Yellow Sun.

  4. Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan:
    Phoenixville Rising is a novel written by local author Robb Cadigan who also resides in a town named Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It’s a fictionalized version of history that follows the story of Boo and Sketch, and the remnants of a once bustling steel town. In the absence of the steel mill jobs, the youth of the town are drawn towards petty crime and gang culture.
    You can read my full review here, Phoenixville Rising

Reedsy Books

I am super picky when it comes to books (otherwise too). Last year, I got the opportunity to write reviews for a website called Reedsy and it required me to read new books mostly by debut authors that haven’t been published yet. Some of the books that I had to review were selected not out of excitement but I did it anyway for the opportunity. I cannot say that all the books were great but some of them were good enough. Hopefully someday I will discover an excellent book on Reedsy that could become a bestseller and I would be the first one to have read it! A few of the books that I have reviewed below might not be popular at the moment but have the potential to become a best-seller with more recognition. You can also follow my links to read my full reviews on Reedsy.

9. Close Watch by Signe Christensen:

Nobody likes the feeling of being closely watched or followed but it’s terrifying to know when somebody actually breaks into your house! Close Watch is a fictional story about Amber who is constantly stalked and how she ends up feeling unsafe no matter where she goes. A good suspense novel written by Signe Christensen. You can read this book on one of those weekends when you are in a mood for some easy and quick to read thriller stories.
You can read my full review here Close Watch

10. A Season of Disruption by Jacqueline P Walker:
A Season of Disruption is a short yet impactful memoir written by Jacqueline P Walker. Life can present us with unpredictable situations for which we aren’t ready most of the time. One such event occurred in the life of an eight-year-old child and this story is about how the family faces this devastating loss. What makes this book so powerful is the determination and courage of the family during times of distress.
Read my full review here A Season of Disruption

11. Wanderer by Court Young:
This poetry book discusses the author’s journey of falling in love with a wrong guy, heartbreak, pain, hope, and finding forever love. Some of the poems are also about traveling and seasons which reflect the poet’s state of mind. There are some books that you read and then regret. This was one such poetry book that wasn’t my cup of tea. But if you are in your teens going through a breakup or if you are in a mood for something emotional, then this book is good enough. Read my full review here Wanderer

12. Midnight Light by Brian Paglinco:
This turned out to be a uniquely interesting book of poems that romanticizes the concept of death, nature, love, and redemption. Midnight Light is a combined passionate labor of love by two friends Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco. Michael weaves the rich and rhythmic poems through his writing and Brian has provided captivating photographs that frame the theme of this book. The poems are written artistically and without hesitation about certain themes that are difficult to discuss.
Read my full review here Midnight Light.

13. Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy:
It is a self-help book that discusses situations and behaviors that we usually don’t pay attention to or tend to neglect. We are all happy in one moment and sad in the other. We are beings with so many emotions and feelings that sometimes we get carried away by them and end up losing ourselves. This book is like a guide that will train us to understand those emotions better, process them, and sometimes learn to let them go.
Read my full review here Happy Here and Now.

14. The Champion by Wayne Rajah:
The Champion is a fantasy fiction novel where the protagonist of this story is a twelve-year-old boy named Calvin with a superpower that allows him to fly. Calvin’s mother, Miss Khumalo is diagnosed with a terminal illness. When he finds out that his mother is suffering, Calvin uses his superpower and the help of his mentor, Athwall, to take his mother on a mythical journey in an attempt to save her life.
Read my full review here: The Champion.

15. Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores by Omar Gonzalez:
A heart wrenching and impactful story! When the innocence of a child is tainted by the gruesome realities of the world, then paradise becomes an unattainable dream. This book is a collection of true events about a girl named Eden Flores. The author, Omar Gonzalez, captures Eden’s life experiences remarkably in this book and shares them with us in the form of stories and poems. It’s a short book that you can finish in one sitting thereby making it an easy recommendation. You can find my full review of Paradise taken here.
Read my full review here: Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores.

16. Lighthouse by Christopher Parker:
This book is about a mysterious journey into a magical realm where there’s suspense, love, & of course the lighthouse. Struggling with the loss of her mother, Amy Tucker finds herself with her father following a case in the mysterious town of Seabrook. There, a chance encounter with Ryan sets in motion a chain of events. The long dormant lighthouse which is the centerpiece of the town comes alight much to the fascination and joy of the local townsfolk.
Read my full review here: Lighthouse.

17. Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel:
This is a picture book for children. It’s a fantasy story about a moon elf, Eli, who helps her friend Luna in solving a strange mystery of the enchanted forest. When Luna’s baby bunny transforms into hard rock candy, she runs to Eli for help. This transpires into a tale full of bravery, friendship, and the healing power of love. So if you want to read a story to your child, then pick this one! Kids will love the beautiful and attractive illustrations in this book. It’ll help in sparking their imagination and increasing their curiosity.
Read my full review here: Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon.

18. My Name is Wilma by Kirsten Bett:
My Name is Wilma is a quirky book that will take you on a journey of exploration of the world through the eyes of a cat. If you’re a cat lover, then cozy up and enjoy the ride. The story is narrated from the cat’s point of view. Wilma begins on the Dutch tulip fields where her life was rough and rugged. It is only after she meets her humans, Kirsten and Willem, does she realize how wonderfully sheltered a cat’s life can be. Sadly I was expecting the book to get better but I started losing interest and somehow managed to finish the book.
Read my full review here: My Name is Wilma

19. Eat Your Rice Cakes by Margaret Weiss:
Eat Your Rice Cakes is a self-help book for people suffering from celiac disease. Margaret Weiss takes us through her journey of diagnosis, struggles of living with the disease, and finally acceptance of her condition. This book is a great resource for other patients who have their own struggles with celiacs and also for readers who are curious about the disease.
Read my full review here: Eat Your Rice Cakes

20. Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest by Martin Boško:
This book is a collection of poems assembled by the author, Martin Boško, through one calendar year. The use of imagery, powerful expressions, and moving poems give us an insight into the inner workings of the poet’s mind. It takes you on a journey inspired by Greek mythology while also tugging on the heartstrings with feelings of love, betrayal, and longing.
Read my full review here: Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest.

Top 5 Favorites Books for 2021:

  1. Catcher in the Rye
  2. Becoming
  3. Uprooted
  4. Half of a Yellow Sun
  5. Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores (Reedsy)

Happy Reading!

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest by Martin Boško 

#Book Review
Poetry | Love | Emotions | Mythology

Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest is a collection of admirably written poems by Martin Boško. It takes you on a journey inspired by Greek mythology while also tugging on the heartstrings with feelings of love, betrayal, and longing.

This book is a collection of poems assembled by the author through one calendar year. The use of imagery, powerful expressions, and moving poems give us an insight into the inner workings of the poet’s mind. The author has shared some of his most intimate moments, emotions, and intentions that make each of his poems memorable. The rhyming nature of the poems was an absolute delight to read and made me want to keep going on and on for more.

When sadness comes as a raging river
I reach into my trusty quiver
To pull out the Arrow made of honey
And heal the wounds that are fresh and bloody.

– Martin Boško

The book has four sections as mentioned in the title: Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest. Even though my knowledge of Greek mythology is quite basic, I still found the poems hard-hitting and extremely pleasing to read. The poems on love capture the heart and soul of the feeling of being in love. As I progressed further, I could not help but feel like I was experiencing heartbreak along with the poet through his poetry. There were many moments where I empathized with the poet and wished for a turnaround in his life. Overall, I highly recommend Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest for all those poetry lovers who wish to be taken on a journey of imagination and emotions.

Also, read my review on Reedsy.

Tell me a childhood story

#ShortStory

The other day at a story writing club somebody asked me this question, “Think of a weird, uncomfortable memory from your childhood. If it’s some kind of experience, make it sound fun.” I didn’t have to think for too long because this one in particular is the strongest memory that I have from my school days and this is the story that I told them:

I waited in line to use the restroom at school. I was always alone in school but I would act super cool and confident. Not that I chose to be alone, but I don’t know I never had any close friends in school. Now that I think about it, it’s pretty strange. None of the other girls came alone to the restroom, they would always bring along a friend or a group of friends. Like it was some kind of a fun group activity to go to the restroom.

For me the only reason was because I had to use it, given a chance I would never want to use the toilet in school. But I started looking at it differently. I started using that time to find peace. It became more like my happy place where nobody could see me. I would breathe out a sigh of relief, relieved to be away from all the noisy and wannabe kids. Here it was only me and my toilet seat.

I heard a lot of gossip and scandalous stories while doing my business inside. The girls would rush inside giggling and start sharing who was dating whom, who kissed the most popular guy in high school, or who found a secret love note hidden in their classwork. Well it was school, what else can you expect from girls at that age? Sometimes girls would enter crying and discuss subjects in which they failed, the remarks written by the teachers, or whose parents were treating their kids poorly.

You know the kind of things, none of the girls would ever tell me but I was a kid too. I liked stories. I spent all my childhood reading stories, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Chicken Soup, Tinkle, Archies. I would even gobble up my English text books before the school year started. But I wanted to know what real people talk about, I wanted to listen to some stories for a change, silly that it had to be this way with my bare bum on the throne. Once the restroom was empty, I would come out feeling accomplished, stretch like a cat, apply lip gloss and walk back to the class like I know-it-all, flipping my pony-tail in style.


Thank you for reading my fictional short story. If you have a story too, then use the below line as a writing prompt and share the story with us. “Think of a weird, uncomfortable memory from your childhood. If it’s some kind of experience, make it sound fun.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

#BookReview
Classic|Literary Fiction|Young Adult|Isolation

Everyone has heard about the book, The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a classic after all! I had heard about it too but never got the opportunity to read it. When I saw this book in the library last week, I grabbed it with both hands. It is a tiny little book with hardly 240 pages and it’s that kind of a book that seeks attention. You know that feeling where you can’t just walk past the book doing other chores without feeling guilty. It’s like the book was waiting for me to pick it up and start reading. I am not sure why I am saying all this, I guess I am still under Holden’s spell. But what I’m trying to say is I was tremendously excited to read this book and when I finally sat down to read it, I couldn’t stop. The Catcher in the Rye was all that was on my mind.

The protagonist is Holden Caulfield and the book is narrated in the voice of this sixteen-year-old boy. What can I say about him? When I first started reading it, I wondered why Holden is always angry and annoyed with everything and everybody. He hates his prep school Pencey because he finds it to be fake, he doesn’t understand the point of studying subjects with which he cannot relate, he hates his roommates and their nasty behavior, and he dislikes many other things which will go on right till the end of the book. After failing in all subjects except English, in which he is brilliant, Pencey Prep expels him. Holden is a teenager who is afraid like any other kid to go back home because he knows his parents are going to be super upset. The holidays are about to begin and Holden is expected to be home by Wednesday but he finds it difficult to spend another day in the school hostel so he decides to leave on Saturday and explore New York.

Holden is a restless kid who smokes like a chimney, he doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, and is constantly looking for companionship in everyone. Be it a cab driver, a person sitting next to him in a cafe, or a pub. He walks around the streets of New York late at night freezing his tail off wearing his red hunting hat trying to find a place where he can find someone to have an interesting conversation with. He thinks of all his friends that he can call and speak to but is afraid he might wake their parents. So he walks around like a madman smoking and striking up conversations with random people. But every time he does that he is either disappointed or he is asked to shut up and leave. He also meets his terrific ex-girlfriend Sally but is again disappointed after meeting her. Nobody gets him.

The Catcher in the Rye is a book about teenage angst, alienation, rebellion, and depression. The style of writing is extremely unique and the narration is in the form of a stream of consciousness. Many readers dislike the frank use of language, profanity, and use of sexuality but it didn’t bother me much. I felt the book was so expressive, fluid, and descriptive that by the end of it, it almost felt like I knew the character personally. Like Holden could be your friend or that weird guy that you would have been around at least once in your life. I have always been curious to know what goes on in the mind of these ‘weird fellas’. Holden is a good kid who had to deal with a lot of terrible things at a young age, like death and suicide. He is sensitive, has a reclusive nature, and acts like he hates the entire human race. But this is a thinly veiled cry for attention as we see Holden try to create connections throughout the book and he only wants the world to be a better place. When he comes across someone smart but not a good person he expects better from them. He has an extreme personality with extreme expectations from life where he wants to experience unconditional love, real honest people, and a better world.

The character of Holden is simple yet complex, it’s kind of hopelessly attractive. We’ve all had these feelings where we have been frustrated with things that happen around us. We curb those feelings, don’t act on them, build a wall around us and surround ourselves with people who understand us and our values but we don’t do anything about the horrible things that happen outside the wall. Because what can we do, we are only a minuscule unimportant part amongst billions of other people who have their own way of thinking. J.D. Salinger has expressed these raw feelings and emotions with so much honesty that you might feel disgusted to read certain lines but that’s the truth, and the truth is often disturbing.

The Catcher in the Rye is an interesting read for adults but could be misleading to a malleable teenage mind. Ahh, the review turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. If you managed to read the entire review, thank you, really! Apologies if the writing was erratic with too many opinions. But the book does that to you, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this classic book of literary realism and definitely recommend the literary aficionados to give it a read, if you haven’t yet!

Be Still

Relatable Quotes #13

Be still, thou unregenerate part;
Disturb no more my settled heart,
For I have vowed, and so will do,
Thee as a foe still to pursue,
And combat with thee will and must,
Until I see thee laid in the dust.


From
“The Flesh and the Spirit”
by Anne Bradstreet (d. 1678)


Read this quote at the beginning of a book that I’m currently reading called, A Thousand Valleys by Ken Fulmer and l really liked it.

Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy

#BookReview
Self-Help|Happiness|Motivational|Self-Improvement

Happy Here and Now: Lasting Happiness You Can Count On gives you the tools that are required to stay happy during the sunniest of days and stormiest of nights.

We are all happy in one moment and sad in the other. We are beings with so many emotions and feelings that sometimes we get carried away by them and end up losing ourselves. We don’t often pay attention to the little joys of life and also the little problems.

Sometimes acting on every emotion like anger, fear, or sadness can have a negative impact on our life. It can even make us regret our actions. Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy is a self-help book that discusses situations and behaviors that we usually don’t pay attention to or tend to neglect. It is more like a guide that will train us to understand those emotions better, process them, and sometimes learn to let them go.

Grieving must happen, and emotions must be felt, whatever they are. Fear or hatred or worry or disgust must be acknowledged. That is healthy.

Matt Tracy

This book also talks about understanding what happiness really is, how to be grateful, thankful, and forgiving. It’s about listening to our thoughts, becoming more aware, and believing in ourselves. At the end of each chapter, there is a section called Living It that we can follow to pay attention to our emotions and bring changes in our day-to-day lives by being more aware of our habits and trying to improve them.

I found this book interesting to read and found myself agreeing on multiple points that I never considered important. Happy Here and Now is a must-read!

Being aware of your thoughts leaves room for intuition to flourish.

Stop living for the future. Enjoy now.

Matt Tracy

Also, find my review on this website: Reedsy

The Champion by Wayne Rajah

#BookReview
Fiction | Fantasy | Relationships |

A painfully sweet story of a mother and a child set in a fantasy world of monsters and magic

The Champion is a fantasy fiction novel written by author Wayne Rajah. The protagonist of this story is a twelve-year-old boy named Calvin with a superpower that allows him to fly. Calvin’s mother, Miss Khumalo is diagnosed with a terminal illness. When he finds out that his mother is suffering, Calvin uses his superpower and the help of his mentor, Athwall, and decides to take his mother on a mythical journey in an attempt to save her life.

The story begins with Calvin waking up after seeing a dreadful nightmare. As we proceed further into the story, we realize that Calvin is haunted by a series of these disturbing nightmares and they have become a constant in his life. 

“The room shakes! Oscillates! Now a frenzy of seismic activity and an earthquake! It feels like the tremor is inside my head! My head hurts! My head always hurts! My body hurts! A flash of light in the distance, lightning! And then a thunderous roar! My skull splits open, the hemispheres of my brain part. My body was violently shaken, side to side, side to side! The earthquake continues!”

Wayne Rajah

Usually, after the nightmares, Calvin puts on his cape and flies out of the window of his room into the night sky. He enjoys flying high in the darkness of the night when the rest of the world is asleep. He recalls the vivid nightmares and often wonders if they could possibly be true. But, the cold breeze helps him calm down and he uses this time to observe the world below him by admiring the countryside, the Crown River, and the moon that he addresses as Cynthia. 

Calvin’s ancient protector, Athwall – who has lived a thousand years – is Calvin’s only friend and protector. According to Athwall, Calvin is the Chosen one and someday Athwall will reveal the special task that only Calvin can perform. 

“I start to fly, out of my control! Hurtling into the sinister abyss, not knowing where I am going or in what direction, just hurtling on ahead. There is space out there even if I cannot see it. What speed! Immense speed! My heart flutters, races!”

Calvin has looked at his mother as a hardworking and active woman who is always on her feet. But when he notices that lately, his mother has been looking weak and exhausted, he starts worrying. Until one day, his mother faints on the ground and he finds out that his mother only has a little time to survive. Will Calvin be able to save his mother? Will he complete the task that Athwall has set out for him?

This story is a journey of a young boy trying his best to save his mother from dying by seeking help from his mentor, Athwall. The story discusses all the struggles that Calvin, Athwall, and Miss Khumalo go through and the difficult choices that they need to make on this journey. This involves crossing treacherous paths and fighting tremendous monsters on the way to their destination. When they finally reach their destination, the story takes an unexpected twist.

“Athwall says that he will reveal everything to me in a good time. He tells me that I am special, that I am the Chosen. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy everything. Who else in this world can say they can fly? Athwall says it only happens once every hundred years. My ancient protector has lived long enough to see them all, over a thousand years. He says that there is always a special task for the Chosen.” 

The book started off on a good note and got me hooked into the storyline. The reason I found it interesting was that the story started with a letter that was addressed by a doctor to his patient. Personally, I love reading stories that have letter communications between the characters. However, I was quickly disappointed when the letters never made an appearance after the first chapter. I found the book needlessly long and felt like it could have dropped a few pages, especially the graphic description of the recurring nightmares. I also felt like the long journey was invalidated by the surprise reveal at the end which left me a disappointed. I was a little confused with the turn of events and I had to go through the entire story again in my head to understand what just happened.

The story is well-written by debut author Wayne Rajah, the message that the author is trying to share is noble. As a pediatrician, he has created a fictional story about parents and children that he sees on a daily basis. He is inspired by the struggles and sacrifices that are made by both parents and children and has captured this in an entirely fictional universe of his creation.

“Letting go takes courage. Their story is one of true struggle, courage, strength and overcoming adversity.”

Wayne Rajah

Also, find my review on the website: Reedsy