Top 5 Favorite Books of 2021

Hello Readers and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Since today is the “holiday” that celebrates love, I though this would be the perfect time to talk about all the books I LOVED in 2021! Plus… I am WAY behind on my 2021 recaps and thought this would be the perfect excuse to still write this post even though it’s about 7 weeks late (Oops). So grab your Conversation Hearts, Dove chocolate, you favorite person and let’s talk books!

The first book I’d like to mention, and definitely a favorite of the year was Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. How I stumbled upon this awesome book was completely accidental. I typically do most of reading on my Kindle Oasis and have been trying not to buy as many physical books (key word there is tying) because I’m running out of space. I decided to run into Barnes & Noble to pick up a book and ended up chatting with one of the employees. One thing lead to another and she ended up recommending Everything is Figureoutable to me. I had never heard of this book but the synopsis hooked me from the start. You can figure out everything if you put your mind to it. I’ve read both the physical book and the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, high energy and extremely motivating to listen to) and completely loved it. I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction but this was such an inspirational book, how could you not love it?

Next up we have Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber. I loved Garber’s Caraval series and it was great returning to this world! While Once Upon A Broken Heart isn’t directly connected to the Caraval series, there are some overlaps and Easter eggs that you’ll pick up on having read those books first. I was already excited about this book but to make it even better, I was asked by Flatiron Books to join their Blog Tour supporting this release! The plot of this novel was simple, how far will you go for your happily ever after? For Evangeline Fox, it’s pretty damn far – so far, that she makes a deal with a Fate to help her win back the love of her life. From this somewhat simple deal, a dazzling story unfolds filled with adventure, magic, murder and mystery. This book also swooped in to save me from a pretty terrible reading slump, so I can’t recommend it enough! If you’re looking for more content on Once Upon A Broken Heart, check out the Author Q&A we did here or my full length review of the novel here.

Continuing on with favorite fantasy, I read and loved Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. GOOD LORD was this a great book. This was the epic conclusion of the Dark Artifices trilogy (which is also my favorite trilogy that Clare has written to date). This book came in at over 900 pages and it did not feel that long! It read so fast that I found myself absolutely devouring it during Tome Topple Round 14 back in March. Since this is the last book in a series, I don’t want to go into much plot here to avoid spoilers (and I’m not going to talk much about the series because the Shadowhunter books are all so interconnected). If you’re a fan of fantasy, magic and memorable characters, the Shadowhunter Chronicles are for you. There’s a lot of “required reading” to be able to read this series but it’s all worth it. I was completely engrossed by all 3 books in this series and cannot praise them enough!

As I start to wind down my list, I feel like it’s only appropriate to include one of my favorite thrillers – Survive The Night by Riley Sager. I am quickly becoming a Riley Sager fan – I’ve read a few of his books and have a few more waiting on my Kindle. I’ve enjoyed each one and I think Survive The Night might be my favorite so far. This book takes place in the 90s, before cell phones and readily available technology. After Charlie Jordan’s roommate is murdered, she’ll do anything to get away from her college campus, including taking a ride home from a stranger who may or may not be a murderer. The story unfolds over the course of the night as her and her mysterious companion travel in his car. There’s an unreliable narrator and twists at every corner. There were quite a few things that caught me by surprise (and other things I saw coming a mile away) but overall, I loved this one. It was fast paced and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I’ve seen some reviews dragging this book but if you can suspend belief for awhile (and go back to a pre-technology time) I think you’re really going to like this one!

Last on my list is Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters by Kara Goldin. This was also a nonfiction read (look at me, 2 nonfiction titles in my Top 5 list) and it was utterly fantastic. Goldin is the CEO is one of my favorite beverage companies, Hint Water. Hint is an unsweetened water beverage that is PACKED with fruit flavors. I stumbled upon this company years and years ago at a local grocery store. I picked up a few bottles and have loved it ever since (ironically, I had a problem with a few of the bottles that I purchased – when I reached out, I ended up emailing back and forth with Kara’s husband, Theo). The only way I can explain this book is equal parts life advice, inspiration and entrepreneurialism. Goldin is so down to earth and relatable. When Goldin created Hint, she started the company as a way to drink more water and kick her Diet Coke habit. As you read her story, you come to find out that every product expansion or growth opportunity was born from something personal that Goldin cares deeply about. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just a feel-good story, be sure to pick this one up!

Well, that’s it. Those are my Top 5 books of 2021 that I just loved. I hope this post provided you with a few potential new titles to try or maybe I mentioned one of your favorite books! What did you read that was absolutely amazing last year? Leave me a comment or you can always tweet me @ItsMrGeekToYou.

Until We Meet Again,
Shawn

That’s A Wrap: Tome Topple, Round 14!

It literally feels like yesterday that Sam from Thoughts On Tome sent out the Voxer message announcing that Tome Topple Round 14 was going to take place in March. Like a bookish version of the Avengers, the co-hosts assembled and we all began planning for the read-a-thon!

Tome Topple is, hands down, one of my favorite read-a-thons. I don’t know about you, but I could always use a little extra incentive / motivation to read my really long books. As I was planning my TBR for March, I purposely added Queen Of Air And Darkness by Cassandra Clare to the list. I’ve been wanting to finish The Dark Artifices series for awhile now but was putting it off because 1) I wasn’t ready for the series to end and 2) this book was a beast, coming in at over 900 pages! Usually I attempt several of the reading prompts from the bingo card, but this time I decided to keep it simple – finish Queen Of Air And Darkness and I’d consider this round a win!

Tome Topple Round 14 “Bingo” Card

Overall, this was a very successful round for me! Week 1 of Tome Topple was relatively calm – I hosted quite a few reading sprints and made some nice progress in my tome. Week 2 was another story. Between work and my personal life, I had an extremely hectic week. When Friday rolled around I had about 400 or so pages left to read and the outlook was grim. Over the weekend, I hosted a few reading sprints (and participated as a spectator in a few as well). Yesterday was an absolutely miserable day here in Pittsburgh. It rained pretty steadily the entire day and it was the perfect excuse to stay home and read. I ended up knocking out the rest of my tome in the afternoon and enjoyed every minute of it! Cassandra Clare finales are just so well done that once you hit the tipping point, there’s no turning back! I read a lot of books to get to this point but it was worth the journey. I’m planning on starting The Scrolls of Magic and The Lost Hours series very soon (right after I read Tales From The Shadow Market).

Wrapping up this post, I want to thank all my fellow co-hosts: Sam (Thoughts On Tomes), Adri (Perpetual Pages), Sam 2 (Will Read For Booze), Gaia (Lalettricesegreta on IG), Tori (Tori Morrow) and Jocelyn (Yogi With A Book). I appreciate you welcoming me into this group and have thoroughly enjoyed co-hosting with each one of you. I’d also love to thank all the participants – my favorite part about co-hosting is socializing with all of you! Each reading sprint, you all were there to chat about books, current events and life. I hope to see you all back for Round 15 later this year! Please don’t be a stranger – I talk books here on the blog and also @ItsMrGeekToYou on Twitter!

Until We Meet Again,
Mr Geek

Tome Topple: Round 13 / November Recap

As I said in a previous tweet, October was FAST and November turned out to be even FASTER! How is that even possible!? I had an… interesting reading month filled with amazing books and very mediocre books. In total, I read 7 books this month and I’m still on track to hit my goal of 52 for the year! Not only did I get a lot of reading in, I also had the pleasure of co-hosting one of my favorite read-a-thons, Tome Topple (more on that later)!

As I previous mentioned, I read The Witches by Roald Dahl and The List by JA Konrath. Neither of these books were that amazing. The Witches was a rather morbid story but The List was quirky and entertaining. I really enjoy Konrath’s unique writing style. The plots are always inventive and I can’t help by get sucked into his stories!

After The List, I moved onto the masterpiece that is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. This book was FANTASTIC and it was just what the doctor ordered! While this wasn’t my typical read, I relished in the world and story that Schwab created. The premise was awesome – to escape her destiny, Addie makes a deal with a “Dark God” to free herself. This deal comes at a cost, no one can remember Addie after they’ve left her presence. Addie lives for over 300 years, roaming the earth, stealing what she needs until one day she meets Henry… and Henry can remember her. For me personally, this book really took shape about halfway through when Addie meets Henry and the “adventure” really begins. The story flowed in such an amazing and poetic way. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, move it to the top of your TBR ASAP.

Rounding out the month, I read a couple self-help books. The Person You Mean To Be By Dolly Chugh and Atomic Habits by James Clear. Dolly Chugh was a featured speaker at a recent work event. I was able to hear her talk and was blown away by how personable and relatable she is. I decided to pick up her book, The Person You Mean To Be, on audiobook because she narrated it. I don’t want to “review” this book because the subject matter isn’t meant to be entertaining – it’s meant to be informative and challenge / stretch your views. Did I agree with all of the ideas presented in this book? Absolutely not. Did these views challenge my to think in different ways and looks at certain topics from a different angle? You bet. This is one of the only books on GoodReads I didn’t give a star rating to because I’d encourage everyone to pick this up and give it a try. After I finished Dolly’s book I moved onto Atomic Habits. Atomic Habits was HANDS DOWN one of the best self-help / development books I have ever read. Clear gives you real, actionable advices for helping you to start new habits or break bad ones. I think what I appreciated the most about his take on habits was very rarely did he make the book about him (i.e. I did this or I struggled to do this) and instead talked to principles and actuality. He was also extremely easy to relate to! I found myself taking notes on ways to implement these strategies in my everyday life (and New Year Resolutions are coming)! If you’re looking for ways to build better habits, give this book a try. I can confidently say you’ll find it extremely useful!

The last couple books I read this month were Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and The Toll by Neal Schusterman. Clap When You Land was an interesting book and, again, not something that I typically pick up. The story is about two sisters, who don’t know they are sisters, until their father dies in a tragic plane crash. The story is told from each of the girls’ perspectives. Acevedo did an incredible job giving each of these characters a unique voice. There was small nuances and cultural influences that really shown through into each of the characters. My last book I finished was The Toll and that was ONE HECK OF A FINALE. I started the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on New Year’s Day of and made my way through all 3 books over the course of the year. Scythe and Thunderhead (books 1 and 2, respectively) were absolutely incredible. I heard iffy things about The Toll, so I subliminally pushed it off. While it was a little on the long side (there was definitely some fluff that couldn’t been cut out) I found the story to be interesting and engaging. There were some interesting twists sprinkled throughout and I found the ending to be pretty spot on. It wasn’t too perfect or cookie cutter and had just enough grit and uniqueness!

Tome Topple Wrap Up

I was incredibly lucky to help co-host Tome Topple Round 13. I had a blast leading reading sprints and talking books with all of the other readers participating in the read-a-thon. I have to hand it to Sam (from @ThoughtsOnTomes) and the rest of the co-hosts, they do an incredible job running things. I’ve participated in this read-a-thon several times before and never realized how much work goes into creating it! I work in eCommerce for a retailer, so the week of Thanksgiving was a little crazy for me. I ended up finishing my only tome (The Toll) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Another round is scheduled for February-ish, so I am hoping to topple a few books during that round since life should be a lot calmer then!

We’re well into December, so I’ll be posting a TBR soon and then my year in review wrap up! Hope everyone is staying safe and I’ll back with another post this week!

Until we meet again,
Mr Geek

October ’20 Recap

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing my October TBR post and here we are, at the end of the month! October was a complete blur but it also gave me the much needed taste of normalcy that I’ve been wanting! I was able to finally reconnect with some friends and managed to take a couple little day trips. One of my other highlights this month was co-hosting Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon (but I’ll touch on that more later). I read some great books this month and some not-so-great books. Let’s dive in!

I kicked off October reading Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Everyone raves about this being one of King’s best books. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt like I might’ve gone into this with a little too much hype. I found the story to be engrossing and atmospheric but the “horror” elements just didn’t really do it for me. The ending was a little too open for my tastes. I tend to a like a little more closure (unless there’s going to be a sequel). I also watched the original Pet Sematary movie from the 1980’s and the 2019 remake. Surprisingly, I like the 2019 remake more than the original. I felt that the small changes they made to the plot resulted in a better flow overall. After Pet Sematary, I grabbed Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. This was a fall-themed, graphic novel that I scooped up for $3 on Kindle. I’m not really a graphic novel person, so this was really outside of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed it! The story follows the 2 main characters, Deja and Josiah, High School Seniors who have spent the last several years working together at a Pumpkin Patch. The story takes place during their last night working together before the patch closes for the year (and they head off to college the following Fall). This was a light hearted story and a nice break from my more scary reads.

My month started off strong and then I hit a rough patch which came in the form of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Garcia-Moreno and The Shadows by Alex North. I really enjoyed the first 50 pages (or so) of Mexican Gothic. I was intrigued by the story and was captivated initially but the story sort of bottomed out after that. It turned into an epic slough-fest until the last ~100 pages. At that point, everything started to come together but it was too little, too late for me. While I was reading Mexican Gothic, I also decided to listen to The Shadows by Alex North. Last year, I read his debut, The Whisper Man, which I enjoyed. There were some paranormal elements at the end that were a little cringey and I didn’t love. I almost had the opposite problem with The Shadows, the pacing seemed way too fast and I didn’t really get how everything came together. The overall plot felt a little rushed and, not being an extremely long book, I think it could’ve used another 50 pages to flesh out the plot and really pull everything together. I did enjoy the twist towards the end. It was unexpected and meshed nicely with the overall theme of the book.

As I slid into the latter half of the month, news broke that Showtime was going to be revising the Dexter TV series, bringing it back in the Fall of 2021 for one more additional season. I was a HUGE Dexter fan but the series finale in 2013 really left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I started the books but never pursued them further than the first book. Once I heard they were bringing Dexter back, I thought what better way to continue my reading theme than with a re-read of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I opted for the audiobook, since I originally read this… probably 10 years ago. It was a nice refresher and I’m definitely going to continue the book series now to help prepare for the TV premiere next year!

This past week, I read City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab. It. Was. Fantastic! I love Victoria Schwab’s writing so much and have no idea why I put this off as long as I did. The story was entertaining, engaging and eerie. The story revolves around a teenager, Cassidy Blake, who has a near-death experience that results in her being able to see ghosts. I tore through this book and couldn’t put it down (literally finished it minutes before starting to write this post). It’s Halloween, so I thought what better way to end the month than by reading The Witches by Roald Dahl. This book is extremely short and I’m hoping to knock it out today (I’ll be starting that shortly after finishing this post). HBO Max recently released a movie version of The Witches and I thought it would be worth giving it a quick re-read before watching the movie (I probably read this 25 years ago… queue feeling old).

Overall, I had a VERY successful reading month. I’m still on track to hit 52 books by the end of the year. I needed to read at least 6 this month and I’ve read 7 (if I include The Witches). I also have an audiobook currently in progress that I’ll probably finish in the next couple of days and another book that I started back in April and just can’t motivate myself to finish (The Shadowhunter’s Codex, it’s a supplement book to Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles – it reads like a textbook and isn’t required to understand any of her other books). I’ve already been thinking about what books I want to read for November and have a nice TBR already set! Stop back tomorrow to check out that post!

How was your October? Read any good books or have thoughts / questions about my reads? Do any fun, non-book related activities? Leave me a comment – you know how much I love to chat!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Mid-Year Freak Out Booktag

I recently saw the Mid-Year Freak Out booktag on YouTube and thought I’d do a little research to see if this was something that I could translate to my blog. The Mid-Year Freak Out is basically just your year in books, so far, highlighting your favorite and not-so-favorite books. I thought this would be a fun way to recap my reading year and revisit some of my favorite books! 2020 seems to be moving incredibly fast and incredibly slow simultaneously! So, without further ado, onto my list!


Best book you’ve read so far in 2020.

The House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

So I am cheating a little with this one and I haven’t finished this book at the time of authoring this post (but hopefully by the time it goes live next week). My good friend Mollie recommend that I read “The House on the Cerulean Sea.” This is such a wonderful, surprising and wholesome book – it really caught me off guard! We follow the main character, Linus, who is a casework for the Department In Charge Of Magical Youth (DICOMY). The book opens with Linus visiting an orphanage and reporting on how they are treating the children left in their care. Soon Linus receives a highly classified assignment where he must visit an orphanage on the island of Marsyas. This particular orphanage has an assortment of very “unique” and magical children. The story continues to roll from there! It’s best to go into this one with limited knowledge of the plot and to just be swept away! Cannot recommend this one enough (I officially finished this on Sunday and read the last ~200 pages)!



Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020.

Thunderhead by Neal Schusterman

Scythe was the very first book I read this year and it was excellent! I had no idea how Thunderhead could top that but it did! To keep this summary spoiler-free, Thunderhead begins shortly after the events of Scythe and the action just doesn’t stop. The plot moves a breakneck speeds and the ending really caught me by surprise. I’m excited to read The Toll but I’m also not ready to finish this series!


New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

One of my favorite BookTubers, Reagan from PeruseProject, is a HUGE fan of N. K. Jemisin. Reagan has featured several of Jemisin’s books on her channel. I’ve never read anything by this author but I recently picked up an omnibus of her Inheritance trilogy and a copy of The City We Became. The City We Became has a fascinating premise, each city has a soul and is birthed. New York City is finally entering the world when an evil villain shows up to stop it. All of the summaries I’ve read about this are rather vague but I’m really looking forward to diving into this one soon!


Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I read her “Shades of Magic” trilogy back in 2018 and have been an avid fan since then. This new stand alone adult novel has the potential to be one of my favorite books by Schwab yet! We follow the main character, Addie, who made a deal with the Devil for immortality. What did it cost her? She’s destined to be forgotten by everyone that she meets. Until one day, she meets a man in a hidden bookstore who remembers her name. October can’t come soon enough for this one!


Biggest disappointment.

You by Caroline Kepnes

When I found out that one of my favorite shows from Netflix, YOU, was actually based on a book, I was thrilled! I quickly binged both Season 1 and 2 shortly after their releases. Since I so thoroughly enjoyed the show, I thought I was all but guaranteed to love the book… wrong. We follow the main character, Joe, who works in a book store in New York City. One day, Guinevere Beck comes into the shop and Joe’s life is changed forever. Joe becomes obsessed with Beck and begin stalking her. Soon their lives begin to intersect and you can tell their relationship is a ticking time bomb that won’t end well. For me, something was lost in translation between the TV show and the novel. Even though Joe is a stalker, TV Joe had this likability that Book Joe was completely missing. I also found the aggressive and raunchy language to really put me off as a reader. I usually struggle with this type of content because imagining it in a book is so much worse than seeing it on a screen. Not a fan and I would definitely say pass on this one if you were interested!


Biggest surprise.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely adore cheesy horror movies. The lower the budget, the better! After reading the plot of “The Escape Room,” I knew this would be right up my alley. A group of coworkers end up trapped in the elevator of a new building that’s under construction. They’re lured to this particular location under the muse of an escape room team bonding challenge. This book has multiple timelines (I love this writing style) and flips between present day and the past. I found the plot extremely engaging and easy to follow. I compulsively read this one because I just had to know how this was going to end! A very good thriller and a very quick read! If you’re into the thriller / suspense genre, this book can’t be missed!


Favorite new author, debut or new to you.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

I originally saw “Oona Out of Order” on the Jordy’s Book Club Instagram account. The cover really caught my attention and once I read the summary, I knew I had to read this book as soon as possible! The premise was fascinating – starting on Oona’s 18th birthday, she begins to live her life out of order. Each birthday she “leaps” to a past or future year (i.e. she’s 56 then she’s 67 then she’s 22). I don’t really want to discuss the plot because the journey is really what makes it so enjoyable. What I enjoyed the most was the “lesson” each year taught her. I love when I book can teach you a lesson or give you something to think about. Montimore gave us these philosophical nuggets wrapped up in an intriguing story that pulled you in and never let you go.


Book that made you happy.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

I’ve been seeing reviews, hype and praise for Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books for YEARS. Beginning last year, I decided I was going to commit to reading these books, in order, over the next year or two. I began with the first Mortal Instruments trilogy, read the Infernal Devices trilogy and then the second Mortal Instruments trilogy. I made it through the first 7 books last year. I read the penultimate, City of Lost Souls, and the finale, City of Heavenly Fire, this year. City of Heavenly Fire was honestly a perfect final entry in the Mortal Instruments series. There was plenty of action, heartbreak and loose ends were nicely tied up. This was quite the chunky book, coming in at nearly 750 pages, but it never felt long. I was sad to end the Mortal Instruments, because it was like saying goodbye to a group of friends (who I spent over 3,000 pages with). I am eagerly anticipating wrapping up the short story binds ups so I can move onto the Dark Artifices trilogy! I’ve heard this is one of Clare’s best series and is quite addicting!


Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Gryffindor House Edition by J. K. Rowling

Instead of writing about this one, I’m just going to share a picture! I ordered this book from Waterstones (United Kingdom) with a couple other books that I had been eyeing the UK editions.


What 6 books do you want to read by the end of the year?

  • The Toll by Neal Schusterman
  • Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this post! So far, 2020 has been a tumultuous year. I’ve been struggling to find my reading groove with everything happening in the world but, thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to read a lot of really great books! I hope over these next 6 months things continue to settle down and my TBR continues to shrink (who am I kidding, it’s only going to grow)! What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year? What was your biggest dud? What’s a title you’re counting down until the release? Leave me your recommendations in the comments!

Until Next Time,
Mr. Geek