Ranking Every 2021 Release I Read from May – August

If you missed where I did this with the 2021 Releases I read from January to April, you’re welcome to go back and catch up here. This post is going to be about the releases I’ve read since then and thankfully, I don’t have quite as many to rank. Between May and August I read a total of 27 books that released in 2021 so this should be just a little easier to rank. Let’s get started! (Oh, and I included nonfiction this time. Do I feel good about it? Not necessarily, but I did it.)

Ranking 2021 Releases || Firewhiskey Reader

27. Guardian in the Storm by Carla Cassidy (ARC Review)

I really didn’t enjoy this book and probably should have DNF’d it. There was something about a lot of elements of the book that just rubbed me the wrong way. But if you’re really desperate for a romantic suspense, I guess you could try this one?

26. Slow Dance at Rose Bend by Naima Simone

Honestly, this novella was just pretty forgettable. I have vague memories of it, but not much stands out to me.

25. How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (ARC Review)

Honestly, if you had told me I would be rating an Alyssa Cole book this low on this list, I wouldn’t have believed you. And it’s a perfectly fine book. I gave it three stars. But all in all? It sucks when you don’t really buy into the romance in a romance novel.

24. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

So, this book isn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t the book that I wanted it to be. Ii think my love of Daisy Jones & The Six is a fluke, because I DNF’s the other major book that’s gotten compared to it. I’ll have a post up where I talk about my thoughts on that at some point, I just have one more book to read before I get to it. Anyway, this is probably the biggest it’s me and not the book of this entire list.

23. Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss by Therese Beharrie (ARC Review)

I need to be clear, we’re moving into the space where these books really aren’t bad books, it’s just in comparison to one another where they fall for me. This book was a solid 3.5 star book that I sort of enjoyed, but also it was a category romance that took me a month and I couldn’t figure out what to do with that.

22. The Stand-In by Lily Chu

This Audible Original has a great audiobook, narrated by Philippa Soo, and the premise is sort of à la The Princess Switch, which means it was bound to be great for me. And it both was and wasn’t. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love this book. I think it has a lot of great things to say and I’m looking forward to seeing where Chu goes from here. But ultimately, I felt like what I thought the book was going to be and what the book was didn’t quite mesh and it was too long with too many plots sort of shoved together. Also, I sort of hated the conflict at the end that separated the characters for a while because it was irritating. But!! I do recommend it if you like audiobooks.

21. The Road to Rose Bend by Naima Simone (ARC Review)

I love Naima Simone and she certainly got me invested in this world, but by packing in as much angst as she did, the ending faltered and I can’t convince myself to rank it higher. My ARC Review is pretty detailed though so if you’re curious for more thoughts, definitely check it out. I would still recommend this book if you like angsty reads, but it was not my favorite Naima Simone by any means. (That is Scoring Off the Field in case you missed it and that is the best friends to lovers romance and you should definitely read it if you haven’t.)

20. Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane (ARC Review)

This book was interesting. I sort of debated where to put it, but I think I like it being where it is because that feels the most fitting. This is a grief book that hit in a weird way and is positioned between romance and women’s fiction in a way that mostly worked for me, but sort of didn’t. I would recommend it if you’re in the mood for something a little introspective and are here for a woman who still needs to figure out her life a bit. Oh, and, slight spoiler, but there’s a telling off scene in this book that is incredible. INCREDIBLE. (Also if you liked The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, I would recommend it to you because I think elements of these two books are similar, but this one is a touch more light hearted.)

19. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

This is an excellent audiobook if you’re a fan of Brandi Carlile especially because she sings a lot. If you’re new to Brandi Carlile like me, this memoir is still good, but ultimately didn’t blow me away. Carlile talks a lot about music and her journey and I lacked much of a frame of reference for it in a way that made it sometimes disconcerting and also talks a decent bit about Christianity. I think it’s definitely a memoir worth reading if you’re a fan, but if you’re not… Use your judgment.

18. Well, This is Exhausting by Sophie Benoit (ARC Review)

Speaking of memoirs that I think your preference for will vary substantially based on your own interests and who you are as a person, this one. All things considered, I really liked Well, This is Exhausting, but it wasn’t a new favorite that I want to shove into everyone’s hands. Rather, I enjoyed it and I found a fair bit relatable because I am also a messy millennial who hasn’t really done everything well. I’ve made mistakes in my life and so has Benoit and some of those felt real and relatable. But Benoit also has a particular sense of humor that I could see being a make or break element of this memoir.

17. Neon Gods by Katee Robert (ARC Review)

To be clear, I really enjoyed Neon Gods other than the fact that I did not understand the world building at all whatsoever. But Hades being so soft for Persephone? Top notch. Hades and Persephone’s steamy times? Also great. Would recommend. Would not recommend reading in the middle seat of a plane though. That was a little uncomfortable.

16. What If You & Me by Roni Loren (ARC Review)

As per usual, I enjoyed Loren’s writing, but my reading mood meant that reading this book took forever. That said, overall, I enjoyed this one and would mostly recommend. The character work was really well done, but the pacing was a little off, I think. And then there’s the fact that Andi gets therapy from her best friend, which is actually a big no no.

15. To Be Alone with You by Jodie Slaughter

I like the way Jodie Slaughter writes her romances, but I do wish this one had been just a little longer. This is a novella with an age gap set in the pandemic and it’s got a lot of unresolved sexual tension that was pretty lovely to read about. I would definitely recommend it. It’s very soft.

14. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (ARC Review)

One Last Stop was pretty delightful to read. I love McQuiston’s grasp of millenial/Gen Z cusp culture and while some references went over my head because I’m a little older than the cusp generation, I thought the book was a lot of fun and I appreciated it. I really love books about characters who are messes finding their way to themselves and this book delivered on that alongside a sapphic romance that I could enjoy. There are valid criticisms to this book though and ultimately some of those are what kept this book at a four star for me.

13. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkns Reid (ARC Review)

Honestly, TJR’s ability to make me cry is unparalleled and I do not appreciate it. Just kidding, I love it. I don’t even know why I wound up with tears in my eyes on this one, tbh, other than I love Nina. I do wish this book had given just a little more and then I think it would have been closer to perfect for me, but I really loved it for what it was too.

12. What the Hex by Alexis Daria (ARC Review)

I really enjoyed Daria’s paranormal romance in Audible Original form. The audiobook was well done and the mystery and romance were super cute and I enjoyed the overall vibes of the book. I definitely am looking forward to more, but that’s no surprise because I always feel that way about Daria.

11. The Hellion’s Last Waltz by Olivia Waite (ARC Review)

This book concluded, I think, Waite’s trilogy of women loving women romances with Avon and I would rank it second within the trilogy. I loved the immediate attraction the characters feel for one another and I loved the heist element of this book. I do think that Waite’s stories have a tendency to get bogged down sometimes with details that don’t support the romance and that was a little true here, but less so than in book two. I think as long as you’re up for a fighting the patriarchy book, this one is a good choice for you!

10. Take the Lead by Jessica Simpson

I’m not sure where to really put Take the Lead by Jessica Simpson because I loved it tremendously, but also it’s so short, I don’t feel right putting it ahead of any of my other five star reads, so instead, this is just where we transition to five star reads and I recommend this book to anyone, but most specifically to people who loved Simpson’s memoir last year.

9. Surrender by Rilzy Adams

This book literally had me blushing within five pages, but the erotic romance was delightful and I absolutely recommend. It’s a good friends to lovers where there was a long gap between they originally made a deal that they would have sex one day if they were both unattached and when they finally get around to that day (12 years later) and I was into it.

8. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (ARC Review)

I, personally, loved this book so much. Sometimes Christina Lauren just nails what I need. I don’t think this book is perfect and will work for everyone, but I think if you want something a little softer that still has hate to love vibes, this book is really not a bad choice. My ARC Review really lays out who I think this book is for versus not for so if you’re at all curious about it, I would recommend reading that.

7. Sweet Talk by Cara Bastone

I love Bastone’s writing so much and this book was beautifully produced (an Audible Original) and equally beautifully written. There’s something about Bastone’s character work that always gets me and this is not an exception to that. I love the way she handled this plot and I think it could have easily gone very not well. I just really cannot recommend her books highly enough if you’re into contemporary romance at all.

6. Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas (ARC Review)

I just finished this book the other day and as of the time I’m writing this, I still haven’t written my review. Basically, this book is the top level of problematic things exist within this book and also, for me it was exactly what I needed in the moment. I cannot say enough about how Lisa Kleypas writes compulsively readable books! That said, this one has amnesia, which I usually hate, and also a magical pregnancy, which did not need to exist. I think that’s the part I’m most irritated about. Because, this book could have been written in the exact same way if she had just taken out the lines about how Merritt thinks she’s barren. THE EXACT SAME WAY. Or, obviously, we could have just not had a pregnancy at all, but either way. I was annoyed by that. But otherwise, I loved it and it gave me so much joy.

5. Second Chance Love Song by Jessica Lemmon (ARC Review)

This category romance caught me completely off guard and I loved it so much. SO MUCH. It’s music focused and just hit all the right notes for me as a person. I definitely would recommend. Also, just, the vibes of the country music singer where there’s a mystery woman his hit song is about was really great for me. I think, in general, I really like songs about music.

4. Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

I mean…. Basically, Ilona Andrews owns my soul, or at least, they have made a lot of money off me. It might have taken me ages to get caught up on Kate Daniels, but once I did, I couldn’t wait to read Blood Heir and it did not disappoint. That ending though?! The audacity, honestly. I need the next book in this series with a completely ridiculous desperation. Like it falls just behind my need for Ruby Fever.

3. Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur (ARC Review)

I loved this book so much. It’s part of the reason I booked a flight to Seattle on MDW and I have no regrets. I didn’t ride the ferris wheel, but I did tell my friend I was with about the scene set there with Annie and Brandon. Hang the Moon is just so marvelous y’all. I adored it.

2. It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (ARC Review)

I loved It Happened One Summer. Like a few of the other books toward the top of my list, I can see the criticisms and if I was trying to be objective and not just share my opinion, this book might be ranked lower. (Would be ranked lower, tbh.) But, I’m not trying to be objective. I’m telling you that in my opinion, It Happened One Summer delivers a fun and sexy romance with some truly excellent character development and it left me so excited for the next book in the series. I highly recommend as long as you won’t be bothered by Tessa Bailey’s refusal to let go of some seriously gendered language.

  1. Last Guard by Nalini Singh

Last Guard is literal actual perfection as evidenced by the fact that I’ve read it twice already this year. I loved it so much and I love Nalini and… well, I hope everyone gets caught up on Psy-Changeling so that you too can feel this joy.

So there you have it! Twenty seven 2021 books ranked! This was a challenge, but it was at least easier than the first four months I did it. We’ll see how many 2021 releases I get to in the next four months! What were some of your favorite new releases you read during these last four months?


4 responses to “Ranking Every 2021 Release I Read from May – August”

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