Mariana's Top 12 Books of 2021

Mariana Banner

A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250788870
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Tordotcom - November 2nd, 2021

An unfairly incredible debut! Freya Marske's fantasy is perfect for lovers of romance, with the steamy scenes and Happily Ever After you need and want. Incredible magic systems and my favorite magical House shine alongside my very favorite grumpy work-colleague-to-lovers trope I've ever read. 

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593336069
Availability: Ships to Our Store in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - October 5th, 2021

Payback's a Witch is the fun, sexy, magical romp through autumn feels that I needed. When Emmy Harlow reluctantly returns to her magic-filled hometown to play her inherited part in the founding families' spellcasting tournament, she's met not only with an unexpected deluge of nostalgia for her home, but also with a no-holds-barred opportunity for petty revenge against the boy who broke her heart. This book had me laughing and missing autumn just as often as it had me swooning over the queer-as-heck romance.

Iron Widow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735269934
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Penguin Teen - September 21st, 2021

I expected Iron Widow to be fierce, dark, and feminist as heck but did not expect to be absolutely glued to this story because of a gloriously communicative love triangle. If giant mecha suits fighting massive alien creatures a la Pacific Rim isn't enough to pique your interest, know that the murderous revenge plot, infuriating sacrifice of women, and squishy best friend first love all weave a web around the BEST MMF romance I've ever seen in YA. Queerness is coded in from the start, and with hardly any hand-wringing, Zetian leads her boys into the acceptance of the fact that love is infinite and not limited to two people. In a YA BOOK. We love to see it. I want more of this, please.

A Touch of Ruckus Cover Image
ISBN: 9781338702033
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Scholastic Press - September 7th, 2021

A Touch of Ruckus is perfect for your 8-12 year old reader who loves mysteries and spooky stories. It's got just the right touch of creepy factor mixed in with some very real and relatable family and friend worries, and even a wholesome first crush. Otterloo has done it again and written a PERFECT middle grade for your old soul of a tween. 

She Who Became the Sun Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250621801
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Tor Books - July 20th, 2021

An epic of Chinese history, touched by fantastical elements and grounded in morally grey characters. She Who Became the Sun is a reimagining of the rise of the Ming Dynasty's founding emperor, and it is packed with fierce characters and moments of connection that will tear your heart out with no remorse. 10/10 would experience pain anew.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250236210
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Tordotcom - July 13th, 2021

Reading A Psalm for the Wild-Built is akin to sharing a perfect drink with that friend who can look at you and say simply, "I understand," without voicing anything at all. It's suspiciously easy to sink into the idyllic descriptions of a world that's moved past apocalypse and into calm order, but don't worry - this story has arrived just in time to hold your heart tenderly. Siblings Dex and Mosscap welcome you into their unwitting adventure gently, and their exploration of what it means to feel untethered in an overwhelmingly peaceful society is charming and reassuring. Read this book, let yourself take a break, and breathe in deeply the message that it's okay to not be okay, and that it's okay to not have a purpose. 

Long Distance Cover Image
By Whitney Gardner, Whitney Gardner (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781534455658
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - June 29th, 2021

Long Distance is a charming middle-grade graphic novel about friendship and moving, summer camp and plots, and - somehow - aliens! It's a perfect adventure for the graphic novel lover in your life. 

Star Eater Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250625311
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Tordotcom - June 22nd, 2021

This fantasy is like no other I have read, and has giant battle cats, a floating city, queer relationships, and bloody magic, all tied together with horrifying and Handmaid's Tale-esque commentary on the false choices women are presented with instead of actual power. 

One Last Stop Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250244499
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - June 1st, 2021

I’ve been sitting on this book for three days now because I just wasn’t sure how I could possibly do it justice in a review. One Last Stop is going into my personal literary canon for “Books I am pretty sure I have wholly absorbed into the essence of who I am by osmosis, no, sorry, you can’t have it back, you’ll have to request another copy.” One Last Stop is for every person out there that is just a little too jaded to throw caution to the wind, but deep down - you want to. One Last Stop is here to give you permission. Like Red, White, & Royal Blue, One Last Stop will have you suddenly cackling with laughter sharp enough to trip up passersby. Like RWRB, One Last Stop will have you pondering what lines you will tattoo on your body, just to keep the sheer hopeful queer power of them with you forever. One Last Stop also has some of the same chaotically beautiful found family as RWB; I want to live with Myla and Niko and Wes and Isaiah. I teared up just from pure pandemic “I miss my FRIENDS” feels because of how lovely they all are. One Last Stop though, is for the girls. One Last Stop is for the pure Gay Panic when a gorgeous girl walks up to your counter; for noticing pretty hands; for moving effortlessly between handsome and pretty; and, dearest to my heart, for saying “I’m bisexual, actually,” back over your shoulder to dumb strangers. This book broke my poor bi little heart in so many ways and honest-to-god put it back together better, and queerer, and more of a disaster than ever. This story is powerful and beautiful, able to somehow channel the power of “We’ve been here” queer history, and the exact perfect terrifying moment you give up on calling it just ‘a crush.’ This book will slap you across the face with the most devastating romance AND pitch-perfect party scenes just to remind you to let yourself belong, even if that means taking risks. Finally, this book also contains a heist. Read this gdamn book.

The Chosen and the Beautiful Cover Image
By Nghi Vo
ISBN: 9781250784780
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Tordotcom - June 1st, 2021

Glittering and magical, The Chosen and the Beautiful serves up fiendishly queer luxury on a slotted spoon, using the canon we all wanted to love better as the exacting filter through which to make readers question the meanings of excess, desire, ambition, and betrayal. This retelling is like a cool bath to sink into in a summer fugue, giving us everything we knew Gatsby could be but were denied for decades.

Neon Gods (Dark Olympus) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781728231730
Availability: Ships to Our Store in 1-5 Days
(This book cannot be returned)
Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca - June 1st, 2021

Hades and Persephone as you've never read it before. This is a fun, fast, and spicy-as-heck romp through a contemporary reimagined Olympus. Katee Roberts knows how to give the reader what they want and then some, and readers of this book will be delighted to know Katee has many more in the series planned! 

Honey Girl Cover Image
ISBN: 9780778311027
Availability: Available at One of Our Locations
Published: Park Row - February 23rd, 2021

Honey Girl plays delightfully with the "accidental marriage" trope in Romance, but at its heart, this novel is about the loneliness inherent in the human experience. Come for the gorgeous and relatable sapphic romance, stay for the lines about being human and lost that will tug at your core.