2021 First Quarter Top 5 Reads

It’s hard to believe that a quarter of the year has gone by. I’ve spent the last three months clinging to books and stories that deliver a message of hope. Stories that transport me away from my current reality and to a place that feels like a vacation. Or a new world. Or an adventure. Or an emotional journey. That’s the beauty of books; they’re able to remove you from your own headspace and let you experience something new, something different, and something unique that you can’t find anywhere else.

I hope you find at least one new favorite on this list. Keep reading. Keep hoping. Keep dreaming.

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow – Laura Taylor Namey

This young adult contemporary romance gave me the perfect summer vibes during a rather chilly and grey winter. Lila Reyes is nearing high school graduation when a series of events shoves her off track from her perfect post-graduation plans. She’s spent her entire life in Miami, which is warm and vibrant, and everything Lila loves. Her parents, worried about her mental health, send her to stay with family in England in the hopes the change will help Lila rest and heal. But England is cold, and grey, and the food is bland. Everything seems horrible until she meets Orion.

I loved the blending of cultures in this book. All the baking tidbits were fantastic, even if they did leave me craving amazing pastries and treats that I didn’t have on hand. The love story is sweet. The depiction of mental health is well-done and respectful. All in all, it was a delightful read that transported me away for awhile. And that’s really what I’d been after.

Fence Vol. 1 – C.S. Pacat (author), Johanna the Mad (Illustrator), Joana LaFuente (Colorist), and Jim Campbell (Letterer)

Prior to picking up Fence Volume 1, I had zero interest in fencing. And yet this graphic novel came highly recommended and was tagged as LGBT. Given the state of the world for more than a year, I’ve been consuming more graphic novels, and so I decided to give it a shot, even if fencing wasn’t really my thing.

And then I binged all four available volumes in a day and a half.

The story follows Nicholas to Kings Row private school, where he has a fencing scholarship–assuming he can make the fencing team. A team of four. He’s up against more than 20 other students looking to join the team. The characters are what pulled me into this series. They’re complex and layered. And by the end, I guess I kind of did care about fencing? Or at least so far as it further confuses and entangles the lives of the characters in Fence.

Amari and the Night Brothers – B.B. Alston

Amari’s brother went missing and the cops have written him off as a kid who found himself involved in illegal activities and isn’t likely to return home. But Amari knows her brother and knows he was doing something great with his life before he went missing, not something illegal. Still no one is taking notice. Then she finds a mysterious briefcase in her brother’s closet that leads her to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.

Marketed as Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black, and featuring a powerful black female protagonist on the cover, I was instantly sold on this book. Once I got my hands on a copy, I couldn’t put this book down. The characters were compelling, the plot quick and fun, and it felt like a fresh take on middle grade fantasy. I would absolutely recommend to adults as well as kids.

The Girl and the Goddess – Nikita Gill

I’ve previously read Nikita Gill’s poetry and fallen in love with her writing style. This collection is a fun exploration of form, a mix of short stories and poems that flow together and read cover-to-cover as one cohesive story. Feminist and provocative, as I’d expected.

I highly recommend this, although I will give a trigger warning for where this work touches on sexual assault.

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian – Tim Probert

Looking for a delightful romp through a new fantasy land? This graphic novel has beautiful art, strange creatures, and a compelling adventure. I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

Can their love of books and pop music save the world?

That tag line was written for suckers like me. Books? I LOVE BOOKS! Pop music? What era are we talking? I mean, yes, just sign me up! And this cover?!

Wasn’t hard to get me to pick up this book.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised that there’s a love story in this science fiction young adult novel after that tagline. It’s very adorable. But beyond the romance, I loved how the author took a protagonist who had pretty much given up on the idea that humanity could survive and found a way to deliver a message of hope.

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