Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag

Lately I’ve been reading a bit more than I have in the past year and a half and I’m excited about it! I’ve recently spent a bit more time on booktube again and I saw this “Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag” circulating around. Not sure if I’ll make an actual Youtube video about this, but I thought writing a short post using the 13 questions would be good!

I’ve only read 14 books so far this year. We’ve got 6 months to go though so this is admittedly much better than the 20 books I read all throughout 2019 (10 of which I read in January and February). Anyway, let’s get started!

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020

“In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world.” (x)

This has been on my to read list on Goodreads for the longest time. I was first introduced to Joy Harjo and her poetry in college for an Indigenous and Diaspora Literature class that focused on Native American Lit. Basically all of the writers I was introduced to from that class all made an impression from me and Harjo was one of them. So I was super excited to get to reading her memoir.

Of course, she did not disappoint. Harjo’s writing is devastatingly beautiful. The memoir is a sort of journey for the readers throughout her life as we find out the things that happened in her life that ultimately led her to poetry.

This isn’t an easy read. It’s emotional and sort of gut wrenching. But life isn’t meant to be easy or easy to digest. Harjo’s memoir is a must read.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

I haven’t read any sequels this year!

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

“Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.”

I saw this book making its way around bookstagram for awhile and I was drawn in immediately by it’s beautiful cover. Though I don’t always gravitate toward fantasy, sirens are cool and now we’re talking about black sirens! I’m in.

There are about a million holds for the ebook at my library so I’m planning to just buy it on my Nook and maybe keep it as a beach read one day when the weather is nice. I’m so excited to get into this and hopefully it’s as enjoyable as it looks.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

“Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.” (x)

Yaa Gyasi is known for her debut, Homegoing, which I sadly have not read yet (but I will!). The reason I even know about this release is because I saw Roxanne Gay did a review of this on my Goodreads timeline and I decided to check it out.

The book sounds interesting and very devastating, and I absolutely love a book that will pull out my heart.

5. Biggest disappointment.

“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.” (x)

This is my 3rd Murakami novel (technically my 2nd as I never got around to finishing Kafka on the Shore) so I’m still kind of new to his writing and storytelling. To be honest, this book wasn’t really for me. None of the characters did anything for me. I never understood their motivations or what drove them forward. And none of them were particularly likable. As in, I didn’t like reading about them and following their life.

It was a…strange novel, to say the least. I’m all for slow books, but this just felt like it kept going and going with no clear end in sight. The last 100 or so pages were my favorite to read which I think might have been because things were being wrapped up and I felt like the characters were a bit easier to understand. I plan to check out at least one or two of his other works and hope it does more for me than Norwegian Wood.

6. Biggest surprise.

“Sasha Sagan was raised by secular parents, the astronomer Carl Sagan and the writer and producer Ann Druyan. They taught her that the natural world and vast cosmos are full of profound beauty, that science reveals truths more wondrous than any myth or fable.

When Sagan herself became a mother, she began her own hunt for the natural phenomena behind our most treasured occasions–from births to deaths, holidays to weddings, anniversaries, and more–growing these roots into a new set of rituals for her young daughter that honor the joy and significance of each experience without relying on religious framework.

As Sagan shares these rituals, For Small Creatures Such as We becomes a moving tribute to a father, a newborn daughter, a marriage, and the natural world–a celebration of life itself, and the power of our families and beliefs to bring us together.”

I was surprised at how much I liked this book because I generally don’t go for nonfiction. It’s not my favorite genre as I’m usually worried the writing will be too dry and dull for my taste. Fiction has something about it that keeps me coming back. The reason I downloaded this book in the first place was because I absolutely loved the title, the cover was clean and pretty and I recognized Sasha’s last name though I don’t know much about Carl Sagan’s work itself.

Sarah Sagan writes precisely, yet beautifully. Reading this was a journey throughout the world and learning about the different ways people on this Earth celebrate and have celebrated things so specifically important to humans was an amazing insight. I learned so much. I implore everyone to read this. I think it can serve as a good book for almost anyone. I can’t wait to get a physical copy of this just so I can mark up the pages myself and keep going back to read and reread.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

So, I wouldn’t say she’s exactly my new “favorite author.” I feel like it’s hard for me to choose a favorite author. I need to read at least more than one book for sure.

However, I enjoyed An American Marriage more than I thought I would. Tayari Jones’ is an incredible writer. She can truly draw a reader in and keep you turning pages though nothing much has happened.

I realized this with the first 30 pages of the novel, as nothing had really happened but Jones’ had made her characters feel tangible and real that I was interested in them and how they would deal with the new shift in their life that would happen very soon.

Like Norwegian Wood, I thought the characters in this book were very unlikable, however unlike Norwegian Wood I could understand their motivations and why they made the decisions they did. The situations they were in, the train of thought they got sucked into felt real. It’s a sticky situation and nobody really comes out a winner.

Because of this, I’m super ready to get into her other book, Silver Sparrow and see if I’m as drawn into the story and characters as I was with An American Marriage.

8. Newest fictional crush.

“Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.” (x)

Red was so sweet and I loved him with Chloe. They had such a cute relationship and I’d love my own Red.

9. Newest favourite character.

“When 11-year-old Langston’s mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago’s brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It’s lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.” (x)

I loved reading this!! Following Langston on his journey in a new environment with new people and not really fitting in anywhere was lowkey heartbreaking.

But, when he found his little haven in the library and in the words, I was so drawn to him. Langston is a sweetheart and I just wanted him to be happy through the whole thing and not have to worry about bullies or death or sadness.

10. Book that made you cry.

“Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?” (x)

Okay, this didn’t technically make me cry. But, the ending was so freaking shocking and I am still reeling from it.

I’m sure if I wasn’t so surprised by the ending (and I wasn’t at school), I quite possibly might have cried. The last quarter of this book was such a rollercoaster of emotions I’m amazed I got through it intact. Also, a little surprised this is young adult. There are so many mature themes! However, I’m glad because teenagers also need to think about and grapple with these issues.

11. Book that made you happy.

“Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.” (x)

Another book I’ve had on my TBR for sooooo long. So happy I got around to reading it, because it was delightful. Though a bit heartbreaking at points, I so enjoyed following Jude as she navigated her new life and figured out how to hold on to her identity in front of people who have their own ideas of who she might be.

Jude made me happy. Jude’s mother made me happy. Her family and found family in school made me happy. It was just so good for my heart. Please read this!

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

“On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.”

I actually haven’t bought a lot of books this year (well not physical), but I’d probably say this is one of my favorite covers of a book I own.

It’s pretty simple, but I love looking at the cover. I think there was that same appeal with her book The Buddha in the Attic. Also, all the other versions of The Emperor was Divine are beautiful as well. Which is surprising because I feel like when there are multiple different covers/editions, there’s bound to be at least one that is just plain ugly.

I really enjoyed The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, which is why I picked this up in the first place. So I’m excited to finally get into reading this.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I mean basically everything on my bookshelf at home and the ebooks I’ve bought, but the ones I’m most excited to read are these six.