Yes, we are more than halfway through the year and everyone has done this, but I still want to do it! I really enjoy this tag and the questions so here we go.
1. Best book you’ve read so far this year
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. In the span of five years, Ward loses five men close to her. They die by different circumstances but the thread of similarity comes in that being black, male, poor and Southern affect your life and ultimately your death. It’s a sad account and upsetting a lot of the times. The way communities aren’t helped when they should, and could, be. What makes this the best book for me is the way Ward structures the book. She has five chapters where she dedicates each one a man she lost. The first chapter starts with the most recent man whose died and each chapter goes backward in time where the last chapter is about the first man who died, her brother. In between those chapters are Ward’s own memoir, going forward in time, and about her life as a black Southern woman and all the baggage that comes with that. It’s an incredible book that I think everyone should read.
Honorable Mentions: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far this year
Three Keys by Kelly Yang. I don’t usually read series, but the Front Desk trilogy is shaping up to be a favorite of mine. It’s a middle grade series that focuses on Mia Tang, a Chinese American immigrant living in California, and her life as she runs the front desk of a motel and her parents clean the rooms. That’s basically how Front Desk is set up and Three Keys follows up with more adventures. I think it’s a great book on its own, but I also love how it can be an introduction to talk about the topic of immigration with young kids and the treatment of them everywhere but, especially in America. And Kelly Yang says she based a lot of it on her own life. Her author notes are interesting to read so if you do read this, I suggest not skipping those!
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. I’ve been waiting, WAITING, for this book since I first read Get a Life, Chloe Brown. Eve is my favorite sister and I loved all her cameos/appearances throughout the other sisters’ books and I can’t wait to read the book focused on her and her love life!
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
No idea what is going on in the literary world, to be quite honest, so no answer for this one.
5. Biggest Disappointment
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. When new books come out, you see a bunch of people do videos or post reviews for it and a lot of people were doing that for this book so I thought “hey it looks cute. I can’t wait.” Sadly, I didn’t like it at all. Pacing was so slow, I didn’t enjoy reading about the characters and I thought the book was way too long. Truthfully this should have just been a DNF, but sometimes I am determined to finish a book. I also haven’t read a proper YA novel in soooo long so I think everything I didn’t like could be chalked up to me just not being used to reading this genre. I didn’t expect much but I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve read in the past year so I was disappointed to not enjoy this one.
6. Biggest Surprise
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon and The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
The Season of Styx Malone is another middle grade novel. It follows two brothers who live in Indiana and are feeling kind of bored in their small town. That’s when they meet this older boy, Styx Malone who gives them adventures. They decide to participate in the Great Escalator Trade with Styx which means instead of buying things they will trade things for better objects until they get their prized possession, a moped. I love middle grade novels so it wasn’t surprising in that way, but I was surprised by how funny AND heartbreaking it was AT THE SAME TIME. and how well Kekla Magoon weaves them in together so well.
The Vegetarian is basically about a woman who decides to be vegetarian. There are three parts and they’re narrated by her husband, her brother in law and her sister, in that order. It’s frickin weird. I was surprised at how….weird it was, but also how entranced I was by it. When you look back it seems like Han Kang is doing a commentary on Korean society and the image women are expected to keep up but also the act of just being human. It’s interesting and I’m also surprised to say I’d read it again.
7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)
Hanna Alkaf. I read her middle grade novel, The Girl and the Ghost and I loved her characterization, her world building, and her writing. I am so excited to read her YA novel, The Weight of Our Sky. I’ve heard such good things about it too.
8. Newest fictional crush
Sadly, I don’t have one. I really only read non-fiction, middle grade or really sad fiction so no crushes have developed.
9. Newest favorite character
Mozasu from Pachinko. I love him. Every time he was in a scene, I was so happy he was there.
10. Book that made you cry
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This book! When I got to THAT part, and if you’ve read the book you probably already know what I’m talking about, but when I got to THAT part I had to laugh. Because I thought it was a lie. It wasn’t until I got to the last couple of pages that I realized I had to accept the truth. That character, that scene made me so sad. And whenever I talk about it with friends and about any of the characters and their journeys, I just start to cry. It’s such a good book.
11. Book that made you happy
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. This collection of essays is so laugh out loud funny! It’s the bright spot I needed especially during the first semester of school this year. I purposefully dragged out reading it so I could spend more time with it and laugh more. Irby is such a great writer and I can’t wait to read her other essay collections and laugh even more.
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
Love in Colour by Bolu Babaloa. My friend got me this as a birthday gift and I love it so much! The cover is gorgeous sometimes I just stare at it, it’s so pretty. This is another one I’m kind of taking my time with and I can because it’s a collection of short stories all foltake retellings and all focused on the different forms of love. A love letter to love. So up my alley!
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year.
A lot. Too many. I probably won’t even get to them because I’ll be distracted by something else. However right now, I’m currently reading The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez and Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger.