It’s so weird to think we are already at the point of the year to be doing all of the end-of-the-year wrap-up kinds of topics! In general, this has been a very bizarre reading year for me. I’ve read the most books in total that I’ve read since I’ve started doing challenges (including several that were huge!) but struggled to keep up with the goals that I had set for myself. I’ve had this constant feeling through most of the year of being behind or else pressured to read specific books on a timeline, mostly due to library due dates. I also took on the most challenges that I have so far, knowing full way that the total number I’d set for myself was unrealistic. I knew all along that I would not be finishing everything I had intended by the end of the year, but couldn’t figure out any other way to track it accurately. It’s no surprise that there are many books that I planned to read but didn’t get to, many of which have become high priority for next year instead. As the year draws to an end, I find myself replacing many of the books I’d planned on reading with other options, to at least make sure that I finish my top priority challenges in time. It’s a bit frustrating, and I definitely need to learn to prioritize better for 2020!
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Somehow, Pachinko became “that book” of the year. By this, I mean it is a book that I intended to read from the start, but ended up constantly pushing off until the idea of reading it just became intimidating. In previous years, “that book” has been something like The Goldfinch or One Hundred Years of Solitude. It generally tends to be a longer book or one that I expect to be a bit more dense, or a book that I had limited interest in to begin with. I think this book is the exception since I was very interested in trying it, but it was one that fell victim to library timing. This book was just never available when I would have had the time to really devote to it, and then it felt like it was too late. This book is about a teenage girl named Sunja who falls in love with a wealthy stranger, whom she soon learns is married after also finding out that she is pregnant. Sunja decides to accept another marriage proposal from a sickly minister on his way to Japan, but her decision to reject her child’s father has long-lasting consequences. It sounds like such an interesting book, and a bit reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha in a way, and I’d still love to give it a try. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be squeezing it in next year, but it’s definitely one that I’m considering.
2) Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This is one of those books that I almost bypassed because it seemed so overhyped, and because there are a few plot elements that I’m not usually such a fan of, but I’ve heard such great reviews for it that I decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately, I just ran out of time to get to it since it’s a library book, and I decided to stick to books I own through the winter. This one is about a teenage boy named Alex who is the son of the President, but he has an ongoing rivalry with Prince Henry of England. To try and avoid the tabloids finding out about their conflict, the two of them set enter into a fake friendship, mostly to manage their online image, which soon starts to develop into something more. I’m not usually interested in books that have to do with politics or with royalty, but this one just sounds so fun to read. I’ve also seen just about universally positive reviews for it among the reviewers I follow, so it’s one that I will definitely be adding to my plans for next year.
3) The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Is it cheating to buy a book to help accomplish a goal of reading books that I own? I just bought this book as part of Book Outlet’s Black Friday deals because I knew it was one that I’d want to get to next year instead. It’s another case of just not having the time to squeeze it in, even though I really wanted to try it. This book is about a woman named Lucy who has a very difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana, despite doing everything she can to get on her good side. When Diana is found dead with a suicide note near her body claiming she took her own life to escape cancer, the circumstances surrounding her death are called into question and police begin to investigate it as a homicide instead. Soon, Lucy’s relationship with her mother-in-law is under scrutiny, especially whether their conflict could have been a strong enough motive for murder. I love character-driven stories and especially books that focus on family dynamics, so this seems like exactly the kind of thriller I’d probably enjoy. I’m hoping to fit this one in next year as well!
4) Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
This is one of those books that I really want to read whenever I see it, but mostly forget about the rest of the time. I had it in mind for a prompt requiring the first book that I saw at a bookstore, since it was the first book that caught my attention during a visit to the bookstore last year when I was making my challenge plans. There is no specific reason why I haven’t read this one yet, other than the fact that there were just always a few other books that I wanted more from the library at the time that I released holds. This book is about a young woman named Ayesha who has put aside her dreams of being a poet to take a teaching job and pay off debts to her uncle. Ayesha lives with a large family who want her to get married, but she is against the idea of an arranged marriage. She finally meets a man, Khalid, who catches her interest, only to learn that he is getting engaged to her flighty younger cousin Hafsa, who has already rejected nearly 100 proposals. It sounds like a very interesting story and reminds me a bit of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, which I liked but not as much as I expected, so I’m hoping to like this one even more! I haven’t managed to fit it into my plans for next year yet, but I’d like to try and include it somewhere.
5) Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
I think of all the books listed here, this is the one that I was least invested in reading in the first place, and the one that I’m most on the fence about including in next year’s plans. I wanted to read it because I’d heard great things about it, but I’d put it into my plan as a placeholder for a prompt that I was struggling with, even though I hadn’t fully committed to the idea of reading it. This book is about a 19-year-old girl named Elisa Perez, the daughter of a sugar baron in 1958, who grows up sheltered from her country’s political turmoil, until she has an affair with a revolutionary. In 2017, freelance writer Marisol Ferrera visits Cuba to scatter the ashes of her late grandmother Elisa, who had been forced to flee the country during the revolution. As Marisol arrives in Havana, she has to face the beautiful country’s political struggles, and soon finds herself attracted to a man hiding secrets of his own. For some reason, I find that I’m very rarely interested in books that deal with South or Central America, and I have no idea why. I like historical fiction, and this sounds like the kind of story I’d probably enjoy, but for some reason, I’m still relatively indifferent about actually reading it. It may be because I have so little familiarity with the historical context, that I think somehow I won’t be able to get into it. I would still like to try this one at some point, but it’s not very high priority, nor was it when I added it to my plan this year anyway.