Catching Fire

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2022

We’re officially half way through the year so it’s time for the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag! I do enjoy doing this tag and taking a moment to check in on my reading goals and seeing how I’m doing with them. I am doing far better with my reading this year compared to this time last year so that’ a huge positive.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2022
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
I absolutely adored this book. It’s about art and culture and is about art heists and who museum artifacts should really belong to – the international museums where people can see it, or the country the artifact was originally stolen from. Then there’s the Fast and Furious vibes with a uni student being a street racer but also the found family vibes.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2022
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I haven’t read any new-to-me series this year and have instead been rereading the Saga graphic novel series and The Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve been rereading The Hunger Games on audio from my library, and I haven’t reread Mockingjay yet (my hold comes in later this month) but I was blown away by Catching Fire. I haven’t read the series since the first time I read it about 10 years ago (read the trilogy just before the first film came out) and haven’t seen the films recently either so it’s fun to see what I remember and noticing the foreshadowing now I know how it ends though not necessarily how it gets there. I was surprised by how much happened before it was even announced that former victors would be going back into the Games. So much setup and character work and the alliances that Katniss isn’t really aware of are so interesting and then the Games themselves are thrilling. I honestly think Catching Fire is one of the best sequels ever.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
I’m so bad at keeping up with new releases as I’m so focused on my Read the World Project right now. That being said, I remember seeing When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill everywhere on Twitter when it was due to be released and it definitely sounded like a book I’d like. I don’t have a copy yet (will probably wait till it’s in paperback) but it’s something I am looking forward to reading soonish.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
Likewise, I’m often unaware of what books are coming out until I see them sitting in Waterstones. In the latest Top Ten Tuesday I saw The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Alias Emma by Ava Glass featured on a few blogs I visited and both of them sounded interesting, so I’ll try and keep my eye out for them when they are released.

5. Biggest disappointment
Angel Mage by Garth Nix
I love the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix and have read the other odd book by him when I was a teen but nothing outside of that series recently, so I was intrigued to see what I made of this standalone fantasy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I never really got attached to any of the characters and I don’t think I’d ever read something where the magic/fantasy aspects were so linked to religion (a kind of Catholicism religion) and that kind of weirded me out and I could never really get my head around the magic system. Plus, I didn’t realise this when I picked it up, but Angel Mage is sort of inspired by/a retelling of the Three Musketeers and that aspect was a bit jarring too. So overall, it just didn’t work for me and if I wasn’t reading it for the Magical Readathon I’d have probably DNF’d it.

6. Biggest surprise
Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi
I don’t read contemporary books that often, or at least not contemporary books set in USA/UK (I’ll read any sort of book for my Read the World Project), so Nina is Not Okay which was one of the 12 Books recommended by 12 Friends books was a little out of my comfort zone. It’s about a teenage girl who’s an alcoholic and who may have been raped when drunk but she can’t remember. I found Nina is Not Okay fascinating and frustrating in equal measure and that was down to Nina as a character. She was so unlikable at times, and while I’ve thankful never had any real interaction with an addict, I feel it was a good depiction of their self-destructive tendencies and how there’s no helping someone until they actually want to help themselves. Enjoy would be the wrong word considering the subject matter, but I found the experience of reading Nina is Not Okay a powerful and important one which I didn’t expect.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)
Tété-Michel Kpomassie
I don’t really have a favourite new author (or favourite authors in general to be honest) as the only authors I’ve read multiple books from this year are Suzanne Collins and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples which were both rereads. I will say though out of all the new authors I’ve read this year I’d like to read more from Tété-Michel Kpomassie. I don’t know if his written more travel memoirs, but I really enjoyed An African in Greenland and how he described the different people, places, and cultures he came across and learnt about.

8. Newest fictional crush
I don’t think I have one? Perhaps I’m getting too old for fictional crushes. Will Chen from Portrait of a Thief was certainly charming but neither he nor anyone else I’ve read about was really a crush.

9. Newest favourite character
Peeta Melark – The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Once again, I’m kind of cheating here as Peeta is neither new nor a favourite but he’s the closest fit for this question. I was never Team Peeta or Team Gale (always thought Katniss would end up like Haymitch/with him as platonic besties as they understood each other so well) but I’m definitely liking and appreciating Peeta so much more on reread. He’s so kind and loving and smart, and with hindsight seeing how he can manipulate the audience is a lot of fun.

10. Book that made you cry
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Even though it’s been almost 15 years since it was released, I won’t say too much because I’m nice like that when it comes to spoilers. I will say what made me teary-eyed was to do with a character called Rue and it did surprise me when it happened. I don’t think I had that reaction when I first read The Hunger Games 10 years ago but maybe now knowing how it starts a chain reaction and impacts other characters it hit me more on reread.

11. Book that made you happy
Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan
This is one of those books that if I’d started it earlier in the day, I would’ve read it in one sitting. I absolutely loved Blood, Sweat & Chrome and often found myself with a huge grin on my face with how various parts of the production of Mad Max: Fury Road unfolded. The language used made it feel like all the various members of the cast and crew were just talking to you about their experiences, and how it was put together made the story of how this extraordinary film got made flow really well. It was funny and interesting and I learnt so much about not only how Mad Max: Fury Road was made but filmmaking in general and how Fury Road was so different to a lot of mainstream Hollywood films – they didn’t even have a script with dialogue!

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
This Woven Kingdom by Tarereh Mafi
While I have acquired more books than I should’ve so far this year, there’s not many I’d call beautiful. I haven’t read This Woven Kingdom yet (and I’m not sure if/when I’m going to) but I received it in my now-cancelled Illumicrate subscription earlier this year and it’s definitely the most beautiful book I’ve got. It’s a naked hardcover with foiling and stencilled edges and I’s so different from the standard cover. I wouldn’t have picked up this book based on the standard UK cover, but this one is definitely more eye-catching.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The end is in sight for my Read the World Project so that’s my focus. I have 11 books to read before the end of September (my new self-imposed deadline) which is totally doable and most of those books are featured in my latest TBR. I still need books for Tuvalu and Monaco so if you happen to know any writers from either of those countries who have work in English, please let me know.

Now for my reading stats. My goal is to read 52 books and review half of that and I’m at 40 books so I’m right on track with that – a long weekend away in a cottage plus some comics/graphic novels has certainly helped with that. I have read 7 of the 12 Books Recommended by 12 Friends challenge and I’m currently reading and very much enjoying book number 8 – A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Slade House by David Mitchell
Himself by Jess Kidd
Nina is Not Okay by Shapi Khorsandi
John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Cabinent by Un Su Kim
They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera
Darius the Great is Not OK by Adib Khorram
City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

I like to have an equal split when it comes to reading books by men and women but at the moment it’s leaning towards more male authors. While most of the books I have left for my Read the World Project are by men, hopefully once that’s done and I read more different books on my TBR it’ll be more of an equal split. That’s because outside of my Read the World Project, my physical TBR does lean more towards women writers.

The genres I’ve read so far this year are a nice eclectic mix which I’m always happy about. Once I’ve finished my Read the Word Project, I’m interested to see what my taste is when it comes to genres because so much of what I’ve read for the challenge has been historical or non-fiction and I always thought I was a big fantasy fan but that’s not something I’ve picked up as frequently.

How has your reading gone for the first half of the year?

Y is for: YA and my problems with it

YA or Young Adult literature is incredibly popular right now. Like any type of literature it covers many genres including contemporary, dystopian, fantasy, romance and many more. All YA books put a big focus on the plot, which is often fast moving, and the characters rather on the language.

This is great and sometimes a plot driven book is just what I want and need to get me reading in amongst my university work.

However I’ve sometimes been a little annoyed with the way some YA books are written. Now this is a bit of a generalisation though I will draw on two specific examples, one from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth so spoilers for those two books.

The main thing is that some plot points or potential plot twists seem to be blatantly obvious to me. I don’t know if this is because I am 22 (so in some ways you could say I am a young adult) when the target audiences are teenagers, so theoretically I have read more and am used to the typical genre tropes or narrative arcs so can see where something is going. But at the same time it sometimes feels like the author is being slightly insulting to its audiences (and sometimes its characters) by making something so obvious.

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