I’ve finished 3 more books already for the 2015 Reading Challenge! All three of these books have female authors and are set in countries other than the US, but since I’m playing Hard Mode, I can only count one category per book. (You can count books for as many categories as you want–I think three is a good limit to challenge yourself a bit but not as much as Hard Mode.)
a book by a female author
First, I finished Unraveled by Gennifer Albin. This book is the conclusion to the Crewel trilogy, and unfortunately, it didn’t really satisfy me. I was so intrigued by the setup of the first book, then confused and frustrated by the way the second introduced more issues without resolving any from the first, and this finale, though it did wrap up almost every loose end, just did not make up for the problems of the second book. I found myself impatiently skipping phrases and skimming the text, trying to figure out what happened next in the plot without having to spend more time than necessary actually reading the novel. It was worth reading to find out what happened in the end, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.
I would recommend it to people who really want to know how the trilogy ends, but that’s about it.
Other categories this book fits: one-word title; set in a different country (if you count fictional countries as different); book with bad reviews; trilogy (if you read Crewel and Altered, too); with a love triangle; set in the future
Categories this book might fit: by an author you love but you haven’t read yet; friend recommendation; bottom of your to-read list; your mom loves; based entirely on its cover; made you cry (if you’re easily affected by mediocre character deaths); author you’ve never read before; own but have never read; written by an author with your same initials (G.A.); started but never finished
a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
Luckily, the next book I picked up fascinated me. Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye by Marie Mutsuki Mockett is a meandering, thoughtful memoir that relates Marie’s journey to conquer her grief for her father and grandfather. Mockett’s family connection to a Buddhist temple jumpstarted her investigation into the many ways that Japanese people cope with tragedy and loss. Much of the book deals with the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 tsunami, since the huge number of lives lost created thousands of grieving families, friends, and neighbors. Mockett has a very active voice, so this is not merely an objective textbook dryly recounting facts about Buddhism and Shinto funeral customs. Where the Dead Pause is a personal story of a Japanese-American woman struggling to make sense of a culture that is both intimately hers and not at all her own, and although I have almost nothing in common with Mockett, I found her very relatable.
I am not usually someone who reads nonfiction, but this one really captured me. This book is shelved in the adult nonfiction section, but it’s very readable for any teen interested in these subjects. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese culture, global traditions relating to death and dying, or to fans of Mary Roach’s Stiff and Spook books.
Other categories this book fits: published this year; female author; set in a different country; nonfiction; memoir
Categories this book might fit: by an author you love that you haven’t read yet; friend recommendation; bottom of your to-read list; your mom loves; scares you (if you’re scared of death and ghosts); based entirely on its cover; made you cry; author you’ve never read before; takes place in your hometown (are you from Japan?); written by an author with your same initials (M.M.M.)
a book set in a different country
Finally, I rounded out my trio with another YA novel, Gilded by Christina Farley. Jae Hwa Lee has recently moved from her native city of L.A. to her dad’s native city of Seoul, South Korea, where she soon discovers that her family is cursed. The firstborn daughter of each generation is captured by a demigod after she turns 15, unless she is already married or out of the country. Jae Hwa, age 16, is targeted by Haemosu, the aforementioned demigod, as soon as she moves to Seoul. She’s a strong teen, proficient in tae kwon do and Korean archery, but can she fight off Haemosu and keep her freedom? This urban fantasy is reminiscent of Japanese anime and Korean manhwa. There are a few logical inconsistencies that could have been tightened up in editing, but the rest of the story will sweep readers along fast enough that they will be willing to gloss over the issues to get to the next action scene. Gilded is a wonderfully fresh take on myths and legends coming alive in modern times.
I’d recommend this one to manga and manhwa fans for sure, especially fans of action or fantasy manga. Fans of the TV show The Legend of Korra might also get a kick out of it, since the heroine of the story is a physically strong fighter like Korra. It’s a different type of story than Korra’s, but there are enough similarities that I’d urge fans to give it a try.
Other categories this book fits: nonhuman characters; female author; one-word title; set in high school; color in the title (“gilded” refers to gold); with magic; author you’ve never read before (this is her debut)
Categories this book might fit: friend recommendation; bottom of your to-read list; based entirely on its cover; own but have never read; takes place in your hometown (are you from Korea?); written by an author with your same initials (C.F.); started but never finished