by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)
My reading has been going much better in 2021 than in 2020. I have read quite a few books (for me) in this first part of the year, and I have read some that I truly adored. If you look back at my post from last year at this same time, my reading was not going well. At all.
I love sharing the books I love, so I wanted to highlight these five books that have been some of my favorites of the year (so far). These aren't necessarily books that were published in 2021. These are books that I read in 2021.
From the publisher:
"They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the United States while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California.
"Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
"Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. But Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course when her debate coach starts working with her privately.
"As they steer their own distinct paths, Dani and Claire keep crashing into one another, setting a course that will change their lives forever."
Why it made the list: I loved Yang's middle-grade read Front Desk, so I was very excited to read Parachutes, a YA novel. I learned so much reading this book, and I found the author's note at the end particularly insightful. I think it is an excellent and unique story that will help readers understand the term "parachutes" and what it means to be a parachute in America. (Please note: This book does deal with sexual assault and could be triggering for some readers.)
From the publisher:
"In her 20s Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest.
"On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.
"Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her 30s, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma's second chance at happiness.
"That is, until Jesse is found. He's alive, and he's been trying all these years to come home to her.."
Why it made the list: I have loved Taylor Jenkins Reid's more recent work, so I am working my way through her backlist. And let me tell you, this one did not disappoint. It is a beautiful story of love, loss, and finding your way in a complicated situation. I LOVED this one.
From the publisher:
"Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest - and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.
"For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.
These four women are giving the competition their all - even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?"
Why it made the list: Books about the relationships and bonds between women and also cooking and food? Sign me up! I loved this story about four very different women finding their way in really complicated situations. I loved the recipes sprinkled throughout the novel, and I really enjoyed learning about the war rationing that occurred in England during WWII and beyond. It was a topic that I knew nothing about, and it was fascinating to learn about it.
From the publisher:
"Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control beauty, and beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
"But it's not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite - the Belle chosen by the queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.
"But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie - that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
"With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever."
Why it made the list: Ashley recommended this one to me, and I loved it. It is fantastic world building alongside commentary on class and race. This book provides a compelling story with something for everyone--social commentary, adventure, action, and romance. Warning: When you finish this one, you will want to move right to the next book in the series, The Everlasting Rose (Amazon | Bookshop.org).
From the publisher:
"In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian-American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band - and meeting the man who would become her husband - her Korean-ness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was 25, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
"Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and enjoy many times."
Why it made the list: You know I couldn't let a list post without a memoir. Michelle Zauner's beautiful memoir about losing her mother to cancer is poignant, witty, heart-wrenching, and hopeful. I loved her frank writing and the stories she shared in this fantastic book. Read it. You won't be sorry.
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