frayadjacent: Buffy and Willow, who's the only part of the image in color and is wearing a silly outfit. Text says "adorkable". (!Adorkable)
What have you finished reading recently?

Ms Marvel, Vols 1 & 2: I thought I'd read these previously, but I think it was actually only Vol 1. I enjoyed them, but I liked them most when Kamala was interacting with her friends and family, and tended to get a little bored (and also confused) during the action scenes. This has been the case in most of my other (very, very limited) experiences reading superhero comics. But I own Vols 3 and 4, and I've heard Vol 5 is excellent, so I'll keep on at least through that.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho: a romance novella (novelette? I'm not sure how long it was) set in 1920's London. Everything Zen Cho writes pulls me in immediately, and I become invested in her characters within a few pages. I loved this just as I loved The Terracotta Bride and Sorcerer to the Crown -- my only complaint being that I wanted more time, especially more time with Jade and Ravi.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Many probably know this book since it won a Hugo last year, but briefly: it's a novella about a young Himba woman who is the first of her people to attend an elite university on another planet (where only 5% of the students/faculty etc are human). Things go horribly wrong on the voyage to the university. Binti, the main character, provided a strong and compelling narrative voice, and I really liked that mathematics and technology was deeply rooted in her people's knowledge and traditions. The resolution was interesting in how it handled negotiations between peoples with different power and ideologies. I do wish it had been longer, that there had been more time to spend with the characters and to let relationships develop. And I was very distracted by all the description of ideas and technologies with no real explanation of them, but that is more of a personal quirk. (See also below, but x10.)

What are you currently reading?

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: I'm only in the second chapter. The first chapter was horribly violent and contained A LOT of references to concepts, technologies, and institutions that were not explained. It was an extended battle scene, and wanting to see how things turned out kept my interest, even though the lack of explanation meant I couldn't actually imagine the scene. If this book hadn't been praised all over Booktube and on Fangirl Happy Hour I might not keep going with it. But it has been praised all over, so I'll keep reading.

I'm still listening to Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John McWhorter. Illness and other things have kept me from walking to work, so I'm going slower now than I was.

frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (BtVS: Buffy B&W)
Print/ebooks I read in 2016, in chronological order. I usually have one print/ebook and one audiobook going at a time, so I've separated the two categories. Since I stopped posting Wednesday reading updates sometime in February, I'm including some non-spoilery thoughts on each book.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott: discussed here

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here and here

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here and here

Traitors Gate by Kate Elliott: discussed here

I won't say much about Black Wolves/Crossroads trilogy since I've posted on them previously, but I do want to note that I realised two things from these books: I really like stories from the POV of a deeply religious character (if it's well-written of course), because it is fascinating to get into a worldview that is so different from my own. I probably wouldn't enjoy it if it was a deeply religious man whose religion justified being a patriarch, and while those character types definitely exist in these books, they aren't POV characters. Also, the world-building in these books is incredible, and I've since read/listened to Elliott talk about world-building and think she is so thoughtful and a master of the craft. I loved a lot of the characters and quite a few storylines in these books, but my very favourite thing was the world of The Hundred itself.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: I liked this book but not as much as everyone else seems to, which has me thinking I was reading it wrong. My head was still very much in the world of Black Wolves/Crossroads trilogy. I purchased Oblisk Gate when it came out but decided to wait until the third book was out and read the whole trilogy.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I was utterly charmed from the start, and really enjoyed Agnieszka as a protagonist and POV character. The plot was interesting and engaging, and I looooovvvved The Wood as a villain. It was also pretty funny at times! I was unpleasantly surprised by how violent and gruesome the story became. (I was also super stressed with work and utterly devastated by Brexit -- I became unhappy that Uprooted wasn't providing me the comforting escapism I wanted at the moment, but that's not a criticism of the book, just a note on my reaction.) I was ambivalent about the ending. On one hand, it was really lovely. On the other hand, it played into a woman-nature connection that I pretty much never enjoy in fiction. Except occasionally when Ursula K Le Guin does it. Though even then I often don't.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: This was the book I most enjoyed reading in 2016. In part because it did provide the comforting escapism I wanted. It was funny -- so funny! -- and I loved being in both Zacharias and Prunella's POV. They were delightful characters. It also had some deeply moving moments, e.g., when Zacharias recalls the circumstances of his adoption and reflects on his complicated feelings toward Sir Stephen. Also did I mention this was funny? And such a good romance -- I struggle a lot with romance in fiction, but I loved this one and it even made me want to seek out romance novels for the first time. I hope there will be sequels -- this book provided me with the thing I want most from fiction: characters I want to spend time with again and again.

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry: I picked this up a few years ago because 1) [personal profile] coffeeandink recommended it, 2) It's set in Seattle, and 3) I knew McCarry in college. Every time I considered reading it, I knew I couldn't handle reading a book about Seattle. It would make me too homesick. But the last time I visited Seattle, about a year ago, I realised the homesickness had faded. So I put this back on the to-read list.

I had mixed feelings about it. It took a while to get used to the writing style, or rather the POV character's voice, which I found overwrought at first. The setting is deeply familiar, not just the Seattle-ness but also the vaguely turn-of-the-21st century Pacific Northwest punk rock scene, complete with shitty meals that always taste the same made from dumpstered vegetables. I kind of liked that, but it was also distracting. I kept getting put off by the book and setting it down, only to pick it back up again 30 minutes later (I read a lot of it on a long-haul flight).

In the end I got used to the POV character's voice, and the plot got interesting, and there were some really lovely and true moments. And I LOVED the ending. It felt absolutely perfect, and unsettled in a way that I often don't like but that worked so well for this story and character. Then I learned it was the first of a trilogy. But I loved the ending so much, and had such ambivalent feelings about the rest of the book, that I didn't consider reading the subsequent books.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. My first ever romance! I enjoyed this book and the romance was fun -- I especially liked Minerva as a POV character and would like more books with characters like her. I thought the characterisation of the friends was really thin in a way that put me off at first, but eventually I could roll with it.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I picked this up after listening to a Fangirl Happy Hour episode on literary fiction. I switched between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook on this one. It was so good -- my other favourite of 2016. Ifemelu and Obinze (especially Ifemelu) were wonderful characters. I felt Ifemelu's struggles so deeply: her fear that something was wrong with her to make her sabotage her relationships, her struggle with depression, and her experiences with immigration (even though my difficulties have been so, so minor compared to most people's, I still love and feel immigration stories even more profoundly than I used to). Also, I liked that Ifemelu was a pretty judgmental person -- it was an interesting POV to be inside and also made for good exposition. I really enjoyed that this book dealt with not just immigration but also returning. And there was a lot of great humor in this book as well. Oh, and the narrator, Adjoa Andoh, was so good. I kind of want to listen to Alexander McCall-Smiths "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books just because she reads them.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamana Ngozi Adichie. It took me a while to get into this book; I don't know if it was the book itself or my life circumstances, but it was a slow read at first. It's about the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960's when (mainly) the Igbo people attempted to secede and form the Republic of Biafra. There are lots of heavy themes that come with that, especially the mass starvation that occurred when Nigeria completely blocked the Biafran borders. This book tells those stories through the compelling personal narratives of three characters, who were mainly non-combatants. One of the non-POV characters, Kainene, was one of my favourite characters in any novel I read this year.

I want to note that in the Fangirl Happy Hour episode mentioned above, it's implied that there is no rape in this book. That is not true -- feel free to message me if you want more information.

Planetfall by Emma Newman. Holy shit, I loooovvvvved most of this book. The POV character suffers from anxiety in a way that is, well, not that similar to mine in terms of specific behaviours, but still I identified with her and her anxiety deeply. I have never read a genre novel (or maybe any novel?) centred around a character who just wants to go home and be left alone because everything is too much. I don't just mean she gets overwhelmed sometimes, like many characters would. She always feels this way. It was incredible, a revelation, even, to encounter a character like that who still gets to be embroiled in space shenanigans.

But the ending of this book was really strange. I finished it and was very confused and went looking for reviews, sure I'd missed something. It seems like everyone agreed it was just kind of a bad ending. It's too bad, this book was so strong otherwise. I'd still highly recommend it, just be prepared to scratch your head a little when you put it down at the end.

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