frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (BtVS: Buffy B&W)
[personal profile] frayadjacent
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.

Date: 2017-01-12 14:52 (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Two bookcases stuffed full (with books on top) leaning into each other (books)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
I share your delight with Americanah. I have Half a Yellow Sun ready to go: is rape mentioned or explored in detail?

If you like religious POVs, I recommend Susan Palwick.

Taste on her blog

The Neccesary Beggar is an immigration story, where the arrivals happen to be aliens. Shelter features someone with mental Illness who is happy to live in her sentient house.

Date: 2017-01-12 16:08 (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
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.

I read someone else talking about this making the point that it's maybe not actually about gender but about class. Like, there's Alosha (I think her name was?) who has the same kind of magic as the other male wizards, and they're all upper class, right? And then at some point Agniezka reads the journal of a male wizard who has the same type of magic as herself, and he's also from a village.

Date: 2017-01-12 18:55 (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
I also read it late, and I think I went back to read some reviews but don't remember now what they were. Sorry!

Date: 2017-01-12 16:15 (UTC)
goodbyebird: Orphan Black: A hand wearing a ring strokes the hair back from Helena's face. (OB you are the light)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
ooh planetfall sounds very interesting indeed.

lol tho just tried to add on goodreads and it's there already :p

Date: 2017-01-13 16:28 (UTC)
goodbyebird: Orphan Black: Close-crop of Allison. (OB reclaiming my life)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
Oh ew. I just use it to track books I've read and my giant TBR pile. I very much imagine the experience would be different if you put actual content on the site :/

Yep, I have the exact same problem! I helped a person set up an account the other day, and can't for the life of me figure out how to add her. Super weird and unwieldy.

Date: 2017-01-12 17:03 (UTC)
isis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] isis
I've had Americanah on my to-read list for some time. Though - I've listened to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (through #14, not all of them! It doesn't find its stride until the second or third book, be warned) and loved the reading very much, but it's by Lisette Lecat, who is an amazing, excellent, awesome reader. I looked it up on Goodreads and I see there is a second audio edition (published by Hatchette, where the others are Recorded Books) read by Adjoah Andoh, but I haven't heard any of those.

I do recommend Lisette Lecat's reading, though. She's one of my favorite audiobook readers and does the variety of accents very well (her weakest is the American!).

Date: 2017-01-12 23:02 (UTC)
yourlibrarian: LibraryGeek-eyesthatslay (BUF-LibraryGeek-eyesthatslay)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
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.

I must have read something about this because the book sounds familiar. But I liked what you said about the friends issue -- I find this is equally true in most shippy fanfic. In fact, it's particularly obvious there because friendships get minimized or even erased completely.

The Zen Cho book sounds promising. I'll stick that on my wish list.

Date: 2017-01-14 07:55 (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Hah, did you see my review of PLANETFALL? It's so compelling in so many ways, but man...that ending. *shakes head*

Date: 2017-01-14 13:23 (UTC)
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12
Sorcerer to the Crown is such a good book. It's such a great demonstration of the fact that you can make really strong points about injustice and marginalisation and privilege, while also writing a story that's deeply, deeply funny. (I guess Cho is like Terry Pratchett in that way, even though the humour is very different.)

I read Uprooted last year and really loved it, although it helps that it features a particular character dynamic that I really like — a lot of the reactions that I've seen to it have been a lot more ambivalent.


frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Default)

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