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.
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (HP: Hermione thinking)
Following [personal profile] coffeeandink's format

What I recently finished

I finally finished the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook, read by Stephen Fry. Looking through my previous posts, it looks like I started it 1.5-2 months ago. I kept getting stuck, what with Ron and the Triwizard Tournament and S.P.E.W. and the dread of Cedric Diggory's impending death. That one is still the hardest for me, even though he isn't my favorite character to die. I think it's because a lot of the deaths in book 7 are glossed over. And even though Dumbledore's death is awful, he still got to live a long life and die more or less on his terms. The death of a kind young man with his whole life ahead of him, and which is given a lot of build-up and narrative attention, is much harder.

A few weeks ago [personal profile] umadoshi posted a link to an essay called The Harry Potter series is actually one long story about PTSD. Now, I haven't read it, mostly because I'm finding there's a lot I don't remember about the series and I want to rediscover those things as I listen, rather than through analysis, fanworks, etc. (I am such a spoiler phobe. Sometimes I even do this if I'm rewatching Buffy, despite having watched and vidded and discussed the show over and over. Just in case! You never know when you'll be delighted to rediscover something you'd forgotten. Or something.) Anyway, despite having not yet read the argument I imagine that I'd largely agree with it. And that is related to why I adore -- or at least previously adored -- book 5, because of the way it deals with Cedric's death and all the other trauma Harry has undergone. More on that in the next section.

Shadow Gate, by Kate Elliott. This series continues to hold my interest, and Shadow Gate was a lot more compelling than Spirit Gate. It introduced a lot more POV characters, including several women. One of my least favorite characters underwent a transformation that was hard to read at times but incredibly well-written, and thus was propelled to a favorite (along with all of the POV women).

(CN: discussion of fictional sexual violence in this paragraph) There is a lot of sexual violence in these stories. I am not used to it. I think I can handle it better than I would have thought because it is a) generally not explicit, though there have been moments where small details were enough to be a little sickening. b) the surviovor's POV is prominent, and there has not been any sexual violence directly from the POV of the perpetrator, which is something I seriously can't handle. c) It presents sexual violence as a product of power relations, not sexual desire. d) It presents sexual violence as survivable. I keep recalling that, in Spirit Gate, one of the characters says to another that a woman can survive rape and go on to great power and accomplishments. And one of the characters who was indirectly referenced in that moment has done just that. Not in a "rape drove me to a vengeful rampage" -- which I actually thought it was going to do, briefly, but simply that this was one (significant) element of the character's life. It didn't define her, and it didn't ruin her.

What I'm reading now

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, audiobook read by Stephen Fry. As I mentioned, this used to be my favorite HP. I've learned in the last few years that it is many people's least favorite, and I think I read somewhere that even J.K. Rowling says she rushed it and it could have used another round of editing. I recall liking this book because it feels like the first book to take Harry's trauma seriously. I am not one to revel in the anger of a teenage boy, but at the same time I hate when people dismiss Harry's anger as just that. It is the anger of someone who's been through some serious trauma. Like Buffy Season 6, I like that, when Rowling decided to make the story more exciting by having worse things happen, she also followed though on the emotional consequences for the characters. (Or at least for Harry.)

That's not the only reason I loved this book though. It also finally gave some time and attention to Neville. I loved the way it subverted the idea of Harry as a Chosen One, through Neville's story. It introduces Luna! We get Dumbledore's Army! Etc.

Also, all sorts of things are happening that I thought were in later books: Harry discovering that Mrs. Figg is a member of the magical community, the introduction of Tonks (one of my faves!), and Harry's occlumency lessons with Snape (and what he learns about his father from that).

Traitors' Gate, by Kate Elliott. OMG, I've realised now that the Crossroads series and Black Wolves are much more closely linked than I'd previously thought. Knowing, in broad strokes, how things will end, has got me *dying* to see how they get there. I'm reading this as fast as I can, given that I don't have a ton of free time right now.

Free book-shaped space


I will probably read N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season next. I want to read as many likely Hugo nominees as possible because I finally signed up this year. That means I also plan to read Uprooted, even though a few of the things I heard about it turned me off it.

Speaking of Hugos, I got an email saying that I needed to enter my PIN in order to nominate, and that if I had signed up for electronic communication I'd have an email with my PIN. Well, apparently I didn't sign up for electronic communication, because I have no such email, and there is no other information about how to get the PIN. Assuming this PIN thing also applies to voting, I need to figure this out before...whenever it is that voting happens. Maybe they sent me a letter? I've been so disorganized lately, I could have missed it or forgotten it.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
What I just finished reading

Spirit Gate, by Kate Elliot. It was pretty good but I might have given up on it had I not liked Black Wolves (the first in a trilogy set in the same world) and had I not re-read [personal profile] coffeeandink's review (which is what first put the books on my radar, but I didn't get around to it until much later). It has a lot more violence, including sexual violence, than Black Wolves, although the sexual violence isn't graphically described and the survivors' points-of-view are generally prominent.

What I'm reading now

Shadow Gate, by Kate Elliot. It's going much better than Spirit Gate (which I didn't dislike, but I also didn't love) thanks to having a much-expanded set of points-of-view and relationships. It's also introducing some exciting storylines that are sucking me in nicely. There is still a lot of violence and possibly more sexual violence than the last book. I have a few specific qualms but on the whole I'm fascinated by the story and can't wait to see how things get to where they end up at the beginning of Black Wolves.

I'm also still listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In fact I've made very little progress since my last reading meme post. I'm about 3/4 of the way through. I just need to get through, but the torment Harry undergoes at the end of this book is one of the most upsetting sections in the series for me. Add that to my general meh feeling about The Goblet of Fire, plus the fact that I haven't been running which is one of the main times I listen, and, well. I'll finish eventually.

What I'll read next

Traitor's Gate, by Kate Elliot. But I also purchased these books recently and I think the NK Jemisin will be the first one I read.

photo of four books
[photo of four books: Spin State by Chris Moriarty; The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin; The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson; and The Very Best of Kate Elliot]

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
I haven't done one of these in a while! Also it's Tuesday evening here, close enough.

What I just finished reading

Black Wolves
, by Kate Elliott. It took me a while to get into it. Not that I disliked it, but I was content to read it on the bus and right before bed and leave it at that for a good long while. But then it sucked me in properly and I liked it a lot. The story is exciting and the characters are compelling. It's mostly women's POV! And their points-of-view contradict in some really cool and interesting ways. I kind of fell in love with the setting, too, at least as much as any of the characters. And now I have to *wait* for the next one. It usually takes me so long to find out about and read something that waiting for the second installment is kinda a new experience.

What I'm reading now

Spirit Gate
, by Kate Elliott, whose books I really wanted to get into and finally have! I read A Passage of Stars a few months ago, and I liked it enough that I finished it but never got invested in it. It moved too fast: I never had time to get really interested in a place or situation before something new was happening, and I didn't connect with the POV character. I also strongly disliked one of the secondary characters. After I finished it I read the excerpt from the second book in the trilogy, and it was from this detested character's POV. So I gave up on that series, cool as it sounded (revolutionary uprising! in space. Except I was mostly annoyed by her depiction of said uprising in book 1.). 

Spirit Gate was my second attempt at reading Elliott. I liked it well enough but Spoiler for an event early in Spirit Gate (like 30 pages in) ) I was not interested and, after having not much liked A Passage of Stars, I wasn't feeling super charitable. So I gave up.

So, after having read Black Wolves, I'm much more trusting in Elliott, and, as I mentioned before, I fell for the setting of Black Wolves as much as for the characters. Well, Spirit Gate is set in the same world. And I quickly realized that this could maybe be a very vague minor spoiler for Black Wolves and/or the Crossroads books, mainly if you've read one but not the other. ). So now I'm reading Spirit Gate and it's going much better this time.

Monsoons, edited by Jay Fein and Pamela Stephens. This is work related but I kinda like it! It was published in 1987 and it covers not just the physics of monsoons (mainly the South Asian monsoon) but also talks about its study by South Asian and European scientists, its cultural significance, and it describes the development of the Indian Meteorological Service. It also covers the material at a broad level for someone with my scientific background, which I really enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'm listening to the Stephen Fry audiobook. I think this might be my least favorite HP. I would have thought Book 1 was my least favorite but I actually loved listening to that and cried like three times. This one has some great moments but also a lot of plot developments I find irritating or boring: Ron not talking to Harry, the whole Triwizard Tournament, S.P.E.W. I can't put my finger on why I don't like the Triwizard Tournament but it just annoys me.

What I plan to read next

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Anything else book related

I signed up for supporting membership at Worldcon! So I guess I can nominate and vote for the Hugos this year. I doubt I'll be nominating as I've read so few books, but I hope to read as many of the nominees as I can and am already planning to read some presumed nominees. Because apparently I've decided to become a reader again.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran in cosplay with a black cape. Text says, "fangirl". (!fangirl)
1. Your main fandom of the year?

In terms of passion as expressed through reblogs of fanart on Tumblr, Steven Universe. It was also the fandom I was most excited about, in addition to my ever-present love for Buffy and Xena. But I did make the Buffy vid of my heart (even if it didn't quite live up to my hopes).

2. Your favorite film watched this year?

Wild. It was such a lovely film; Witherspoon's performance was great, plus it had so much beautiful US West Coast scenery, how could I not love it?

3. Your favorite book read this year?

The Outskirter's Secret, by Rosemary Kirstein. I re-read the whole series early in the year and that one's still my favorite, though I've come to adore The Lost Steersman almost as much.

I also read and fell for the Imperial Radch books this year, but I don't know how to choose a favorite. Most people say Ancillary Justice is the best, but Ancillary Sword introduces most of my favorite characters (Tisarwat! Mercy of Kalr! Kalr 5!) so I'm not so sure.

4. Your favorite TV show of the year?

Steven Universe!!!!!! I also thought Jessica Jones was excellent, though none of its characters really pulled me in and stole my heart (Malcolm and Luke came close a few times). I started Supergirl but am still only four or five episodes in, more for external reasons than not wanting to watch the show, which I enjoy very much.

5. Your favorite online fandom community of the year?

Dreamwidth, still, but I'm pretty active on twitter. I feel like both of those things are at least as much about chatting with/reading blogs by friends as they are about participating in fandom per se. A lot of this is because the things my friends are talking about are not what I'm into. Or I get into it after my friends have already kinda gotten over it. Also, for many reasons I find myself less inclined to discuss my fannish obsessions online than I used to. I do adore the Xena watch happening at [community profile] ladybusiness.

6. Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Steven Universe!!!!! I remember when people on twitter were talking about it and I was like, "whatever, a kid's show about a little boy is not my thing." Especially because white male child prodigies are a trope that I hate. (Steven's not a child prodigy, but I might have perceived him as one before I started the show.)

But I gave it a chance and I am so glad, because now I can say I have three favorite shows instead of two. The plotting, the storytelling, the mythology, the characterization, the relationship-building, the political and ethical positions show show carves out: every single one of these things is well done. Mostly incredibly well-done. Plus the music is fantastic, art is lovely, the voice acting is incredible, the show genuinely makes me laugh, it can be downright creepy (in a good way) at times, and UGH EVERYONES FACE. It's one of those shows where my favorite character changes from episode to episode, because they're all so good. It is earnestly hopeful and that hope is earned. This show knows my heart.

7. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

Orphan Black. Everyone has talked about how plotty that show is, and throughout S2 many criticized the show for how convoluted the plots were getting. I didn't care as long as I had my character beats -- Sarah being ruthless and loving and never stopping trying, Helena loving children and her sistras, Felix making me laugh and warming my heart, Siobhan being a badass -- and interesting relationship dynamics. But S3 really struggled under the weight of the plottiness. Only one episode really worked for me. The second half of the season was better than the first half, but I finished the finale wishing the show was over, feeling they'd wrapped it up in a pretty good place and I wish they'd just left it there, instead of introducing *more* new plot elements for a fourth season.

8. Your TV boyfriend of the year?

John Jacobi on Killjoys. On one hand I find it embarrassingly predictable how much I like him (he's funny, he's lower-case-n nice, he wants to do right in the world, he's not particularly muscley for Hollywood), on the other hand it's surprising because it is super rare for me to find male tv characters who I really like and connect to.

Honorary mention to James Olsen from Supergirl who is great.

9. Your TV girlfriend of the year?

Deedee Magno-Hall, who voices Pearl on Steven Universe. Yes I chose a character for boyfriend and an actor for girlfriend.  I love her voice and her performance! Also Rebecca Sugar. Also Xena, forever. <3

PS If I die tell Mindy Kaling I love her.

10. Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Hmm. When Steven began singing "Giant Woman" in the episode of the same name, and the whole show just clicked. spoilers for late S1 to mid S2 Steven Universe )

11. The most missed of your old fandoms?

I miss my old devotion to BtVS, when I would discuss it online all day and rewatch whole episodes just to see if I agreed with one of the points in someone's meta, and when I vidded Buffy early on. I don't think I'll ever have that level of fannish passion again.

12. The fandom you haven’t tried yet, but want to?

I've just started Sense8, which I like well enough so far. I keep meaning to try The 100, and The Legend of the Seeker, both of which I think I'd like. I just never want to take the time to watch new shows now.

I'm more excited about getting back into books. Reading feels a lot more accessible to me than television, since I can do it on the train into work and while eating breakfast and so forth. I'm also wanting a broader range of stories and characters than I often find on television. I just finished Black Wolves and am planning to read more Kate Elliott. I'm also planning to read Chris Moriarty's Spin series (on [personal profile] luzula 's very convincing rec) and Fire Logic (the, erm, logical choice from this "which lesbian SFF should I read" list, though that list has lots of candidates!).

13. Your biggest fan anticipations for the New Year?

More Steven Universe. I'm also looking forward to catching up on Supergirl and to Luke Cage's show. I might see Batman v Superman, or I might just wait for the Wonder Woman supercut.

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