What I've Read 2016


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Flowers and Mishima's Illustrated Biography, Mario Bellatia (translated by Kolin Jordan): hell of an interesting collection, still parsing how I feel about this. Two short stories that are kind of interconnected. One uses flowers for its chapters and tells the story of four vaguely connected individuals in a city (and apparently used the language of flowers in the chapter titles, which the translator chose not to include, you might want to have that with you when you read this). The other is an illustrated biography of Yukio Mishima post death. The narration jumps around, and it's Avant guard as fuck. There's some interesting book design stuff too - both the translations and the Spanish original are included, though the illustrated biography gets caught at the halfway point, which means you have to flip halfway through to get the full biography, which is a bit awkward. We picked this up at a indie book fair, and if you find this by you, it's definitely worth your time.

Books read: 65

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A Local Habitation, Seanan McGuire: Second of the October Daye books. This time we get a neat blend of technology, and a locked room mystery in a world that bends around its ruler. Fun read, especially as the mystery starts to unfold. Not anything particularly spectacular, but still good times.

books read: 66

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It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower, Michaela Wrong: A nonfiction book I found in the neighborhood little free library. Focuses on one of the recent major embezzlement/procurement scandals in Kenyan History (the Anglo Leasing scandal), and the man who broke it. Does a good job of providing historical and social history to give the context the reader needs, and thank god, the white lady writing it doesn't make it all about her. Worth a read if you're looking for one.

books read: 67

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Uprooted, Naomi Novik: okay. So. This won the Nebula last year.

The good: I blazed through this in three train rides and most of an evening of reading. It's fast paced and well written. The characters are compelling. It's a Polish inspired setting, which isn't the norm in fantasy.

The bad: THAT SAID. This is steeped in genre, and I could see most of the twists coming ten to twenty pages before they happened. The fact that the author chose to took the far more believable bond that the main character had with another woman and railroad it into a romance with the mentor was kind of enraging. 

It's a well written novel, but compared to what it was nominated against (Ancillary Mercy and the Fifth Season off the top of my head), it isn't even on the same level. It's a good first original novel from the writer of the historical dragon AU series (yes this is her). This is not anything that should've gotten an award.

books read: 68

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An Artificial Night, Seanan McGuire: Third book in the series, and when things really jump off. The stakes are raised higher on almost all levels, the first major shift of the series comes, and what is probably her most ambitious narrative to date (what do you do with a Firstborn who kidnaps children and plays strictly by the rules of Faerie). Probably my favorite book of the series.

books read: 69

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Late Eclipses, Seanan McGuire: I keep forgetting how Seanan continues to raise the stakes each book. To wit: we are now at book four, and our main is now more fae than she is human, one of our big bads is officially dead, and the daughter of one of the mains has been revealed to be capital E Evil. Like I told the boy, this is never going to win any awards, but this is still a fun series to read.

books read: 70

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Slipping: Stories, Essays, and Other Writing, Lauren Beukes: A collection of previously published short stories (and a few essays) by one of my favorite authors. There are some short stories in here that are a precursor to one of her novels for sure (Moxyland), along with an essay that explain one of my favorite novels from her (The Shining Girls), so it's interesting to see how the development of those stories happened. The essays are a bit hit and miss for me (though the one that explains her motivations for The Shining Girls and her letter to her five year old are real standouts), but all the short stories are incredibly well done, and even those that aren't as amazing still sit in the back of your head. Favorite five from the collection are Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs, Princess, My Insect Skin, The Green, and Unaccounted. Just came out at the end of November (this is an ARC), definitely worth your time.

Books read: 71

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 One Salt Sea, Seanan McGuire: We get a kidnapping plot with a ticking time limit, undersea fae, and several past plot lines being bought to bear. Probably my second favorite in the series next to An Artificial Night.

Books read: 72

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The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu (translated by Joel Martinsen): I am really not sure what to think of this book. I'm not sure how much of this can be pinned on the translator changing (seriously, why would you get a different translator for the middle book of a trilogy), and how much is Cixin Liu just throwing too fucking much at the wall and trying to see what sticks. Because on the one hand, there are some seriously good moments in here. On the other hand, most of it is buried in pretentiousness and unnecessary exposition. There's one particularly egregious section in the later part of the book that's a solid hundredish pages describing the rise of a spaceship based society that eventually nukes most of itself and cuts its ties with humanity that probably could've been reduced to twenty pages tops? It manages to make the destruction of a space fleet via nuclear firebomb courtesy of a tiny probe boring at one point. It's also best described as unrelentingly depressing and pessimistic, which is probably not what I needed at this precise moment. 

This book has been trying my patience, but I wanted to finish it to say that I at least tried it. I have finished it. Honestly questioning if I should try to finish out the trilogy or not. Anyone here read Death's End?

Books read: 73

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Ashes of Honor, Seanan McGuire: Technically a breather book after the escalation of the last few books, but manages to make what is essentially chasing down a missing child interesting by adding the twist that she can teleport and also open the roads to the older locked parts of Faerie. Also, brings in a romance that doesn't feel like a rebound after the events of last book, and that you were kind of expecting all along. That she manages to keep momentum and character development for not just our main cast but also side characters going across six books is incredibly impressive.

Summer in Orcus, Ursula Vernon: Ursula's been releasing this as a serial over the last few months, and it wrapped up today. Her take on the portal fantasy stories, and honestly, an incredibly well done one. Reading these updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays has honestly been one of my favorite things of the last few months, and any story that centrally features Baba Yaga (and knows her well) automatically has my attention. Add in punny creatures, some straight up Lynchian horror at times, and Vernon's wonderful imagination, and you have a story that's been a comfort especially in these last two months. Conveniently, it's all up here: http://www.redwombatstudio.com/portfolio/summer-in-orcus/. Go forth and enjoy it.

Books Read: 75

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