Last week of December Reading Wrap Up

I’m honestly super surprised how many books I finished within this last month of 2017. Even more so in the last week: I finished a total of SIX books from December 22nd to the 31st. Granted, I’ve been trying to chew through some of the smaller novels on my to read list just to get them off my Kindle or to read shelf, but it’s still pretty impressive if I do say so myself!

I wanted to compose some quick thoughts on some of the books I’ve been reading, mostly because I don’t have strong enough feelings about a lot of them to write long form reviews. I’m going to leave off summaries because to perfectly frank I hate them. If I feel like I describe the book better than the actual synopsis, I will go ahead and do that. Otherwise, just look at the goodreads pages I linked in the titles.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden 
    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Thoughts: I have…. mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, this book is very beautifully written – the author really has their writing style down pat for the kind of wintery fairytale – its mysterious, lyrical, and brings up an almost nostalgic, but cool feeling. On the other hand, I stopped reading this book for about 3 weeks because the middle third was SO SLOW. The first third had some great set up and atmosphere, and the last third really commits to the Russian Fairy tale. The middle though…. I cannot think of anything really good to say about it. The plot moved forward sometimes? I was super close to not finishing this book – but thankfully it picks up at the end. I’m still struggling to figure out if I would recommend it. OR if it’s really necessary to stretch this out into a trilogy. Regardless, I think if the premise sounds interesting, you’ll probably like this. I’m still toeing the edge on whether or not i’ll read the rest of the series when it’s out.

  • The Girl with the Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
    • Rating: 3.25/5
    • Thoughts: I really loved parts of this book. Conceptually this is exactly up my alley. Non-white fantasy with female protagonists may as well be the most On On Brand as you can get. And it really delivers on some of these concepts that its presenting – the worldbuiding is pretty cool, the story is compelling when it gets itself going. On the other… look I get i’m a an american born Chinese through and through, but this book feels inauthenic at some points. Like it’s playing at being Chinese. It may be because the writing in the book leaves something to be desired (first person past tense is HARD to pull off, and this book does not do that any favors)it may be because it adheres to some historical truths so rigidly that a fair amount of characters feel like stereotypes. I can’t put my finger on it,  but I can’t shake the feeling that the author both does and does not understand what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any other reviews written by Chinese/Asian authors that can vocalize this uneasiness, so it may be just my preference. That being said, I want to read a sequel to this book WAY more than The Bear and the Nightingale. Its set up way better, and I think this author could really end up surprising me since he’s set up everything fairly well for more books.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane
    • Rating:  4/5
    • Thoughts: This book has such an INTERESTING mystery. It i so bizarrely charming and engaging, and around 75% of the way through, it snowballs into a book you can’t put down. The characters and writing style are fun, and it feels SO San Francisco its kind of absurd. Granted, I feel like this book takes…. a lot of liberties with some of the tech it implements. I don’t think it will bother EVERYONE who reads this, but every time something involving Silicon Valley & tech industries I was reminded of when I saw skyfall in theaters and all my comp sci friends GROANED out loud everytime Q did anything related to a computer. And these are fairly big portions of the book too – they’re not one and dones. On the other hand,  this novel is purposefully ridiculous, so the inaccuracies bothered me, but not a TON. Its the mystery and the downright odd set up that really shine in this novel. I know this author has recently put out another novel that commits even further to being strange, so I’m interested to pick that book up when I get the chance.
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
    • Rating: 5/5
    • Thoughts: If you have not had the pleasure of reading any of Sherman Alexie’s work yet, you are SEVERELY depriving yourself. I had read one of these short stories for a class I took in college as well as watched Smoke Signals and was struck by the both it’s wit and it’s tragedy. Alexie has an incredible and distinctive voice that is both very funny and very contemplative. I’d been meaning to pick up more of his work for while, and I cannot say I was disappointed. I may write a full form review on this, but I really don’t know if I have the literary chops to really discuss why this is such a good collection. If I had once criticism, its that some of the stories can come off a bit samey sometimes, I’d say if you want to dip your toe into native american lit, this is as good of start as any. And make sure to get the 2003 reprint! the Forward pieces I think really help contextualize all of the stories. And if you haven’t seen Smoke Signals…. please…. do it.
    • A couple favorites if your looking for a sample before you try them out:
      • Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock
      • This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
      • The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire
      • A Train Is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result
      • The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor
      • Somebody Kept Saying Powwow
  • Mort by Terry Pratchett 
    • Rating: 3.75/5
    • Thoughts: This is the first Discworld novel I’ve gotten all the way through! I’ve always wanted to get into Terry Pratchett’s stuff; his wit and charm elevates Good Omens from being good to great, but when I took a crack at Equal rites a couple years ago, I just could NOT get into it. Mort didn’t have the same problem for me thankfully – I can see why Mr. Pratchett is so beloved. He has such clever ideas and easy charm, when you can get into his work, its such a fun easy read. There is a note on unexpected poignancy in his characters and his world that I wasn’t expecting. Even for such a fun, light read, there is a strong message about mortality and humanity that I think makes this book all the more enjoyable. However, I can’t say I care much for this story construction – Mort as a novel seems to fall apart a little at the end. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but definitely ended the book on a confusing note.
  • Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus
    • Rating: 3.75/5
    • Thoughts: Clocking in at around 130 pages, the concepts in this book are pretty top tier, but lack the time to really develop into something great. I’d compare this to Clockwork Century in strength of concept, which is an all time favorite series of mine. Also that it’s a steampunk historical fiction that takes place in a diverse America, another all time favorite. Added that it has diverse characters and is written by an AOC? This is something written to appeal to me. Though this definitely feels like a novella in all the wrong ways – A lot of the world isn’t properly explained, and it kind of just drops you in the middle of a story. If this was a full novel, I could of really really loved this, but as a short story, it was just. Pretty good.

That’s all I was really able to complete before the new year!! All in all this was a pretty good reading…. week / week and a half? I mostly enjoyed all the books I ended up picking up, which I think is cool! Though personally, it’s hard to find a book I’m willing to pickup that I dislike. Hope the next chunk of reading is just as good!

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