Adult books I read in November 2018 – Reading Wrap up

Last Wrap up of the month! I read seven adult books this month, and like the rest of these wrap ups, they varied wildly in genre and in rating. It was a nice big ol mix of contemporary, genre fiction and nonfiction. And good ol mix of it I enjoyed it or not. And also semi-long! Let’s get into it.

  • Anime Supremacy by Mizuki Tsujimura

    • Rating: 4.5/5
    • Thoughts: Although book is WAY WAY WAY up my alley, I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised with how good this book was!
    • This book just has an absolutely impeccable balance between characters that are both interesting and fun to read about, solid pacing and plotting, and a really interesting setting and story. Though the book starts off a bit on the slow side, as you get new character perspectives, the story becomes more layered.
    • I LOVED all of the main perspectives that we got, I loved seeing the world they inhabited and the struggle and triumph each team had as the book went along. The last perspective especially – The setting in this perspective  is pristine and so so easy to visualize. And Tsujimura turns the characters up to the eleventh notch there – It expands on the characters you meet in the earlier perspectives really well, and the characters that the perspective DO focus on are muli-faceted and complex without being unrelatable. And honestly, I think that is Tsujimura’s strength – this story is SO achingly relatable. For a world so alien from mine, I feel like I’ve seen all these characters in people I’ve known.
    • Also there’s only a slight romance in this and it BLEW my socks off with how charming the relationships are in this book! Very character based and subtle stuff, but absolutely adorable.
    • Two small caveots – The translation work in this is a littleeee shoddy. There’s just a LOT of really awkward wording that the translator doesn’t do a great job of either explaining with side notes or naturalizing for the English reader. It can be a bit jarring at times, but isn’t super distracting throughout the novel. I would take that with a grain of salt though, since I’m pretty used to shoddy translation jobs (IE growing up on bad scanlations in my weeb days)
    • I do also feel like this book is a little unapproachable if you’re unfamiliar with the anime industry / anime in general. Which was okay for a reader like me, but could be a detriment for a less familiar reader.
    • All together, this is quite an amazing read with a few hurdles to overcome to get to it. If you’re like me and grew up on anime and don’t mind awkward wording here or there, I’d highly recommend picking this up.
  • Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

    • Rating: 3.75/5
    • Thoughts: Novellas, especially Tor.Com novellas usually fall into the “really interesting, but not mind blowing” spectrum for me, and I gotta say this one was no different. Brings up a lot of really interesting ideas and atmosphere, but not really enough to carry it through to greatness.
    • Graham Jones has some great prose in this bad boy – Out of all the books I read in October for its “spooky-ness”, I think this book succeeds in sense of tone and atmosphere more than any of the other books I read. There’s just a general feeling of uneasiness throughout the whole work, and it’s just short enough not to overstay it’s welcome.
    • Graham Jones has just some really interesting themes in this book that I don’t think I’ve seen covered quite as well by other author – the feeling of loss permeates this novel in both a personal and cyclical sense.
    • I did find myself a bit disappointed with the ending of this novella however. It was a bit too…. ambiguous for my taste? And while the themes were interesting, the plot and characters used to convey them were passable, but not standouts. Still a good novella to read during the fall if you’re into that sort of thing!

  • Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin

    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Thoughts: Sooooo this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I’ll admit that maybe this may have fallen a bit TOO much into the “traditional western” category to really strike my full fancy, but generally this was an interesting nonfiction read!
    • Clavin’s two strengths are as follows: his characterization and his general refusal to mythologize the subjects in this novel. This book is all about a cast of some pretty larger than life characters – and a LOT of them to boot, and a lot of them RELATED to each other. With a less competent writer, it could have been real easy to get lost in both the details and with just the sheer cast size, but Clavin does a great job making each of them stand out as people. I also extremely appreciated how much Clavin refused to use absolute myth and hearsay in this book – while he does remark on the tall tales that surround a lot of these people, he’s very quick to say the likelihood of its truthhood, or dismiss it all together. Considering what mythic characters he’s covering in this book, it’s no small feat indeed to weed out the truth from fiction.
    • That being said, this book had a tendency to go on a LOT of unnecessary tangents  that cramped my enjoyment of the book a bit, especially at the beginning. I get it though – Clavin wants to inform you of the background of a LOT of people, but I think with some more solid structure it could be a more compelling read. Which is a HUGE minus for a nonfiction book in my eyes. It’s a decent nonfiction book if you’re interested in the topic, but otherwise this may be a skip
    • Side notes that I don’t really know where they below: I found myself WEIRDLY attached to reading about Bat Masterson in this book – though maybe because he seemed like a genuinely good guy who had to deal with a lot of shit, but was still like. Outgoing and likeable and beloved. (the Earps got NOTHING ON MY BOY BAT OKAY). I really enjoyed reading the parts of this book that he was in.
    • Also what’s up with everyone’s obsession with Doc Holliday in pop culture. Did everyone just watch Tombstone and just be like “yo Val Kilmer is GREAT in this, Doc’s a new fave now” when in reality he seems like…… the worst lmao? Whatever, people are weird about unimpressive white dudes.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
    • Rating: 4/5
    • Thoughts: I am SO happy I liked this book after what a disappointment Uprooted was for me. Though the more reviews I read the more I think that’s the norm. It seems like everyone who likes Uprooted doesn’t care for Spinning Silver and vice versa.
    • (( It’s okay, becaue His Majesty’s Dragons series is far superior than BOTH of these books. anyways))
    • This book reminds me a lot of Bear and the Nightingale , which I read last year around December/Holiday time. And while both of these books have excellent atmosphere and setting, this book blows the other out of the water in two ways: Plot and Characters.
    • Plot wise, I could NOT put this book down. The story beats are there all the way through til the end – It’s got a perfect mix of crescendos and rests and is able to tie a lot of far reaching plot threads together at the end pretty magnificently.
    • And listen. I would absolutely DIE for Miryem and Wanda. Pretty much ALL the women in this novels are some of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a fantasy novel since…. a long time to be honest. While they’re all incredibly flawed, it is really cool seeing them use what power they are afforded as women in Tsarist Russia and turn the world into something amazing. I had a blast watching them all interact and grow.
    • Also LOVE the discussions of Jewishness in this book. I don’t think I’ve read a historical fantasy that does as good of job discussing being Jewish in Classical Europe – instead choosing to use all nonjewish characters and kind of just being like “I’m just not going to deal with that” which is such a SHAME considering Jewish people were fucking real as shit and persecuted by terrible Christians for almost all of European history. This book was WAY better for actually exploring those ideas, and doing it fairly well!
    • A few minuses for me though: If you’ve read any reviews, you know people have complained about the POVs. And yeah that’s… a problem. There are way too many point of views in this book, and Novik doesn’t do a great job of differentiating them to be easy to read. I knew going into this book, but I still found myself struggling a little bit here and there. It’s just super unnecessary for the most part.
    • While the book does tie up really nicely, there are a couple plot threads that are just kind of…. dropped. You’ll finish the book, stare at the page and go “wait what about this”, flip through the last couple pages and realize Novik left you fucking HANGING.
    • Lastly let’s get on to a lot of people’s problems with Uprooted – is it the same problem in this? Well….. yes and no. Yeah I found the romance not really my thing, but it definitely isn’t in this book enough for it to detract as much as it did in Uprooted, (though to be fully honest I feel like the romance in Uprooted is better than the one in here…. only by a little though.)
    • It’s just…. Novik we have to talk about you writing really good potential wlw romances and then straight-gating everyone in the end. JUST like Uprooted, I found myself being like oh shit look at all these girls being friends and having positive feelings for each other!!! Much Romance!!! and I ended up with some stale ass het which is just!!!! Novik is way too good at writing female relationships to keep wasting them on bad het. (Please do not talk to me about Agnieszka and Kasia I’m fucking STILL NOT OVER IT.).
    •  This is a good ass wintery fantasy that brings my standing for Novik a bit higher. Though I don’t think my gay heart can take anymore shitty heterosexual relationships.
    • Who am I kidding that’s my entire life lmao.
  • The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
    • Rating: 4/5
    • Thoughts: Yooo this was such a good read you guys! This started out a cover buy that turned into genuine interest and came out as a one of my favorite historical fiction reads of the year!
    • There are two kind of “points of view” in this story, and both of them are not only written super well, but Joukhadar does a great job writing each of these time periods/povs with a really unique voice. They feel like they fit the characters whose POV they follow to an tee. This another book that just has a ton of just excellent pieces of prose that make you want to tab the book up and revisit again and again.
    • The characters in this are SO endearing, and the relationships – whether they be familiar or romantic or comradery are all just a huge treat to read. Especially the familiar relationships in this – it’s both so difficult and so heartwrenching to read because it feel so genuine. There was such warmth and pain and love that just radiated from the entire modern day POV that I was just like. On the verge of tears all the time because it was so sweet. While the other POV wasn’t nearly as strong with its relationships, it was still fucking great. And just…. this book has just an incredibly important message, one which the author does a really good job of presenting to the reader using these relationships and characters. I was blown away with just how good all of it was.
    • For the most part, the weakest part of the novel is the plot, especially in the modern day portion of the novel. I also think the book doesn’t tie the two POVs/stories together as well as it could have. And the ending could have been paced a bit better. But for the most part, it’s pretty damn good. The relationships and characters make up for most, if not all of the story shortcomings.
    • If you care at all for historical fiction and for reading about just some really great character relationships, this is a great pick. I would absolutely recommend you pick this up if any of that interests you at all.
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Translated by Joel Martinsen
    • Rating: 3/5
    • Thoughts: This book…. THIS BOOK is JUST…. screams into hands. SOOOOO DISAPPOINTING! I wrote a review of the first book last year and ended up coming out of the whole thing really enjoying it. BUT THIS BOOK…. AAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    • Pros: Conceptually this book is up there with the first book – this is some INCREDIBLY dense science fiction, and for the most part it really fucking works. Sure, it’s absolutely not for everyone, and this book compared to the first turns that up to the ninth degree. The philosophical and scientific discussions are absolutely fascinating to read. Also, for as fantastical as this book feels, I feel like Liu has a good grasp of political climate and the general reactions a lot of the governments would take? Though I do think there are a couple things that were just like…. lmao tho that’s never going to happen.
    • I did really enjoy how most of the plot unfolded – which is another positive. This book does NOT have any issues keeping you guessing because there is NO POSSIBLE WAY you can predict what’s going to happen, so if you enjoy just being constantly off guard, that’s fun. Though unfortunately, unlike the first book, the story felt like it dragged a lot. It felt like the whole thing could have easily been shortened down a hundred or so pages.
    • The worst part of this book are just…. the characters are soooooo not great in this. I think I came out of the novel only really giving a shit about one total person in the entire book. Which considering the first book has one of my favorite characters ever, was a huge letdown. Also, considering this book is a lot about caring about humanity when it all fucking sucks, making not a single endearing human is uh….. not great.
    • This book is also just…. really weird about women if that makes sense? Again, ESPECIALLY considering the female characters you see in the first novel, this book has a few female side characters, but they aren’t really characters of their own, and more just… means to the end for a lot of the male characters. It was just a major downer, and really didn’t help with the whole “why we should care about humanity”, I wanted to see much more representative humanity! Instead I got a lot of boring cishet dudes.
    • This book was just. Not really what I was hoping for in the series. Sure, it was super strong from a idea and discussion standpoint, but as a story it wasn’t able to really get it together. I’m still looking forward to reading the last book in the series, but MAN y’all. This one was a hard fucking letdown.
  • Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
    • Rating: 3/5
    • Thoughts: A short little read to knock off some of the final books i have on my Bookriot Read Harder challenge. And my opinions of it are pretty short too – It’s okay?
    • The things I liked for the most part: Beard has a good writing style – I know she’s done a couple fairly popular nonfiction books, which kinda shows. It’s engaging and easy to read style that really lends a lot the subject.
    • The historical anecdotes were really interesting to hear about as well – While I’ve probably got an above average knowledge of classics, the stuff about women in classical lit and historical event and their relationship with power.
    • Where this book really lost me was the modern stuff. Mostly because it just wasn’t…. new information. Like I too am a woman on the internet. I know how harassment campaigns work. I’m also patently aware of how shitty people are about female politicians in comparison to their male counterparts. And it didn’t tell it in a way that brought up an interesting perspective.
    • Also i’m semi allergic to anyone saying positive things about Margaret Thatcher in whatever context. Like this book talks about some straight up bad people and only decries how the media/society treats them because they are women in general which just…. it’s super white lady to put it in bluntly? I know this is pretty short, but I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows at the general just hand waving of some of the general…. really bad shit.
    • Because believe it or not, especially in the modern context sometimes…. people don’t like female politicians because they’re bad. Like they have shitty policies. That’s a thing that they do. Especially other women. AKA the essence of this Eric Andre bit that everyone’s seen at this point.
    • This is fine? I’ve read better feminist critiques and essays, but this isn’t long enough to really protest a ton. Just kind of…. run of the mill for the modern day discussion if anything. And Very White.

And that’s the end of the November wrap ups! I’ll be posting a bit more in December with my time off and my general year wrap ups. But until then uh…. let me know what you think?

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