Tag Archives: adult

November 2018 books

The Death of Mrs Westaway Ruth Ware 11.29

This was on the NPR Book Concierge and it sounded like the kind of mystery I’d like. It was! I’m always a sucker for the “assuming someone’s identity” trope, and Ware plays nicely with that here. I also liked Harriet a lot. It feels very old-fashioned on several levels, I think intentionally, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that aspect.

Pride Ibi Zoboi 11.29  (review tomorrow)

Girl at the Grave Teri Bailey Black 11.25 [review]

Darius the Great is Not Okay Adib Khorram 11.17  [review]

The Language of Power Rosemary Kirstein 11.16  [review]

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road Sheba Karim 11.14  [review]

Making Friends Kristen Gudsnuk 11. 9  

The Witch Boy Molly Knox Ostertag 11.8 

The Proposal Jasmine Guillory 11.9  [review]

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster Deborah Hopkinson 11.7  [review]

 

Total books read: 10

Total rereads: 0

Favorites:

  • Darius the Great is Not Okay
  • Pride
  • Witch Boy

Weekly reading roundups:

I kind of stopped doing the weekly roundups towards the end of this month, but I could be persuaded to try them again if anyone is interested!

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The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

Reunited with her friend Bel, the steerswoman Rowan is once more on the trail of the wizard Slado. But when her enquiries lead her to the place Slado learned magic, she encounters another figure from her past and finally learns some of the answers to her questions–although the consequences are not what she expects.

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein is the fourth and last published book in the Steerswoman series. I’ve read the first three previously, and wanted to get to the end of the current series to see if Rowan finally figures out what is happening.

Overall, this wasn’t a full resolution to the questions and conflicts of the series. But since I know that Kirstein is hoping to eventually release at least a fifth book, I was at least prepared for this to be the case. And there is enough of an answer that it doesn’t feel like wasted effort to read.

One of the things I’ve liked about these books is that Rowan is depicted as a competent character, overall assured of her purpose and place in the world. She knows what her values are and attempts to live by them to the best of her ability. Most of the tension comes from either her search for Slado or those moment when she’s not able to live by those values.

All of that adds up to a book and series which straddle genre lines–part fantasy, part science fiction, part mystery–and which is not quite plot-driven and not quite character-driven. This may sound like a criticism, but I mean it as an explanation; this is a story which embraces ambiguity and which keeps the reader guessing about its ultimate goals and intentions. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I suspect the readers who have found it and love it do so with a quietly fervent passion.

That being said, I do feel that the plot was slightly annoying here because it relies on a twist that has been used several other times in the series. And while it could be that this is purposeful and significant, it felt more to me like lazy storytelling.

However, in terms of the broader picture, I do feel that enough of the lingering questions have been answered that I’m okay leaving the series here for now. Hopefully Kirstein will be able to release more books in the series, but if that doesn’t happen, the story still feel relatively complete.

(There’s quite a bit more I could say but it would be full of spoilers, so I’ll leave it for now.)

All in all, while this isn’t a series I would push on everyone, I do hope that it finds more readers. It’s a fascinating look at a world that’s driven by ideas and knowledge, an interesting older female character who’s competent & assured and never punished for that, and some interesting twists and turns along the way. If that sounds like it might be your thing, do give these a try and let me know what you think!

_____________

Other books in the series:

The Steerswoman

The Outskirter’s Secret

The Lost Steersman

 

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October 2018 books

A Scholar of Magics Caroline Stevermer 10.31

Fake Blood Whitney Gardner 10.28

Border Kapka Kassapova 10.27 [review]

Exit Strategy Martha Wells 10.26

Jade City Fonda Lee 10.23 [review]

Summer Bird Blue Akemi Dawn Bowman 10.21 [review]

Capsized! Patricia Sutton 10.18 [review]

Monstrous Regiment of Women Laurie Russell King 10.17

Drum Roll Please Lisa Jenn Bigelow 10.14

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice Laurie Russell King 10.13

The Wild Dead Carrie Vaughn

Midnight Robber Nalo Hopkinson 10.12

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea Lynn Rae Perkins 10.12

Spinning Silver Naomi Novik 10.9

She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) Ann Hood 10.9

The Lost Scroll: The Book of Kings Sarah Prineas 10.4

 

Total books read: 16

Total rereads: 1

Favorites:

  • Spinning Silver
  • Midnight Robber
  • Drum Roll Please
  • Border
  • Exit Strategy

Weekly reading roundups:

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Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City by Fonda Lee (Orbit, November 2017)

Jade rules the city of Janloon, conferring supernatural powers on those who have the ability to harness it. In the aftermath of war, two clans born out of resistance to foreign powers fight for dominance. Jade City centers on the Kaul siblings, the inheritors of No Peak clan, and their fight for survival and jade.

Jenny convinced me to read this one by gushing about how awesome the worldbuilding is (and it is! More on that in a sec). It was also nominated for a Nebula Award, which often gets me excited about a book.

And that really paid off this time! Jade City is a fantastic book, with a really deep, richly imagined world and great characters. Even though it’s quite a long book it felt like an easy read, and I can’t wait for the sequels.

It’s clear that Fonda Lee really thought about the world she’s creating here, in every detail. For me one of the markers of great worldbuilding is whether the idioms of the world feel natural and organic. A lot of times writers attempt to build their world by throwing in some sayings but they just feel a bit clunky. Here they made sense, and the narrative style is such that the deeper meanings could be explained without breaking the story too much. Also, Lee mentions them and then keeps weaving them in throughout the rest of the story, playing with emotional inflections and implications.

That’s one small example, but it shows how deep the worldbuilding goes. The best word for it that I can come up with is “immersive” because we’re also expected to keep up as readers. Yes, the narrative explains a lot of the history and background of Janloon and the country of Kekon, but there is also a lot left for us to infer and imagine. From the politics to the religion, clan dynamics to the history of the guerilla fighters the generation before, there’s a lot happening and it all works.

It’s not just worldbuilding, though. The characters at the heart of the books are four siblings, one adopted, whose very different attitudes towards the clan, jade, and the city drive the dynamics of the story. They are united in caring about each other, but they approach the world in drastically different ways, and Lee shows us a lot of the complexities of the situation through their interactions.

(Of the four siblings, my favorite is really Shae.)

Although there’s a lot of violence in this book, it doesn’t feel exploitative or like it’s there for shock value. This is a world where gangs rule and even the characters we’re sympathetic towards make choices that are tough to grapple with. But Lee manages to show this without writing something that feels grimdark or too awful. Instead, what’s here is a violent, visceral portrait of a time of change and transition, when the old ways and the new are still trying to exist in uneasy coherence.

All in all, this is one of my favorite adult fantasy books from this year, and I can’t wait to see where future installments lead. (Except that I’m worried about all the characters.)  It’s a pretty singular story, so I’m not sure that I have any great readalikes. Maybe Erin Bow’s Scorpion Rules, for a similar mix of brutality and hope? If you have read Jade City and have ideas, please let me know!

Here’s a great post from Fonda Lee about her inspiration in creating the world of Jade City.

____________

Previously, on By Singing Light

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (2016)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014)
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn (2013)

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September 2018 reading

The Likeness Tana French 9.30
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss 9.29
A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander 9.28
Point of Dreams Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett 9.27
Sadie Courtney Summers 9.24
Winter Tide Ruthanna Emrys 9.23
Blood Oath Amanda McCrina 9.22
Bannerless Carrie Vaughn 9.15
Sick Porochista Kakhpour 9.13
Zahrah the Windseeker Nnedi Okorafor 9.8
Confessions of the Fox Jordy Rosenberg 9.6
The Summer of Jordi Perez Amy Spalding 9.4
Dear Mrs Bird AJ Pearce 9.1

Total books read: 13

Total rereads: 0

Favorites:

  • The Summer of Jordi Perez
  • Blood Oath
  • Bannerless
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
  • Confessions of the Fox

Weekly reading roundups:

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August 2018 books

This was a pretty good month for books! I didn’t love everything equally, but I did have a couple of really strong reads and that’s always nice. I’m hoping to finish up the Steerswoman series in September and keep reading the Astreiant books. Just as a reminder, I always post each book I finish on Instagram, so if you’d like to stay up to date on what I’m most currently reading, head over there.

Summer of Salt Katrina Leno 8.31

Point of Hopes Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett 8.29

The Bookshop on the Corner Jenny Colgan 8.27

Sideways Stories from Wayside School Louis Sachar 8.26

The Lost Steersman Rosemary Kirstein 8.25

A College of Magics Caroline Stevermer (reread) 8.20

The Kiss Quotient Helen Hoang 8.18 [review]

Monday’s Not Coming Tiffany Jackson 8.18

Last Shot DJ Older 8.18 [review]

Recipes for Love and Murder Sally Andrews 8.17

Where the Watermelons Grow Cindy Baldwin 8.13 [review]

Black Panther Long Live the King 8.13

Rogue Protocol Martha Wells 8.10

Cafe by the Sea Jenny Colgan 8.9

Starless Jacqueline Carey 8.7 [review]

Valley Girls Sarah Nicole Lemon 8.1 [review]

 

Total books read: 15

Total rereads: 1

 

Favorites:

  • Valley Girls
  • Cafe by the Sea
  • Rogue Protocol
  • Monday’s Not Coming
  • Point of Hopes
  • Summer of Salt

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Recent adult fiction: Older, Hoang, Carey

I’ve been on kind of a roll with adult fiction recently, after my earlier YA romcom binge. Here are a few that have no thematic connection except that I read them recently.

Last Shot by DJ Older: Star Wars tie-in, about Han and Lando and one last job. There’s some interesting past/present narration and we see things from both Han and Lando’s points-of-view which is cool. I do wish that the timeline was slightly clarified–the main action takes place a few years after Ben Solo is born (I think he’s two here) but the older parts are all “fifteen years earlier” or “ten years earlier” and sometimes it was hard to orient to where that was in the larger SW universe. However, I always like a good heist and there are some funny characters and moments, plus some heartbreak as Han wonders if he’ll ever learn to be a good parent. Bonus for Lando’s amazing wardrobe.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: Super cute contemporary romance! I liked a lot of things about this one, especially the interactions between the main characters and the male mc’s family. It was really sweet to see a male mc who cares so much about his mother and sisters, and it helped make sense of how he understands Stella. There’s not much external drama here, which is also nice sometimes! It’s much more focused on Stella and Michael and whether they will/can commit to each other.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey: This is actually the first book by Carey that I’ve ever read, although I know she has a lot of others out there. I have extremely mixed feelings about this one. On the positive side, the narration was pretty engaging and some of the worldbuilding concepts were pretty neat. On the other hand, I felt pretty strongly that this book needed to be edited down, or that one clear through-line should have been established, or both. There are entire sections that felt irrelevant to the ultimate story, and I never felt truly invested in Khai’s journey, resulting in what felt like a somewhat boring read. But I might be in the minority on this one, so take my grumps with a grain of salt.

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