3 Following

are you going to finish that?

Three Kingdoms - Luo Guanzhong, Moss Roberts Well that was something.
The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson So much more to this one than advertised, I don't even know where to start between the thorough examination of class and privilege, the mechanics of integrity faced with politics, the complete non-issue of sexuality, the tremendous emotional impact, the lovely prose and the carefully constructed character growth (and June's character arch might be the best one I've read since Twelve Kingdoms, which isn't something I say lightly). Wonderful.
When We Wake - Karen Healey 3.5 rounded up. Not a groundbreaking premise/plot, perhaps, but fun and well-executed in terms of diversity and discussion of sociopolitical issues involved. Also hey look, turns out countries other than the US exist.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Series #1)

The Maze Runner - James Dashner Entertaining-turned-frustrating-turned-meh.Bonus points for racial diversity, minus points for gender uniformity (for which there was no real reason as far as I can tell) and a terrible case of all-tell-and-no-show narration (drinking game idea: take a shot each time the text informs us that Thomas is shocked. really shocked). Most frustratingly, the suspense was forcibly dragged out by means of arbitrarily/unreasonably delayed answers until I was way beyond caring; perhaps it's a good thing because the (few) explanations we did get turned out to be predictable, and accompanied by a whole lot of handwaving.On a brighter note: in a shocking twist, it looks like neither Alby nor Minho will be whitewashed in the movie adaptation.
Bitterblue - Kristin Cashore, Ian Schoenherr Ohhhh I suspected Bitterblue would be my favourite because the setting (inexperienced ruler trying to fix a broken kingdom) is a trope I enjoy greatly and also because I was dying to know how Bitterblue was doing post-Graceling. It still surprised me, though, with the sheer emotional baggage, including the painful - but necessary in Monsea's context - examination of the circle of abuse, the themes of wrongdoing versus guilt, and the different ways of coping with Leck's legacy.I love a good political intrigue but it's emotions and interpersonal relationships that seem to be Cashore's true strength. Not in the way some authors use them, by employing shock tactics in their narrative to force an emotional response, but by the simple admission that all choices and all actions have consequences that should be examined closely instead of being taken at face value. One example of this are Saf and Bitterblue: there is nothing simple about their situation and yet in 9 out of 10 books, I could tell you in advance how they were going to progress, step by step (and there wouldn't be a whole lot of steps), without ever facing the circumstances that make them who they are head-on. Another is Monsea itself - the scars do not heal just because the tyrant is no more, and ignoring them is not the same as moving on.Bitterblue also does a great job of tying the previous Seven Kingdoms novels together. Katsa and Po feature prominently in the story, and I should have expected it when the investigation into Leck's origins became a major theme, but Fire's appearance still came out of left field. I was actually hoping they could meet while reading Fire, because I felt they could find strength in their similarities, so I may have cheered a little. Cashore also continues her winning streak with strong - and varied - female characters on both sides of the intrigue, as well as the demystification of sexuality and introduction of queer themes (I want to know more about Bren and Tilda's baby plot and Raffin and Bann's future!). Such a satisfying end (is it?) to a refreshing series.
The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) - Jennifer A. Nielsen Somewhat predictable (side-effect of aiming for middle grade?), but considering the fact that Nielsen has pretty much left herself wide open to obvious comparisons with Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief, she still acquits herself very well.

Moon Over Soho (Rivers of London 2)

Moon Over Soho  - Ben Aaronovitch I had something constructive to say here but then Peter started talking about the rule of law and due process. Favourite social justice-minded apprentice magician baby with zero self-preservation instinct!!
Every Day - David Levithan And again, I am conflicted between what I liked about the book and what viscerally bothered me about it.I liked the concept and I wish it had been properly explored because there are some interesting questions to be asked regarding the rules that (supposedly) govern A's life (one that's bugging me now: what happens to A between midnight and whenever the new host wakes up, particularly if the new host goes to sleep after midnight? it happens a few times in the book but A only regains consciousness when the host opens his or her eyes). Unfortunately, we don't actually get many viable answers - the concept is mostly a means to an end, i.e. setup for the central romance, and the rules are arbitrarily made up and changed as the story goes along for maximum convenience. I don't actually understand what the point of introducing the reverend (and consequently obliterating the more-or-less established rules) was if the book ended a couple of chapters later with nothing much gained from the encounter.I liked that A is probably the closest we can get right now to an actual genderqueer protagonist. I also liked the tenderness with which Levithan portrays non-heterosexual relationships; I think it's really what he does best. However, he tends to trip into triteness when he tries to give A a comprehensive life philosophy, and I happen to believe that the "people are fundamentally all the same and if we only realised that there would be peace on earth" world view is not only painfully simplistic, it's wrong, and basically the same mistake the proponents of colourblindness make. Differences - be they cultural, ethnic, religious, political - are what makes us what we are, and they are something to be respected in other people, not to be ignored for the sake of making ourselves feel better with minimum effort. But hey, that's just my opinion, etc.The fact that A doesn't always practice what A preaches is a bigger problem. For one, there is a truly nasty fat-people-are-lazy line when A finds hirself in an obese kid's body. A does later note the open disgust and judgement the boy has to deal with from pretty much everyone around him on a daily basis but ze doesn't really reflect on how it affects the host or how A is not an exception to this attitude. All that matters is that A and Rhiannon are temporarily affected by it and it's all the boy's fault for being so gross. I also didn't like the day spent in the Beyonce-girl's body, and the tone A uses when referring to her ~morning regimen~ and wanting to shake her by the shoulders and scream in her face that looks aren't everything. Who says she thinks they are? A sure doesn't know that, not having taken the time to access her. I think the problem is that A truly believes - even after being called out on it by Rhiannon - that waking up as a different person every day gives hir the right to judge people within 5 seconds of meeting them. Guess what: it doesn't!I liked Rhiannon - really, truly liked what glimpses of the real her we got despite the story being told through A's lens. She is thoughtful, and reasonable, and warm. She has flaws, like the difficulty in grasping the idea of transgender and genderqueer people (as evidenced by Vic and A), and yes, a degree of superficiality. She is her own person capable of making her own - often difficult - decisions and doesn't actually need anybody to lay out her life for her. Which is why it's making me super uncomfortable that A spends a lot of hir time acting like your typical Nice Guy, ragging on her being with the wrong guy (yes, he's bad for her, she actually knew it before you enlightened her, and no, it's not your business deciding this after hijacking his body for a couple of hours), stalking her and sulking when she Doesn't Get It. The obstacles Rhiannon sees to a relationship with A are very real; A realises that eventually but honestly, what took hir so long. Some of my favourite moments were those when A saw her as she was with her family, or her friends, out of the context of the weird Justin-Rhiannon-A triangle because while it's important to her, she's not defined by it. I just wish A had drawn the right conclusions by hirself, and sooner. Preferably before she became A's co-conspirator in violating people's lives, but what kind of a story would that be, I suppose....Oh yeah and then, and then, just when I thought A finally realised Rhiannon didn't live at hir beck and call, ze picks her new boyfriend for her?? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. Not to mention it also proves A has learned absolutely nothing about how hir actions affect the hosts' lives because wow, that's extremely skeevy towards both Rhiannon and the guy.Speaking of facing the consequences: it's discussed to some extent in the novel, courtesy of Rhiannon, so let's just talk about Nathan. Poor, poor Nathan who gets thoroughly fucked over and is sentenced to a life of ridicule for speaking out. And yeah, let's pat A on the back for occasionally feeling guilty about it but ultimately, Nathan exists as a nuisance and a pretext for A to talk about wow these religious zealots, crazy, right? ...Yeah, no. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, you have no business piling condescension on anybody for thinking it's a duck.Plus, like I said, even late in the novel A continues to mess up the hosts' lives (the last chapter, anyone? not to mention the guy who was going to his sister's wedding in Hawaii but, thanks to A, stayed behind and got beat up instead), so is "but A isn't evil!" really a legitimate assertion to make just because it's all for True Love? I don't even want to get into issues of consent here but I know what my answer would be if I found out my body had not been my own for a day, particularly if the entity in control of it couldn't care less about what state it was leaving me in.
Huntress - Malinda Lo 3.5. An improvement on Ash in terms of storytelling and characterisation, and I wish I could give it a 4 because it's a wonderful novel in many ways, but in the end there's the same imbalance to it. Still, let the record show that I liked it more than the rating suggests.
Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy #2) - Mira Grant ...I don't know, I'm liking this book less and less the more I think about the things that bothered me.Firstly, Grant is incredibly heavy-handed when she's angling for an emotional response; so much so that it backfired 9.5 times out of 10 and I just ended up annoyed at being treated like an idiot who can't take a hint and needs to have every point hammered in (THE COKE THE BIKE THE COKE PUNCHING PEOPLE THE COKE INSANITY THE COKE). This feeling was reinforced by the cheap tricks employed purely for shock value - on far too many occassions rather than make me gasp, they strained my suspended disbelief because they had been staged at the expense of plot/character plausibility.Secondly, general writing issues aside, there are literally zero things I liked about Shaun and his life choices (or lack thereof; he consistently has the major plot points handed to him on a plate and would get slammed for it to hell and back if he happened to be a heroine rather than a hero, or if he didn't deploy the badass-Irwin-speak smokescreen). I do not buy his psychotic grief, I do not buy the unequivocal worship of him within After the End Times despite apparently a year of verbal and physical abuse, I do not buy the reasoning between his assorted dumbfuck decisions and I do *not* buy his miraculous immunity (and while we're in spoiler country, also on the list of things I do not buy and am actually offended by as a reader: Georgia's cloning). Fuck off, you're not the first person to lose a loved one and there's only so long it can fly as an excuse....So yeah, I'll probably read Blackout since I've already paid money for it, but right now I just feel duped.
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller Knowing how the story must end would have been exruciating in any circumstances, but the gorgeous prose made it 900% more heartbreaking. I sobbed my way through the last chapters and it hurt so good.
The Steel Remains - Richard K. Morgan DNF, haven't had one of these in a while.[tw: sexual abuse]Much as I appreciate the fact that lgbtq themes are creeping their way into genres and audiences traditionally closed to them, this just isn't a good book. Try as I might, I can't find anything in it plot-wise that would set it apart from dozens of other attempts at gritty heroic fantasy.For all the fancy names, the worldbuilding is mind-blowingly lazy, especially in the sociopolitical aspect. Here we have implications of past black slavery. Here, an inquisition-esque institution devoted to guarding the heteronormative status quo. But of course nothing says gritty and original like the systematic, institutionalised abuse of women: women as prostitutes, women as slaves, women 'given' to their husbands as preteens. It's stale, it's lazy, it's problematic as fuck.The characters are no better. Our hero, a battle-weary high-born swordsman disillusioned with the ways of the world, faces - or will eventually face - a truly astounding ensemble of cartoon villains which includes:a) an evil, sadistic, power-hungry emperor;b) an evil, sadistic, power-hungry priest;c) a seemingly unkillable legendary creature;d) the ghosts of his past.(And how do you establish a villain as evil and sadistic? Through gratuitous sexual abuse, of course.)Some of these may conceivably be dealt with by his friends: a noble barbarian, and the only woman who's a character in her own right. The latter also happens to be the only marginally compelling character in this book, though not enough so to keep me reading....As for the lgbtq issues, there's representation and then there are jokes about lubricated anuses shoehorned into the hero's completely unrelated conversations with his mother.Next, please.
Three Parts Dead - Max Gladstone 4.5. I think it could have played out better with about 50 pages more, considering the intricacy of the plot. As it is, the last 2 chapters were a bit cumbersome, but other than that? Damn near perfect. I wish more male authors would take a page from Gladstone's book and figure out that your word processor of choice won't implode if you try to populate your novel with compelling female characters (and maybe even, gasp, a PoC heroine!), each with their own plausible agency.Secondly! I got such a kick out of the world-building. It must have been just as fun to write as it was to read, and lends a fabulous twist to both urban and high fantasy. I think Alt Coulumb is as fair an extrapolation of your standard gods-and-mages faux-medieval city evolved into the 21st century as you can get. And it actually makes sense on the micro scale! Handwavey magic-based technology is one of my fantasy pet peeves, so things like the theory behind the city's heating system made me very happy indeed. So did the magic itself: half necromancy and half contract law, it both gave old ideas a new perspective and set the scene for the most awfully geeky legal joke I ever expected to encounter in fantasy fiction. I APPRECIATE YOU, MAX GLADSTONE.(Also, sentient gargoyles. Just saying.)

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall - While I like the genre in abstract, it takes a lot for historical fiction to engage me as much as Wolf Hall did.See, there's a fine line to be walked between ensuring that your reader knows who or what the historical figures and events in your novel actually are and resorting to tedious/awkward info dumping; perhaps a finer one still between choosing appropriate language and falling into the trap of caricatural faux-period-speak. I applaud Hilary Mantel for solving these problems by ignoring the genre staples completely and trusting her readers to have some knowledge of relevant history (not exactly a leap of faith - please, we're talking about Henry VIII's England). The result is a gripping, emotionally-charged piece of thoroughly modern political fiction, and beautifully written to boot.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness, Jim Kay Oh my god.
Jane Eyre - Michael Mason, Charlotte Brontë 2.5, but I'm having a hard time making up my mind. On the one hand, there was a lot to like; Jane herself was a definite highlight, as was the social commentary. And it was really engaging most of the time! The post-Thornfield part was a bit of a lull but I was quite impressed with the dissection of St. John's character....On the other hand, I absolutely despise Mr Rochester and everything he stands for, and the treatment of mental illness made me uncomfortable as hell. Let's compare Bertha to a variety of wild animals! Or demons! Throw in some racist insinuations! Anything, lest we see her as a human being in her own right, rather than an inconvenient obstacle on Mr Rochester's path to personal comfort.