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I now belong to two book clubs, and one of them read The Circle by Dave Eggers as this month's book. I disliked it so much that I had to stop reading several times to say, "I hate this book," out loud even though I live alone and there was no one to hear me. I also tweeted about it as I went along. (The irony is not lost on me.) One of my friends in an email said she read the Wikipedia summary and asked what I didn't like about the book. My answer got long, so here it is edited into a post. Note that this includes spoilers for the entire book all the way through the ending.

Spoilers/Ranting )
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I read either 40 or 44 books in 2016, depending on whether you count unique books read or instances of reading a book. Of those, a little more than half (23) are things I read for the first time. (Methodology note: this only considers books finished; I left out the one I gave up on halfway through.)

Top 5 books/series I read for the first time in 2016
Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst - YA mystery/thriller with magic that does some amazing things with point of view and verb tense.

The Graces by Laure Eve - YA, witchcraft, mysterious/charismatic family, new girl in town, somewhat reminiscent of The Craft.

Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson - YA dystopia with magic that I both enjoyed and kept thinking about for days afterwards.

His Fair Assassins trilogy (Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart) by Robin LaFevers - This is the medieval assassin nuns of the god of death YA trilogy I never knew my life needed.

The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte - I found this very inspiring, even taking into account that parts of it are more directed at entrepreneurs.

Top 5 books/series I re-read in 2016
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy - By far my favorite Maeve Binchy novel.

Chalion series (The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, The Hallowed Hunt) by Lois McMaster Bujold - Good fantasy novels with a fascinating theology and people with intense feelings.

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold - Sci fi, interesting politics, including the gender politics. The only scene I vividly remembered is on page 563. The book is 590 pages long.

The Labyrinth Gate by Alys Rasmussen - This is my second favorite fantasy novel built around a Tarot-style card deck, and I enjoyed rereading it.

Attolia series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings) by Megan Whalen Turner - This is another excellent fantasy series with an interesting fictional religion.
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Happy Halloween! Welcome to the eighth annual edition of virtual trick-or-treating.

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Knock or ring the bell by leaving me a comment, and I'll reply with a treat of some sort. It might be a fic snippet, a picture, a song, or something else I come up with in the moment. My intention is to post all treats before I go to bed on Halloween. Lurkers and anonymous trick-or-treaters are welcome! (But if you're posting anonymously or with an LJ account that is completely friends-locked and you want a treat specific to your interests, let me know something about why you know me.)

(Not my actual door. Photo by Flickr user Nick Stanley, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.)
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When I mentioned that I loved Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia, two different friends suggested I try out the Kushiel's Legacy series. I'd heard of them before, at a Wiscon kink panel where I remember somebody disliking some aspect of them, which is part of why I'd never read them. But with recommendations from friends, I went to the library and picked up the first book. Then the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. I had to pause in the middle to read Saints Astray, which came in on interlibrary loan, and there was another pause at the end as I had to wait for the ninth book to arrive, also on interlibrary loan.

Spoilers/Review )

If you're into sex positive epic fantasy novels and twists on European history and theology, I definitely recommend at least the first two trilogies. If you're interested in sex scenes and kink, I recommend you find something else to read.
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I loved Santa Olivia so much that I promptly put in an interlibrary loan request for the sequel, Saints Astray. Again, I don't have a lot to say about it. If you liked Santa Olivia, you'll probably also like Saints Astray. If you didn't read Santa Olivia, Saints Astray might stand alone, but you'll miss the backstory. Review/mild spoilers )
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I read Santa Olivia without knowing anything about it based on a strong recommendation from [livejournal.com profile] allegram, and I'm very glad I listened to her. I don't have much to say about it. It has a semi-dystopian feel with a female superhero of sorts, it has destined for each other type romances (fangirls and others who like werewolf mating stories will probably like it), and it has a supportive community around the main character.

There are two things I didn't like about the book, enough to make them worth mentioning. First of all, the lesbian sex is much less explicit than the heterosexual sex. I was actually surprised by the explicitness of the heterosexual sex given that I'm pretty sure I've seen the book on YA shelves at Barnes & Noble, and then disappointed that the lesbian sex scenes didn't receive equal treatment. Secondly, Carey uses "could of," "would of," and "should of." Unless she and her editor are completely incompetent - which is not a theory supported by the rest of the book - that's a deliberate style choice, and I found it annoying.
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I read about M+O 4EVR in a [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc review that made a point not to spoil it. I went and read the summary at Amazon so I would be spoiled, and then put off reading it because I thought it was likely to be the kind of YA novel that would make me cry. I didn't cry and other spoilers. )
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Like I said when I talked about the last of Michelle Sagara's books, it's getting hard to say much about them. Cast in Peril is the eighth book in her Chronicles of Elantra series. If you're not already reading them, this book probably won't make sense to you. If you are reading them, keep going! This book is just as engaging and engrossing as the previous seven. Minor spoilers/thought about the structure/ending. )
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Best of the Year

Here are the five best books I read last year, alphabetical by author's last name, with first lines. I'm cheating again by including two separate series as one book each, and by including a series whose first book made this list last year. (And which will probably make the 2013 list again if the third book is as good as the first two.)

  • The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, The House on Durrow Street, and The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett.
    It was generally held knowledge among the people who lived on Whitward Street that the eldest of the three Miss Lockwells had a peculiar habit of reading while walking.
  • A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce.
    When my father died, I thought the world would come to an end.
  • Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta.
    A long time ago, in the spring before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed that he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere.
  • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.
    A "happiness project" is an approach to the practice of everyday life.
  • Cast in Ruin by Michelle Sagara.
    The worst thing about near-world-ending disasters according to Sergeant Marcus Kassan - at least the ones that had miraculously done very little damage - was the paperwork they generated.
All of the Year

A decade ago, I decided that I would keep a list of all the books I read. It would be, I thought, interesting to see how much, and what, I actually read. So when I read a book, I wrote it down in my notebook. I liked the whole project so much that I've been doing it again each year.

What's here:
  • Books I read in 2012.

  • Authors of the books.

  • Dates I read the books.

  • Short notes about each book or links to my reviews if I did one. Note: reviews all contain spoilers.

  • Approximately how many times I've read the book.
What's not here:
  • Magazine and newspaper articles.

  • Fan fiction.

  • Short stories and individual chapters I read to remind myself of what the book was about.
This year, I read 43 books. For those of you playing along at home, that's 3 fewer than last year. 36 of those, or 84%, are books I read for the first time. 21, or 49%, were Young Adult novels. 9, or 21%, were nonfiction. 4 were written by a PoC author; 38 were written by a female author. Of the 34 books for which I counted protagonists, 3 had a PoC protagonist; 29 had a female protagonist.

The List )
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I had high hopes for Malinda Lo's Adaptation. Ash and Huntress were very good with the potential to be great, and I was hoping Lo would be one of those writers who really learns to write by the third book. I did read Adaptation in one quick sitting, but I was disappointed in it, and more so the more I think about it.

Summary )

The basic structural problem with the book is the same as the problem with Ash and Huntress: the story Lo seems to be setting up and the story she tells at the end are not the same story. Spoilers/Review )

I will probably read the sequel when it's published because this was such a fast read, and because the aliens, at least, won't be an unwelcome surprise. I might even like it better because I won't go into it with such high hopes.

I do have a copy of the book, so if anyone wants to read it for themselves, let me know and I will send it to you.
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I loved Justina Chen Headley's Girl Overboard, so I put Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) on my PaperBackSwap wishlist, and sat down and read it in one sitting last week.

Patty Ho's mother is Taiwanese; her absent father was white. Her older brother Abe is their mother's smart and athletic darling; Patty bears the brunt of her mother's strict parenting. A fortune teller reads Patty's belly button and predicts she'll end up dating a white guy, which prompts her mother to ship her off to math camp at Stanford for a month.

From there, the book is, in a lot of ways, your basic summer at camp changes a teenager's perspective on her life story, although the perspective she's changing is largely about coming to terms with her mixed race identity. It's also very good. One of the things I liked about it is the way that, while there are men in her story who make a difference, a lot of what gives Patty strength are her relationships with other women: Jasmine and Anne, who Patty calls Kung Fu Queens and whose friendship and example help her see herself as a Kung Fu Queen and part of their trio that she calls "Asian Mafia Girls"; Auntie Lu, who helps illuminate the past that explains just how strict Patty's mother is; and, of course, her mother, who Patty ultimately comes to understand better.

One warning: Spoilers. )

If you like YA lit, I highly recommend the book.
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Last year when I asked for lesbian fiction suggestions, one friend highly recommended Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet. I'd heard of Tipping the Velvet, but it never sounded interesting to me, and [livejournal.com profile] inlovewithnight had just read it, and the things she didn't like about it (spoilers in her post) made me think I wouldn't like it either. Then the friend who recommended it gave me a copy for my birthday, with the note that even if I ended up not liking it, she thought I should own it.

I took the book - and nothing else to read - with me when I went for jury duty in March, and read the first 48 pages while waiting to be called to a courtroom. Then it went back into the stack of unread books. When I was on vacation in August, I saw a recommendation for it in an independent bookstore that said the sex scenes were hot, so yesterday I finally went back to it and flipped through to find just those parts. One of them is hot, and the others are okay.

I didn't like the book for basically the same reasons I didn't think I was going to: first, because I don't like literary fiction, and secondly, because I don't like historical fiction about queer characters based on real history. I think it's the literary fiction aspect that was the most annoying one to me in this book; nothing in the world can make me care about that much detail about oyster-parlours. Yesterday's skim of the rest of the book somewhat allayed my fears about it as historical fiction; the bad things that happen to Nan aren't quite as dire or as historically-bound as I would have been anxious about. I did pretty much laugh at the ending, though, in which spoilers. )

Anyway, a lot of people have loved Tipping the Velvet, and the writing in the part I read wasn't bad in a technical sense, so if it sounds like your sort of thing, you might like it. If you dislike the kinds of things I dislike, you probably won't like it.

It's been almost a year since my friend gave me the book and I've made a sincere effort to read it, so I feel justified in getting rid of it now. If anyone wants my copy, let me know. If no one claims it in a week, it's going on PaperBackSwap.
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The Art of Detection is the last of Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli books, and thank goodness. I really don't think I could have handled another one, but King is a compelling enough writer that her books are hard to put down.

Spoilers/Review )
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I saw The Hunger Games last weekend with two fangirls, a fangirl's wife, and my mother, which was a lovely group of women to spend the morning and lunch with. I've been slacking on making a post about the movie because I really only had three things to say. Now, however, I'm on a Hunger Games email thread that has brought up a fourth thing about the series that I want to talk about. This entry does include political discussion on race and gender lines, so if that isn't your thing, you can read to the first two points below and then leave this post.

The movie as an adaptation. )

The pairing I didn't expect to see. )

Race. )

Gender and Romance )
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Night Work is the fourth of the Kate Martinelli mysteries. There is only one more book in the series, so I'll probably finish it off, but if there were more books, I would probably give up now.

Spoilers/Commentary )
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With Child is the third Kate Martinelli mystery. Given my experience with the last two, I saved this one for a Saturday morning when I could sit down and read the whole thing in one go without staying up past my bedtime.

Spoilers/Review )
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I like long, in-depth book reviews. I like reading them. I like writing them. I think they're helpful. That said, I don't have a lot to say about Cast in Ruin. I adore the Elantra series, and this book didn't disappoint. Also, at this point, if you're not reading the series, a review of the seventh book probably isn't going to entice you to pick it up and read it from the beginning.

I will say that one of the things I've found interesting about Sagara's plots for the last two books is that each book dramatically ups the stakes. Spoilers ) I have read books where this leaves you excited for the next book only to have the next book do nothing with the change to the world. To Sagara's credit, this hasn't happened with the Elantra series. I'm excited to see what happens with the world in the next book, and I expect Sagara to provide me with an interesting answer.
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Best of the Year

Here are the five best books I read last year, alphabetical by author's last name, with first lines. I have completely cheated on this this year and included two series to count as one book each. I've only put the first line of the first book for the series. (This is actually a double cheat since the first book in one of those series was one of my best books of 2009, and a triple cheat since both series include books I've read before.)

  • The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore.
    For months, I relived the pas de deux in my dreams, in that multisensory Technicolor of a memory I'd much rather forget.
  • The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
    When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
  • Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
    When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose."
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.
    A long time ago, in the spring before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed that he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere.
  • The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.
    I didn't know how long I had been in the king's prison.
All of the Year

A decade ago, I decided that I would keep a list of all the books I read. It would be, I thought, interesting to see how much, and what, I actually read. So when I read a book, I wrote it down in my notebook. I liked the whole project so much that I've been doing it again each year.

What's here:
  • Books I read in 2011.

  • Authors of the books.

  • Dates I read the books.

  • Short notes about each book, including links to my reviews if I did one. Note: reviews all contain spoilers.

  • Approximately how many times I've read the book.
What's not here:
  • Magazine and newspaper articles.

  • Web-published fiction I read.

  • Short stories and individual chapters I read to remind myself of what the book was about.
This year, I read 46 books. For those of you playing along at home, that's 15 more than last year. 38 of those, or 83%, are books I read for the first time. 27, or 80%, were Young Adult or children's books. 3 were written by a PoC author; 44 were written by a female author or coauthor. Of the 44 books for which I counted protagonists, 5 or 8 (depending on how you count Katniss Everdeen) had a PoC protagonist; 37 had a female protagonist.

The List )
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I loved both of Marisa de los Santos' previous books - Love Walked In and Belong To Me - so I was excited to see a new book from her, and Falling Together didn't disappoint.

Spoilers/Review )

All said, I loved this book, although I wish I had read it more slowly (I was up against a library due date and it was unrenewable). If you liked her previous books, you will definitely like this one, although if you didn't like those, you probably won't like this one either.
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I liked Laurie King's A Grave Talent enough to request To Play the Fool from the library and give it a try. To Play the Fool falls into one of those categories that sometimes plague novels by people who are generally considered genre authors: it's a good book, but it's not a very good mystery novel.

Spoilers/Review )

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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