What I'm Reading: December 2018

This month has been one of the busiest months of my year; as soon as I think I have the space to sit down and breathe, take a moment for myself, something else happens. My library hosted the annual Christmas tree lighting - which we didn't know about until roughly five days beforehand so we had to scramble to put it together. It was a lot of fun, most of my kiddos came for the free cookies and cocoa, but then I caught the plague and I've been down most of the week. The upside to being sick and having very little energy was definitely getting caught up on most of the reading I've been wanting to do.

The first of Kevin Kwan's trilogy Crazy Rich Asians was a massive hit at the box office this summer and, from what I understood of the description, sounded like an adult Gossip Girl set in Asia. After plowing through the trilogy in less than a week, I can confirm that's exactly what these books are. They're a fun drama-fest about the 1% on the other side of the world, escapism at its finest.

I loved, loved, loved these books, but I honestly don't know who I'd recommend them to. Kwan's writing style takes some adjustment, his descriptions tend to run a little long and if you're not used to reading footnotes in academic work, his use of them can be more than a little distracting; on the other hand, his characters were so diverse and well-developed, I found myself loving the characters I hated - much like I did when Gossip Girl was running. And I definitely found myself relating to the family dynamics, but I think that comes from my parents having large, involved families: nosy aunties and weird cousins for days, ya'll.

I picked up Monstress and Ash Princess about a week before I got Kevin Kwan's trilogy and successfully made it about halfway through before both before I was sucked into the Crazy Rich Asians world, so now I'm having to go back through them. I finished Monstress this morning and I wanted to love it more than I did. The art style was beautiful, hats off to Sana Takeda for her phenomenal illustrations, but I just couldn't get into the story. I couldn't connect to the main character, I didn't really care about the world or political issues, I just really wanted to look at the pretty pictures. I don't know, guys, maybe my heart just wasn't in it.

Ash Princess, on the other hand, I'm very excited to get back to. Laura Sebastian has created a very interesting world, the way she's done the political intrigue reminds me a little of Game of Thrones (which I'm not going to get my fix of until next year, so I've been looking really hard for substitutes this year); her main character, Theo, is definitely a re-imagined Cinderella with higher stakes; I also appreciate that the story doesn't shy away from the portrayal of abuse in this story, while keeping it from feeling gratuitous. I just saw that this book is getting a sequel early next year and I don't know if I'm excited or disappointed. It seems like every decent fantasy story gets a sequel, nothing can be wrapped up in one book anymore and I'd really, really like to be able to read a standalone fantasy novel.

Which is why I'm excited for the last novel on my list. I've had this bad boy since September or October (I can't really remember which), when I met Megan at a library conference. I had watched her presentation on book publishing that morning and, since she was there, I picked up the book and had her sign it. She was funny and smart and so, so insightful, I ended up getting some solid (unsolicited) writing advice that made me rush home and get back to work on this manuscript I've been kicking around for a while. It's going to get there one day, hopefully next year I'll be able to come up with a copy I can send out to agents - that's my goal, anyway. We'll see what happens, but anyway, The Bird and the Blade is a standalone YA novel set in the Mongol Empire, based on the opera 'Turandot'.

Between Yule and Christmas festivities, I think that's going to be all I have time for this year, but I'm really interested to know what you guys are reading!

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