Review: Firebug by Lish McBride

I have completed a book from my pop culture homework assignment! Firebug is the tale of Ava, a teenager who can start fires with her mind. She is the main assassin for the Coterie, which is like a mafia for magical people. This is not something she wants to do with her life. For one, the head of the Coterie, Venus, killed her mother. For another, she’s a member for life and can’t ever get out of her contract. It’s not awesome. She’s met some good people in her time in the Coterie, though. Ezra, a shape shifter who turns into a fox and Lock, whose mother is a dryad, so he is part dryad, are her team and help her when she goes out on assassin missions. They’re both amazing and I really enjoyed the dynamic between the three of them. The main thrust of the story is that Ava is asked to assassinate someone and she doesn’t want to. This kicks off all kinds of shenanigans. I was riveted. Couldn’t stop listening to this audio book.

This book was excellent. I devoured it. I can’t wait to dig into book two (after I finish my challenge, of course). Beth did a really great job picking this for me. I liked it so much.

Reading Challenges

As you’re thinking about your goals for 2019, I thought I’d write a quick plug for our Reading Challenges. We have three: 

  1. Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge- This is a 30 book challenge intended to challenge readers to try new subjects, new authors, new genres, and new publishers. It is divided into three sub-challenges, so you can zero in what you’re most interested in.
  2. Diverse Narrators, Diverse Stacks– This reading challenge is meant to focus on subject matter, allowing readers to use books as windows to the world
  3. Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives– This reading challenge is meant to focus on authors. The idea was to challenge ourselves to be thoughtful in whose words we’re reading and to think about how our choice of material affects the book industry. 

If you do one of our challenges, let us know! Hashtag in #StackXLifeX so we can find you! 



Review: French Concession by Xiao Bai

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French Concession by Xiao Bai is a complex novel that interleaves a number of different storylines told by different narrators who all live or work inside the French Concession in 1930s Shanghai. The novel begins with an assassination and from there follows a communist cell, some police officers in the French political section, an arms dealer, a newspaper photographer turned double agent, Shanghai police, and some Western speculators and diplomats trying to make their fortune. In the main storyline, the novel follows the communist cell, the arms dealer, and the cops as the one attempts to cause trouble in the Concession, one attempts to run their business, and the other attempts to stop the first two. According to documents at the end of the novel, this story is based on real happenings in Shanghai and came about when the author started trying to piece together documents that had been not well archived over the years.

It took me awhile to get into the story, possibly because of all of the different narrators and storylines. There are some storylines that are secondary to the main story, and I had a hard time at first trying to figure out how they fit. However, the novel begins with a list of characters and a brief description of who they are in relation to each other, and that helped me get into the story. Once I got into it, I kept reading into wee hours of the morning, because I wanted to know what happened.

One of the things that this novel does really well, in part because of all of the secondary stories, is its sense of place. You definitely get the feeling of a place that is full of people, all with their own agendas, trying to make their way in a bustling city. This was also helped on by an occasional map being included. Shanghai, and the French Concession, in part because it is a place that is created by the people that live in it, is a character in this novel. And, it was great. I originally bought it because I read a description that called it a noir novel. I was expecting it to be more pulpy. It is noir, for sure, following the suspects, the victims and the perpetrators of the crimes in the novel. But, it is much more complicated than a pulp novel and it required a lot more concentration. So, if you wanted something light to read at the end of the day, this is not for you.

 

If you enjoy novels that are told from multiple perspectives, give you a sense of a historical time and place, or are noir, then I totally recommend this novel.

Update: Asian Lit Bingo Challenge

So, at the beginning of the month, I accepted the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge from Lit Celebrasian because it sounded fun and it meant I had an excuse to read some books I’ve been wanting to read. It took me forever to get the ball rolling, which is pretty typical for me, I’m not going to lie. And, now, with three days remaining, I’m here to give a little update.

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I’m not sure if I’m going to make it. I listened to When Dimple Met Rishi and Girl in Translation. They were both wonderful books that worked well in the audio format and I’m glad I listened to them. French Concession has taken me a little while to get into. It has been my before-bed book and it has been a heavier read than I usually pick for that time of day. I’m a third of the way through and I’m really into it now, but its slow-going. I have Running through Sprinklers by Michelle Kim all queued up for when I finish reading French Concession. I believe that counts as a multiracial/multiethnic Asian MC and I’m thinking I might listen to Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan or maybe Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao for comtemporary with Asian MC.

 

I also started Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses this month, but I don’t know where I’d put that on this chart. I also am not sure audiobook is the best format for Rushdie’s writing. I’ll have to keep listening and see.

 

Even if the month runs out before I finish the challenge, I’m going to keep at it. The books I’ve found all sound really good and I’m looking forward to reading or listening to them.

 

The process of looking for books for this challenge was made incredibly easy because of Lit Celebrasian’s monthly posts on New Releases by Asian Authors. An incredible amount of time and effort must go into curating these posts and they are excellent. They provide a synopsis of the book as well as information about reading level, release date and who is represented in the text. They’ve been an excellent way to find new authors and works I might not have otherwise seen. So, if you’re looking for something new to read, you should stop by their blog and have a look!

Beth and Kate read: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Artist)

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This February Beth and I are going to be doing something we’ve talked about but haven’t yet done. We’re going to be reading a book together (or, three books as the case may be). Starting February 1st, we will be reading March by John Lewis. This award winning book tells the story of Congressman John Lewis’s coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. We invite you to join us in this reading. As we read, we will be posting our thoughts and open-ended questions. We hope that you will join us for the reading and some discussion.

 

 

Diverse Narrators, Diverse Lives Challenge

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Our second challenge of the year will be led by Beth! It is a challenge focused on story tellers and their perspectives. We give you, the Diverse Narrators, Diverse Lives Challenge! There are fifteen books in this challenge and they are all character focused. The books can be either fiction or non-fiction. Beth will be leading this challenge because she tends to read mostly  fiction. There are a lot of different character-driven stories out there in the world, and she is great at finding them!

So, if you are looking to read books from many different points of view and you’re interested on exploring some new characters and perspectives, please consider taking this challenge!

Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives Challenge

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Our first challenge of the year will be led by me, Kate! It is a challenge focused on content creators. We give you, the Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives Challenge! There are fifteen books in this challenge and they are all author focused. The books can be either fiction or non-fiction. I will be leading this challenge because I tend to read both fiction and non-fiction, so it makes sense for me to focus on authors and not on characters.

 

So, if you are looking to read books from many different points of view and you’re interested on exploring some new authors this year, please consider taking this challenge!

New Year, New Challenge!

Last year, Beth and I started the Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge. Our original challenge is made up of three mini challenges containing ten books each. There is an author challenge, a character challenge, and a medium challenge.

It turns out, if you can’t double count things, that this is not the easiest challenge to complete. I, at least, failed to complete it. This year, Beth and I decided to do something a little different. So, we’re going to have two challenges, one that Beth is going to lead and one that I am going to lead. They will be announced this week. We’re both very excited about it. We hope that you will be excited, too, and will join one or both of us on a reading adventure!