It’s time for my final book reviews blog of 2016, and I’m celebrating with some festive photos to accompany my reviews. I’ve read a real mix of genres this month, with some epic and exciting sci-fi, some quirky and romantic YA, some illuminating non-fiction, and an entertaining and unique graphic novel. Here’s what I thought of this month’s reads.
James S.A. Corey
Since this is the second novel in The Expanse series and I’m aware that most of my readers might not have read the first, I won’t be giving away any plot details in this review. Check out my review of book one here, if you’re new to the series. What I will say is that Caliban’s War continues the story which began in Leviathan Wakes, introducing new characters and new threats to the characters we’re already familiar with. And I have to say, I loved it even more than its predecessor.
As with Leviathan Wakes, the writing in this book was fantastic, and so much easier to understand now that I feel more comfortable with the political backdrop of the series. The characters were incredibly well-written, and I absolutely loved the latest additions – Bobbie and Avasarala.
I loved Avasarala’s sharp wit and no-nonsense attitude, and Bobbie was the badass marine that every sci-fi story needs. I also loved how well-rounded the two were. Bobbie might be one of the strongest Martians out there, but she’s not immune to the emotional strain of the battlefield. And Avasarala might be tough as old boots, with a sharp tongue, but we see her heart when it comes to family.
For me, this book was flawless, and there wasn’t one section I didn’t savour. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series (and to see Bobbie make her debut in the second season of the TV adaptation in 2017!).
My non-fiction book this month was The Lonely City. I thought this book was a beautifully written exploration of a feeling almost everyone will have experienced in their lives: loneliness.
Initially, I expected this book to examine loneliness from an almost scientific point of view. What The Lonely City gave me instead was a glimpse into the lives of various artists, including Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, and David Wojnarowicz, whose works have often been associated with loneliness. As someone who knows very little about art, this was an enlightening experience, even more so because the book set the scene for each of these artists’ lives, delving into their childhood, relationships and sexuality.
At times, this felt like a heavy read, not least because there were a number of times when I either needed to Google the definitions of words, or the work Laing was writing about. This didn’t spoil the experience, and I now feel like I know a lot more about art, and also a surprising amount about other topics, including the history of New York (the lonely city which inspired this book), and the AIDS crisis.
Unconventional is an upcoming contemporary YA book, which I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reading copy of, thanks to YA book club. It tells the story of Lexi Angelo, a girl who has grown up helping her dad run literature conventions, who falls for a messy-haired and arrogant author who seems hell-bent on disrupting her planning.
This is a well-written, original and witty YA romance. The characters are interesting and well-developed; the writing style is great, and I loved the convention setting (perfect for fellow convention nerds!). There were parts of the book I really liked, and some of the romance was cute and made me smile. If this review was purely based on the quality of the book, I would give it four stars, because I have no doubt that there will be a lot of people who love this book.
However, for me personally, this just didn’t quite do it for me. Part of this is probably because of the genre. Contemporary YA romance has never been the one for me, so a book of this genre has to do something really special to impress me. There were parts of the romance that I just didn’t like, and I wasn’t particularly keen on the ending. I would give this book 3.5 stars, because of the high quality of writing, the setting, and the characters. It was enjoyable, but not a favourite.
Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
I actually delayed reading this graphic novel for a while after finishing the first volume, because I knew that given the chance, I would finish of the entire Saga series (so far) in a number of days. This was a series I wanted to make last. Read my review of volume one here.
I have to admit that Saga volume 2 didn’t have quite the same impact on me as the first volume. Maybe this was because the first volume was like nothing I had ever read before, and now that I’ve entered the world of Saga, that “first time feeling” can never quite be replicated. Having said that, I still enjoyed this volume a lot, especially in the second half.
As with the first instalment, this graphic novel was witty and fun, with more than a hint of crazy. I don’t know where the ideas captured within the pages of Saga come from, but they must take a huge amount of imagination. There were a couple of slower sections to this volume, but it really picked up in the second half, with the return of some of the more unusual characters from the first volume – and the arrival of some new ones!
Once again, it’s going to be a struggle keeping myself away from this series.
Next month, I’ll be reviewing the third instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody and more.
Last month, I reviewed Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Sex Criminals, Volume 1, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Read them here.
What have you been reading this holiday? And did you get any bookish gifts for Christmas?