What I’ve Been Reading: December 2017 Book Reviews

Because this month has been so busy, and because I’ve had a lot of end-of-year blog posts I wanted to write, I haven’t posted a single book review this month. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t read any books!

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World Aldous Huxley.jpg

Goodreads

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

Brave New World is a classic dystopian science fiction novel set in a future where a combination of genetic engineering, psychological conditioning, and recreational drugs are used to control the population. The  main character is Bernard, a man slightly out of touch with societal norms, and who decides to visit a civilisation of “Savages” to see an alternative way of life.

This book covers some interesting topics, including herd mentality and the idea of social norms, and providing a platform for these ideas feels like the key focus of the book, rather than any plot or characters. When I started reading this, I found the ideas really interesting to read about, but unfortunately, as the story progressed, I didn’t feel invested in the plot, and didn’t find the characters particularly likable. I can understand why this is a classic, but I feel it didn’t need a whole (albeit short) book to showcase these themes.

Rating: 3/5

Old Man’s War

John Scalzi

old man's war

Goodreads

“I’m not insane, sir. I have a finely calibrated sense of acceptable risk.”

Old Man’s War is the first in a series of science fiction novels set in a future in which humans are branching out into the universe and attempting to colonise space. The main character is John Perry, a widower who on his 75th birthday, joins the Colonial Defence Forces, an army that favours experience over youth, and alongside whom he’ll fight in the war for colonisation.

I thought this book was fantastic. It’s original, funny, and well-paced, making it a short and effortless read, something which is unusual for a science fiction novel. One of the best things about this book is its humour, which makes a book about interplanetary war unexpectedly light.

Rating: 4.5/5

More Than This

Patrick Ness

morethanthis.jpg

Goodreads

“He wanted something, he realizes now. Wanted an answer other than the ones he’d been given. Wanted to find out this whole world had some purpose, some particular purpose. For him.”

More Than This is a young adult supernatural/science fiction book about a teenage boy who drowns and wakes up in a strange, deserted, but familiar town. As he explores his surroundings and attempts to understand what’s happened, we learn more about the boy’s past and what led him to this moment.

My dominant thought about this book is that at times, it read like an episode of Doctor Who (circa 2005-2010), because the later half of the book is so filled with adventure, suspense, and drama. The first half of the book is slower, building suspense and intrigue around the unusual world and situation the boy finds himself in, and only once or twice started to feel slow.  This was a really unique and adventurous read, that I would recommend to YA readers who enjoy mystery and adventure.

Rating: 4/5

Secrets for the Mad

Dodie

Dodie secrets.jpg

Goodreads

“They fed ropes down the hold I’d been digging, and even if they couldn’t pull me up, they at least reminded me that there was a world beyond this, where I’d been before.” 

Secrets for the Mad is a collection of non-fiction essays, lyrics and images from musician and YouTuber, Dodie Clark, on her relationship with mental health, sexuality and sex, fame, and heartbreak. 22-year old Dodie tells stories from her life, and discusses some of the issues that have shaped her life and career so far.

The first thing you notice about this book is that it’s beautifully put-together: its pages contain lovely illustrations, or lyrics printed on coloured paper. Dodie is incredibly honest about her experiences, and a lot of these are relatable too: I expect a lot of fans will benefit from hearing about her experiences with mental health, sexuality and heartbreak. It’s moving to read about Dodie’s experiences with mental health in particular, which at times, I found hard to read, and truly impressed on me how strong Dodie must be to combat this on a daily basis. This is an unexpectedly well-written and insightful book for someone so young, and I’m sure it will be valuable to a lot of fans.

Rating: 4/5

The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss

name of the wind

Goodreads

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 

The Name of the Wind is the first novel in an epic fantasy series following the life of Kvothe, once a hero with nicknames such as “Kvothe the Bloodless” and “Kingkiller”, now an innkeep, telling his story in full for the first time. It follows his life from his childhood as part of a troupe of travelling performers, to his quest to join a legendary school of magic, with all the adventures, tragedy, and action in between.

Finally, I understand what all the fuss is about. This book is perfectly-written, with just the right amount of suspense and intrigue to match both its tragedy and its adventure. This is a big book to tackle, but thanks to the perfect pacing, it never feels like a struggle, and at the end, I actually feel like I gained more than I bargained for within those pages. This fantasy book has everything: magic, adventure, loss, and even romance. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Rating: 5/5 – Book of the month!

And what a way to end the year, by finishing the epic The Name of the Wind just as December comes to a close. In the new year, I have a huge list of books to read, which you can find in my Winter TBR (which you’ll notice I already started making some progress on this month). I’m also currently reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall (because, let’s face it, it’s hard to stick to a TBR).

What book are you ending your year with?

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