It’s time for my first reading round-up of the year! And of course, because you should start the year as you mean to go on, this post was never going to be published on time. However, while my timing might be behind, the good news is that I’ve actually read more books than usual this month, and I absolutely loved two of the books!
So if this month is anything to go by, it’s going to be a disorganised, busy, but positive year. These are the books I decided to start it with…
Milk and Honey
“You were a dragon long before he came around and said you could fly”
Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry that describes itself as being about “survival”: poems explore themes of love, loss, violence, abuse, and femininity, and have a raw and honest feel to them.
This was an unusual choice of book for me in the sense that I rarely read poetry. I liked how raw and bittersweet a lot of these poems felt, and admired the honesty and bravery behind them. While I’m glad these themes have been written about so candidly, I’m not sure this style of poetry is for me, and I have to say that after a while, the messages became a little repetetive and stale.
Eleanor & Park
“He tried to remember how this happened—how she went from someone he’d never met to the only one who mattered.”
When new girl Eleanor, with her bright red hair and her different clothes sits next to Park on the school bus, the pair slowly begin to bond over comic books and mixtapes. Eleanor and Park is a contemporary young adult novel that follows the relationship between two teenagers, whilst exploring themes of love, family, abuse, bullying, and fitting in.
I loved the character of Eleanor: she’s bold, yet tender and insecure, which I think is a relatable depiction of what it’s like to be 16/17 years old. I also particularly liked the range of themes this book addresses, including bullying, abuse, and self-image. While I found the beginning of Eleanor and Park’s relationship hard to connect with, by the final 100 pages, I was completely invested. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I *loved* this book, because it did take a while to warm to.
Prisoners of Geography
“Sometimes you will hear leaders say, “I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.” If that’s true then that leader has truly failed to build their nation.”
My second non-fiction read of the month, this is an educational geopolitics book that explains the geographical factors underpinning the politics and relationships of various nations around the world, including the US, China, Russia, and the Middle East.
Geopolitics is an area I’m eager to learn more about, and this book made a great introduction to the topic. It explains the key geopolitical factors for some of the most talked-about nations in the world, pointing out the origins of conflicts and giving context to a lot of the news we hear/read everyday. I found this completely fascinating, and while it was difficult to read at times due to the volume of information to digest, the author does a great job of making it accessible.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1)
“I never thought of fear as something that can go away. It just is. It reminds me that I want to stay alive.”
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a character-driven science fiction book that follows the diverse crew of the Wayfarer, as they take on a dangerous contract to a distant, war-torn area of space. During the book, we are introduced to the nuances of each of the unique and unusual characters living aboard the ship, each of whom harbors their own secrets and confronts their own personal challenges during the course of the book.
This was one of those rare books that was just a sheer joy from start to finish. Although it takes place against the backdrop of space, this book is all about the characters, who are well-rounded, complex, diverse and interesting. I loved the themes of this book, which revolved around diversity, difference, conflict and other very human issues, and thought the pacing and story worked really well.
Rating: 5/5 – Joint book of the month!
Tower of the Swallow (Witcher #6)
This is the sixth Witcher book I’ve read, following the story of Geralt the monster hunter, and his ward, Ciri, who harbours a dangerous and desirable power. I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling the previous books in the series, but it revolves around war, politics, and Ciri taking her destiny into her own hands.
I had very mixed feelings whilst reading this book. One minute, I found myself fully invested in the characters and immersed in the story, but the next, I felt tired of the plot, which has started to feel like it’s dragging. There are some gripping scenes and some great writing, but at the same time, this book didn’t feel like it was really adding anything new to the series.
Vicious (Villains #1)
V. E. Schwab
“All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.”
Vicious is a paranormal/science fiction story about what happens when two college roommates decide to investigate the relationship between near-death experiences and supernatural abilities. The main characters are Victor and Eli, both smart, arrogant, and ambitious, and when their research escalates to dangerous practical experimentation, their friendship is torn apart, turning them into enemies who’ll stop at nothing to see each other fall.
This is yet another brilliant read from V. E. Schwab. A combination of the writing style, the characters and the pacing made this book a delight to read. The highlight of this book is the characters, who are morally grey, complex, and believable. The plot is so gripping that I finished the book in less than two days, and the story is filled with intrigue, surprise, and originality. I loved this book and can’t wait for the sequel.
Rating: 5/5 – Joint book of the month!
The Way of Kings, Part One (The Stormlight Archive #1)
The Way of Kings is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, an epic fantasy series set against the backdrop of a war fought for magical, legendary weapons called “Shardblades”. The story takes place in a rich world backed by complex and mysterious lore, and follows three main characters: a soldier, a scholar, and a brightlord.
I can already tell that this is going to be quite an epic series. The world-building in this book is rich and impressive, with layers of lore and politics behind it. The highlight is the soldier Kaladin, whose struggle is emotional and intense, while the lowlight is the scholar, Shallan, whose character seems less well-grounded and developed. At the moment, it’s not quite clear exactly where this story is leading and how the characters’ paths will intersect, but I can just tell that Sanderson has something big planned.
So, those are the books that I managed to read this month! Things are likely to be a little quiet from me for the next week or two, but I’ll be back with more book reviews and talk of TV shows, films and video games soon! I’ve just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir, and I’m just starting on part two of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, so I’ll be publishing my thoughts on these, amongst others, in next months’ round-up.