December ‘19 Wrap Up

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Christmas and the New Year has officially come and gone, and that means it’s the end of December, the beginning of January 2020 – time for a wrap up! I think I’ve read a good amount, so without further ado, let’s begin and fair warning, there may be spoilers.

The first book I read was a library copy of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, which is the first book in the His Dark Materials YA fantasy series. This follows Lyra, as she goes off on an adventure to save her friend, all the while trying to uncover more about the mysterious Dust… This was a book I never finished as a child, and I understand why as an adult. The pacing is very upbeat and then slows right down. There are sections where the language becomes technical. This being said, I love Lyra as a character. She goes from this troublesome rebel, to this adventurous young lady. Whilst there are moments where you have to suspend your beliefs, this has magic and mystery. What really are daemons? How do humans get daemons – is it you’re born, and poof, there’s a daemon? What really is Dust? This is something I still don’t feel like I understand and I feel like the author was trying to be clever using religion and science in such a way. The magical bears, like Iorek, are a great addition – Iorek became a firm favourite character. I’d like to see the TV series now, continue the book series, and hopefully finish it this month. I rated this 3 stars.

northern lights

The next library book I read was Night Shift by Stephen King, which is an adult horror short story collection. There is a wide variety of stories in this, including a killer mangler, sentient trucks and a cult of young adults. Some short stories were really good, like Night Surf, I Know What You Need, and, Children of the Corn. Some were bizarre – Trucks feels like an insane episode of the cartoon, Transformers! Gray Matter made me feel sick – and it’s been a while since a King has done that. Some of the stories I had already read in other collections or books, so they didn’t hold as much sway. Some stories, however, were boring, such as I Am the Doorway, The Lawnmower Man and The Man Who Loved Flowers. I appreciated his change in style and plot, but it was too much of a mix. In the end, I rated this 3 stars.

night shift

The next library book I read was Wildcard by Marie Lu, which is the second and final book in the YA science fiction duology, Warcross. Following on from the events of the previous book, hacker Emika Chen must find a way to stop her genius lover, Hideo, from unleashing his restrictive crime preventing technology on the whole world. She is approached by another hacker, Zero – a person with a shady secret and past… I was disappointed with this book. I found that although there was action, I was bored. The characters we were initially introduced to are reduced heavily, apart from Emika, but she becomes quite passive. There is a lot of reveals through dialogue, such as character’s pasts. Emika’s relationship with Hideo falls flat and it wasn’t something I enjoyed. So much happens in a short space that I felt like the villains aren’t hyped enough and the motivations aren’t clear. They become slightly cartoonish, almost ripped from science fiction films like The Matrix and Transcendence. There are some redeemable moments, such as a character using they/them pronouns, and LGBT+ relationships, but this wasn’t enough. In the end, I rated this 2 stars.

wildcard

The next library book I read was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, which is an adult thriller. This follows Jessica, a mobile make-up artist, who becomes involved in a psychological study about ethics and morality. It isn’t long before she begins to feel unsure about what is being asked of her, and paranoia seeps in… This was a really interesting novel, and I found myself wanting to answer the questions myself. I found I could connect with Jessica in some moments. Jessica holds so much in her head and the prospect of earning money for a quick survey is appealing and very human. Psychologist Dr Shields is very conniving and the second person narration drives the plot and mystery further. Dr Shields, however, did turn a little too horror villain-like, with her own underlying problems, driving her interest in psychology and studies. I did find that the last twenty pages really let this down – I just didn’t buy into the final reveals and actions of the characters. This being said, I had enjoyed the majority of the novel, and it was very compelling. I rated this 3.5 stars.

an anonymous girl

The next book I read was another library loan, and that was The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, which is book two in the His Dark Materials series. Following on from the events of the previous book, Lyra has crossed over into worlds different from hers. In one, she meets a young boy Will, who has murdered a man, is trying to keep his mother safe, and find his long-lost father… I found this was quite boring, in comparison to the first novel. The child stars of the book don’t feel like children. Whilst I appreciate that they have been through a lot, there’s no innocence, or whimsy. This is also the perspectives of the adult characters – witch Serafina and aeronaut Lee, for example. It still feels like it’s trying to do too much with the conflict of good vs evil, science vs religion, which I think is overly heavy for a children’s book series. Whilst I read on for the mysteries, it just fell really flat, and a lot happens through chunky dialogue. Questions aren’t answered, leaving more problems. There are also really distracting illustrations at the tops of the pages of this edition, which are often repeated. I rated this 2 stars.

subtle knife

I then felt like I needed a break, so I picked up my Kindle and read The Escape Room by Megan Goldin, which is an adult thriller. This follows Vincent, Jules, Sam and Sylvie, Wall Street investment bankers. One night, the team are invited to participate in an elevator escape room. Amusement soon turns to terror as the clues leave them on edge and in danger… This was an interesting novel, written in third and first person, across two different perspectives in time. I preferred the first person perspective, as this character was more relatable. The plot is thrilling, however, few of the characters are likeable and it later becomes unrealistic. The characters are also so far from what I found relatable, so this made things a bit more difficult. I don’t want to spoil this, so I’ll leave it at that, as it’s better to go into this relatively blind. I rated this 3 stars.

the escape room

The next book I read was a graphic novel, and that was Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Jordie Bellaire. This follows Leia and a rebel pilot as they attempt to rescue survivors of Alderaan, after the Empire opened fired and destroyed it… This collects issues 1-5 of the comic, and its very action packed! Picking up after the events of A New Hope, Leia is being the dutiful Princess, but inside she is burning with desire to help and fight. More of her background is revealed, and she begins a tenuous friendship with a daughter of Alderaan. The dialogue is snappy and feels like it’s been pulled from the films, and Leia is in on the action. She grows more as a character, and it feels realistic for her. It just seems so short! I still enjoyed this though, and rated it 4 stars.

star wars princess leia

The next book I read was a library copy of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, the third and final book in the His Dark Materials series. Following on from the events of the previous book, Lyra and Will’s fates are bound together, but they’ve been torn apart. They must find each other, and enter into a terrible war… I was very bored reading this and I skim read this as fast as I was able, whilst still retaining the knowledge. The poetry at the beginning of chapters is distracting, and I feel like there was little substance. Lyra went from this sassy, spunky child in the first two books to being this docile, submissive little girl, whereas Will seems to be on an eternal quest – very masculine and heroic. Background characters feel like they’re forgotten and it almost seems like someone else has tried to write them in. This felt so long and tedious, even though the prose has its moments of wonder. It’s less of a fantasy book and more of an opinionated war on religion, but this did answer a lot of questions I had. That wasn’t what I signed up for though, and to say I’m disappointed, is an understatement. I rated this 1 star, and it finishes the series.

amber spyglass

I then read a book I was gifted at Christmas, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Vol 5 by Akira Himekawa. Following on from the events of the previous book, Link and Midna are on course to save Hyrule and the Twilight Realm, but villain Zant has other plans. Injuring Midna sends them towards the path of the imprisoned Princess Zelda… I really enjoyed this, and I feel like it’s been so long since I read a manga. I read this in one sitting, and considering I read the first four in April, I fell straight back into the story. Whilst I found myself so emotional whilst reading this, there were equal elements of action. There was a lot of growth of Link, Midna and Zelda, with a subtle reveal to a villain. There’s not much I can say really – it was action packed, emotional, funny and I can’t wait for volume six! I rated this 5 stars.

twilight princess 5

The final book I read was an eBook, and that was The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, which is an adult science fiction. This follows Frank, a seventeen year old murderer, who stays on his small island with his father, completing his rituals. Soon, Frank’s peace of mind is shattered when his brother Eric escapes an institution, and makes his way home… The narrative is very chatty, almost friendly, as Frank divulges everything about his daily life – his meals, his rituals with dead creatures, and his increasingly worrying phone calls from his brother. Whilst these actions are frightening, they are nothing to how callous he is in describing family events, murders and suicides that have taken place. None of the central characters are likeable, and there are plenty of uncomfortable slurs used, however this is fitting for Frank and his isolation on this slip of land, his island, in Scotland. The isolation works so well, making you feel like you’re becoming Frank and you must check on the things he is doing, such as collecting insects for his wasp factory, which tells of omens and things to come. There’s a lot to unpack about mental health, and a few other bits, but I don’t want to spoil this. I honestly think it’s better going in blind. I was drawn completely in, was disgusted in parts, and yet couldn’t put it down. I rated this 4 stars.

the wasp factory

So that completes my monthly wrap up and the final wrap up of 2019! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of December – whether it’s paper/hardback, audio, eBook, graphic novels or manga. They all count! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know!

– ReadWriteZoe.

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