January ‘20 Wrap Up

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! January always feels like a slow month, but it’s great for making a start on those reading resolutions. I’ve definitely made a start on my reading goals and I’ve read a total of 13 books this month! Well, you know what they say – January does feel like it lasts for a long time! If you want to know what those books were, then you’re in the right place. So without further ado, let’s begin, and fair warning, there may be spoilers.

The first book I read was The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is an adult fantasy. This is the first book in The Witcher series, which follows Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who earns his living by destroying supernatural creatures. This is a short story collection, that interweaves Geralt’s healing process from a battle with a terrifying striga monster, and his thought processes… This was a really interesting read, and I enjoyed it. Sapkowski has a unique writing style, in his ability to write coherent action and witty dialogue. The characters are fully formed, like Geralt and bard Dandilion, however, there is room for growth, ups and downs. Geralt’s love interest Yennefer is magical, although, I did find their chemistry a little insta-love. The only problem is that the short stories sometimes feel a little too much like traditional fairy tales, like having references to Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. The time skips between past events and Geralt’s healing was a little disjointed and confusing at first, however, I soon got to grips with it. I really enjoyed this, and although I have prior knowledge of this through the video games and Netflix adaptation, I felt I could get more from it. I rated this 4 stars.

the last wish

The next book I read was The Toll by Neal Shusterman, which is a YA science-fiction. This is the third and final book in the Arc of a Scythe series, which follows the world after death and illnesses are cured, leading to the creation of scythes – humans who are ordained and required to kill. Following on from the events of the previous book, heroes Citra and Rowan are trapped, sunk beneath the waves when the island of Endura sank. The technological master which is the Thunderhead has deemed humanity unsavoury and has turned its back on it – apart from Greyson Tolliver. Villainous Goddard has reigned supreme over the scythedom, but things soon begin to change… I was highly anticipating this, and it fell a little bit flat. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it – there were great leaps in the representation of gender fluid characters and LGBT+ relationships, and Shusterman’s writing style is funny, sarcastic and witty, offering many social commentaries. Characters come and characters go – I feel like although this began as Citra and Rowan’s story, they feel absent from a lot of the plot. I feel like Shusterman painted himself into a corner after the Endura/Citra and Rowan sinking, and sometimes struggled to regain his grip on the series. There is a lot of coupling up, with romances that I feel don’t need to happen. Goddard still feels like a moustache twirling villain, with little substance. The action is swift throughout, however, the pacing is off for me – there are times when scenes seem to drag, especially interspersed with the journal and book entries. I think the biggest issue I had with this is the element of space travel and exploration – I felt this was very low key in the beginning, and was very heavy in this installment, becoming a little bogged down and confusing. This being said, it was an interesting read and end to the series. I’d recommend the series as it is very different, and rated The Toll as 3 stars.

THE TOLL

The next book I read was borrowed from a friend, and that was The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, which is an adult fantasy. This is the first book in The Gentlemen Bastards series, which follows Locke Lamora, as he becomes part of a heist group and sets his sights on fleecing the richest people around. Locke has become infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, a nickname he dislikes and does not live up to. When he and his crew are threatened by the mythical Grey King, Locke finds himself pushed to the edge… This was a book that took me by surprise, and I loved it! The characters are so complex and feel real, and I think that is down to the writing style. Lynch’s writing is fluid and witty, encouraging you to read on. There are moments that are heartbreaking, and I shed a few tears reading this – and it’s rare for me to cry at books. The plot goes from simple heist, to dramatic shifts, and there are tropes that are turned on their heads. Lynch also introduces ‘interludes’ in this to give us background on Locke and how he came to be a Gentlemen Bastard – this was very cleverly done. There is a lot of world building, but it doesn’t feel like an information dump or that it isn’t detrimental to the plot. I’d highly recommend this, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I rated this 5 stars.

the lies of locke lamora

The next book I read was Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is an adult fantasy. This is the second book in The Witcher series, and is the second short story collection, offering commentary on Geralt’s romances, and how destiny plays a role in his life… This was an enjoyable book. I really like Sapkowski’s writing style, and it feels more sarcastic and humorous this time around. The characters are still good – Geralt and Dandilion are a great match, however, I did find the romantic tension between Geralt and Yennefer frustrating. It feels like although they care for each, they are forever going to come across or be obstacles for each other, with many “pissing contests” between anyone who threatens their happiness. Once again, some of these short stories take inspiration from fairy tales, like The Little Mermaid. The time skips between stories was more disjointed than The Last Wish and were perhaps a little more confusing. I feel like these stories were great to establish the world, further characters and action, but I’m ready to jump into the actual plot now. I rated this 3 stars.

sword of destiny

The next book I read was The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson, which is a children’s fantasy. This is the first book in The Moomins series, which follows a family of hippo-like creatures as they have all sorts of adventures. This story follows Moomintroll and Moominmamma as they travel through the dark woods looking for Moominpapa… I’ve had The Moomins book series for a very long time, and this is the first time I’ve read this. This was a cute, almost scary read, and I loved it. Jansson had the ability to take the harrows of World War II, and make it an adventure for these fantastical creatures – it’s clearly the Moomin family fleeing and finding a new place to live and grow up in. The dialogue and narration is funny and serious, and there was a line that brought me to tears – and I was only a few pages in! It’s a very easy read and I love the characters. They mean a lot to me – Moomintroll is childish, whereas Moominmamma is serious and sarcastic. This is a very short tale – my edition is thin at 60 pages, but it packs a punch. It’s very linear and is a journey about finding home and those you love. I can’t wait to continue the series, and rated this 5 stars.

moomins great flood

I then read Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien, which is a children’s fantasy. This is part of the Tales of the Perilous Realm series, which are short stories, poems and essays from Tolkien. Roverandom follows a dog called Rover, who is turned into a toy, and goes on an adventure to get himself back to normal… My best friend sent me this a few Christmases ago, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading this. This was a sweet read, and I ended up reading this to my own dog. He fell asleep, so it must have got his seal of approval! Tolkien was very creative with this story, and it was definitely designed for children. It was simple to follow, and young children will love this. The writing style isn’t complicated, and the dialogue is fun. I feel like this was a precursor to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I think that this is best read aloud. This is a fairly short story, but it’s a fully formed adventure for Rover. I rated this 4 stars.

roverandom

The next book I read was Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is an adult fantasy. This is the third book and is the first full length story in The Witcher series. In this instalment, Geralt of Rivia has saved the life of Princess Ciri, his Child of Surprise, and taken her under his wing. Ciri begins to learn the way of a witcher, although a prophecy hangs over them. A war is imminent, Ciri’s powers could be the key and Geralt may have met his match… As I’ve said before, the writing style is great, but this time the action is hyped up more. Ciri’s training is completed through Sapkowski’s clever dialogue, and I found it moved things along more swiftly. Geralt feels so much older, which he even mentions himself. Yennefer reads as feeling slightly threatened by Ciri, whereas the readers see Ciri as she starts to grow up. There is the addition of characters that I’ve heard about such as magician’s Philippa and Triss, and medic student Shani. Since there are so many characters within the novel, the plot does move around a lot and can sometimes be confusing, but always manages to draw you back in, encouraging you to read on and on. I rated this 4 stars.

blood of elves

The next book I read was Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson, which is a children’s fantasy. This is the second book in The Moomins series, and in this adventure Moomintroll meets new friends as he learns of a comet heading towards Moominvalley… This was another charming book. It’s under 200 pages, so it reads fairly fast and is helped along with sweet illustrations of the Moomins, their friends and their escapades. I loved meeting characters like Snufkin and Snork Maiden, who feature prominently in the animated TV series. The adventures are childlike and although you know no danger will come to them, there are moments where you’re transported to your own childhood, thinking that something bad will happen to you. I’m looking forward to meeting more of the characters and seeing what high jinks they get up to in the rest of the series. I rated this 5 stars.

comet in moominland

The next book I read was borrowed from a friend and that was Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, which is an adult fantasy. This is the second book in The Gentlemen Bastards series, and this picks up after the events of book one. Locke and Jean have fled Camorr, but nothing keeps them down. They decide to heist one of the world’s biggest gambling houses – the Sinspire. Heists will have to wait though, and it isn’t long before Locke and Jean become embroiled in piracy… This was a great novel. The characters that we met feel even more real as they are subject to depression, heartache, and longing. The banter between Locke and anyone else works so well, and I wish Locke was real so I could meet him at least once before he picks my pocket. I do think Lynch’s writing drags a bit in this, as it becomes bogged down with nautical terminology and adventure on the high seas. This didn’t feel as exciting to me and I found it took me longer to read those sections as my mind began to wander. The plot becomes complicated as the Gentlemen Bastards heist one person to the next and the next, and it seems to go on, backtracking and so forth. There is a plot point, which I feel didn’t go particularly anywhere eventually, until it becomes wrapped up in a nice convenient moment towards the end. The world building feels solid, and I was intrigued about the places, particularly the opulent Sinspire. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, because that ending was perfect! In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

red seas under red skies

The next book I read was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire illustrated edition by J. K. Rowling and Jim Kay, which is a YA fantasy. This is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, following the adventures of the boy wizard. In this instalment, Harry’s world is turned upside down with a trip to the Quidditch World Cup. And then it is the announcement that the Triwizard Tournament will be played at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry… This was a great read, as usual. The illustrated editions make me read slower to appreciate the art, but then I find myself picking apart tiny comments within her writing style. The writing is clever enough to be witty, whilst dark. It’s almost like the more Harry grows up, the more danger is there. Whilst the art is spellbinding as usual, it’s also dark and eerie as the book changes. These are characters I grew up with and they still feel fresh on the page. There’s not a lot I can say about this. I do understand the controversy around Rowling, but I have memories of these books and these characters, and nothing can diminish that. I rated this 5 stars.

goblet of fire illustrated

The next book I read was borrowed from the library, and that was Renegades by Marissa Meyer, which is a young adult science-fiction fantasy. This is the first book in the Renegades series, which follows rival superhero teams in the the fictional city of Gatlon City. Nova is a villainous Anarchist, living in a world run by the heroic Renegades. Out for revenge, Nova soon makes plans to infiltrate the heroes. Then she meets Adrian, a Renegade, who believes in justice, and her… I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it. The main characters of Nova and Adrian have so many layers, and they really drive the story onwards. Their romance is sweet and slow burn in the best way, and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out. I definitely think Meyer’s writing has improved vastly – I vaguely remember reading Cinder and liked it, whereas Heartless, I really disliked. I think there is a lot of influence from comic books like Batman and X-Men, Watchmen and The Boys, and whilst that isn’t a bad thing, I feel like I could see where things were or weren’t going to go. The supporting characters were engaging and I liked how the various representations, such as disability and LGBT+ is fluid and natural. There is more to the plot than heroes against villains – there is prejudice and deception at every turn. The world of Gatlon does feel a bit like Gotham City, which is a little disappointing, yet characters are sarcastic about the repetition of powers, like fire or water. I found the ending was intriguing and surprising, and I’ve already got a reservation at the library for the next book in the series. I rated this 4 stars.

renegades

The penultimate book I read was also a library book, and that was The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, which is a young adult contemporary. This follows Xiomara, a Harlem teenager, who uses her fists instead of her words. She has always been told what to do and what to feel by others, but when she falls in love with poetry, Xiomara will change things up… Yet again, this was a book I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Whilst I have not have the experiences of abuse, race and religion that Xiomara has, there are things I could identify with throughout – the harassment, homophobia, sexism, and slut shaming. Xiomara just wants to find a place for herself, to carve out something for herself in her community. The writing style is so unique, as it’s completely told in verse – this makes it a fairly fast read, but is also as powerful. In fact, there were moments where I was shocked at what I was feeling – Acevedo’s writing style is so unique. I did find the plot very simplistic, but this is more about a journey of self confidence and discovery. I highly recommend this, and rated this 4 stars.

the poet x

The final book I read this month was a library loan, and that was With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, which is a young adult contemporary. Emoni is a high school senior, a single parent, and a talented cook. When the new school year starts and a culinary arts class opens, Emoni sees this as her chance. Yet with an expensive class trip to Spain and rules already placed on her by family, and herself, what will Emoni do? This was another great novel about discovering yourself and your passions. This had similar themes as The Poet X, such as racism and religion, and slut shaming, but there was also the discussions of pregnancy, and being a single teen mother. The romance aspects were interesting, as there was no pressure being put upon each other, and also showed that sometimes relationships are better off not working, like Emoni and her child’s father. Emoni herself is strong and tough, and I liked how Chef would not just compliment and suck up to her simply because she is the heroine of our tale – he was able to downgrade her because she was not able to follow a recipe, and give valid reasons why. This gave her reasons to change and grow, which is definitely what I feel the novel is about. This proves that Acevedo can write a fully formed novel, and not just poetry – her writing is just as impactful as ever. I did find though that the pace began to pick up and it was racing towards an end conclusion, which I found a little disappointing. In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

with the fire on high

So that completes my wrap up and the first of 2020! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of January – 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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