Book talk · Reviewing my monthly reads

Reviewing my December reads

Having more more in the last three months than in the past two years, I’m happy with how my 2016 ended in terms of reading. I’m definitely planning to keep it up in 2017 and I have to say the simple art of writing about them here and setting myself targets of what to read is helping.

So, what of my last reads of 2016?

Black Hawk Down – Mark Bowden

Only my second non-fiction read since starting this, for those who don’t know, Black Hawk Down centres around what was meant to be a short, fairly routine extraction by American soldiers and special forces in Somali’s capital, Mogadishu back in 1993. Needless to say, it didn’t go well or quickly.

I’d read this years ago, but barely remembered it. I’ve seen the film version quite a few more times. Sure, the film paints it all very much from the American POV, whereas the book aims to be more balanced, even if it’s a little conflicted in itself, but I do like the film. I’m not sure what inspired me to re-read this, but I have a greater appreciation this time around. It doesn’t hold back but it doesn’t feel like it glorifies war or the events either.

It’s well researched and with the eye witness accounts that Bowden retells, it’s possibly the closest any of us can come to understanding quite what happened that day and why. It’s harrowing for all sides and a reminder that such conflict rarely achieves much. It paints a good question about intervention too. It’s a more interesting read than I remembered and I really must try and include a non-fiction read each month for some variance.

 

Paper Girls – Brian K. Vaughan (Cliff Chiang’s drawings)

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A ‘Stand by me’ for girls? Maybe. I bought this on the solid, constant praise it was receiving on Twitter and my, it smashed my expectations into pieces. Gorgeous, vibrant illustration with believable, strong, witty and independent females at its helm. It’s satirical too. The use of the Apple shaped evil and the dismissal of boys only enhanced my enjoyment. Volume one encompasses issues 1-5, each issue as fabulous as the next.

I’ve not yet had a chance to get my hands on the second volume yet, but as soon as I get paid, it’s going to my treat and I suspect I won’t just buy one. I can’t wait to see where our heroines go next. I read it all in one sitting, I was so enthralled by it. Comics are more accessible than ever and I cannot recommend this one highly enough.

 

The 100 (Book One) – Kass Morgan

Yes, I’ve done this in the wrong order. I gave the television adaptation a shot not expecting much. Certainly not expecting to be in tears by the end of the series and in subsequent ones. I wasn’t supposed to care so much for Clarke or Bellamy, yet there I sit getting annoyed by their choices or the nearly moments. I’d been warned that while the show is good, it strays wildly from the books. Though I was recommended both in their own right.

I’ve yet to read the second, but I got through this first one on my journey from Coventry back to Grimsby for Christmas. Fairly short and easy to read, I loved the characters just as much here. They’re not all the same. Some don’t exist at all in one world, but I enjoyed the writing. I wish we had some Glass in the show, something to balance the focus between earth and the ark. I purchased the second immediately upon finishing and I can see me flying through this series.

The book takes the tale and tells it through one of four main characters each chapter. There’s something pleasing about books that let their characters narrate them, they can feel truer to themselves. I’m curious to see how the books develop as the show sort of upped the ante from season one to two and then flew forward from that point forward. It’s characters weren’t always perfect, or right, but their hearts were in the right place. I feel the book has a more convincing platform on which to do that, more room for it to have developed these characters first. That’s usually where books prevail so I am intrigued to see if that pattern follows here.

I do seem to like dystopian young adult fiction.

 

Born to Rise (Sergio Aguero’s autobiography) 

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Ok, here’s what I expected: Sergio Aguero is a fine footballer, who’s accomplished a lot for his reasonably young age (he’s only a year older than me). I expected a story recounting that, talking about the glory days. In truth, I expected a lot more about his time with Manchester City. But I’ll come back to that.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: to be surprised. To learn about Argentina. To feel like we’d been allowed into his life. I learnt more about a country of which I knew little. About his family, who fought hard for what they wanted and whom struggled more than I can imagine. More than half of this book was dedicated to his family and to his life prior to being in the UK winning Premier League titles. It’s a love letter, a dedication to the people who mean the most to him. It’s a depth that I…not that I didn’t expect, but one I didn’t realise would be so discussed. It’s actually refreshing and as somebody to whom my parents are my world, I could relate to it in its most basic state.

You get the impression he values what he gets to do, those who helped him get there and he feels a responsibility to give something back. In fact, only two-three chapters discuss his time in England and what he’s achieved with Manchester City. It’s likely that he’ll write a second depending on what happens because let’s be honest, he’s good enough and young enough to achieve almost anything. It was my surprising read of the month and my last read of the year.

January’s Reads:-

The 100 (Book Two), Kass Morgan – On Kindle

Wytches (Volume 1), Scott Synder

Dead Man’s Blues, Ray Celestin

I’ve picked just the three this month as I know it’ll be a busy and long one, but I’m planning a couple of bonus reads if I somehow get ahead of myself. Fingers crossed!

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