Book talk · Reviewing my monthly reads

Reviewing my January Reads

January ended up being a better reading more than I imagined. I have to resort to Kindle to read more than I’d look due to a severe lack of storage currently. The downside is often the price is so much more, so I tend to be waiting around for books to go on sale to read. So I was pretty excited when one I’d been waiting for a while went down to £0.99.

Below are what I’ve read this month and my next picks.

The 100 (Book Two) – Kass Morgan

The shortest of the novels I tasked myself with, it was perhaps a cheat to include a book that can be demolished in a matter of hours, but I enjoyed the first enough to carry on exploring the difference between the books and the show.

The happy news is I continue to love both despite their differences. I understand why the Luke/Glass storyline was cut from the show, ultimately we spend little time up there in space, but it’s a great one. At first it seemed like a simple love story, which it is to an extent but it’s got layers and I like that it explores class and unlikely love in a different way. There’s a heart-breaking scene towards the end in their story.

The Clarke in both mediums is essentially the same, but slightly different. Again, I adore both. I like her and Bellamy’s crossing over here, possibly more than in the show but then if the show mirrored this there would have been Lexa. I do wonder if I’d read these first whether I’d be so much in favour of the show.

We get introduced to Mount Weather in this book, though not fully, and meet some of the Earth’s existing residents. I like the writing style for its simplicity, the world you can imagine. The same one we live in but mutated and overgrown. These aren’t overly serious or complicated literature but were different to my other reads. Lighter in some ways.

Dead Man’s Blues – Ray Celestin

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The sequel to ‘The Axeman’s Jazz’ that I so enjoyed in November. Ray Celestin takes three of the lead characters and follows them to a new setting, Chicago during the prohibition. The city he builds up is great and I felt like I could really conjure up not just what it looked like, but the sweltering heat and the smells that would go with that.

Beautifully presented, as was the first, it’s got a great front cover and the inside graphic really caught my eye. Both seem to sum up the era and the mood that Celestin’s trying to portray before you’ve even read a word. The minute I finished reading the first I wanted to go to New Orleans and explore and I felt exactly the same way here with Chicago. It’s an ambitious idea to simply move the characters but it works perfectly.

Ida continues to be my favourite character and gets a slightly larger role here, Michael providing more of her back-up than the other way around. The new characters we meet, including one Al Capone, are equally fleshed out and interesting. It’s something I love about Celestin’s writing that he brings in real life names with a little bit of artistic liberty. The section at the end that explores the hard facts and what he played with is interesting and more of it tallied up than is necessarily required for fiction.

The strength of the first book was a strong story to underpin gloriously painted scenes of a hot city and characters you root for. I was worried that perhaps the story might feel too much of the same, or not as interesting. I needn’t have worried, Celestin is pushing for one of my favourite authors right now and I’m now impatiently awaiting books three and four in the series.

Much as the first did, this explores the ever-bubbling cauldron of gender and racial politics. Opinion had shifted somewhat for the better between book one and two, but Ida and other characters still face prejudice and frustration for the way they’re born. In this, Ida’s world become more and more complicated and it sets us up for the third book rather interestingly.

Something I find particularly enjoyable in the way Celestin sets up his characters is how there’s usually one who is not an angel, but becomes instantly likeable despite their flaws and past mistakes. He has an interesting look at characters righting a wrong. In New Orleans, it was Luca. Here, it’s Dante. Second chances and living with a mistake/s are explored in almost as much as detail as the weightier issues he tackles. Another absolute page-turner in a series that’s great reading.

Wytches (Volume 1) – Scott Snyder

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I have to confess that this one is a long overdue read. Pretty sure I bought this at Comic-con 2015 after being recommended it. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. It plays a lot on fears that you have growing up and how family are a huge influence on that. It also re-imagines witches in a far more sinister and old-school fashion.

With this being volume one, we still get the added benefits of Scott Snyder writing about each issue and the inspiration at the end of each issue within the volume. I think this is the first graphic novel I’ve come across that does this but it added a lot. It’s like getting a story to go with it that details experiences that helped lead Snyder to do this. There’s also pages behind the artwork and how it came back to.

The art is absolutely stunning by the way. It’s hand-drawn watercolours added in via Photoshop and layering over black and white drawings (like below). The creatures are suitably terrifying but then you get an array of colour that just pops off the page like the below. I also liked the tie-in with fairground rides. That appeals to me a lot.

I look forward to the next volume.

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American Gods – Neil Gaiman

This was my bonus read, the book that I saw on offer while enduring a slow afternoon at work. I got the re-edited version, as Gaiman originally intended it to be. With an extra 12,000 words than the original printed one, I spent some time pondering what they could have cut, or have wanted to cut. The answer is I don’t know, none of it felt needless or drawn out. So it’s pretty long, but I breezed through it. I wanted to read it before the upcoming television adaptation and I have to say, I’m pretty excited for that now. Particularly as it’s so easy to imagine Ricky Whittle in the role of Shadow.

I’m curious to see how such an unusual and sprawling story can be translated onto the screen. It’s incredibly dark in the most part, so I hope they don’t have to shy away from any of it. I got the impression that you’ll either immediately love or hate this book. For me, it was most definitely the former. It wasted no time in kicking right off with a brief but satisfying introduction to our leading man. The characters are suitably complex, intelligent and as likeable as they can be unlikable. I guess that’s to be expected when dealing with myths and Gods.

Gaiman has a writing style that I’m usually hooked by and this was no different. It’s the ultimate escapism, but equally not so. With everything going on in the world right now, I really need to get off the internet and escape. This book was the break from reality, but also offered an unintentional commentary about power and control that seems important in the current set-up. I liked the split into sections as well as chapters and how it was told. The dialogue between the characters felt believable and often made me smile. I’ve got high hopes for this one being converted to the small screen.

February’s Planned Reads:-

A.K.A Jessica Jones (Volume 1) – Bendis/Gaydos

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

The Son – Jo Nesbo

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