January 2017 Wrap Up

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So January kicked off a bit sluggishly for me this year and I made a very impressive dent in my 2017 Goodreads Challenge (Which is 50 again this year. I couldn’t quite get there last year but I’m determined to this time). I read 7 books in January. And boy did I read some crackers.

I’ve not done a monthly wrap up before but I think it might be a nice change this year.

  1. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon 

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… Ok, so I technically read 70% of this book in December 2016, but I finished it in the new year so i’m counting it. Man oh man was this book good. Without giving too much away of the previous three books, the fourth book shifts location and offers Gabaldon’s unique view of history for a totally different country. Gabaldon has such a fantastic way with words and her characters are so real and human, its hard to reconcile that they’re fictional. While two of the rising stars- Briana and Roger have been known to us previously, Gabaldon ensures we’ve fallen totally in love with both of them. A stellar fourth book; so good in fact, that I actually would have been satisfied if the series had ended here…. BUT I’M SO DESPERATE FOR BOOK 5 IT’S INSANE.

2. An Ember in the Ashes-  Sabaa Tahir

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So I waited to read this book for a very long time. I found out about it when the advanced readers were singing it’s praises and eagerly awaited it’s release. I was unable though to get my hands on it after it came out so I was left waiting listlessly for it. OMG this book is SO worth the hype. This book was not what I expected at all but I bloody love it. The summary is so misleading but in a good way; the characters are strong, determined and each powerful in their own rights. A corrupt government, a filthy, irredeemable villain and notorious rebels, make for a complex and rich plot. It’s a diverse novel that just works. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book.

3. A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

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I was really worried this book would be too much like ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ which I read last year and adored. I need not have feared though, this book was SO different. Worlds apart. With a fresh style that’s unlike any I’ve read, Johnston weaves a lush story. Johnston’s story is pretty faithful to the original folk tale, but diverges about half way through. Lo-Melkhiin is hideous and i’m glad Johnston didn’t try to romantasize him. I loved that the main character was left really ambiguous; with a nice trick at the end I didn’t see coming. You can tell Johnston knows her stuff; the way she described the land was so authentic and genuine- it was obvious she drew inspiration from real life. A fantastic interpretation of a classic.

4. Divergent- Veronica Roth

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I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend;- I tend to be super late to the party for most over-hyped teen franchises. When Divergent came out, I religiously avoided it; some part of me shied away from what I thought would be a dull and under-cooked book. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t felt a great tug towards it. I listened to this as an audiobook; summer radio in Australia is impossibly dull, and a 30 minute commute each way needed some filling. I got so into it, I used to listen to it in the afternoons when I got home from work. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I got so sucked up in the story, I forgot I was listening to a story. Is it worth all the hype, nah probably not. But I still quite enjoyed it. It’s an awfully dark tale for a teen audience, but I think it holds an extremely relevant commentary for current world affairs.

5. Passenger- Alexandra Bracken

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This was another one of those books that I’d meant to read for a very long time. I loved Alexandra Bracken’s work on the Darkest Minds series and I’ll honestly go for anything she publishes, she’s got that much skill and command. But time travel? Sign me the heck up! This book delivers. It’s certainly not what I thought it was- I was definitely lead down the wrong tunnel when listening to people’s book reviews. While the romance in there was cheesy at times and a little bit cringy, the time travel aspects were very well done. The sense of urgency is really well conveyed without rushing the plot. The side characters were well thought out, and Bracken spends the time to remind the reader how dangerous time travel is. Definitely for the Doctor Who fans- this book is original and fresh.

6. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Sci-fi -especially Sci-fi aimed at Young adults- always tends to be under-baked and totally unrealistic. This was one of the most god-damn interesting books I’ve read in a really long time. Holy Shmooze balls is this book GOOD. This has to be one of the most original ways to tell a story that I’ve come across; told via case-files, audio transcripts and instant message logs, this is fantastic. Kaufman and Kristoff have poured so much hard work to create texture and life into each and every page. Each page is an image- scribbles, black sections from sensors, memo style backgrounds, logos the works. No expense has been spared. The story is fantastic- it’s gritty, it’s complex, thought provoking and dynamic. The scary thing is, it’s really not that hard to put aside your disbelief; this honestly feels like it could happen. The book cleverly taps into everyone’s deep dark fears; Multi-national corporations, Artificial Intelligence, the deep- unexplored dark nothingness of space and war. It’s bloody brilliant and everyone needs to read it. Also can we please just appreciate some Aussie excellence (YEAH KAUFMAN AND KRISTOFF!!! REPRESENT!!)

7. Adulthood is a Myth- Sarah Anderson

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Funny story; I pre-ordered this book on the Book Depository 3 months before it came out last year and they cancelled my pre-order without notice or warning a few weeks out from publication… yeah it’s not actually that funny… I was pretty devastated to be honest. This book was so worth the wait though. I found Sarah and her work in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with her. Like literally, her comics are so real and so cute I just cant even. Anyway, I eventually got my hands on this book (it was a case of post-Christmas “treat yo self”) and I savoured every last page. Its only a relatively small book of comics, but I treated every last page like royalty. Anderson is a genius- her work is funny, well executed and so god-damn relatable. This is literally the perfect pick me up; after a long day of pretending to be an adult, the comics go down as nice as a cold glass of Chardonnay on a Friday arvo. 10/10 would recommend.

 

 

So there you have it… what a month. Can honestly say I didn’t read a bad/meh book in January. This is surely a good sign for the reading year ahead. Leave a comment below with any recommendations for me this year and if you have a reading challenge. I’d love to see what everyone’s goals are for the year.

 

Stay golden!

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Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

or: Someone please pass me the tissues

Goodreads ||  The Book Depository

Synopsis: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. Why does happiness have to be so hard?

This isn’t a book I would have picked out for myself. This book was a part of OwlCrate’s Diversity box, and was recieved in my first month under their subscription service. The theme of the box was Diversity and I was keen to try whatever book they had picked out for us. After reading the blurb, I was worried I wouldn’t like it as I’m not really a contemporary book fan. I tend to stay away from the genre. But I was determined to read this book.

Wow. Silvera’s writing is incredible.

This story was as unpredictable as it was beautiful and I think it’s best that people go into reading this book without much knowledge of what to expect so that they can get the full effect of this book. This book has stunning levels of prose and so skillfully weaves suspense and takes the reader on a journey through the plot blindly, asking for the reader’s trust.

Silvera’s main character Aaron is both flawed and incredibly interesting; a POC character who grew up and lives in a tiny housing department issued flat in Brooklyn, NY. Aaron’s strength as a main character lies in his presence as an ‘every man’ ; Aaron’s the type of guy you find in your class who sits at the back and mucks around with his mates, the guy who works with you at your part time job that you say hi to every now and then. Aaron is real, so real that his story and what happens to him is all the more gut wrenching.

Some people try and call this book Sci-fi but I don’t know if I would put it under that label as it doesn’t really fit. This book is definitely a contemporary book that includes one tiny sci-fi esque element. This element- the Leteo Institute- doesn’t have a strong enough presence in this book to deem it sci-fi. Yes what the institute does is technically sci-fi, but it isn’t an integral part of the story. The Leteo Institute is merely a catalyst for a self realization and used as a metaphor.

I totally did not see the ending coming. It was swift, brutal and made me sob like a baby. I don’t know why I expected a happy ending- Silvera never guarantees one and he certainly alludes the whole way through that this isn’t that sort of story. Even though I cried and was shocked by the ending, in retrospect, this is literally the most perfect way for the story to end. A happy ending wouldn’t have had the impact the real ending did and would have cheapened the story.

I love when books ask you to think. More Happy Than Not certainly does. This book is the perfect book for this current time, as it reflects a growing social issue that needs to be corrected. This book is about an average guy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. This may offend some, but this book doesn’t aim to please the bigots. This book preaches tolerance and asks a lot of poignant questions about how society reacts to and treats gay people. For a lot of people out there, this book will have a lot of meaning. This book shows a) how hard it is to be a gay person in a poor minority strong neighborhood, but also b) teaches us how important it is to find happiness within ourselves. Silvera points out that yes, it is extremely hard to accept yourself and find peace with who you are, but that it’s so vitally important to do so. His message is much needed in light of the large social movements currently moving throughout the world, and it is a message that will probably be needed for many years to come.

That being said, as much as I would like to ask everyone I know to read this book, I know a lot of people won’t and won’t ever feel the need to. Silvera’s message may fall on deaf ears, but for a large majority of readers, it’s a message taken with relish. This book belongs in this world and needed to be written.

I’m not the only person singing this book’s praises. This book has a 4.23 star rating on good reads; one of the highest I’ve seen on the site. To impress the citizens of goodreads, you need to be extremely good, and Silvera definitely is. For Silvera’s debut novel, this is a phenomenal piece of writing and If this is him just beginning, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Read: Hardback US. Edition