December Wrap Up

decwrapup

So, it’s officially the new year! I know it’s already five days into 2018, but I still find myself forgetting, especially when I have to date something. Even though I read some graphic novels and some shorter books this month, I’m still really happy that I managed to get through eight books in December. I also read the longest and the shortest books that read this year in this month. I was pretty split in star ratings, with a few high rated books and a few low rated books, but overall it was a great reading month. I’m hoping that in the coming year I can keep up this pace and read five to eight books a month, but I guess we’ll see. This is what I read in December.

OVERVIEW

Total Books: 8

Total Pages: 2452

Male vs Female Authors: 5 to 5

Library Books vs Owned Books: 8 to 0

Audiobooks vs Physical: 1 to 7

1.  Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King: 3 stars

This was the first book that I read this month, and I got through it with a pretty long audiobook. Before I get into the review I’ll just say that if you’ve been interested in this book but were intimidated by the size, pick up the audiobook! It’s narrated by Marin Ireland and she was absolutely great. She had a distinct voice for every character, which was pretty impressive for this tome, and her general narrating voice was clear and concise.

I haven’t read a ton of Stephen King’s books, but of the ones I have read, this is about mid-way on the list, not the best and not the worst.  I enjoyed how this book flowed, in the sense that, I couldn’t completely tease out what parts were written by Stephen King and which parts were written by Owen King, which I liked because it shows how great they worked together. The only part of this that I could pick out as true Stephen King style is the super in-depth description of literally EVERY character in the novel, of which there were many. I absolutely love King’s ability to write such a huge and diverse cast of characters that all have different personalities and motives, but that also feel like they all live and function together in a town, instead of a lot of random people that are stuck in the same place and orbiting each other.

I picked this book up because I was interested in the premise, and I think a lot of King fans were a bit skeptical of how it was going to be handled. We all know that Stephen King isn’t exactly concerned about being PC. In general I didn’t feel like the topic or the social commentary got in the way of the plot as it was being told. I was afraid that this would turn into a huge social commentary, but it didn’t. I wouldn’t say that it was handled in a great way, but it wasn’t offensive, at least to me it wasn’t. It actually went exactly where I assumed it would. As more and more women fall to this mysterious disease, the men left behind get more and more anxious and eventually devolve into senseless violence. I was surprised that the more moving commentary was made by the women in this story, especially once they had crossed over into ‘Our Place’, and were contemplating whether or not they wanted to stay in a world full of only women, or go back to the real world.

This is a hard book to unpack in a wrap up because there were so many characters and so much plot in this 700 page novel, but I will say that if you’ve been intrigued by this book but haven’t picked it up, go for it! It wasn’t the greatest King novel that I’ve read, but it definitely didn’t disappoint.

2. Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples: 4 stars

I haven’t read anything from Saga since the late summer, so I picked this one up since the new volume just came out a few days ago. As much as I love this series, I felt that in the last few volumes the plot was taking a backseat to all the random sex and violence, but in this volume the story definitely came back around, and even though there wasn’t as much action or movement, there was a lot of story packed into this volume. One of the things that I absolutely love about Saga is Vaughan’s ability to create new characters and story lines, while also maintaining and furthering the older plots, and weaving all of them together into a cohesive timeline that drives the story. Each plot line, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, serves some purpose in the story, and this is an ability that I greatly appreciate in writers as not all can do it to this degree. I don’t want to say to much about this volume as it is the seventh one, but I will say that it definitely made me feel a lot of feelings!

3. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King: 2 stars

I don’t have much to say about this book, mostly because I’ve been trying to block it from my memory. I didn’t enjoy anything about this book at all. Honestly, it’s probably the only thing I’ve read by King that I wish had been longer than it actually was. The plot had the potential to be interesting, but it seemed like once the button box was explained, it was like King didn’t know how to proceed with it in the story, so he just threw a whole bunch of violent plot points into the story and blamed it on the box. The plot also moved incredibly fast for a book that was under 200 pages. From beginning to end Gwendy goes from being 12 years old to a college-age adult. There aren’t many characters in this book, but even Gwendy, who is the main character, was very underdeveloped. She took a back seat to the plot, which was also underdeveloped.

4. Marrow by Tarryn Fisher: 4.5 stars

CONTENT WARNINGS for the following: mental illness, child neglect/abuse, drug use, sexual assault, and descriptions of murders/deaths.

This book was NOTHING like I thought it was going to be. It was absolutely crazy. I had never heard of Tarryn Fisher until I saw this book on one of BooksandLala’s haul videos and I’m so glad I picked it up. I took off a half a star because the last part of the book seemed like it was randomly tacked on and it didn’t flow as well as the rest of the story. This book is about a young girl named Margo and follows her from age 15 into her early twenties, and unravels her life living in a broken home in a poverty-stricken town that she believes she doomed to be bound to for the rest of her life. As harsh as this book is, if you can get past the hard topics in it, you are treated to a story that is an unapologetic exploration of violence in so many forms, and how it ripples out and affects so many people. The book really takes off after the death of a young girl named Neveah in Margo’s town. Margo goes on to become so intensely obsessed with the girl’s death and becomes convinced that the murderer is still walking free, upon which she decides to take matters into her own hands.

I was honestly under the impression that this would be a story about a young woman overcoming an incredibly hard life and it took a turn that I never would have suspected. This book is actually about the evolution of Margo’s character as she becomes a vigilante serial killer, starting with the murder of Neveah’s mother. It was interesting how Fisher made Margo into a vigilante killer, because you know that she is a murderer and not much better than the people she targets, but at the same time allows her character to go after people that most of us would turn a blind eye to if some act of violence were to befall them. Margo doesn’t go after just anyone, she goes after child murderers, child abusers, and rapists, among other things. Although Margo isn’t exactly made out to be a morally ambiguous person, you can still commiserate with who she is becoming and what she is doing.

Another great aspect of this book is that it touches on mental illness, and how it can instigate and intensify violent acts. Later in the book Margo is made privy to how her upbringing had effected her friendship with a neighborhood boy named Judah. As much as I loved this twist in the story, I wished that it was delved into further than “yup, you have a mental illness and it’s effecting your perception of reality”. Though it was acknowledged again after she left the hospital, it wasn’t thoroughly explained how she treated it or how it affected her. She didn’t even seem to have a huge life altering reaction to the fact, considering the circumstances surrounding it.

The characters in this book, even the side characters, are amazingly well rounded and fleshed out. They feel viscerally real and painfully flawed and, above all, they are all distinct from one another. I loved the way that Fisher designed the atmosphere of the Bone where every aspect, including the characters, help to create this hole in the wall town where that is full of misery, despair, and people going nowhere. It doesn’t just feel like the people there are miserable because of the place they live, but also that the town is a miserable place to be because of the people there, like a depressing but effective feedback loop.

I’m so happy that I found this author. I feel like this book is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time, in terms of how emotionally raw and uncomfortable it made me feel, the atmosphere that it created that grabbed me and pulled me in so much that I hated having to put it down. Above all, Fisher is not afraid to go there with her portrayals of how horrible human beings can really be. This is the only book I’ve read of Fisher’s, but I will definitely be on the look out for more of her books if they are as good as this one.

5. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren: 4 stars

I have no idea what compelled me to pick up this book as I don’t read a ton of contemporary, and when I do it’s never YA contemporary. I’m personally not into super fluffy and cutesy reads, and I feel like the majority of the most popular YA contemporary books I see people talking about fall into this category. That being said, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. In fact, I liked this so much  that I read it in one sitting. There are some problems with this book for sure, but I absolutely loved the conversations and topics that this book touches on.

This book delves into things like friendships, family bonds, first loves, sexuality, and religion. There were so many great moments in this book that deal with compromising one’s own feelings and sexuality for their religion and vice versa. And this book definitely doesn’t stray from candid and upfront conversation. One of my favorite scenes was of Tanner and Sebastian talking about their individual sexual identities and Sebastian is not able to admit that he is gay even though he admits he has feelings for Tanner. It shows how deeply ingrained people’s religious believes can be, especially when they are raised their whole lives in a religious community. I also liked the scene where Sebastian and Tanner are talking about Tanner identifying as queer and Sebastian is having trouble understanding why Tanner, who is bisexual, wouldn’t just choose to be with a girl since it would be ‘easier’ for him, especially where they live. I think this is a concept that almost every person who identifies as bisexual has had to tackle at least once in their lives, whether it’s coming from someone who really doesn’t understand, or someone who is just being an ass.

There is also a lot of talk about how religions that have historically been against homosexuality have tried to rewrite the rules of their own beliefs so that they don’t suffer as much public backlash for being homophobic. I think that most people already know how this one goes, but I find it interesting that a religion can say that it’s okay to gay, but actually acting on your feels is what is sinful. This seems crazy to me because so many religions also say that not being true to yourself is like a sin in and of itself because you are technically lying about who you are, and ignoring a whole part of yourself.

There is a kind of fine line that Tanner walks with everyone around him including his best friend Autumn. Because he is living in a town where a majority of the people are Mormon, and he is a senior in high school who is planning to go to an out of state college, he doesn’t tell anyone that he is queer, including Autumn. Although she, like him, is not from a religious family, he is still afraid that if he tells her she will either not be his friend, or tell other people. I liked this aspect of the story because it felt so true to life. There are so many times where we may not tell someone something for fear of the negative repercussions, even if we know the people we want to tell love us.

The only real problem that I had with this book was when Tanner and Autumn had sex after Sebastian broke up with him. It wasn’t even that they did it, but it was just wrapped up to nicely and to quickly. After it happens nobody is upset, no feelings are hurt, no relationships are broken. Tanner is freaking out for a day and then everything is fine with him and Autumn and within a week, everything is okay with Sebastian as well. I didn’t like this plot point because it didn’t add anything to the story at all. It happens, everyone is fine with it, the story moves on. If they added this to the story it should have at least had a greater affect on the character’s relationships with each other, or not have been in the book at all. Apart from this plot point, any other problems that I had with the book were mostly nit-picky things that weren’t completely poorly done, but that I felt could have been tweaked a bit to make them better.

6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: 2.5 stars

I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting from this book, but this was nothing like even the vaguest idea of what I thought it would be going in. The premise of this story is extremely interesting, especially since it’s focusing on technology that is something we are currently trying to understand. In general  this book was a little more romance-focused and not as technology-focused as I hoped it would be. I was completely into this story until about 75% of the way through. I didn’t like the constant back and forth into all of the different parallel universes, just because all of them were incredibly brief, and in most of them it seemed like he should have known that what he was looking for wasn’t there right away.  There were a few plot points in the story that I felt were created, and could have taken the story somewhere compelling, but were dropped relatively quickly and were never touched on again. This book honestly felt like a disjointed action movie.

There were a few times in the story where there were some cool conversations about the multiverse, what it means for us if it truly exists, and how it effects us. My favorite of these conversations centered around the question of whether or not every version of us in every multiverse is connected to each other and if all of this different versions are just various parts of a whole person.

This book fell off for me in the last quarter, when Jason finds his way back to the universe he originally left and the multiple copies of himself from other universes followed him back there. First of all, there were just to many and it seems completely ridiculous. Three or four copies, maybe, but there were almost a hundred of them. Secondly, the explanation of how and why they all managed to follow him back was flimsy at best. It makes sense how the version of him that he switched places with got there, and even why he was there, but the other versions didn’t really have a reason to  be following him to his universe, because there would be a version of Daniela and Charles in theirs or they wouldn’t even know about Daniela and Charles because they wouldn’t have existed at all where they came from. Also, Jason needed a drug to move between the universes, so how the hell did all of these copies of him get that drug, because if they were living in a universe where they picked their career over Daniela, then they wouldn’t have even wanted her in the first place so they would have to reason to follow Jason back to the original universe. Are you confused yet? So was I. I still am honestly.

Overall, I think this was a cool concept for a book, and there is a lot of interesting topics that can be explored, and while I completely understand that as of right now we don’t fully understand the concept of superposition, teleportation, or if the multiverse is even a thing (fingers crossed, because, how awesome would that be), I felt that a lot of the finer details of this story weren’t as fleshed out as they needed to be for it to work like I hoped it would.

7. The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun: 2 stars

I was really intrigued by this book when I first saw it about a month ago at work and I picked it up a few times over the fall but never reads it until just this month (December). I thought that I was going to love this book because of the topic, but even at 198 pages I could barely force myself to finish this. I don’t know if this is more of a problem with translating certain terms and phrases, general emotional tone from Korean to English, the writing itself, or if it’s just a cultural difference in story telling, but pretty much everything in the story fell flat for me.

I couldn’t connect to the characters in any capacity. The wife is not a character that you get to know in present tense because she has already pasted away at the beginning of the story, so all of the information that we get about her is automatically colored by Oghi’s impression of her, which is not that great to begin with. The two women characters are so painfully bland for most of the book that they may as well not even be there. They don’t even have names. The mother-in-law only becomes somewhat interesting a little more than halfway through the story and at only 198 pages it was a little to late for me. She flips from ridiculously demure and unassuming to this absolutely cruel person who is taking out her pain on Oghi, but it isn’t done in a very believable way.

I did feel bad for Oghi at the beginning of the story. This book puts him in a situation that would be hard for anyone to bare, but the story doesn’t really follow him trying to deal with and understand his situation or try to deal with the way his life is now, he’s just constantly whining and, while I could understand how this could be a coping mechanism for someone suddenly thrust into this situation, he just became more and more annoying as the story went on. I don’t know if the reason presented at the end of the book about how they ended up getting into the accident was supposed to be a plot twist, but I didn’t think it was really necessary for the story overall and just felt like an add on. The ending of this book was kind of confusing and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger as far as what happens to Oghi, but to be honest, I don’t really care. I’m just happy that I’m done with this book. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it wasn’t that good either, and ultimately it’s forgettable for me.

8. Monstress, Volume 1: The Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda: 4 stars
I’ll just start by saying that the art in this graphic novel is absolutely stunning. The attention to detail is amazing and you can tell that the artist put so much love and so much of herself into the work that she does for this story. Even if you read this and don’t like it, you can’t deny that the art is beautiful.

I feel like I understood only about 90% of what’s going on, but the main story is easy enough to follow that all of the world-building that isn’t explained up front doesn’t get in the way of enjoying and understanding. This story definitely doesn’t hold your hand and explain every aspect of the world to you as you go along, and I feel like it really works for this story. There is a lot that is not explained up front but I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in later volumes. I love this story so much because this is the bad-ass female lead that I’ve been looking for. She actually does bad ass things instead of just talking about them and she can be incredibly brutal, but she still has another side to her where she is a confused young woman who is trying to understand who she is and what is happening to her.

he only reason this isn’t a five stars is because it does feel a bit like a set up for a major story arc to come in the next volumes, but even for what it is, it is amazing. There is a lot of story is this first volume so it felt a little busy. However, if the plot line is tightened up in the  next volume it could be right up there with Saga as my favorite graphic novel series.

This wrap up turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be, but I’d like to write longer reviews for the books I read in 2018. If you’ve read anything on this list, let me know what you thought about it! And if it motivates you to pick one up, let me know which one. What was the best book you read in December?

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