Reviewing my December (and last for 2017) reads

I’m happy with how my year has gone in terms of reading. There haven’t been many books I’ve not enjoyed and I met my target to read at least four things each months.

Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons

I asked for horror recommendations a while ago and Dan Simmons came up a lot. As did Carrion Comfort so it seemed like I really had to take that on board. This is a lot thicker than I first thought, Kindle books are deceptive that way. I’m definitely not complaining though, had it been longer, I wouldn’t either!

Mind-controlling vampires? You got it. Historic throw-ins with a Nazi story line? You got it. A diverse set of characters? Also check mate. Excuse the pun, but there’s a lot of chess based talk here too so it might have rubbed off on me. Simmons tells a story that spans a significant amount of time and almost as many locations. Yet it doesn’t feel like it’s over-reaching.

Perhaps not horror in the way I expected, instead it’s more chilling. A lot of what is in here is completely believable. People in power abusing said power. Misogynists who see women as objects and terrible racism. I imagine it will appeal to a varied audience for all of these reasons. Reading it at the height of sexist, abusive men getting their come comeuppance, I couldn’t help but imagine Harvey Weinstein whenever character Tony Harod appeared. I wonder if the comparisons are deliberate or just timely for me. This book treats its female characters well though and I fell a little in love with Natalie.

This tackles a lot of big issues, all very well handled and points interestingly posed. Ambitious, sprawling and although not perfect, it hits every beat. A convincingly scary premise that is backed up by characters that feel real and characters you can feel for or hate passionately. Well written on both accounts. The text at the beginning told of a somewhat frustrating journey for Simmons in getting the version he wanted published but he’s done it.

Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

I try to always read the book before I see the film/adaptation. Occasionally, I don’t achieve this and Brooklyn is a key example. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up had it not been for how charmed I was by Saoirse Ronan and the film. It’s not my usual genre and I didn’t expect to be swept away by the story. Everything worked for me though and it achieved a rare feat. It made me cry!

I’d kept this on my Kindle for quite a while because I wanted to put some distance between my memories of the film and this. It may be a rare occasion where I prefer the film. I’m going to discuss why in my last paragraph so skip on if you haven’t read or watched. This turned out to be a short book and one I read in an entire afternoon when I was waiting for my friend to get out of work. I read it just before Christmas and that felt very well timed. While not a Christmas book, it seems to fit the season.

One thing the book definitely had for me was the charm factor. The parts in Ireland, the Irish accent and naivety of Eilis. It also captures what I imagine the buzz of New York to be too. I couldn’t quite get rid of the images of the actors who portray the characters but it generally worked. I cared for them and it does capture some parts better than any adaptation could.

Eilis is an interesting character. She’s not fussy but she’s also not perfect. Nor do we judge her at any point for any of it. We share her joy when she realises book-keeping isn’t just a dream and when she falls for Tony but we sympathise with her where other events are concerned.

Thus my only slight disappointment with the book. It has a sudden ending, one that’s not necessarily neatly tied up depending on how you choose to interpret it. It’s an honest ending, but I felt the film handled it a little better. They made it easier to sympathise with and understand her choice. Still, it’s an interesting contrast and one I doubt two people would entirely agree on.

The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick

Cliche but I’m going to presume this is definitely a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. This was the book I finished my reading for 2017 on and I left the year a little disappointed. I’m a fan of Philip K. Dick but I struggled to really connect with this one. I read it, it didn’t feel like a struggle, but I don’t feel strongly about it in a good or bad way.

The premise is fascinating. It’s what kept me motivated to finish even when I struggled to care for any of the characters. It explores an idea that’s not hard to believe and it must have crossed minds during the war. Dealing with what happened in a world where Germany conquered, it’s very interesting. Terrifying, yes, but something that had me hooked.

I’m not sure then why I didn’t connect with it more. It’s finely written, it isn’t too long and the chapters are punchy. The characters are fleshed out well enough and their actions make for a good internal debate of what would you do. I just didn’t really care for the outcome of any of them and thus, the ending didn’t particularly bother me one way or the other. I’d like to give this another read down the line when I’m in a different frame of mind and see if I don’t enjoy it more.

Hellblazer Volume 4: The Family Man – Jamie Delano

It had been a few months since I last delved into Hellblazer but I had some spare money when Black Friday happened and the 15% off on Wordery included comics and graphic novels. I had to!

Volume 4 picks up shortly after where it’s predecessor left off. John Constantine needs a break. But people like him don’t get holidays and it all goes a bit crazy from there. If you’re familiar with the character and the series, it’s more of the same and you’re probably not going to complain.

What I have enjoyed when working my way through these is how the politics and the comments on day to day British life are adapting or changing as the years pass. It’s very on the mark satirically and the details in the backgrounds of the frames are always worth paying attention to for this reason.

It’s the humour and the writing that keep me engaged. Laced with sarcasm and black comedy, it’s completely up my street. From an illustration point of view it doesn’t compete with some of the other series I love but I’m not asking to it. That said, there’s a charm in the style and it suits Constantine to the ground.


So what for 2018? I’ve set myself a challenge that I’ll track via Goodreads to hit a certain numbers. It’s achievable so my aim is to go over. I’m starting with the following books. January is usually about feeling sorry for yourself and keeping warm. Perfect excuses to curl up and read!

Planned reads as follows:

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

Hellblazer Volume 5: Dangerous Habits – Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis & Various

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

The Hundreth Queen – Emily R. King


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