February 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Another month of reading done, another 12 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: I’m systematically going through all my graphic novels, aiming for at least 1 a week. Working my chronological way through my Star Wars collection.
What is it about?: Set way, way before the events of the films during the Old Republic era, the Knights of the Old Republic series follows bumbling Jedi padawan Zayne Carrick as he stumbles from one catastrophe to the next. Commencement kicks off the series with Zayne’s graduation day turning to tragedy as he witnesses the slaughter of his fellow students by their masters. Zayne, now framed for the deaths of his friends, must now do anything he can to escape the same fate by
teaming up with unlikely allies.
Thoughts: I enjoy the fact that this series closely ties in with the brilliant Knights of the Old Republic game. Commencement has a few cameos from the game by Yoda-like Master Vandar and Alek Squinquargesimus just before he goes off to fight the Mandalorians and becomes Darth Malak are two I noticed. It’s also based mostly on Taris so we see some rakghouls too. Having spent hours running about on Taris and interacting with these characters, it’s great to see them on
the page. However, this is it’s own story so all of these largely fall under the Easter egg category. If you’ve not played the game, these characters and places would mean nothing much beyond what they establish of themselves within the story.
The fast-past action as Zayne is relentlessly hunted is blended effectively with the humour of his calamitous nature and his unwilling alliance with Gryph.
The artwork overall is superb with the exception of the penultimate chapter (obviously had a different artist for that comic) where the characters almost turn Manga in appearance and Gryph doesn’t even look the same species. Nothing wrong with Manga, but the inconsistent look is really glaring here. Fortunately all is as it should be for the last chapter.
The only other nit-picky thing I picked up on was that there is no way Zayne would have lasted as long as he did as an apprentice. He would have found himself in the agricorps long ago. However, we wouldn’t have this great story, so there we have it. Bring on book 2: Flashpoint!
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: It came highly recommended on booktube by Jessethereader and I liked the sound of it.
This was my book of the month (a book I must read before I can start or continue anything else). I’ve picked up the whole trilogy and aim to ready book 2 next month.
What is it about?: The story follows Jacob, a young lad, while growing up, was told strange stories about peculiar people with impossible powers by his grandfather. Then, one day, he finds out these peculiar people are very real, as are the dangers that hunt them.
Thoughts: This books could also have been titled ‘Caption Competition: The Novel’ as Ransom Riggs has taken a bunch of weird old photographs and spun a story around them. Most of these photos are pretty compelling in their own right, and it was fun to flip through the book to find them. Then, when I actually reached them in the story, these odd images suddenly made sense. That is, until I remembered that these were real photographs featuring real weirdos.
The story itself was compelling enough to be enjoyable, though none of the revelations when they were finally revealed were all that surprising to me. Excepting how the photos are nicely tied-in.
I found most of the characters not easily likable. Jacob seems to take ages to get the idea, Emma is emotionally all over the place, Enoch is creepy as hell and Miss Peregrine was irritatingly reluctant to give out useful information until it’s too late. Miller was my favourite character in this book.
In an era where super heroes are plentiful, this book did the sensible thing and didn’t try to compete against all that. Instead these super powers were a lot more subtle (to varying degrees) but with a decent variety, not just the standard ones. Enoch’s is creepy as hell.
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: G. P. Taylor is described as being a modern day C. S. Lewis. Being a fan of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, figured he was worth a try. I’ve also read Wormwood, the first book in the series.
What is it about?: In 1756 London, 3 powerful items are sought after by a number of power-seeking men: A magical knife, a box containing a portal to another dimension and a blind boy who tells the future. When a young highwayman unwittingly steals the box and knife, he and his friends and plunged into a world they never knew existed.
Thoughts: Apart from being based after the events of Wormwood, this book had very little to do with that story and I often wondered why it wasn’t just its own stand-alone story (it might as well have been). I was surprised to learn that Wormwood is considered the sequel to Shadowmancer, but that story is even less related.
Unlike most other Christian fiction I’ve read, this story does buck the apparent trend of there being a ‘big bad’, our hero needing to find salvation before they can defeat the big bad which happens right at the end with a quick prayer and bam! the big bad is vanquished. Instead, this story focuses more on the characters defeating their own failings, leading to the ‘big bad’ in this book coming to a most satisfying defeat. I actually guffawed at Solomon in the
carriage at the end. Certainly none of C. S. Lewis’ baddies suffered a fate such as this.
Unfortunately, I found none of the characters likeable and their motivations were not all that aparrant. Also the story did meander a fair bit without furthering the plot. One examples was that there was threat that featured early on, which promised to add an extra level of suspense, but then it didn’t really feature again until it was expunged and that was that.
As always with books with a religious slant, particularly those aimed at wider audiences, there’s a difficult line an author needs to tread between subtle undertones that are completely missed and bashing the reader over the head, putting them off for being too ‘preachy’. In this case, I’d say that the subtle undertones here were perhaps a little too subtle.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
Why I read it: Still going through my pile of graphic novels. Following on from the first book in the series: Commencement.
What is it about?: The story continues to follow Jedi fugitive Zayne Carrick, his Snivvian criminal associate Gryph and two Arkanians that got caught up in the events of book 1, Jarael and Camper. For the time-being, they’ve given their Jedi pursuit the slip and are trying to survive. This books actually contains two story arcs: Flashpoint and Reunion.
Flashpoint see the Mandalorians turn up leading to captures, rescues and surprise alliances.
Reunion sees our hapless heroes attempt to gain access to Gryph’s funds leading to an unexpected family appearance and some dumb Ithorian crooks.
Thoughts: Flashpoint makes this is a much darker book than the first one. The Mandalorian war is no longer a mention, it’s here and the scenes in the Mandalorian scientist’s domain are pretty grim. Alek Squinquargesimus makes another brief appearance and another step closer to being Darth Malak.
However, the comic relief makes a welcome return for Reunion, particularly in reference to Camper’s memory and banking numbers.
I’m really enjoying the characters, though now the focus is less on Zayne, he’s a lot less interesting. The chemistry between Jarael and Camper is interesting and it was great to find out a little more about them, though still not nearly enough. It was also rewarding to see one of the lesser represented races feature as the two bumbling Itorian thugs. This fascinating species got so little screen time representation as Momaw Nadon (no I didn’t go look that up, infer in that what you will) that I always find it rewarding whenever I get to see a bit more. Ithorians did feature a fair bit in the second Knights of the Old Republic game.
As with Commencement, the artwork does fluctuate between comic issues, but this time is maintained at a higher standard. Though there was one issue that was, again, noticeably poorer.
I can’t help but compare this to Commencement, so on that merit I would say this one is less compelling due to the lack of the Jedi threat to Zayne and Zayne’s actions being much less calamitous. However, I did get to know the accompanying characters a bit better, and it was great seeing Jarael just throw an Ithroian across the page – she’s much stronger than she looks.
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: Last year our library stocked an intriguing trilogy I thought I’d try. Read the first two and found them compelling. Then there was no sign of book 3. For ages. Finally it showed up and I pounced on it like an arctic fox hunting a rodent in several feet of snow…
What is it about?: This book concludes the story of the Silos – underground bunkers containing the last human survivors on Earth, each one unaware of the others and even talking about the Outside is taboo.
Thoughts: Without giving away too much about what has gone on before, this book focuses on the three silos from the first two books. I liked the way the story bounced from Silo 1 to Silos 17 and 18 every few chapters. Had it been every other chapter it would have been too choppy. The relationship between Julia and Derek??? was a little odd, but they had been through a lot.
I found the religious nut-jobs trope to be more annoying than anything and didn’t really go anywhere. Aside from that, this was an excellent story where the worlds in which the protagonists lived were turned upside-down far more than in the previous books.
The ending was extremely satisfying and I couldn’t put the book down until I saw it through. There could be more to tell, but I would be just fine with it left there. Wouldn’t complain if there was more.
Score: Buy it.
Why I read it: Still going through my pile of graphic novels. Following on from the first book in the series: Flashpoint.
What is it about?: Zayne and Gryph separate from their Arkanian friends and Forrest Gump their way into the war. Meanwhile, Camper’s health worsens leaving Jareal little choice but to return him to Arkannia to get treatment.
Thoughts: Like with Flashpoint, this book has two distinct story arcs. These are expounded further by following the two halves of the group, one to each arc.
With the focus back on Zayne in Days of Fear, he once again becomes a more interesting character, though still outshone by Gryph. We get the welcome arrival of Garth Onansi, who steals the show, as it were and Saul, who’s still a dick.
Nights of Anger gave more insight into the Arkanian culture and people, which was brilliant. Jarael seemed a bit too trusting for her character, however. The charming douchbag is exactly what I thought he was when he turned up. It was also great to finally learn more about Camper. That end scene was pretty awesome and it was great seeing a well-known critter given a bit more story.
The artwork maintained a higher quality this time and features the go-to image of Jareal (Google her and you’ll known which one I mean).
With that, I’ve finished my Knights of the Old Republic Collection, but enjoyed it so much I’ll endeavour to get my hands on the rest.
Score: Buy it.
Why I read it: Still going through my pile of graphic novels. Following on from the Knights of the Old Republic series. Didn’t know I had this one, I don’t recall picking it up.
What is it about?: This story follows a former apprentice to the Sith Emperor as she tries to use the Republic to bring him down and a masterless Sith apprentice with a glam-rock tattoo is sent to kill her.
Thoughts: I didn’t enjoy this one. The story was extremely choppy, jumping from one place to the next with little attempt to develop the characters. The Sith hunter is a dick, not because he’s Sith, but because he’s a dick. His Abyssin sidekick looks like he’s straight from D&D.
The female Sith was a little interesting, but didn’t feature much. I didn’t care about any of the characters and finished the story with no desire to seek out book 2.
The artwork was good, can’t deny that, but the design of the glam-rock tattoo and Maggot were a let-down – of all the alien species that he could have been why an Abyssin?.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
Why I read it: Apparently there’s a successful TV show on some channel I don’t get that people keep talking about. Thought I’d read the books, particularly as a co-worker rewarded me for a piece of work I did for them with their entire collection of A Song of Ice and Fire (up to A Dance With Dragons: After The Feast).
What is it about?: This book focuses on the stories of a few of the main characters from the series so far as they do their best to survive in a land full of war and scheming. The Stark girls take on new identities, Brianne goes on another quest, Cersai schemes and Sam rides on a boat. There’s also a seemingly unconnected chapter about some girl locked in a tower for some reason. Note that Daenarys, Jon Snow, Tyrion and Bran Stark do not feature in this book at all (excepting
the occasional mention of Tyrion and their names are also listed in the appendices).
Thoughts: Since A Clash of Kings this series has fallen into a trough with little sign of it clambering out anytime soon. Certainly, I’ve gone from wanting to see the show (and even watching particular scenes on youtube having read them) to not caring at all. Character investment seems pointless and many of the surviving characters are bloody awful. Not a single scene I read made me want to watch it on youtube. At least the next one promises dragons…
Score: Boring – Just plain dull
Why I read it: I’ve already read Frogspell to my 7-year-old. He got this out the library so do my duty, I must.
What is it about?: Lady Morgana le Fey has a new plot to dispose of King Arthur. With a little help from Merlin, siblings Olivia and Max Pendragon must train at Morgana’s school while finding out what her plot is.
Thoughts: My son is still taking tentative steps into the novel arena and this is the second book he’s listened to all the way through (over several sittings). Although he didn’t talk about the story much with me, I got the impression he did enjoy it. He’s even gone and gotten the third book out the library.
I found that the story carried itself well enough, will just enough intrigue to keep it interesting. The significance of the Cauldron itself was perhaps a little convoluted but made for a good last laugh if you got it.
Score: Worth reading…to a child
Why I read it: I read this because The Expanse is easily in my top 10 all-time best book series and this was my most eagerly awaited book of 2016.
What is it about?: Without giving any spoilers for the previous books this is going to be tricky: The crew of the Rocinante once again find themselves playing a pivotal role in the fight against the oppressive Free Navy. The balance of power in the Solar System has dramatically shifted following the events of book 5 and it’s left to the decisions of a few individuals to fight for the survival of humanity itself.
Thoughts: Six books in and this series is not looking the least bit tired. The characters are all excellent, though I did find Filip a bit of a knob. It was also great seeing some of the earlier characters such as Prax, Po, and Anna again as well as the strong returns of Avasarala, Fred Johnson, Clarissa Mao and Bobbie. I did find the resolution of the battle of Medina Station a little over built up in that it could only play out the way it did.
The significant ‘the feels’ moment did hit very hard. I kind of saw it coming but was in denial about it.
Although this book nicely wraps up this second ‘trilogy’ I’m delighted to see that there’s going to be at least a third ‘trilogy’ to follow in the next three years.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: I have a bazillion Star Wars books, many of which I still haven’t read. I currently have a two-pronged attack: 1 where I read the next two books chronologically and 1 where a reread them all again from the beginning, but interspersed with books I’ve picked up there would have been read had I had them…I think that made sense. The space would have been a reread of Secrets of the Jedi, but I’ve recently picked up Choices of One and I’ve just completed the Thrawn trilogy.
What is it about?: Timothy Zahn does Star Wars…so there’s a good chance that Mara Jade and Thrawn are in it. Nuff said.

Actually the story is based just before the Rebellian settles on the planet Hoth (before Empire Strikes Back) where it looks like an Imperial governor is willing to turn a blind eye so the Rebellion can settle their base of operations in his system. There’s a local alien warlord that’s causing him grief. Mara Jade is sent as the Emperor’s Hand to check up on the governor’s loyalties.
Thoughts: I’ve not got nor read Allegiance, the happenings of which are occasionally alluded to in Choices of One (I’ve just looked this up Choices of One is the direct sequel to Allegiance…). This is my only gripe. I very much enjoyed this book with its multifaceted story arcs (Chimaera, Han, Luke, Hand of Judgement, Mara Jade, Leia) that intertwined and danced about each other masterfully. Having recently read the Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and
The Last Command) where Luke and Mara meet for the first time, it was fun seeing the two characters operating in the same endeavours without ever properly meeting.
The wasn’t a duff character here and the interesting non-chemistry between Han and Leia (again this is before Empire Strikes Back) along with Luke’s burgeoning but meagre Jedi abilities helped slot this story in its chronological place. Despite the Hand of Judgement being introduced in Allegiance, I didn’t feel any disadvantage having not read it (apart from not knowing exactly what they’re referencing when the talk about the events that took place there).
Timothy Zahn’s created some brilliant characters that transcend the insulting Legends branding that Disney has plastered over the Expanded Universe. That he’s not afraid to bring them out time and time again for his marvellous stories show just how much can be done with them.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: Still going through my graphic novels…
What is it about?: This still follows three children as they bear witness to the culmination of the battle of Ruusan where the Jedi, led by Lord Hoth do battle against the Brotherhood of the Sith.
Thoughts: My God this is a harrowingly dark story. From the very first pages where Darth Bane slaughters a man’s three children to a Jedi’s bones being telekinetically snapped by an infant Darth Zannah this book is riddled with death and destruction. This is the first time I’ve reread it since I’ve read the Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn and those books really fill in a lot of blanks even if it deviates from a story on certain points. If you’ve read this I urge you to read the Darth Bane trilogy, they flesh out this story a lot.
There aren’t many noteworthy characters here, most get bumped off pretty quick anyway and it’s difficult to like the three children Bug, Tomcat and Rain. The first twist as to which of the boys goes to the dark side was good, and the final twist and revelation was pretty kick-ass.
It was nice seeing Darth Bane strutting his stuff, even though he’s not in it much.
The artwork in a bit cartoony, but given the nature of the story, it does lighten the content visually.
Score: Worth reading

And there it is, the books I’ve finished in the month of February.

What did you read?

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