November reading wrap-up

Four books finished in November:

  • Caliban’s War by James S A Corey
  • The Next Together by Lauren James
  • The Masnavi, Book One by Rumi (translated by Jawid Mojaddedi)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Caliban’s War by James S A Corey

The second book in The Expanse series. I enjoyed this very much, but it won’t make much sense if you haven’t read the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Basically: humanity has colonised the solar system, and tensions between Earth, Mars and the outer planets are high. A lot of things are going on! The technology is believable, the cultural and physical shifts that happened as humans spread out into space are intriguing, and the characters are mostly likeable. And that’s just the first book.

I like the new characters that were introduced here (Avasarala! Bobbie! Prax! Okay, so I like all the POV characters) and the story is still fast-paced and exciting, building on what happened in Leviathan Wakes

… I don’t know what’s left to say about the second book in a series without spoiling the earlier book. In conclusion: it’s great and I’m definitely reading the next one. And the rest of the series, likely. This is book two out of nine; the last book is expected to be published end 2021.

There’s a television series based on the books and I’ve watched a few episodes. It’s good, in that gritty ‘space is gonna kill you but we’re tough people’ sort of way. I just wish Holden didn’t look like he’s on the verge of tears ever so often, though. 

The Next Together by Lauren James

This one had an interesting concept but the execution wasn’t all that great. Matthew and Katherine have fallen in love and lived and died a few times throughout history. Now it’s 2039, and we get to see flashes of their lives from before. 

It’s your basic reincarnation story, except there’s a science fiction twist where someone seems to be manipulating their destiny, except you don’t really see any other science fiction thing going on. The past was rather bland, despite everything that was going on, and it didn’t really feel much like the past. It felt a lot like two modern people being plonked into different settings. 2039 wasn’t that great either, come to think of it. Only 2019 seemed real (probably because it was mostly real).

There’s a sequel, The Last Beginning, which everyone seems to agree is the better book, but it’s going to have to wait. I haven’t decided whether I want to read it.

The Masnavi, Book One by Rumi (translated by Jawid Mojaddedi)

I wrote about this one before. And I’ve finally finished it! I’m still having trouble with the rhyming couplets; they distract me so much sometimes, I don’t even know what I’d just read. Or I stumble over one syllable, and the metre falls apart and I end up having to reread a few lines, losing the meaning because I got stuck on technicalities.

Generally, the message sticks to mind, if not all the stories. The ones with lots of digressions lost me, honestly. (I remember the story about the Bedouin and his wife seguing into the Bedouin bringing water to the king. I read that while standing in line at LHDN, but for the life of me I now cannot recall how it ended and what the moral is.) The short, funny ones tend to be more memorable.   

I’ll probably pick up the next volumes. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

This one was strange and beautifully written. Ava Lavender is born with wings—but she’s not a bird or an angel, she’s just a girl. But the first half of the story isn’t even about Ava herself: it’s a generational saga, starting with her great-grandparents in France, her grandmother and her quirky siblings, her mother and her broken-hearted loneliness. It’s also, perhaps obvious from the title, not a happy story. It’s a melancholy book with lyrical prose, with sudden bright streaks of humour here and there.

It’s a strange book, and probably not for you if magical realism isn’t your thing. (It made me think of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children sometimes, though I can’t really pinpoint a reason why.) Love haunts you. Girls transform themselves into birds. Mothers fade away to nothing. Dead siblings follow you around. You are a stranger to your children: your children are strange beings.

I wish it didn’t quite come towards the end the way it did, but the ending itself is hopeful.

Currently reading

  • Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  • Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (audiobook, narrated by David Monteath)

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