So technically, I probably shouldn’t be writing this right now… I just got back from the UK trip I took with my sister (which was pretty awesome, by the way) and I have a linguistics term paper due October 12th. Which I’ve barely started. However, I’ve been analyzing my data for the past few days (the paper involved a practical study) and really need a break, so I’m telling myself that I’m doing something productive by informing you about my past reading month. Plus, I’m practicing my writing skills in “anticipation” of the paper, right? Let’s just agree that I’m good at procrastination excuses – here are the 13 books I read in September:
The Apprentice’s Quest (Warriors: A Vision of Shadows #1) by Erin Hunter (2.5/5 Stars)
I was absolutely obsessed with Warriors when I was younger, and to this day, I still really love the first two and a half series. However, about midway through The Power of Three, things started going downhill for me. I felt as if the ideas were no longer as original, I didn’t like how “real” StarClan and the Dark Forest was becoming, and I just felt as if the books had lost some of their spark. Still, I was kind of intrigued when this new series came out, since it followed the kits of one of my favorite couples in the series. However, I unfortunately did not think this book was all that great, since, again, I thought it didn’t really add anything new and was sometimes sloppily written. Be aware: from this point on, there will be SPOILERS for the previous series. The story follows Alderpaw, son of Squirrelflight and Bramblestar, who starts to train as a warrior apprentice. However, he does not really have an aptitude for hunting and fighting like his sister Sparkpaw – but he can communicate with StarClan. Hence, Bramblestar and the medicine cats decide Alderpaw should train as a medicine cat apprentice instead – and that was how everything in this book went. Alderpaw basically makes zero decisions for himself, he always does what other cats decide for him. This was not, however, used intentionally as a way to show how he slowly grew in confidence – instead, he just had next to no agency, which is extremely annoying in a main character. The rest of my issues with the book concern important plot details, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading! Anyway, the plot really gets going when Alderpaw has this prophetic dream. With the help of some other cats, he figures out that the dream might be referring to SkyClan, and Bramblestar sends him on a quest to help them. However, apart from Sandstorm, Alderpaw isn’t allowed to tell any of the members of his quest about SkyClan and the purpose of the quest. Why, you ask? I have no idea. It just seemed like a lazy way to make sure Alderpaw got to lead the quest and the other characters could be as uninvolved as possible. But it gets better. Once Alderpaw and his companions have actually reached the SkyClan camp, they figure out that SkyClan has been driven out by rogues and destroyed. It would have been a perfect set-up to aid SkyClan and plan to reunite the Clans again, but nooo. Instead of doing anything, the cats just give up and head back to the lake. And yes, they find two kits along the way which the clans immediately start fighting about. And then Bramblestar, who knows how hard it was to grow up in a different Clan than his sister Tawnypelt, doesn’t step in when the Clans decide to separate the kits. He could easily have allowed ShadowClan to have both kits, but no – we need to add at least a little drama, albeit one we’ve already seen before… Still, this book wasn’t all bad. I did enjoy the beginning and seeing ThunderClan again – for nostalgia reasons, I guess. However, it didn’t live up to its potential either. Maybe it’s just time this series ended, since the authors are obviously having a hard time coming up with new plot ideas.
The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel (3/5 Stars)
This was a pretty solid read, but it also wasn’t one that particularly stood out for me. Of course, after having read Station Eleven, my expectations might also have been unrealistically high. Anyway, the story follows Anton Walker, who grew up in a family were shady business was not out of the ordinary. For example, the first job he ever had was selling social-security numbers and passports to illegal aliens with his cousin Aria. Anton, however, wants to leave all that behind. He has a respectable job, a beautiful fiancée, and stability in his life. No one knows about his family background, and no one knows that he used less than legal methods to rise to his current position. All that, however, soon comes crashing down. Anton’s company is hired for a big project that requires background checks on all company members, and at the same time, Aria wants Anton to do one last job for her – and she’s willing to resort to blackmail. Overall The Singer’s Gun is a slower-paced novel that definitely gets you thinking. As the story goes on, you start to figure out more and more about Anton’s past and present, you learn what it means to live in the US illegally, and you slowly solve the mystery of an operation that went so wrong that a detective has been working to find Anton for weeks. The writing, too, is flawless, but for the most part, I just didn’t find the plot that overwhelming – maybe because I prefer crime novels that focus more on mystery and suspense. This one is more about family, right and wrong, and what it means to be human, with the mystery as an added bonus. It’s a good book, but I think there’s a very specific kind of reader who will be blown away by it. For me, it was just a pretty average read.
About Grace by Anthony Doerr (5/5 Stars)
I really, really loved this book (although All the Light We Cannot See is better). I’m not sure if it’s for everyone, though. I think this is a book that you’ll either love or end up DNFing/hating because you think it’s boring. Thankfully, I belonged to the first group – I was absolutely engaged and couldn’t put it down. The story follows David Winkler, who has lived in Anchorage his whole life and is obsessed with weather phenomena, especially snow. However, David also has a peculiar ability most people don’t know about: sometimes he sees things before they happen. Sometimes these things are good, like the first encounter with his future wife, and sometimes they are bad, like the man he knew was going to be hit by a truck when he was a child. The dream David has about his daughter Grace is of the bad kind. He sees Grace drown in a flood he tries to save her from, so when a storm starts brewing and David knows the flood is on its way, he flees as far away as he can get. Too scared to figure out what happened, he spends years on a Caribbean island before he finally has the courage to go and figure out what happened to his daughter. About Grace is a beautifully written, honest story about family, friendship, science, responsibility, ocean critters, insects, and snow. Its slow pace allows you to appreciate the details of David’s world, it makes you wonder what happened just as David does, and it lets you appreciate the beauty of nature. If this sounds like something you would like, I highly recommend it!
Der Trotzkopf by Emmy von Rhoden (3/5 Stars)
As far as I’m aware, this book hasn’t been translated into English – the title means something along the lines of ‘the pigheaded child’, though that doesn’t completely capture it either. Trotzkopf is just a German word almost impossible to translate… Anyway, a friend of mine recommend this to me because she had liked it as a child and she knew that I really enjoyed Enid Blyton’s work. This book certainly has a similar vibe to Enid Blyton’s school stories. The protagonist, Ilse, is a fifteen-year-old girl whose mother died when she was very young and whose father, out of love for the only family he has left, lets Ilse do whatever she wants. However, people are eventually fed up with Ilse’s behavior. Her governesses can’t get her to learn anything, and Ilse’s stepmother worries that Ilse will never be able to make her way in the world if she goes on like this. Therefore, Ilse’s parents decide to send her to boarding school, where Ilse soon finds a second home despite her initial protests. Although this book was published in 1885, it was still relatable and fun, though I must admit that the romance at the end was one of the worst insta-love cases I’ve ever seen. Plus, I’m really glad that we’ve gotten rid of some of the ideas on how a lady should behave! Overall, the story was mostly lighthearted and pretty predictable, but I still had good time reading it.
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (4/5 Stars)
This was a really enjoyable and insightful story. Honestly, I think Anne writes some of the most critical and interesting stories out of all the Brontë sisters – I really don’t know why she’s less popular than Charlotte and Emily. This novel follows Agnes Grey (who would have thought?), who comes from a relatively poor, but well-educated family (her wealthy grandfather disinherited Agnes’ mother because he did not approve of her marrying a poor man – honestly, though we never meet him, I really don’t like the grandfather). To earn some money and do something meaningful, Agnes decides to work as a governess. And let me tell you, the children she has to take care of (and their parents, too, honestly) are some of the most horrible and spoilt brats I have ever fictionally encountered. It is all the more frustrating that people like these actually existed (Anne based the novel on her personal expriences and wanted to raise awareness about how nobility treated their servants). I have to say, I’m pretty glad I’m not training to teach back then. But, to get back to the point: Agnes Grey is an interesting exploration of class and the way women were treated at the time. Also, it includes a very satisfying love story that I rooted for from almost the beginning 😉 I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a shorter classic (my edition had slightly less than 200 pages) that still has a lot of substance .
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (3/5 Stars)
This book was stunningly written and gave you a lot to think about, but I still didn’t like it very much. In my opinion, it relied too heavily on symbolism and metaphors that couldn’t make up for the otherwise mostly boring plot. The book’s protagonist, 17-year-old Cullen Witter, lives in what is possibly the world’s most desolate town: Lily, Arkansas. Nothing ever happens in Lily and although everyone dreams of leaving eventually, almost no one does. One day, however, Cullen’s brother Gabriel disappears without a trace. The rest of the town soon moves on from Gabriel’s disappearance, though. A bird watcher claims to have spotted a woodpecker in Lily that was thought to be extinct, giving the town the chance to present itself to the outside world. Cullen, too, can’t stop thinking about the woodpecker, wondering if it might be a sign related to his brother. We follow Cullen throughout his summer, watch him search for his brother, watch him grow-up, and watch him doing pretty much nothing with his friends. Additionally, the novel includes several snippets from characters’ lives that may seem unrelated at first, but all come together at the end. The snippets, in fact, were the only thing I really liked about the book. Those, I thought, were interesting and I really liked the way all the different strands interwove. However, Cullen’s life was a pain to read about. Nothing happened. We didn’t even get that much emotional turmoil from Cullen, considering he had just lost his brother. His sections just made me feel bored and depressed. Still, I recommend this if you like these kinds of books – for example, I think people who liked The Catcher in the Rye, one of my most hated books of all time, would probably also enjoy this.
Auf Schreckenstein geht’s lustig zu (Burg Schreckenstein #2) by Oliver Hassencamp (2/5 Stars)
This was probably my least favorite book of the month and I was almost tempted to put it down despite it being only about 100 pages long. I don’t think it was abysmal, necessarily, but I do think it’s a story that I’ve outgrown and wouldn’t really recommend, either. The title translates roughly to ‘Fun times at Schreckenstein’ – Schreckenstein being a castle that has been adapted into a boys’ school. Actually, this is the second book in a series and I haven’t read the first one, but I could still easily follow what was going on, since it’s one of those stories where you can basically start with any book in the series (kind of like in The Babysitters Club or The Boxcar Children). Anyway, my issue with this was mostly the plot, or, to be more precise, the lack of subplots. The premise of this story is that a girls’ school just opened across the river from the boys’ school, and one day, some of the boys decide to play a trick on the girls. This results in a series of pranks between the two schools – and honestly, that’s all that happened. The pranks were the only plot this book had. There was nothing about friendships, school subjects, teaching and learning, trouble at home, or anything else that you might expect from a good school story. It was just – pranks. Pranks and cut-out characters that were so stereotypical they might as well have had no personality. I might have enjoyed it more as a child, simply because of the boarding school setting and the idea of the feud between the two schools, but I still wouldn’t really recommend it. There are children’s books with a lot more depth out there.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (4.5/5 Stars)
I really, really loved this story, although I had a bit of an uncomfortable time reading it. That was not the story’s fault, though, but my copy’s. People had recommended the book to me before, so when I saw it for £1 at a charity bookstore in Edinburgh, knowing I needed something to read on our train ride to London, I decided this was my chance. The problem was, however, that the copy I got smelled decidedly strange. Not disgusting, by any means, but not good, either… I think it was an extremely weird perfume or something. Anyway, this meant that I held the copy really far away from me while reading to avoid smelling it too much – it was probably one of the strangest reading positions I’ve used and I’m surprised I didn’t get more awkward glances on the train. Still, awkwardness aside, I had a really good time reading this, too. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a romance novel, but the plot is very different from conventional ones. The protagonists Clare and Henry have both known each other for almost their whole lives, but both experience their story in a different order. This is because Henry has a rare genetic disease that causes him to time travel. The book follows Henry and Clare’s entire life together – how each of them met the other, how their relationship developed, how they try to deal with Henry’s condition. It was beautifully written, alternating between Henry and Clare’s perspectives and jumping around in time nearly as much as Henry does, and I absolutely loved it. The only thing I wish we had gotten a bit more of is Henry and Clare’s relationship to other people around them, which is why I didn’t give this a full five stars. I highly recommend it! (Also, in case you’re wondering, my book still smells, though it’s not as bad as it used to be. If anyone has any tips on how to get rid of the smell completely, though, I’d be very grateful!)
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) (4.5/5 Stars)
I was so ready for this to come out and since I was in the UK when it did, I was able to get my hands on a copy right away, instead of having to wait for it to get shipped to Germany… The story picks up about a year after where Career of Evil broke off, and yes, in contrast to other crime series, I do think you have to read the other three novels first in this case. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on a lot of character backstory and be spoiled a ton for character relationships. However, if you have read and liked the other three books, I think you’ll really like this one as well. In the midst of preparations for the London Olympics, a man stumbles into Strike’s office, claiming that he saw someone strangle a child when he was a boy. Since the man is clearly mentally ill, Strike almost dismisses the claim, but something about it keeps nagging him. At the same time, a government minister approaches Strike, claiming that he is being blackmailed. To investigate further, Robin goes undercover to sniff around in the House of Commons, and soon Cormoran and Robin begin to suspect that their cases might be related. The mystery was very compelling and intricately crafted, although I do think that a few more clues and red herrings could have been dropped to make the reader make an educated guess on who the culprits in the story were. While I had a few suspicions, I never had any concrete evidence that pointed in that direction, which is something I really value in crime fiction – thus, I docked half a star from my rating. However, this was still an excellent story! And, what I liked most of all, where the characters. J.K. Rowling just has a way of writing that makes every single one of them, even completely insignificant side characters, seem utterly real. And of course, there are Strike and Robin. I love Strike, but I absolutely adore Robin. In this book, I think Robin comes to realize some important things about what she needs to be happy, she becomes more independent and self-confident, and I just grew to love her (and dislike Matthew) even more 🙂 I also hope her friendship with Vanessa will be developed more in coming books. I really liked the snippets of it we saw in here!
Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb (5/5 Stars)
I know what people have been raving about now – this is exactly the kind of fantasy I like to read. It’s a very slow book and probably just the set-up for what is to come, so people just looking for action and battle scenes probably won’t like it all that much, but for me, this was perfection. It reminded me a lot of how I feel when reading a Tamora Pierce book – something about the atmosphere, I think. Anyway, the book follows a boy with no name, whom other people start calling Fitz. One day, Fitz is dropped off at the royal household by a man claiming that Fitz is crown prince Chivalry’s bastard. Since Fitz resembles Chivalry so closely, no one really doubts this. Fitz is left behind at Buckkeep, the royal stronghold, but is not really part of the royal family. His first few years, he runs wild, with only the keep animals and guards for company, but eventually, King Shrewd develops an interest in him. By day, Fitz studies everything a noble boy should know, and by night, he secretly trains to be the next royal assassin. This book, guys. I just think it did so much right. I thought the magic system was extremely intriguing and I definitely want to learn more about it in later books. There is a bunch of political intrigue and the assassins in this book actually kill people (I can’t believe I have to specify this, but with some of those other books out there, I guess that’s not a given…). I love Fitz’ relationship with both Burrich and Chade and I really, really hope that Burrich will eventually be able to see past Fitz’ affinity for Wit. Though they’re not related by blood, they have a father-and-son-type relationship that I adored. Also, there’s just so much I want to know! Why can’t Fitz remember anything before he came to Buckkeep? Why is Wit shunned? Who is the Fool? What was Chivalry’s part in all of the political scheming? What is the Red Ship Raiders’ agenda? Is Regal really as shallow as he seems, or does he have some hidden motive that is yet to be revealed? I am so ready for the rest of the trilogy!
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (4/5 Stars)
I finally read it! I know I said I wanted to this year, but I’m such a big mood reader that you never know when I’ll actually pick something up. However, I really felt like reading some Shakespeare this month and since I really missed Scotland after coming back from our trip, I thought Macbeth would be perfect. I think everyone already knows the basics of what this play is about – on the way home from battle, Macbeth encounters three witches who address him as Thane of Cawdor and future King of Scotland. Macbeth doesn’t believe them at first, but when he returns to find that he has been made Thane of Cawdor, he is convinced that the witches were telling the truth. Thus, he begins scheming with his wife to figure out how he could best become king. What I really enjoyed about this play was the setting and the overall theme of guilt. I loved the supernatural elements, the witches and their chants, and I loved how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth became consumed by their evil deeds. Nonetheless, I did think the plot was kind of straightforward at times and couldn’t believe that people weren’t more suspicious of Macbeth early on. I’d still really recommend this play to any Shakespeare fan, though. I don’t like it as much as I love Othello, but I did enjoy it very much.
The Sweetest Kind of Poison by Katie Wismer (4/5 Stars)
I really enjoy Katie’s booktube channel katesbookdate, so I was intrigued when she said she was writing a poetry collection. However, I never really planned on picking it up, since I am not the biggest fan of most modern poetry. Somehow, it has never really clicked with me the way old, Romantic (referring to the time period, not love!) poetry that actually rhymes has. Then, after the book had just come out, I checked it out on goodreads, just to see what people thought about it, and was astounded by the high ratings and gushing reviews. I was interested, so I went to amazon to check if they had a free sample – and they did. A few pages in, I was hooked. I don’t really know why, since these poems were written in much the same style as the other modern poetry that hadn’t really clicked with me. But I got the whole kindle edition. There were a few longer poems and bits of micropoetry, nothing rhymed, there was almost no punctuation, but somehow, the collection just resonated with me. It felt like the poems understood me, though I am lucky to never have experienced what they were about: being in and recovering from an abusive relationship. The order the poems were put in made everything a cohesive story and I was very pleasantly surprised. I did wish that there might have been a few more poems, since the collection overall was fairly short, but I ended up really enjoying it. Just to give you an idea, here is one of the poems I really liked:
I’m weird, okay?
I wear black dresses
and dance around my room
and write poetry that doesn’t rhyme
and if that’s not okay with you
then I’d rather be
If this sounds like something that you might enjoy, I’d recommend checking it out.
Death Mask (Dr. Anya Crichton #5) by Kathryn Fox (3/5 Stars)
This was also a book in a series that I hadn’t read the previous books of, but again, it didn’t really matter, since all books are standalone mysteries that only have the detective in common. Dr. Anya Crichton in an Australian forensic expert who specializes in rape, which is why she is invited to the US to educate a famous football team on sexual diseases, consent, and rape prevention. However, Anya soon discovers that some of the players have a history of gang rape that they have never had to face the consequences for. And when a young woman claims that some of them raped her in a hotel room, Anya wants to make sure that the players are held accountable. Soon, though, things turn even nastier, and Anya has a full-on murder investigation on her hands. To sum it up, I’d say this is a pretty standard crime novel. It didn’t have anything that particularly stood out to me, though I appreciated the attention it brought to rape culture and victim shaming, especially within the sports industry. The writing wasn’t amazing, but not bad either. It wasn’t super suspenseful, but interesting enough to keep me reading. All in all, it was an average read that I ended up enjoying, but not loving.