September was probably my best reading month of the year so far. I read ten books in total, all of them for fun, disliked none, and really enjoyed the majority of them. Plus, I read pretty steadily, something I also haven’t done in a while. My last exam was in August, so I started reading immediately afterwards.
Then, I went to Russia! It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I made the decision to go. Of course, next to my language classes, exploring the city and getting to know my host family, I didn’t have that much time for reading, but I did read a little bit before going to bed every night and also before I went to school in the mornings (In Russia, people tend to get up way later than in in Germany, so I had a bit of time to myself in the mornings. Sometimes, I used it to revise vocabulary and do homework, but often, I’d just read.) And, when I came back to Germany, Darkdawn, one of my most anticipated books of the year, was waiting for me at home.
Overall, this was a pretty great month 🙂
A Torch Against the Night (3/5 Stars) and A Reaper at the Gates (3/5 Stars) (An Ember in the Ashes #2 and #3) by Sabaa Tahir
I absolutely adored An Ember in the Ashes when I read it back in June, so I was really excited to get back into this series. Sadly, though, I didn’t like these two books as much as the first one. I still enjoyed them, but after An Ember in the Ashes, they were a bit of a let-down. I can’t really point to anything that was wrong with them – the writing was good, the characters interesting, there was lots of intrigue and politics. Overall, this should have been the perfect mix for me.
I think that maybe one reason it wasn’t was that this time, there wasn’t anything really unique that stuck out to me. I felt like I’d read these same plotlines (characters on the run, performing a heist, preparation for war, old magical beings suddenly resurfacing) executed in similar ways many times before, so I didn’t feel as though these books were anything special. I enjoyed them, but I was hoping they would surprise me just a little bit more.
Educated by Tara Westover (5/5 Stars)
I seldomly pick up biographies, but when I do, I nearly always end up enjoying them. I’d heard a lot of good things about this one – it’s about a woman who grew up in an extremely rural area, in a family severely isolated from mainstream society. She had never been to school, and her family’s approach to homeschooling was basically to let the kids decide for themselves if and how much they wanted to learn, and to make sure that they helped out a lot around the house. Then, when Tara’s older brother is the first in the family to go to college, she starts yearning for that kind of education herself. She studies hard and, at age seventeen, steps into a classroom for the very first time in her life.
This book is about the importance of education, about the gulf it can create between those who have it and those who don’t, about growing up, and about family. Overall, I thought it was really insightful and interesting!
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (5/5 Stars)
Maybe this was a little trashy, but it was exactly what I needed to put me in a good mood.
This is an adult romance, following Hazel Bradford and Josh Im, two friends who couldn’t be more different personality-wise. Hazel is extremely outgoing – some might even say eccentric – and Josh is the more quiet, thoughtful type. The two of them first met in college, where Josh was Hazel’s TA and the recipient of one of her most embarrassing drunk emails ever, and are reunited at a barbecue hosted by Hazel’s new elementary school colleagues. The two of them reconnect and become great friends, and since both of their romantic lives aren’t looking too good at the moment, they set each other up on double dates in the hope of finding the perfect someone. After all, who can be a better judge of a potential partner than your best friend? Plus, there’s the added bonus that you can laugh about your horrible dating fails together afterwards. Hazel and Josh make the perfect team, and despite what other people might say, they are just friends. Right?
Overall, this was an extremely cute story of friendship and love. It was hilarious, sometimes thoughtful, and sometimes pretty smutty. The characters all felt real and relatable, and I loved the dynamics between them. If you’re looking for a good romance, I would highly recommend this one!
The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson (3/5 Stars)
This is the second book in the Truly Devious series, which follows teenager Stevie Bell as she attempts to solve a cold kidnapping/murder case at her elite private boarding school. However, as the events of the previous book showed, the case might be more relevant to current happenings than Stevie had originally thought, and her incentives for uncovering the truth are becoming stronger and stronger.
Overall, I thought this was okay, but not amazing. Like the previous installment, this one doesn’t really feel like a book that includes its own story, if that makes any sense. A series can obviously can have an overarching plotline, but I still think that every individual book should have something that makes it unique. Here, I felt as though I was only reading the middle part of a longer story, and I could easily see the books being combined into one novel.
In addition, I think that the characters in this series border on being types, defined by only one characteristic or hobby, rather than having a more complex, well-rounded personality. I would have loved a bit more exploration of them, especially since that would create motives for murder and red herrings that would make solving the mystery so much more interesting for the reader. The book was interesting enough, and I liked figuring out more of what was going on, but I’m not dying to get my hands on the next installment, either.
Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4/5 Stars)
I loved Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae Files (though I did think the last book Obsidio was a bit weaker than the first two, which are among my favorite sci-fi books of all time), so when I heard that they were co-writing another space adventure series, I knew there was no question about whether or not I would read it.
This one follows a group of freshly graduated cadets, who are thrust into perhaps the most unlikely squad they could have imagined. As they struggle to come together as a team and embark on their first mission, the soon realize they may have even bigger problems than their personal issues. Stowed away on their ship is Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, a girl whom Tyler, the squad’s leader, rescued from interdimensional space and 200 years of cryo-sleep a few days earlier. The squad suddenly has more than one enemy on their tail, and they realize that Auri may be a lot more important on the scale of intergalactic politics than she originally seemed.
This has a great cast of characters, and it’s fun and action-packed! I’ll definitely be picking up future books in the series, even if, so far, I don’t think it’s as good as the Illuminae Files.
Water Runs Red by Jenna Clare (4/5 Stars)
Jenna Clare is also a pretty well-known BookTuber – I’m not subscribed to her, but I do watch her videos every once in a while and knew this was her self-published poetry collection. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up – I’m not the biggest modern poetry reader, remember? However, I still had a couple of days left on my free trial month of kindle unlimited, which I’d gotten in order to read Verity in August, and happened to find this on there. Since I knew who Jenna was from her videos, I decided to give it a try – and I ended up liking it much more than I would have thought.
This is a collection dealing with toxic friendships, self-love, femininity, asexuality, as well as finding and trusting in the person you are, and I was quite surprised by how much some of the poems spoke to me. Plus, there are a bunch of photographs taken by the author to go along with the poems, and I really appreciated the artistry that went into putting everything together. Even if you’re not a poetry person, I think you can take a lot away from this.
Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) by Kevin Kwan (4/5 Stars)
I was in the mood for something funny, and this was already on my radar, especially since it had been getting even more hype since the movie came out in 2018. I decided the time had come to give it a try, and, honestly, I had a great time with it! The story was ridiculous and fun, and had exactly the sort of comedic vibes I’d been craving.
It follows a young couple, Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young, who are on their way to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding. Coincidentally, this will also be the first time that Rachel gets to meet Nick’s family. However, she soon realizes that there’s a lot her boyfriend hasn’t been telling her about how he grew up – instead of the relatively normal, middle-class childhood Rachel had, Nick grew up in a family so rich it is almost unfathomable. This inevitably leads to tension between the young couple and Nick’s relatives – after all, Rachel doesn’t exactly fit in in this prestigious circle, and she soon begins to question whether she and Nick are really meant for each other.
Overall, I loved the humor in this book, the many different viewpoints it portrayed, and the insights into Singaporean and Chinese culture. If you’re looking for something funny, this might be something to check out!
Becoming by Michelle Obama (5/5 Stars)
I’d been meaning to read Becoming for a while now. I have a lot of admiration for Michelle Obama and what she managed to accomplish during her time as First Lady of the United States, friends who had already read this said it was really good, and after Educated, I was in the mood for another memoir. So while in Russia, I downloaded the e-book, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Michelle Obama tells the story of how she grew up in a Black middle class family, how she attended college and decided to become a lawyer, how she met her husband, and how her life changed forever when he decided to run for president. It was really interesting to get an inside look at the struggles she went through, the thoughts and insecurities she had along the way (many aspects of which I found extremely relatable), to see how politics affected her family life and how hard she had to fight to hold everything together, and to see her find her place and figure out what she wanted to do with her life. Would recommend!
Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) by Jay Kristoff (4/5 Stars)
As I mentioned above, this was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I love the Nevernight Chronicle: the darkness of the world, the political intrigue, the brutality, the love stories, the shadows, the lyrical writing, the complexity of the protagonist Mia.
This was the final book in the series, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint! We finally get answers to so many of the questions the first two books pose, we get more background on the world and characters, and the story wraps up neatly.
The only complaint I have is that I felt as though the ending made the religion of the world almost too literal, and that it overpowers a certain character. Don’t get me wrong – I love when fantasy worlds have their own beliefs and religions. Still, I usually prefer when there remains a certain uncertainty about whether those beliefs are actually true, or just ways people used to explain things they don’t understand. That wasn’t the case here, and I felt as though, for me, that took away a lot of the mystery and allure of the world. I hope that kind of makes sense – somehow, I feel as if I’m doing a bad job explaining this…
On the whole, though, this was a really good book, and I’d recommend checking out this series if you haven’t already. I don’t think it’s for everyone – in my experience, the writing style and the amount of curse words used can be quite polarizing – but I really like it and suggest you at least give it a chance if you’re a fan of fantasy.
And that’s it for this wrap-up! Do let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought of them – I’m insanely curious!