Happy Friday, everyone…
… and welcome to September! Honestly, August went by so fast, it was a blur. I flooded and re-dried my room, got a haircut, corrected hundreds of exams, finally got my computer to calculate what I wanted it to, went to the Netherlands, made it back home in spite of train strikes, had a hilarious crime dinner party with some friends, watched politicians make loads of election speeches but am still not completely decided on whom to vote for, sent in my application to start teaching, and somehow still managed to read six books in the midst of it all!
(Although one of them was a beta read, so I won’t be mentioning it here. But hey, you’re getting my opinions on all 1258 pages of The Way of Kings to make up for that! Being so monstrous, I feel like it should count as several books 😜)
So yeah, after getting off to a rough start, I’d say the month was definitely a success! Especially reading-wise. For the first time in a long time (or maybe ever??) I actually loved every single book I read! I didn’t have anything lower than a four-star read this month, so brace yourselves for some epic recommendations!
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (4.5/5 Stars)
If you’re an introvert – read this! Quiet is one of the most validating books I have ever come across. Suddenly, you feel so understood. You realize that you’re not the only person in the world who hates small talk and participation grades, who would rather curl up in a ball with a good book than attend a boisterous party full of strangers, who overanalyzes everything before making a phone call…
This book explores how different parts of Western society – whether it be schools, workplaces, or even our own homes – have been largely shaped by what Susan Cain refers to as “the Extrovert Ideal”. In our cultures, it is seen as a very positive thing to continuously be in the limelight, to be a charmingly social leader with vocal opinions, or to pool resources and work in groups where we can bundle our intelligence.
But not all of us enjoy being forced to talk when we don’t really have anything relevant to say, or being constantly surrounded by other people. Almost half of the world’s population is introverted, but the way we are raised to act often doesn’t reflect that. Using a mixture of scientific research, interview data, and personal anecdotes, Susan Cain explains what introversion is, why introverts are often overlooked, and why this attitude is detrimental to our population as a whole.
Overall, I thought this book was extremely interesting. It taught me a lot, but it also made me think and reflect on my own life. So yes, I would recommend it! Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or something in between, I really think this book will help you appreciate your personality and those of the people around you more.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (5/5 Stars)
(Note: Anne Frank’s diary was originally written in Dutch. I read the German translation, but decided to list the English title in this wrap-up, since that’s what most people here would probably recognize 😉)
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – It took you until the ripe old age of 25 to finally read Anne Frank’s diary? I am guilty as charged. Obviously, we had to read excerpts at school, but – due to my aversion to translations and my feeble hopes that I might learn Dutch someday – I always procrastinated reading the whole thing. However, with my trip to the Netherlands looming and my Dutch skills extending no further than basic Duolingo, I finally caved and read it in German.
And I’m so glad I did! I mean, I was expecting it to be interesting, and I was expecting it to be heart-breaking. After all, it’s one of the best documented accounts of Jews going into hiding during the Holocaust. I didn’t expect chocolate and rosy skies.
But what I also didn’t expect was the quality of the narrative. Anne Frank was twelve years old when she first started writing to Kitty, so I don’t know – I guess I thought it would suck 😅 The diaries I wrote when I was twelve certainly did, and I highly doubt anyone apart from my evil exploitative siblings would enjoy those.
But boy, even as a twelve-year-old, Anne could write! I was immediately immersed in her life, invested in her thoughts and feelings, and surprised by how deeply philosophical some of the topics Anne wrote about were. Here she was, talking about humanity and sexuality, while twelve-year-old me was scribbling about how annoying her school projects were. She captured the feeling of being locked in your house and unable to go outside better than any journalist during this entire pandemic. She had me reflecting on politics, ethics, and morals. She had me tearing through the pages of her story, and even though I knew how heart-breakingly it would end, I just couldn’t put it down.
I’m just going to repeat what everybody out there is probably already saying: Go read this. It’s not just an important historical document, it is actually a really good book.
The Marionettes (The Marionettes #1) by Katie Wismer (4/5 Stars)
After discovering Katie through her YouTube channel katesbookdate and becoming addicted to her content, I eventually reached out to her when she was looking for beta readers for her debut novel, The Anti-Virginity Pact. Since then, I have beta-read all of Katie’s novels – The Marionettes included. I first read a draft of this book back in March, so obviously, when the finished product came out on August 24th, I had to snag myself a copy!
Out of all of Katie’s novels, this one is probably my favorite. As the first book in a paranormal fantasy New Adult series, it follows a witch named Valerie Darkmore, who is about to undergo one of the harshest trials her prestigious upstate academy has to offer – the initiation to become a Marionette. Charged with protecting the ruling class – vampires – from danger, Marionettes are high up on the social scale, and their position is extremely coveted. However, with a family history in the organization and as one of the last remaining blood witches in her region, Valerie is almost guaranteed a spot. Until her magic starts to falter and Valerie realizes she may have more enemies than she’d thought, that is…
Overall, I really enjoyed this. The world is intriguing, dark, and gruesome, the story fast-paced with all kinds of twists and turns, and the friendships and budding romance definitely had me hooked! There were so many intriguing mysteries that I just couldn’t stop reading, even though I’d technically already seen most of it back in March.
Still, this isn’t a five-star book for me. As much as I enjoyed the world, I would have liked to see Katie delve deeper into its history and politics. Its structure is an important aspect to the way this society functions, and I only feel like we ever scratched the surface. Similarly, I felt like many of the events in this book could have been explored in a lot more detail than there were. I just was left wanting a tad more, especially since The Marionettes already ends on a pretty big cliffhanger that leaves many things unexplained.
However, despite some issues, I had a lot of fun reading this, and I’m definitely hooked! (And feeling extremely lucky that, unlike other people who will have to wait until December, I already have access to the sequel 😇 )
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb (4/5 Stars)
When two of my friends and I chose I am Malala for our next book club read about two months ago, we thought it would open up interesting discussions and teach us more about a region of the world we didn’t really know all that much about. Little did we know just how relevant this book would turn out to be.
Reading about a young girl losing the country she loved to the Taliban while simultaneously watching the same thing happen to millions of people in Afghanistan was heart-breaking and eye-opening at the same time. While our government was arguing over who should get visas or not, we watched history repeat itself. People were dying, women losing their chance at education, while back in Germany, people were proudly telling me that they now knew that the capital of Afghanistan was called Kabul and that Afghanistan bordered Pakistan.
For that reason alone, I think everyone should read this book. I find it absolutely astounding that people could know so little about a region to which their country has been deploying troops to for decades. I honestly felt a little ashamed, because while I did know where Pakistan and Afghanistan were and what their capitals are, I realized while reading this that I basically knew next to nothing about their history or all the different cultures that made these places so unique. Even though I am Malala is primarily a biography that recounts Malala Yousafzai’s childhood, her fight for education, and what happened after the Taliban shot her in the head back in 2012, it probably taught me more about Pakistani history and geography than all my schoolbooks combined.
And even apart from that, I am Malala was just so interesting! I loved the way Malala talked about how her parents met, her childhood back in the Swat Valley, the endearing and annoying parts of Pashtun culture, the squabbles she had with her brothers, the first time she gave a speech at her school… Even before she became a world-famous activist, Malala’s life definitely couldn’t be considered boring, and I’m glad she chose to share parts of it with us in her book.
The only thing I have to criticize is that I think the book could have been structured better. It is evident that the authors wanted to strike a balance between telling Malala’s life story and educating readers on Pakistan so that they can better understand the background Malala came from. And I really like that they chose to do that! However, sometimes the transitions between the historical parts and biographical parts were mediocre at best, so that suddenly, in the middle of reading about Malala’s birth, you get a ten-page infodump on wali history with lists and lists of names that end as abruptly as they started, only for the book to jump to another, completely unrelated topic in the next paragraph. This got better towards the end, but in the beginning, this disjointedness interrupted the flow of the story and made things a bit tedious to read.
Still, I would highly recommend this one! Especially now, I think it’s really important that Western readers get a glimpse into what living under Taliban rule actually means to the civilians in these countries, and that we understand how our forefathers played a huge role in creating these terrorist organizations in the first place. You can’t interfere whenever you feel like it and then look away once the consequences start manifesting themselves – and I think this is a lesson that I am Malala conveys very well.
The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson (4.5/5 Stars)
Yes, I finally read it! After years of saying I wanted to, I finally took the initiative and
stole borrowed these books from my sister.
And guys, I am in love! I really think The Stromlight Archive has the potential to become one of my new favorite fantasy series. It has everything I ever could have wanted: compelling characters, a unique magic system, and a world whose history is so fascinatingly mysterious that I just can’t stop theorizing about it. I want to know everything! What really happened on the Day of Recreance? Are the spren somehow linked to the powers of the Radiants? Who are the Parshendi, and what is their culture like?
Granted, it did take me about 400 pages to fully immerse myself in this book. Which is why, even though everything within me is itching to give The Way of Kings five stars, I ultimately decided against it. Getting through that first third was a bit of a struggle – I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t grasp the world yet, and because the narrative perspective kept jumping from one character to the next, I didn’t really have the time to get attached to anyone in particular.
BUT: Around the 400-page mark, something clicked, and suddenly, I was unable to put this book down. Kaladin carrying bridges around for pages and pages suddenly became the most interesting thing ever. Shallan’s inner turmoil about whether or not she should betray Jasnah had me engrossed. I couldn’t get enough of Dalinar’s Highstorm visions and his relationship with his son.
In general, just fell head over heels for these characters. Especially for Kaladin and Jasnah, because how couldn’t you love Kaladin and Jasnah?
The way Kaladin cared and was willing to sacrifice his own well-being so that others could have hope instantly made me connect to him. He’d been through so much, had lost everything, and yet he never stopped trying to get people to believe in their potential. Even when he no longer saw hope, he kept going for the people who had put their trust in him. His desire to help, even when it took everything he had, made Kaladin one of the most relatable characters I have ever come across, and I will defend him until my dying breath. Don’t you dare to come at my precious Kaladin!!
And Jasnah? Even though she wasn’t a POV-character, her prickly atheistic scholarness soon had me loving her all the same. She’s smart, caring, and independent in a no-nonsense sort of way, and reading about her was the best thing ever 🥰
Did this review make any sense to people who haven’t read this book? Probably not. But it just isn’t really possible to explain The Way of Kings in just a few words. This is high fantasy at its finest, its story intricately connected to understanding the world it is set in, so you’re just going to have to read it yourselves if you want to know more!
[Also, you know what else is really cool? I think I’m finally starting to understand things about the Cosmere! At first, I was kind of puzzled as to what everybody was going on about, but now that I’ve read both Mistborn trilogies, Warbreaker, and The Way of Kings, I’m starting to see connections! And it’s sooo satisfying 🤩🤩🤩 Stuff I never really saw the point of before is beginning to fit into a much bigger picture, and for someone who loves a good mystery, it can’t really get any better. I am in nerd-heaven, and I definitely plan on doing some re-reading soon to flesh out some of my theories 😊 And I need to read the rest of these books, obviously!]
And that was it for today!
Let me know how your August went down in the comments, and whether you discovered any new favorite books this past month! And as always, feel free to share your thoughts on any of the books I mentioned down below! I would love to hear your opinions, good or bad!