Three Months in Books: Quarterly Recap 2/2016

So remember when I was all “oh god, I’m reading too many books, I need to do monthly reviews instead so things don’t get too stuffed”? Yeah well, about that. I actually haven’t read that much these past three months. And as I’ve also missed the point to publish the reviews for April, I just decided imma rope them together for a quarterly thing again. So here we are!

The Infinite Sea (5th Wave Pt 2) | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

The Infinite Sea review at Rick Yancey
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 300
Published:  16 September 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate. (Goodreads)

This is the second part of Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave trilogy (here’s what I wrote about the first book). And it was … okay? I enjoyed coming back to the characters, and following their plots, but I felt this very much suffered from middle-book-syndrome, in that not an awful lot happens. It was an enjoyable read for sure, but ultimately it felt more like it was something to tide you over until the last book is released (which is out now, by the way! I would have bought it already if the only edition that’s out right now doesn’t fit the first two volumes … gotta think about my bookshelf aesthetics!!). A thing that I didn’t appreciate very much – mild spoilers ahead – is the cattiness between Cassie and Ringer. If anything, I want to see women (or girls in particular) stick together in a survival situation, and not be distracted by irrelevant personal stuff to bicker about. It seems to be mostly that Cassie feels like Ringer thinks she’s stupid, while Ringer, intelligent as she is in all other regards, simply doesn’t have the social prowess to be more tactful. I would like the girls to get over their differences in The Last Star.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying review at Marie Kondō, Translation by Cathy Hirano
Publisher:  Vermilion
Pages: 248
Published: 3 April 2014
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space with the incredible KonMari Method. Japan’s expert declutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo will help you tidy your rooms once and for all with her inspirational step-by-step method.
The key to successful tidying is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once – and quickly. After that for the rest of your life you only need to choose what to keep and what to discard. (Goodreads)

Life-Changing? I don’t know. If you subscribe to this particular brand of minimalism and ‘professionalism’, then sure, yeah, I can imagine this book to be life-changing indeed. For me, it definitely inspires me to look at the things I own in a different light, and think about what I really want to keep, outside of emotional attachments or a distorted sense of responsibility towards old, useless gifts. Where it falls short, I think, is that it was ultimately written for a Japanese audience, and some things (like talking to your clothes, thanking them for their day’s work) seem a bit “wacky” for Western readers – and it’s also a bit elitist and judgmental at times. There’s a section where Marie Kondo pities a woman who she sees outside in slacks, saying she must not be very happy with her life/herself if she walks around like that in public. Excuse me? I gotta say, I didn’t really expect body shaming (or fashion choice shaming?) in a book about decluttering …
While I don’t think the ‘Konmari’ method as a whole is for me, I’ve definitely been taking some pointers from it in order to think about what I bring into my house/room/life.

We Were Liars | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

We Were Liars review at E. Lockhart
Publisher:  Hot Key Books
Pages: 227
Published: 13 May 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Goodreads | Bookdepository

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. (Goodreads)

Oh man, so people have been raving about this book that I’m almost sad I can’t join them. It annoys me when a novel has a big Twist (with a capital T), and I call it midway through – the rest of the story just gets annoying, because the narration feeds you a bazillion instances of “oh no I can’t possibly give you the whole story now”. Something like this is great when it toys with your perception successfully, but when it doesn’t, it just gets exhausting to read. It’s kind of like this bigger kid that stole your … idk, your book, and holds it up too high so you can’t even reach it if you jump. You know the conclusion (or think you do), you can see it right there, but they refuse to give it to you and hold it just out of your reach, so all you can do is either give up and walk away, annoyed, or keep on jumping to catch it, err, I mean, keep on reading. On top of that – and maybe this is where I just fall short on empathy – I am just not that interested in reading about a bunch of privileged white rich kids (with one notable exception) and their problems, which all surround the fact that they are part of privileged white families that need to uphold a “good image”. Talk about first world problems. (That those first world problems can also end in heartbreaking tragedies is another thing.)

Feed | ★★★★☆ 4/5

FEED review at Mira Grant
Publisher:  Orbit
Pages: 599
Published: 1 May 2010
Genre: Science Fiction, Zombies, Dystopia
Goodreads | Bookdepository

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.
The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected.
The truth will get out, even if it kills them. (Goodreads)

I’ve read this book because my lecturer mentioned it as a nice supplementing read for our class on “Approaches to Zombie Culture”. (I’m doing a class on zombie narratives this semester, how cool is that??). And I’m far from disappointed! For me personally, this is a bit of a mix of the Gilmore Girls (if only for the fact that the bloggers join the press convoy of a Presidential candidate, much like Rory Gilmore at the end of season 7), Scandal (cause it’s all about a Good™ Republican presidential candidate and lots of intrigue) and, well, zombies. It’s well-written, engaging, and although the overall conspiracy plot is a bit predictable, it’s still fun and exciting to read. Most interestingly: there’s a total lack of a romantic love story. Well, there are relationships in this book – Georgia and Shaun’s parents, the senator and his wife, and then the third blogger of the pack starts dating someone as well – but there’s no overarching love story involving either of the two main characters, and you won’t believe how refreshing that is.

Asking For It | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Asking For It review at Louise O’Neill
Publisher:  Quercus UK
Pages: 346
Published: 3 September 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Feminism
Goodreads | Bookdepository

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.
Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes… (Goodreads)

Whew. This was such a difficult read. O’Neill toys with your perception, because she really doesn’t set up Emma as a very likeable character. I knew where the book was going, so I could fully tell what the author was doing, but holy hell Emma is set up as a despicable girl. She’s the kind of person who’d have bullied me at school. A horrible friend, competitive, judgmental, and bratty. And then she gets raped. Does that mean she had it coming, that she was asking for it? (Pssssst: NO SHE WASN’T). The first half was dreadful because you really can’t relate to Emma, and then the rest of it is awful because you witness her becoming a victim of rape culture. Everything’s in there. Victim blaming, her own denial that what was done to her was anything but her own fault, constant media coverage that she’s exposed to, her being ostracised for ruining the boys’ futures while they still strut around town … for a moment I naively called the validity of the plot into question, because surely, if there were pictures out there, where she was clearly drugged/zoned out and unable to consent, there’d be no question about whether or not it was rape … and then I remembered the case of Gina-Lisa Lohfink. There is video evidence of her rape, where she can be heard repeatedly telling her attackers to stop. She took them to court, and she’s just recently been sentenced to pay €24,000 in damages to her rapists. For slander.

The Book Thief | ★★★★☆ 4/5

The Book Thief review at Markus Zusak
Publisher:  Black Swan
Pages: 560
Published: 8 September 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, World War II
Goodreads | Bookdepository

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster-father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (Goodreads)

I’m not sure if anything I can say can do this book justice (and yet I’ve only given it 4 stars? What’s up with that?). It took me a while to get into, which is not unusual for me when it comes to books. What kind of threw me off though was that it’s an English book (originally written in English), written from the perspective of a German (Liesel). While Zusak does a way better job than the other book I know where this happens (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), it was still odd. Especially since I don’t know anybody who uses or has ever used the word “Saumensch”, which must be the most common word in the book, but perhaps it’s just a very remote local (and old) dialect. Couldn’t find any information online to prove that, though. Anyway, as you would expect with war stories, this book is heart-breaking. It’s wonderfully crafted and has some really beautiful lines that are more poetry than prose. Plus, it’s narrated by Death! If you haven’t read this yet, please do yourselves a favour and pick it up. You won’t regret it, I promise.

So what have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? Have you read any of these books? xx

in Books.