I read six books in March. Compared to January and February, I am slowing down a bit, haha, but compared to last year, six books in a month is still awesome for me! Not every month can be the same, right?
The books I read were a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction. I usually go by whatever is available next through my Overdrive app.
Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade (★★★★☆)
Oh my, what dense, dark story. The first chapter alone is so much to take in that it could have been its own story. But Rachel, who grows up in a New York City Jewish orphanage, has much, much more to go through in her life. It felt like it was almost too much for all these things to happen to one single person.
While I enjoyed the book, I was almost overwhelmed by the denseness of all the topics that were touched on: moral and ethical issues, a look at history during the Depression and World War II, the role of women in that era, and the difficulty of a same sex relationship during that time. I almost wish the author would have focused on just a few of those topics, but still think this was a great, thought-provoking book.
Shrill: Notes from a loud woman by Lindy West (★★★★☆)
I really enjoyed Lindy’s writing and she touches on some really important topics. The book didn’t make me ‘laugh out loud’ as much as I wanted it to, but I definitely enjoyed the perspective of someone who is out there fighting for all of us who don’t have the guts to speak up and speak out.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (★★★★★)
I am always a little hesitant to read WWII novels (maybe because it still is such a ‘sensitive’ issue for us Germans), but I am also always intrigued by them. This book is about women in wartime, and it’s an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the women that were left behind. These are the women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, the women who are manipulated into betraying their friends, the women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly do. Abandoned by their father, who was broken by war and with life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have to find their own ways to cope and resist during the Nazi occupation.
I loved Hannah’s writing style and couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to know what happened to Vianne and Isabelle and was rooting for their survival. I also loved the ending (if you pick up and read this book, you’ll find out why!).
Room by Emma Donoghue (★★★☆☆)
This book was…. odd. I honestly had a hard time getting into the writing style at first and it took some getting used to. The topic is heavy, the story loosely inspired by events like the Fritzl case, where a father held his daughter captive for more than two decades, abused and raped her and fathered 7 children during her imprisonment. Lots of friends (on Goodreads) have given the book 5-star reviews, but I found the narrating style tedious and long-winded at times.
The story is told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack, who is being held captive in a small room along with his mother, who has ‘built’ a whole world for him around the ‘Room’ that they live in. Then she devises an escape plan. While I appreciate the attempt to show this experience through the eyes of a child, it failed to really connect me with the characters and sticking to the one-narrator voice made the story lack a lot of depths for me.
Madness by Marya Hornbacher (★★★★★)
I loved this book. I have read a lot of books about mental illness, but none has moved me as much as this one. It is hard to understand mental illness, let alone to feel what it is like to be in midst of an episode. Marya does not only draw a clear picture of what it is like to live with her mental illness, but also how it affects the people around her. The book is well balanced between a chronological sequence of events and explanation of what is going on within her mind and gives the reader a true understanding of an illness that is taking place inside the body with no visible symptoms on the outside.
The best part of this book truly is the epilogue. Marya puts into perspective how her life will always be different from yours. Without trying to be all woe-is-me, she manages to evoke compassion and understanding for a situation that is so often met with stigma and prejudice. I will leave you with this (partial) quote.
“Some of the things I won’t do are things you take for granted; many of them are things I want to do, but can’t. This isn’t the end of the world. It’s just the way things are. Managing mental illness is mostly about acceptance – of the things you can’t do, and the things you must. […] There is grief for the years that slipped by, guilt at having hurt people, and for having needed so much and given so little for so long, regret about the goals I never attained. But there is also hope.”
Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi (★★★★★)
The title obviously cracks me up, but the contents of this book are no laughing matter. It includes Matt Taibbi’s “Rolling Stones,” articles, in which he covered the 2016 Presidential election, and the final conclusions after the election results. He’s critical (with the media and himself), straight-forward and humorous in his writing and it’s definitely a good book to read and reflect if you’re still trying to make sense of what happened in last year’s election.
What was your favorite books this month? Leave a comment, and then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch.