Sonntag, 21. April 2019

books i’ve read in march 📖💐✨

How does the time go by so quickly, I don’t understand. 😩 It’s April (well, it has been April for a while by the time this goes up) and I’m sharing the books I’ve read in March with you today. 🎉
In case you’re here for the first time: Welcome. I’m usually trying to keep these short and snappy and sometimes (not once so far) I succeed. I’m not attempting in depth book reviews, but instead share a few thoughts and if I liked a book or not. When I’m on the lookout for something new to read, this approach usually helps me make a decision on what to get and what to skip. So without further ado: These were my March reads – in the order I’ve read them.

# 1 Alicia Drake I love you too much (2018)

I came across this novel in a Parisian book shop around New Year’s. The novel is set in Paris, that’s probably why the bookshop promoted it – and having our latest trip to Paris as a backdrop while reading this was kind of nice.
Let’s start with the blurb:

In the sixth arrondissement everything is perfect and everyone is lonely. This is the Paris of thirteen-year-old Paul. Shy and unloved, he quietly observes the lives of the self-involved grown-ups around him: his glamorous maman Séverine, her young musician lover Gabriel and his fitness-obsessed papa Philippe. Always overlooked, it’s only a matter of time before Paul sees something that he’s not supposed to see…
Seeking solace in his unlikely friendship with tear-away classmate Scarlett and the sweet confections from the elegant neighbourhood patisseries, Paul yearns for unconditional love. But what will he do if he can’t find it? [Source]

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story, because I had no idea where it was headed. But this was, at the same time, what kept me reading. I kind of sensed that “something” was coming. It is this sense of foreboding that I find so intriguing and powerful in novels. When it is done well (and it is here), it feels like you’re being pushed by the story’s tide quite naturally. The story isn’t just being told, but it actually happens and unfolds right in front of you.
The teenage boy and protagonist Paul is very well written and realistic (as far as I can tell from my limited knowledge about teenage boys). His observations and remarks are very wise and even comical at times. However, he sometimes notices stuff, a boy his age probably wouldn’t notice, I guess. This then, makes it more apparent that he’s a written character/a character written by a woman. But that’s a minor flaw and totally fine.
What makes the story so interesting, is that there’s a lot more going on under the surface than is being addressed during the course of the novel. You could really dig deep here.
Without wanting to spoil it for you I’d like to share one of my theories: While Paul might indeed be in (teenage) love with this girl, his classmate Scarlett, I think he’s actually in love with his mother. And I mean Oedipus-complex style in love. This is never being really addressed or thought “out loud” by the protagonist or anything – that’s what I mean – there’s so much more going on underneath the surface. What we actually do see happening, is just the tip of the iceberg. At one point, Paul’s mother tells him, that she ”loves him too much” as a kind of aside while she’s falling asleep – my theory is that the title, “I love you too much” refers to Paul’s (and his mother’s) (sexual) love for each other. And that kind of love is, well, too much.
This topic is only one of many the novel opens without really going into it afterwards. Another example is Paul’s disordered eating, a coping mechanism that is frequently mentioned, but never factually addressed. It’s like we’re allowed to see selected facets of Paul’s character, but we aren’t given the whole picture, an explanation, a solution, a reason. There are very many blank spaces and gaps left inbetween what we are being told and I find that so very powerful. It can be frustrating at times, but at the end of the day it’s what gets you envolved as readers – we put ourselves into a story while trying to figure out what is being kept from us. And it keeps you wondering and thinking about the story and the characters long after you’ve finished reading the book.
Overall, a novel that I enjoyed reading and do recommend.

# 2 Maya Fiennes Yoga for Real Life (2010)

One of the first Yoga books I ever read, can you imagine. I usually love to do some background reading and research on things I’m interested in. But for some reason, Yoga has been something I “just did”, but didn’t do any reading on for very many years.
I came across Maya Fiennes’ book in Waterstones in Liverpool last year and, when leafing through it, found her overall approach to Yoga very appealing. Just as the title suggests, she talks about how (Kundalini) Yoga can be helpful in all areas of real life. Although there’re some glossy pictures in there, the book is not about the ~ Yoga lifestyle ~ aka I live in Bali, do Yoga on the beach and eat fruit all day.
The book follows the seven chakras from root to crown and offers one chapter each, with a few exercises/meditations and some recipes. The focal point, however, is not Yoga as a solely physical exercise. Maya Fiennes talks about her own experience quite a bit and gives a lot of insightful advice about, well, real life. She talks about things like fear, creativity, criticism/judgement, love and relationships as well as family life and children/being a mother.
The book is a very interesting and accessible read and offers a lot of insights, information and advice. I read through it in the course of a few days and now continue to come back to passages and parts I’ve highlighted.

What I like most about it, is the chakra correspondence of the chapters and the fact that the content is so down to earth and actually helpful without being preachy. 🙏

# 3 Laure Eve The Curses (2019)

Let’s start with the blurb here, shall we?

Picking up the pieces after the chilling events of the previous year isn’t easy, but the Grace siblings are determined. Wolf is back after a mysterious disappearance, and everyone’s eager to return to normal. Except Summer, the youngest Grace. Summer has a knack for discovering the truth—and something is troubling her. But exposing secrets is a dangerous game, and it’s not one Summer can win alone. At Summer’s behest, the coven comes back together, drawing their erstwhile friend River back into the fold. But as the coven’s powers magnify, Wolf’s behavior becomes unpredictable—and Summer must question the nature of the friend she so loves. [Source]

Okay, so you might have gathered already that The Curses is the sequel to The Graces, which I read a few years ago and liked a lot. I was very excited for the new book to come out, but didn’t end up loving it, I’m afraid. 😕 
There’s a shift in perspective which I found very interesting. In the first novel we’re following River, an average seeming girl who gets to know this mysterious and glamorous family, the Graces, becomes friends with Summer, one of the daughters and is accepted into their (social) circle – in every sense of the word. 
In the sequel, then, the story’s told from Summer’s perspective and River is almost out of the picture (in the beginning). This threw me off a little at first, but it actually worked quite well in the end, because that way the reader gets more access to the Graces family and their dynamics, whereas in the first novel, the reader was kept outside a bit, just like River was. 
This is not great literature, but that’s totally fine. No surprises language wise, no groundbreaking thoughts or anything, but an entertaining read for people who’re into young adult novels and witches and are STILL WAITING FOR A REMAKE OF THE CRAFT!! 🔮

# 4 Sally Rooney Normal People (2018)

After reading Conversations with Friends last month, I had to read Normal People next, of course. You can’t/shouldn’t compare the two, because they’re like siblings and persons of their own, but: I liked Conversations with Friends better. There, I’ve said it. Before I get into the whys and hows, here’s the blurb:

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person's life - a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us - blazingly - about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. [Source]

I was about to say just now, that this is a normal story about normal people and then realized that … well, duh, that’s what the novel’s called. 🤷🏻‍♀️ First of all, I didn’t find that Connell and Marianne are from very different worlds. Yes, Marianne’s family is wealthy but also dysfunctional and neither warm and loving, nor save. Connell’s single mother might not be rich and successful, but she obviously loves her son and is interested in his life, so … love > money, Connell’s better off after all, isn’t he. What else is new.

Marianne and Connell both don’t have it easy in life but for different reasons. It is a bit ”psychology 101“ how the whole thing unfolds … how Marianne for example (unconsciously) “seeks” abusive/unfulfilling relationships, because she never learned what honest, unconditional love is/feels like (?!).

That’s not to say that it’s not a good read, not at all. Just like in Conversations with Friends, there’re thoughts and remarks in there that are really interesting – just like the language. 
And since we’re already comparing the two novels: I can now bin the theory about the lack of quotation marks in Conversations with Friends ~ see last month’s blogpost for reference ~ because there aren’t any quotation marks in Normal People either. So I got, again, confused every once in a while and didn’t quite know who was speaking. Although it wasn’t as extreme as in Conversations with Friends. Anyhow, what Sally Rooney is trying to do by that I think, is remove the narrating element. The story becomes more immediate, we’re closer to what’s actually happening. There isn’t anywone in between us and the characters who’s telling us “and then she said xyzzy and then he replied“ – it’s more like we’re actually there. Am I making sense?
Well, Normal People is a story about normal people, who’re extraordinary and unnormal in their own way. Aren’t we all? The story doesn’t have a real beginning or a real end, I find, it just stops … I kind of like that, because it suggests that we were taken along the ride for a while and now the protagonists’ lives go on without us being witnesses. It’s just like real life … certain chapters end and new ones begin, but they’re all intertwined and not really separable and some people (I’d even say all people) we meet stay with us forever in some way or the other. 
Long story short: Yes, this is worth a read.

# 5 Tara Bach Radical Acceptance (2003)

And another non-fiction read. I had this on my shelf for a while now and finally came around to reading it. I think it’s one of those books you come across, decide to pick-up and read just when the time is right for you. 
As the title suggests, Tara Bach talks about the concept (or shall I say the mindset?) of radical acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to accept everything that is thrown your way and lead a passive life where you let it all ~ just happen ~ to you. 
Tara Bach talks about her own experiences and gives examples from sessions with clients. So you learn about different (real life and actually serious) problems people were having and how they dealt with them/learned to cope better through the help of acceptance. Again, it doesn’t mean you should jut “accept it and get on with your life”. It’s difficult to explain, but it made a lot of sense to me. The chapter I found most helpful was about fear and how you can learn to live with fear, without being overwhelmed or drowned by it. Tara shares a lot (!!) of seemingly straight forward and very accessible thoughts, that are at the same time incredibly helpful. Even if you’re neither into Buddhism nor Spirituality, this book (or at least big parts of it) could be very helpful for you, I’m sure.
To give you a bit more insight, I’ll end with he blurb here:

Radical Acceptance offers us an invitation to embrace ourselves with all our pain, fear and anxieties, and to step lightly yet firmly on the path of understanding and compassion. Please enjoy this nourishing and healing book.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In the West, most of us have suffered the fear of not being “good enough”, feeling insecure about our appearance, our sexuality, our intelligence, our spiritual progress or - often most importantly - being worthy of love. When these feelings of insufficiency or self-aversion are strong, we fear abandonment and rejection. Many people have already found the Buddhist perspective on our emotional life to be extremely valuable - and this book will be a major practical contribution to the subject. [Source]

# 6 Sara Shepard The Perfectionists (2014)

I’ve talked about “palate cleanser novels” in my last post, haven’t I? And I know it’s horrible, but here we go again. You might know Sara Shepard from the Pretty Little Liars book (and tv) series. I’ve only ever watched the first season of PLL and then lost interest. I therefore didn’t expect too much from The Perfectionists either, but actually ended up liking it.

When you’ve read or watched PLL, the characters and dynamic of this story here will sound and feel familiar. A high school setting, a group of girls, the usual popularity hierarchy … but the story is being told from different girls’ points of view. So we don’t just get the perspective of ”the outcast” or “the it-girl”.

At Beacon Heights High, Nolan Hotchkiss is king. His charm, wealth and good looks are deceptively seductive, and many are the students whose lives and reputations have been ruined by them. All while Nolan continues to reign, unquestioned and undisrupted. Until now, that is. Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Caitlin and Parker don't seem to have much in common. Each has her own friends, dramas and goals. But one thing they do share: they all have a deep hatred of Nolan Hotchkiss. And they all think it's about time he paid for the things he's done. They come up with the perfect murder - a hypothetical murder, of course. It's all wishful thinking ... until they wake up one morning to find that their wish has come true. Nolan has been killed - in exactly the way they planned. The thing is, they didn't do it. So who did? [Source]

Sara Shepard makes a point of incorporating ~ somewhat ~ diverse personalities with different backgrounds when it comes to her protagonists, which I appreciate. It’s a gripping story and I want to know how it is going to end, so I already ordered the next part. It’s no Donna Tartt, for sure, but an entertaining read nonetheless, so why not.

And that’s it. Wow. Very short and snappy. I’m currently already knee deep in my April books, so be on the look-out for next month’s round-up and maybe let me know what you’re reading at the moment? See you again soon! 📚

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