books i’ve read in april 📖🌻

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Welcome back to my monthly book roundup. I hope you’re all doing good!

I won’t fully disclose all the books I’ve read this month – wait, what, why? you might ask. I regularly read books regarding something (very personal) I’m working on/through in my life – I don’t want to leave them out completely either, because they kind of make up the “wholeness” of my reading month, if that makes sense, but I don’t want to discuss them in detail (or at all). Anyways, that’s why I’m not showing/talking about two of the six books I’ve read this month. ✌️
But there’s still a lot to get through, so let’s do it.
[As always: The order of the books is not a rating, just the order I read them in.]

# 1 Courtney Summers Sadie (2018)

This was a gripping read, although the topic/themes were hard to digest. Before I go into detail, here’s the blurb:

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late. [Source]

What I didn’t find too appealing in the beginning, but then really grew liking, was the way in which the story is told: We have chapters told from Sadie’s perspective that are further in the past – and chapters that are actual podcast episodes by the reporter who’s investigating Sadie’s disappearance. These chapters, of course, are further away from Sadie’s tellings and closer to the “present moment”. I’m usually not a huge fan of alternating narrative perspectives, because my brain likes to settle into one perspective really deeply instead of being flung out of one and into another every 20 pages. But it really worked for me in this novel, because it adds suspense, big time. At first, you might think that the podcast episode chapters only add in the blanks that the chapters told from Sadie’s perspective left, but it’s a really (hard to explain, but) captivating back and forth – … like two people completing a puzzle without knowing what pieces the other person is going to contribute. 
Anyways, although the themes/topics aren’t easy to stomach, I really enjoyed reading this.

# 2 Donna Tartt The Secret History (1992)

Every two years, sometimes once a year, I have this urge to revisit The Secret History by Donna Tartt. So far, I’ve read it once and listened to it three times. It’s one of those books I want to crawl into and hide in and I can’t event tell you why that is. The setting – a college in Vermont, USA – as well as the time it is set in – the late 80s, one guesses –, might be the biggest factors. I find it very hard to describe what the novel is about and looking at the (somewhat nondescript) blurb, I’m not the only one with that problem, it appears. I find the story eery, hard to grasp and extremely intriguing and suspenseful. It’s a detective story, in a way, but inverted somehow. Even when nothing happens, you feel like it is building up to something and the something isn’t good at all. Should you go away from this thinking ”wow, what a load of farfetched and unlikely nonsense“ you’ll still have enjoyed an amazingly gripping read. 
Anyways, the blurb:

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever. [Source]

Donna Tartt is a master storyteller. She uses language and plays it like a gifted pianist plays their piano. If you haven’t read this book so far, i envy you, because you can read it for the very first time. Read it. Then listen to it. Donna Tartt narrates it herself and it adds another layer of eeriness and secrecy and mystery. I absolutely LOVE this book.

# 3 Sara Shepard The Good Girls (2015)

Yes, you’ve guessed it, another palate cleanser novel. After reading something as profound and captivating as The Secret History, I always need a light and (dare I say shallow) distraction before I can dive deeper again. I feel bad saying this every time, but a lot of YA novels do this for me. 
The Good Girls takes the story back up, where The Perfectionists left off and although the first book was still believable and suspenseful, the sequel is very farfetched and didn’t get me to care about the main characters and what was happening (to them). The plot twist in the end is (in my opinion) the oldest trick in the book – … and it made me roll my eyes a little. It seems that there’s also another sequel that, going by the epilogue, gets even more absurd. At this point in time, I’m pretty sure I won’t keep reading. But who knows. Maybe I’m in need of another bathtub read soon and I’ll resort to it then. (I‘m mean, I know.) 👹
Just in case you still care, here’s what the novel is about:

They're good girls . . but no one's perfect ...Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Parker and Caitlin are five senior high-school girls who seem to have it all. Top grades, beautiful looks, music scholarships, sports captaincies...even the boys of their dreams. But there's just one small flaw in their apparently perfect facade. They're wanted for a murder they didn't commit. Sure, they talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, but they didn't go through with it. It's just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned ...right? Except Nolan wasn't the only one they fantasised about hurting in film class that day. And now someone seems to have found their list, and is carrying out their very particular revenges in their name. Who is really behind these killings? Who can they truly trust? And who will be the next to die? [Source]

# 4 Hanna Yanagihara A Little Life (2015)

Let me start out by saying that this book will wreck you. You’ve probably already read it, because basically everyone has, but in case you haven’t yet, consider yourself warned. I’m not telling you to not read it – in fact, go read it, but it is utterly … devastating, keep that in mind.
I tried to read this book (in paper form) three times and then ended up listening to it from start to finish in the course of a few days.

Sitting in my bed and reading the book didn’t work for me, because it made me feel so depressed and far away from everything that’s good in the world that I just couldn’t handle it. Listening to it, on the other hand, allowed me to do something else while “reading“, like baking a cake, going for a walk, doing laundry etc. – this way I still felt connected to life and the goodness and meaning of it, if you understand what I’m saying. It was like a lifeline. That’s why I also want to add that the novel should come with a big fat trigger warning: self-harm (!!!), suicide (!!), sexual assault/violence etc. etc.
It might be a good moment for the blurb now:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Well, calling Jude “broken“ is a euphemism, I’d say. Jude’s past, his abusive upbringing (calling it just “abusive” also seems like a euphemism), his experiences during his (early) teenage years are being recapped over the first half (I want to say) of the novel. While we’re witnessing the “now”, we’re learning about Jude’s past in small and sometimes expansive flashbacks.
It is all truly heart wrenching and devastating and almost … a bit unbelievable. I mean, an author of a fictional story is allowed to let whatever they want happen to their characters, but … – and that’s the only trouble I had with he novel – how much is too much? 
In case you haven’t read the novel yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you by listing what exactly happened to Jude from a very early age up until his adult life. The majority of it is extremely bad, but then later on there are also unbelievably wonderful things happening to him, and then very bad and sad things again.
I just had trouble going along with all of it. I mean, I’m not saying that I don’t believe that fucked up things like this actually happen to people – sadly, they do, more often than we would like to imagine, I’m sure. But, as I said, it’s a novel – … the author is in control and decided to really pile it on here.

As I said, trigger warning – … I don’t even want to know how often the sentence “and then he cut himself“ is being uttered by the narrator. Parts of the novel seem a bit lengthy and repetitive and (especially in the last third of the book) I wanted it to be over already. But that’s probably mainly because of how devastating it all was and because I couldn’t take any more of it. And I guess it’s what the novel is supposed to do – warm your heart (a bit), but also make you feel as miserable as possible. Because even then you probably feel only 1% as miserable as Jude does. Phew.

Another thing I’d like to add since I listened to the audiobook: This actually helped me get through it (emotionally) as I’ve already mentioned. When someone’s reading the story to you, you don’t feel alone with it, because there’s another person’s voice and another person witnessing what’s happening. Even if no-one apart from you knew how incredibly heartbreaking it all is – at least the person reading the book to you does, right? So that helped. On the other hand, I wasn’t in love with the way Oliver Wyman read and sometimes voice acted (?!). He did manage to give every character real character through his voice, but he made Jude sound so weak and whiney sometimes that it actually started to annoy me. That’s probably personal preference, but … I imagine I would have built a different Jude in my mind without Wyman’s acoustical interpretation of him. 
Anyways. You should have a support system in place, when you plan on reading this book, is all I’m saying.
Although it’s just a book, just a story, you’ll sure as hell never ever forget it in your life. That’s how powerful words and stories can be and I find that remarkable.

I needed a fiction break after this one and had to read a very prosaic book about minimalism and furniture free living that spontaneously made me want to get rid of half of (well, all of) my stuff – take this as a little sneak preview for next month’s book blogpost.

Until next time, take care, bye!


  1. "The secret history" von Donna Tartt gehört auch zu meinen absoluten Lieblingen :)

    An "a little life" habe ich mich genau aus diesen Gründen nicht herangwagt und war bisher auch mental nicht stabil genug das Buch zu lesen. Ich denke ich werde es auch lassen, habe sowieso eine lange tbr-Liste :)

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