Last month, as I was searching my bookshelves for books to read in October, I cheerfully realised I don´t have that many unread books hanging around anymore. This year´s system – of choosing monthly themes for my #monthlybookclub seems to have enabled me to choose books from my library that were long waiting to be picked up. And so, I am happy that soon I´ll be able to buy new books without the underlying guilt of having a huge to read shelf at home. For the month of October I ended up picking books without a particular theme, instead just ending up with a small pile of “new” books – books by contemporary writers. Here´s what I thought of them.
Sally Rooney´s Normal People
I feel like I could have easily read Normal People last month and it would have gone perfectly well with the young angst topic. The book is full of it. While the story itself didn´t leave me in any awe, I liked the character construction a lot – Marianne and Connell do make for some interesting and very complex characters . As for the plot, it´s interesting enough to read till the end, and enjoy it, but I personally felt there were too many turns to it. Plainly said, it overcomplicated it for the sake of it. For what the novel claims to be – a young adult story about the impact of love but also about finding oneself – it did deliver and I might have rated it higher if it was just for that. But for the type of literature that I enjoy, I rated it merely 3 stars.
Matt Sumell´s Making Nice
It looks like I had read this book three years ago before, but completely forgot about it and just read it again. I find it rather odd that I cannot recall having read it so recently ago, especially since this time it left such a strong impression. This time around I was utterly annoyed by both Sumell´s style, narrative and most of the characters. The main character, Alby, is an over the top caricature that seems to suffer from ADHD and makes it really hard to relate to (particularly in the first 2/3 of the book). Sumell´s attempt to make the reader feel bad for Alby completely fails as one discovers that Alby has been an asshole with anger issues all his life, not just since his mother passed away. This only slightly changes towards the end of the book. That and the fact that every now and then, through the confusing and aleatory writing, the writer does show a hint of genius, made me give it 2.5 stars. To end my thought, I feel compelled to state that Sumell´s writing style can perhaps best be explained by one of his own lines in the book “things rather blurring together, as if punctuation marks were rationed”.
Dave Eggers´ Monk of Mokha
A fascinating adventure based on a true story. I loved Eggers´ Circle so I immediately bought this book when I saw it, despite knowing nothing about it. And boy, what a surprise. The story is so gripping, I had to google twice whether it really was true. Dave Eggers tells the tale of a young Yemeni´s quest for his roots in an effort to bring Yemeni coffee to the States. If you know me, you´ll know that I´m really not a coffee lover, but upon finishing the book I went straight to Mokhtar´s website to see if I can order it. Back to the book, young Mokhtar´s adventure starts in San Francisco and goes all the way to Yemen where he tries to unravel the country´s coffee culture. I had no idea coffee is originally from Yemen so the whole narrative around that was super interesting to read. As Mokhtar tries to mobilise the coffee farmers, civil war erupts. Trapped behind enemy lines, he struggles to stay alive and bring his beans back to the States. The story is so extraordinary and thrilling, I read late into the night and couldn´t give it anything but 5 stars.
Isabel Allende´s Maya´s Notebook
This is the first Isabel Allende novel I ever bought, but never got to read until now as I initially thought it was written in her typical magical realism style and when I discovered it was not, I felt deflated and set it aside. I picked it up this month and read it rather fast. It´s enjoyable enough but I didn´t find Allende´s portrayal of a troubled teen believable enough. This might be because Maya´s character is troubled to a degree that I (a former troubled teen myself) haven´t ever seen before and have difficulties empathising with, but alas. The story moves seamlessly between a little island in Chile and Las Vegas as Maya recalls the trouble that forced her to isolate in said island. Allende skilfully builds up the tension before telling us Maya´s whole story, and gives us a half-satisfying ending to it, but… it´s just not the style I am used to with her. And so, even though I enjoyed it, I would recommend many of Allende´s other books before I could recommend this one. Hence the 3 stars.