Summer 2018 Book Reviews

This post includes affiliate links.

The reading slump has been defeated, hooray! Getting back into fiction has definitely helped, I absolutely flew through some books.

Very slowly, I’ve been applying my minimalist lifestyle to my book collection, so from now on, every mini book review will include the question, “Would I bring this book into my tiny house library?” I’m not 100% sure that a tiny house is for me yet, but thinking of it like this helps me keep only the books that I really love.

Note on Dutch books: A Dutch flag emoji (🇳🇱) next to the book title means that I read a book in Dutch. I haven’t added affiliate links for Dutch books because I believe a great thing about the fixed book price is that you can choose who you buy from (without paying too much), and for me, that will always be an independent bookseller. If there is an English translation, I will provide a link.

Books read:
  • I read 3 books in June, 3 books in July, and 7 books in August.
  • Out of the 13 total books I finished during the summer, 7 were fiction and 6 non-fiction.
  • I started but didn’t finish 3 books. (These are not worth talking about.)
  • 3 were re-reads. (No mini reviews for these either.)
  • 2 were library books, were audiobooks.
  • Of the following books, 4 books will come along to my tiny house library, and 5 will not.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day, and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…

This is the only book I read during the BookTube-A-Thon in July/August. I wasn’t ‘officially’ participating because I was in a reading slump and didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, but the read-a-thon — and this book — actually helped me get back into reading! I started off slow with around 40 pages a day, and then I read the last 200 or so pages in one go.

Somewhere in the middle, I became completely engrossed in this book. I decided to read it because of the hype, and figured it was a good way for me to transition into reading more adult fiction. The hype is totally deserved! I hadn’t expected it to be so mysterious and thrilling.

Content warnings: abuse, alcohol, arsony, pills, PTSD, suicide, trauma. See more on my book trigger list.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? Yes.

Animals, birds, and insects provide such useful insights. If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or, ‘How would a salamander respond to this sitation?’ Invariably, I find the right answer.

Total Cat Mojo

by Jackson Galaxy

This comprehensive cat care guide from the star of the hit Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, Jackson Galaxy, shows us how to eliminate feline behavioral problems by understanding cats’ instinctive behavior.

I love Jackson Galaxy and I love his show My Cat From Hell, but I didn’t love this book. It took me over three months to finish. Although I think that says enough, I’m going to tell you a bit more:

It’s definitely a very complete guide to “being owned” by a cat, but much of the information wasn’t applicable to my life. I only have one cat, and a dog will be joining our household very soon. The cat-dog chapters were handy and will definitely be re-read in the near future. However, much of the information is about problem behaviors, or multiple cat households, or cats and children. I skimmed through those chapters.

It was interesting to read about the history of cats, and the different types of cats there are (beach dwellers, bush dwellers, tree dwellers). This book made me look at my cat in a different way, and for that, it was great. It was not what I was looking for (and this whole thing could’ve been avoided had I read up on it a bit more…), but it might be just what you (and your cat) need.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? No.

“Part of the issue is that we, perhaps subconsciously, look at cats through dog-colored glasses; that is to say, we expect them to communicate with us in a way that we can instantly recognize.”

Tiny Houses 🇳🇱

by Monique van Orden

More and more people want to live differently. A tiny house is a beautiful and smartly designed, often sustainably built house that is much cheaper than a traditional home. Less square footage, but more freedom. This beautifully designed book gives an insight into the tiny house movement. Tiny house people in The Netherlands and Belgium share their experiences and give the best tips & tricks for living tiny.

This is a book I will definitely be reading more than once. It provides a great base for people who have just learned about tiny houses and want to know more.

The book has just the right image-to-text ratio, providing us with beautiful photography as well as practical information on all the different aspects of tiny living: decluttering, storing, designing, building, and living. It also talks about the history of tiny houses, and how the movement got blown over from the United States to The Netherlands. In between the useful information, we get a glimpse into the lives of people who are currently living in tiny houses all across The Netherlands and Belgium.

I’m not 100% sure about my tiny house future yet, but this book gave me a lot of ideas and inspiration, and I’m excited for my next step: spending the night in a tiny house.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? Yes.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

by Eric Lindstrom

Contemporary YA novel about a girl mourning her brother, facing the loss of three friendships that used to mean everything to her, and struggling to deal with a condition that even her closest friends don’t know about. 

Thank you to Sarah (@booklovefortea on Twitter) for granting my bookish wish! Although I didn’t end up loving this book as much as I was expecting, I’m really thankful that you sent it to me.

I loved Eric Lindstrom’s previous book Not If I See You First, and figured his next work might also be my kind of thing. I love my mental health YA, after all.

Unfortunately, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful was just… average. Forgettable. I’m struggling even writing a mini review on it because I can barely remember a thing that happened.

I felt no connection whatsoever to any of the side characters, or the love interest. I could relate to our main character Mel a little bit because of her struggles, but didn’t care much for her either.

I like that the book mentions that bipolar disorder is different for everyone who suffers from it: it is definitely no ‘one size fits all’ kind of disorder. I learned a lot about it and that alone made it worth finishing. I’d love to hear from people with bipolar disorder who have read this, please tell me what you think of it!

Content warnings: bipolar disorder, death of a sibling, dementia, emetophobia. See more on my book trigger list.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? No.

“You’re not bipolar, Mel. You have a bipolar disorder. You also have vibrant blue eyes, a wonderful personality, a tendency to undervalue yourself, and many, many other things. None of those things are you.”

“What am I, then?”

“A person who changes and grows all the time.”

Notes on a Nervous Planet

by Matt Haig

Non-fiction about stress and anxiety in the digital age, tackling questions such as: How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? How do we stay human in a technological world? How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

Having loved Matt Haig’s first mental health non-fiction book Reasons to Stay Alive, I bought his follow-up Notes on a Nervous Planet on the day it came out.

Unfortunately I didn’t get as much of a positive, hopeful feeling from it as I did when I read Reasons, which is why I rated it only 3 out of 5 stars. Despite that, I still enjoyed it. Matt Haig does a fantastic job of making his books accessible, unlike so much other non-fiction out there.

Check out my full review on this book if you want to know more.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? Yes.

I sometimes feel like my head is a computer with too many windows open. Too much clutter on the desktop. There is a metaphorical spinning rainbow wheel inside me. Disabling me.

The Diary of a Bookseller

by Shaun Bythell

A year-long diary written by the owner of ‘The Book Shop’ in Wigtown, Scotland. Describes the daily life of a bookseller in a mostly secondhand bookshop, including weird customers, buying trips to old estates and auction houses, and the charms and horrors of small town life.

In my head, I referred to this as ‘the boring book’. The one I read in bed if I really needed to fall asleep soon. I finally finished it in no less than one month and 26 days.

I was told this was laugh-out-loud funny but although there were certainly some funny bits that I marked with post-its, I didn’t laugh once.

It was very UK-centric, meaning I had to look up a lot of words and people. The only person mentioned that I recognized the name of was Jen Campbell (from Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). I also kept forgetting who was who and what their story was.

I recognized myself in some of the customers described, like the guy who points out that a book is in the wrong section. I AM THAT GUY. EVERY TIME. Because of Bythell’s commentary on each customer, I am now terrified to ever step foot in a bookstore again for fear of being judged by the bookseller gods.

If you want to know the ins and outs of life as a bookseller, this is the book to read. Otherwise, it’s not worth your time.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? No.

Going through the books of a person who has died affords an insight into who that person was, their interests, and, to a degree, their personality, Now, even when I visit friends, I am drawn to bookcases wherever I see them, and particularly to any incongruity on the shelves which might reveal something I didn’t know about them.

Ginny Moon

by Benjamin Ludwig

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heartbreaking secret…
After years in foster care, Ginny is finally with parents who will love her. Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because something happened, a long time ago — something that only Ginny knows — and nothing will stop her going back to put it right.

Reminiscent of books such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and RoomGinny Moon (also sometimes titled The Original Ginny Moon) is written in a rather childlike voice, which is probably the only thing that kept me from rating it 5 stars. Although of course everyone on the spectrum is different, I felt like the writing style was a bit too juvenile for a fourteen-year-old. Compare it to the writing style of Rachael Lucas’ contemporary YA novel The State of Grace, about a fifteen-year-old autistic girl, and you’ll see a clear difference. (And I had thought the writing in that was juvenile when I read it.) It’s not something that bothers me to a great extent, but it’s certainly an interesting thing to have noticed.

If you know a thing or two about autism, you can definitely recognize the signs in Ginny’s behavior. Rules & routine are what keeps her sane, she doesn’t see danger, she takes everything very literally, and she would definitely ‘fail’ the Sally/Anne Test.

Ginny Moon is a great example of a story that shows that autism isn’t just this one way. Ginny is very sassy, which I loved. She struggles with lying but still occasionally tells lies, or deliberately keeps things from her family and therapist. Many people think that autistic people are incapable of lying or being manipulative, but I think that’s infantilizing and so it’s great that this book shows that autistic people are just as diverse as non-autistic people.

If you’re interested in reading about autism, child abuse, and the foster care system, definitely pick this one up.

Content warnings: child abuse. See more on my book trigger list.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? Yes.

So I say, “Wait — why did he write that?” And point to the very last word.
“You mean Rick?”
I nod my head yes.
“That’s his name,” my Forever Dad says.
“His name is Rick?”

Verlangen naar minder 🇳🇱

by Jelle Derckx

Because Dutch books are expensive and I wasn’t expecting this to be a new favorite book, I requested it from the library. It turns out I made the right choice, because it was only okay.

It starts off with the author’s personal story of how he was unhappy, became aware of the environmental impact of overconsumption, and changed his life to become a sustainable minimalist.
The first few chapters almost made me abandon this book. Never before have I rolled my eyes, sighed, and made gagging motions quite as much as when I was reading this…
My aro/ace ass is in no way interested in hearing about other people’s sex lives, but I don’t think I’m an exception in this. People pick up this book because they want to read about simple living, not about some guy talking about how he seems to be “even more attracted to women in Brazil”. 🤢 Honestly, if those chapters had been cut short, I might have given it 3 or 4 stars.

After trudging through these first chapters, it got a lot better — more like what I was expecting from a book about minimalism and sustainability. There were definitely some eye-opening paragraphs, even to someone like me who already considers themselves a minimalist.

I hear an English translation of this is in the making, so look out for that in the future!

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? No.

“Ken jij ‘m? Die verschrikkelijke eikel die steeds moet melden dat hij gelukkiger is zonder televisie en nieuws in zijn leven? Met trots kan ik zeggen dat ik die eikel ben.”

Geachte Heer M. / Dear Mr. M 🇳🇱

by Herman Koch

Once a celebrated writer, M’s greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. The book was called The Reckoning, and it told the story of Jan Landzaat, a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with Laura, his stunning pupil. Jan was last seen at the holiday cottage where Laura was staying with her new boyfriend. Upon publication, M.’s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.

That was years ago, and now M.’s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him. Why?

From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to The Reckoning, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.

When I was finishing high school, I read two of Herman Koch’s books in their English translations… for my Dutch class.
Now that I’m getting more comfortable with reading in my own language, I decided to finally tackle this one, as it has been on my TBR shelf since it came out.

Geachte Heer M. was a total cover buy for me. I just couldn’t resist the original Dutch hardcover edition, which is designed to look like a brown envelope. Instead of folding around the back cover of the book, the dust jacket folds all the way around the side, making it look like a package. Clever designs like this make me all excited and giddy about paper books again.

The book was so gripping, I couldn’t help reading it until the early hours of morning. Although the mystery did keep me guessing until the very end, the whole thing fell a bit flat for me. I’ve never been a big fan of Herman Koch’s dysfunctional characters, and I think that’s what kept me from loving this.

Would I bring this book into my tiny house library? No. (Sorry, beautiful cover.)

“By using the word ‘tolerance,’ you’re simply placing yourself on a higher plane than those you tolerate. Tolerance is only possible when one fosters a deep-rooted sense of superiority.”

Have you read any of these books?
Let me know what you thought of them so we can discuss!

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