books

February Book Reviews

Hello my loves,

Here’s everything I read in February!

Writers and Lovers – Lily King
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

A book that had been on my TBR for a while that I finally got around to reading. Writers and Lovers is about Casey, a young woman who has just lost her mother and is trying to write a book, get out of debt, navigate a life without her mother and try and find a place for herself in the world now that she feels she doesn’t have one. Casey is aimlessly wandering, trying to grieve and working constantly at a job that she knows will not get her out of debt no matter how hard she works. She wants to be a writer but she can’t write and her book is essentially half finished because life is a whirlwind and she has writers block – she doesn’t know what comes next. In her book and in her life. She meets people and has relationships with them and I thought the narrative was very well done and very real. If you like Sally Rooney you’ll like this book, it’s along the same lines, just softer. I only gave it 3 stars because I appreciated the writing and story, but I couldn’t relate in the same way that I would to Sally Rooney for example, and the parts that I did relate to, didn’t impact me as much as other writers / stories have done. It is a beautiful and well-written book though and Lily King will definitely be on my radar as an author to pick up again in future.

Play it as it Lays – Joan Didion
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

As part of my birthday present my friend did a “blind date with a book” type thing and this was one of the books she chose for me – I asked her to choose books not on my TBR and so when I saw this one I was really excited as it was something completely new – it’s my first Joan Didion. First of all, I love the cover and think it’s really cool, and secondly, the synopsis sounded super intriguing and I couldn’t wait to read it. Play it as it Lays is about Maria, a young woman / actress in Hollywood with too much freedom and not enough guidance. The book essentially captures a certain time period in her life when a lot of things happen and she’s completely lost but has also kind of lost the will to care about the fact she’s wasting away because she doesn’t know what she’s doing and no one is there to guide her. She has too much freedom and is very blasé about everything, so it’s all very glamourous and Hollywood-esque, like she’s wasting away and ruining her life because she needs help, and it’s a cross between everyone trying to help her to no avail, or everyone being too coked up and focused on starving themselves to care. As I said, this is my first Joan Didion as surprisingly she’s someone who has never been on my radar before, but I enjoyed the read and I’d like to pick up more of her work in the future.

No One is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

I feel like this book has been everywhere lately and the cover is one a lot of people will recognise. I bought this book because it was half price at Waterstones, I was sort of intrigued by it because it had been floating around for ages but mostly I just liked the cover. My friend says she told me not to read this book because it was quite frankly crap but I have no recollection of that conversation and so I bought it anyway and when she found out she went mad at me asking what the hell I’d done.

Pretty much, she was right.

I don’t know how to describe what this book is, the first half is a collection of paragraphs / long tweets about today’s internet culture…and none of it makes any sense. Maybe I’m just stupid, but half of the things I was reading I could’ve sworn weren’t English, just a bunch of weird eclectic words thrown together in an attempt at a sentence that only the most millennial internet 20 somethings would understand. It was all in code, but not normal code / internet slang, which I would’ve understood, but…well, I just felt like it was written for members of an elite snobby internet culture club which I wasn’t a part of. I didn’t understand 80% of it. Near the end of the first half I did get into a bit of a rhythm with it, but I think that’s because I was learning how to read the book better at that point I guess, but I didn’t rate it at all. Up until that point the book was a bland 2 star for me – I felt like it offered and added nothing to well, anything.

The second half however picked up, and I wonder why Lockwood decided to put both halves into the same book. I understand the connection because it was supposed to be a juxtaposition of what we think matters vs. what actually matters, but she could have easily separated the two and given us a book focusing on the latter 50% instead, which would have made for an overall much better read. The second half of the book is about her sister’s baby, who is born with Proteus Syndrome and is a magical light in everyone’s world – teaching them all about life and what really matters when it comes to considering what’s important. This I found quite moving and the only reason I bumped my rating up from a 2 star to a 3 star – do I rate Patricia Lockwood as a writer and think she put much effort into creating / writing this book however though? No, I don’t.

The Pisces – Melissa Broder
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

This book I refer to between friends as “sex fish” because well, that’s exactly what it is. This was my friend and I’s buddy read for February because of Valentine’s Day and well…Melissa Broder did not disappoint. The Pisces is about a 38-year-old woman called Lucy who’s unlucky in love, doesn’t really have a career and is basically living off of the funding for a paper she’s writing for the University, but doesn’t know for how much longer that funding will last because she never takes any time out or puts any effort into actually writing anything. Lucy is in a relationship with David and is adamant she doesn’t want marriage or children and at one point, David himself. She breaks up with him as she feels it gives her a sense of power since she is for the most part, emotionally unavailable, but is shocked when David agrees to the breakup. She then finds herself pining, chasing after him and wanting him back. At the same time, her sister (who lives on the beach front in California a million miles away) is going away for a few months and needs someone to pet-sit her beloved dog, Dominic. She forces Lucy to be that person in order to get away from the breakup, and also enrols Lucy in group therapy sessions for love and relationships. The book is about Lucy’s time in California, her group sessions – the women she meets there – the Tinder dates she goes on to try and fill the void and last but not least, a guy she meets on the beach one night, Theo.

The book is graphic and sexual therefore if you’re not into that kind of thing…don’t read. I read this in 2 days because I could not put it down – it was such a quick and interesting read and I found myself laughing out loud at some parts, which is rare for me in reading. Melissa Broder really captures the essence of dating, being alone and lonely, feeling unwanted, unattractive, and the things you’ll do in order to try and fill all of the different voids and copious amounts of time you have when you find yourself single and disgustingly sad in love. The fact that the longing and the sadness and the love make you physically ill like some kind of disease, and there’s nothing and no one that can fix it. I thought it was an excellent portrayal of real feelings mixed with a lot of exciting things happening, making it a real page turner. I only gave it 3 stars because it was good but didn’t impact me, but I definitely enjoyed reading it and will be reading more of Melissa Broder in future.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

This is a book I’d been wanting to read for a while and finally got around to. The book is about a Vietnamese-American boy writing a letter to his mother who can’t read and will therefore, never know what it actually is that he’s writing in the letter. I read this in a day and so I felt like I didn’t really have much time with it and whilst it was a beautiful book, it didn’t impact me as much I had thought it would, which is the reason it was on my TBR in the first place. I wasn’t disappointed or anything like that, I think I just expected the book to be different than what it actually was. I’m not sure if the fact that I read it in less than 24 hours contributed to this – maybe I didn’t have enough time with the book to really immerse myself into that world and soak up the words of story, but who knows. I appreciated it all the same, but it was just a 3 star for me. Disappointed I don’t really have much else to say about it.

Milk Fed – Melissa Broder
2/5 Stars
☆☆

After reading The Pisces I wanted to read more of Melissa Broder’s work, and Milk Fed was a book I had known about for a while. This book follows Rachel, a (basically non-practicing) Jew who works for a talent agency and is obsessed with calorie counting and weight. Trigger warning in this for eating disorders. The first quarter / third of the book was excellent, Broder really captures what it’s like to be obsessed with calorie counting and dieting – how much it controls you and your mind and completely takes over your life, how much you strictly believe that your worth and value rests within your weight and the number on the scale. As someone who has had disordered eating for most of their life and has been through (and continues to) battle these thoughts and problems daily, it was…I can’t think of a word, because it wasn’t comforting or nice but it was…good? To be able to read about these things put down in words, I guess. Rachel plans out every day how many calories she can consume and she has to strictly stick to this regime – her whole day consists of thinking about food and the next thing she’s going to eat (it was also strange because a lot of her food combos were things I also eat in order to get the most out of my daily calories). For example, Rachel goes to a fro-yo shop every day and always orders the same thing in the same size, because she’s calculated this meal and knows exactly how many calories are in it. The ice-cream cannot go above a certain line within the tub otherwise this will completely destroy her mentally and ruin her day, so it’s crucial that the server in the shop always does it perfectly and does not exceed this invisible line, otherwise it messes everything up. The usual server in the shop always does it perfectly and Rachel never has to worry, but one day she walks in to find a new server in the shop, Miriam, who disregards all of these rules and completely piles on the fro-yo within the tub, which basically causes Rachel to have a mental breakdown each time, and the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was yes, yes, yes. Me, me, me. Same, same, same. Exactly.

As Rachel visits the yoghurt shop daily, she strikes up a friendship with Miriam that then turns into a romantic relationship. Miriam is also Jewish and is strictly lager in size than Rachel, as she is happy to eat what she wants – this rubs off on Rachel who ends up putting on weight and spiralling because of it. Miriam’s family would not accept a romantic relationship between two women and so Miriam and Rachel have to keep their relationship private, which is difficult for Rachel who would rather not do this, although she understands since she is also Jewish, if not really practicing.

Towards the last 40 / 30 % of the book I was getting very tired of all of the graphic and in my opinion, unnecessary sex scenes. In the Pisces it felt fine because it felt like it added to the story, whereas in this one it was just…gross? Vulgar, almost. Just Rachel constantly graphically fantasizing and talking about Miriam as if she was some sexual object, to the point where it was making my stomach churn to read the sexual content within the book as it was actually making me feel a little sick. I think Broder just went a little too far with it. As I said, it was bordering on the lines of vulgar. I know I’m not the only one who thought this either because there were a lot of Goodreads reviews saying the same. I’m not prudish and I really enjoyed the Pisces but this one was just…I kept thinking, poor Miriam. I just didn’t like the way she was fantasised and fetishized and just…yeah, it was vulgar. I dropped my rating from a 3 star to a 2 star at that point because I was finding it uncomfortable to read, whereas before I’d been flying through it and enjoying Rachel and Miriam’s relationship.

It’s a shame, because Broder is a good writer. For me personally I wish there’d been more emphasis on the eating disorder side of the story, as it was kind of non-existent within the second half of the book or at least, there was definitely not as much focus and emphasis on it as there was in the first half, which kind of counteracted the whole point that Rachel was completely obsessed with food and counting calories when she then didn’t seem to really think about it at all in the second half. We could say that was due to her new infatuation with Miriam and so on and so forth, but still.

Broder is also really good at describing food, especially ice-cream – it all sounded so delicious and yummy the way she went into detail, I was practically salivating. It really drove home Rachel’s eating disorder, how much attention she paid to food, how much she was obsessed with it, the temptation to eat it, the resistance not to etc. and so I wish we could have had more of that later on.

Overall just a little disappointing towards the end, which I also thought was quite rushed, like Broder had realised she’d reached her page limit and so had to fold everything up into a box quickly in order to put it away. Milk Fed hasn’t put me off reading more of her work in future but, I probably won’t be as quick to pick it up this time.

I was Born for This – Alice Oseman
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

Alice Oseman is a comfort author for me and her books are what I turn to when I want something easy and safe to read, which is how I felt after reading Milk Fed. This is the only Alice Oseman book I hadn’t read yet and so of course, I did just that. This book is essentially…One Direction / Larry fan fiction. Not as in, it was originally a 1D fanfic that got turned into a book, but it’s pretty much what it’s based on. It’s about a worldwide famous British band called The Ark, with their three members Jimmy, Rowan and Lister. Lister is the best looking one from the group and everyone’s favourite, Jimmy is transgender and has a panic disorder, and Rowan is the leader and has a secret girlfriend, oh, and all of their fans believe that Jimmy and Rowan are in a secret relationship, and ship “Jowan” (aka Larry) ‘til the death. The book has two POVs – Jimmy’s and their number one fan, Angel. Angel meets her best friend Juliet on Tumblr through bonding over The Ark, and she goes to stay with Juliet (and meet her for the first time) in London for a week, as they’ve got meet and greet tickets to meet and see The Ark at the O2 Arena on their tour, and it’s the biggest thing they’ve got going on in their lives. Ever.

The book is basically about how everything is not what it seems, aka The Ark look perfect from the outside but on the inside there’s a lot of internal struggles and everything is not as rosy as it looks. It’s about Angel realising that she can’t make her entire life about a boy band and that actually, they’re people just like her, and she doesn’t know them. It is very unrealistic in a lot of ways, like the fact that she meets them and essentially becomes friends with them and ends up staying at one of their family’s houses…even though The Ark are One Direction level famous and of course in the real world that would never happen, but there you go. I wasn’t mad at it, which I guess shows Alice Oseman’s level of writing, since normally I’d be bashing my head against a wall and ranting over how ridiculously unrealistic the whole thing was. It’s probably my least favourite out of all of Oseman’s books but still, a fine 3 star read for me.

Love Her Wild – Atticus
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

Poetry books are so expensive for what you get in my opinion and whilst I admire and have dipped in and out of poetry over the years, the Instagram-style poetry we seem to get from authors these days prevents me from really getting into it. This particular poetry collection had been on my TBR for years and so when I saw it as an ebook I thought I’d give it a read. Low and behold…it was below average as per. There’s nothing much I can really say about it apart from the fact it was Instagram / Tumblr style poetry, like milk and honey all over again. The photos in this were beautiful, but as for the rest? It’s a no from me.

The Universe of Us – Lang Leav
4/5 Stars
☆☆☆☆

I thought I’d give another lot of poetry a go after Atticus disappointed me and I’m pleased to say that Lang Leav did not. First of all, the cover of this book is beautiful, I’d really like a physical copy of it. There were a lot of poems in here that I screenshotted because they were really nice – even the shorter ones managed to still pack a punch and not fall into the category of crappy Instagram poetry. A really nice body of work.

On Cats – Charles Bukowski
2/5 Stars
☆☆

A poetry collection from Charles Bukowski…on cats. However, I don’t like cats. Or this poetry collection, subsequently.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt
5/5 Stars
☆☆☆☆☆

I know it’s only February but, my favourite read of the year. If anything tops this I will be amazed.

Where to even start with this book. I’ve known about it for years and it’s been on my TBR for years, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it…until now. When I was in London I decided to finally buy it and well…I’m so glad I did. Let me start off by saying that dark academia is by far my favourite genre, and I’d read the synopsis for this book a couple of times over the years but off the top of my head couldn’t have really told you what it was about, I just knew it was something along those lines. The physical version of this book is *chef’s kiss*  – the perfect paperback if you’re thinking of buying it, the pages are really thin and white (not like your usual yellow / thicker / card-like pages) and it’s so floppy. It was so nice to physically read. Anyway, this book follows 6 prestigious college students in Vermont – Richard, (the narrator, who is telling us the story after the fact), Henry, Francis, twins Charles and Camilla, and Bunny (real name Edmund) who’s 24 and older than the others because he failed a couple of years of school.

Let me preface this by saying that my explanation of this book will do it absolutely no justice because it’s so brilliant nothing I write could ever convey it. The book is about Richard who moves to college and wants to join the Greek society as he has studied it for the past 2 years. He’s told he can’t because the professor, Julian, only accepts 5 students per year and is incredibly selective with whom he chooses, and unfortunately all of the spaces for this year have been filled.  Long story short, Richard does finally become accepted into the class and subsequently finds himself hanging out and spending all his time with his fellow 5 classmates, an eclectic bunch that are quite mysterious and who no one really knows much about. The first page depicts a murder, and I wonder how Donna Tartt can tell you on the first page that they murdered him (no spoilers) and then keep you reading for another 600 pages to find out about it.

Here’s my final Goodreads review –

“i love this book so much i want to cry, i would give it 10 stars if i could. one (or two) words – absolutely impeccable. i didn’t want to stop reading. i’m so sad it’s over, i wish the story would never end. i loved the characters and being in this world so much. donna tartt writes with the exquisite intellect and elegance i crave to read about, and this story was perfect in every way. this is why i read books. this is why i love reading so, so much. amazing. i am in awe.”

The characters were simply excellent, I loved Richard, my favourite was probably Henry. I love the locations – as I said, dark academia is my favourite genre and so for this to be rich – in every sense – prestigious, set at college, set in the countryside etc…it was just perfect. I loved the writing so, so much. It was absolutely impeccable, so elegant, educated, sophisticated, articulate…the list goes on. The plot…insane. I’ve heard some people call this book boring and say that nothing happened in 600 pages and it actually angers me that someone could dare say that because I will not hear it. Clearly those people must have read a completely different book, or they don’t know how to read at all. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but…those opinions are wrong. I literally will not hear it.

Also, it was funny. There were such natural funny moments, the dry humour was impeccable. The humour wasn’t deliberate because the characters were never trying to be funny but that’s what made it so funny in the first place, I found myself laughing out loud at different intervals throughout the read. The whole thing was just completely perfect.

Everything I could’ve ever wanted in a book and more – I would give this 10 stars if I could. I’m so, so sad the story is over. I could’ve read about those characters and that world forever. This is one of my new favourite books, completely. Absolutely perfect in every way.

Of Women and Salt – Gabriela Garcia
3/5 Stars
☆☆☆

One that had been on my TBR for a very long time that I finally got around to reading – synopsis as following –

“From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals—personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others—that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women.”

It was a nice book and I enjoyed it, around the 40% mark I was thinking it might actually be a 4 star read but as I continued on it turned out to be just a 3 star but still, very nicely written and I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to read more of Gabriela Garcia’s work in future – would recommend picking this one up!

And there we have it loves – let me know if you’ve read any of these!

All my love,

Chloe .xx

Goodreads – ChloLuna

7 thoughts on “February Book Reviews

  1. The Secret History was in my TBR for ages. I thought of searching online for the pdf version of the book but then decided against it, because I know the physical is superior. I definitely need to get it as soon as possible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think as a reader it would be such a shame to stick to only one genre when there’s so many amazing different stories and authors out there (unless of course you do just want to read only one genre / author which is perfectly okay !!) I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on The Secret History if you read it, I’d recommend it 100000% as I said, if anything tops it as my best read of the year I’ll be amazed !! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your review of No One is Talking About This made me laugh so much! I haven’t read this book, but I think I’ve come across several that fall into a similar category. Leaky prose-y books with lots of words but nothing to say, but I’m glad it picked up a little in the second half!

    Also, I’ve been seeing The Secret History absolutely everywhere for several years now (my mom and my grandmom loved it, too), but this is the first time I’ve actually felt like picking it up. I have been a bit daunted by how long it is, and also by the fact that I thought it was non-fiction all this while (???), but wow, favourite read of the year – definitely putting it on my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh so glad that could give you a laugh haha! Definitely would avoid if you can – too many other great books out there to read instead!

      I would 100000% recommend The Secret History Arshia, it’s incredible! I really think you’d love it. It can definitely be daunting because of how long it is but honestly I wish it was 6000 pages instead of 600 because I never wanted the story to end, I absolutely devoured it and it was such a wonderful experience and journey. Definitely let me know your thoughts if you do end up reading it !! xx

      Liked by 1 person

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