books i read in december ❆
Here are all the books I read in the last month of 2018! Some quite mixed ratings but I'm really excited to have found some new all-time favourites✨
❇ No. of books read: 10
❇ Pages read:
❇ Genres: 2 classics, 1 memoir, 1 romance, 2 fantasy, 1 dystopian, 1 contemporary, 1 historical fiction, 1 poetry collection
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
This was just pretty mediocre for me. Rhys essentially tells what she imagines to be the backstory of Bertha Mason - otherwise known as ‘the mad woman in the attic’ - from Jane Eyre; her childhood, how she met Rochester, their relationship, but most importantly why she went mad. I definitely appreciated the idea behind Wide Sargasso Sea; Charlotte Bronte doesn’t give Bertha any history in her book, using her more as a sort of plot device, and so I enjoyed reading about her decline into madness as it allowed me as a reader to appreciate who she really was and why she ended up the way she did. I also enjoyed reading about post-colonial Jamaica and the great tensions that existed between white and black people within it arising from the exploitative way the British seeked to consume and control everything. The descriptions of the West Indies tropical countryside were also incredibly evocative. However, I could not get on with the weird fragmentary writing style; told in dream-like visions, some of the story almost felt fantastical which wasn’t what I expected at all and didn’t altogether love. I also was not impressed by the reason why Bertha supposedly fell into madness - she simply distrusts her husband because he doesn’t give her enough attention, and that’s why their relationship falls apart. Not very believable, or pro-woman either.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
This was a phenomenal memoir. Gay tells an incredibly vulnerable, heart-wrenching story with discussions of sexual assault and fat-shaming that left me reeling for days. I don’t think I will ever again come across a book that depicts obesity and what it is truly like to be fat woman in society in a more honest and thought-provoking way than this one, and I truly think the world is a better place with this book in it. I loved how she does not ask for pity, does not try to manipulate the reader’s emotions in any way - she simply tells her story as it is, with raw uncensored truth. I think Hunger will be a source of much-needed validation for so many women, and I applaud Roxane Gay for being brave enough to write it.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This was a perfect hate-to-love romance. Romance isn’t a genre I read often, but after this one I think I might check out a few more because it was definitely an enjoyable read. The angst and slow-build between Lucy and Josh was so addicting and at times I was literally laughing out loud which is so rare for me in books. I loved that Thorne paid attention to miniscule details, like the tendons in someone’s hands or the feel of fingertips on skin, that I’ve before seen skipped over in favour of just getting to the sex. However I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars because there were a few flaws I did pick up on and prevented me from fully connecting to the story. For example, we’re told at the beginning of the book that Lucy detests Josh, yet we never actually see him do anything bad to back that up. Aside from that there were also a few moments in Lucy’s dialogue that felt a little immature and even distasteful at times, but I did overall appreciate how she didn’t feel too stereotyped and her romance with Josh was adorable.
Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
I found a new all-time favourite series!!! I can’t even put into words how much I loved this duology. Leigh Bardugo’s talent for crafting complex, morally grey yet somehow incredibly lovable characters is exceptional; I was thoroughly invested in the story of every single character - especially of course our main six voraciously angry delinquents - and I don’t think I’ve read a book that give me this amount of stress in a long time because all I wanted was for this eclectic bunch to be okay!!! The Grisha world is a very dark, often seedy and violent place yet somehow I still wish I could go there, just so I can see the same sights and smell the same smells as Kaz Brekker (who, by the way, took over my entire soul). Amid the whole plot of a high-stakes heist, Bardugo still manages to tackle so many important themes in the most subtle, heartbreaking of ways; racial prejudices, human trafficking, PTSD, disability and so many more. Despite the narrative being split into six different perspectives, I loved reading from every single one of them and trying to pick a favourite would be an unbearable task. I definitely enjoyed Crooked Kingdom slightly more than Six of Crows purely because the stakes feel even higher, more backstories are revealed, some of my FAVOURITE relationships start to develop, we finally get to hear from Wylan’s perspective, but most of all because Jesper’s banter level goes up about ten notches and I lived for every witty line. Oh, and the ending had me absolutely bawling and my emotions purged from my body and spewed out all over the floor. I truly cannot recommend this series enough.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The main reason I decided to pick this up this month was sort of as wider reading for the Russia course of my history A-Level. I have to say, having a good amount of background knowledge definitely boosted my enjoyment of Animal Farm as even the slightest of clever allegorical references were recognizable to me from what I’ve been learning (and I hate not understanding stuff in books), but whether or not you’re an expert on Stalin this book is absolutely incredible and everybody should read it. The main moral message doesn’t just apply to the Russian revolution, but to the concept of a ‘revolution’ in general, and it will blow your mind. Everything about this was so clever. Even though the plot is simplistic, the symbols and caricatures Orwell incorporates into this story are so succinct and nuanced and allows him to drive home his idea with incredible intricacy. I now cannot wait to read 1984 and everything else George Orwell has written.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This was a pretty big disappointment to be honest. Never Let Me Go was one of the those very hyped literary novels that I was led to believe would ‘change my life’ - but I found it to be pretty mediocre, borderline unenjoyable. The narration was not for me, and made it incredibly difficult to truly connect to the characters; there were a lot of flashbacks to the main character’s childhood and it was hard at times to distinguish between past and present. She went off on a lot of tangents and told anecdotes that I either didn’t care about or didn’t think were relevant. To be honest, nothing else about this book has really stuck in my mind since I read it, and whatever impressive moral message it was supposed to deliver about fate and humanity sort of just went straight over my head.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
I wanted to love this way more than I did - Caitlin Moran is such an intelligent, enthusiastic woman who I love to hear express her opinions in interviews, but unfortunately I thought the way she tried to get her many different points across in How to Build A Girl was a little too heavy-handed and forceful. I really did like how Moran writes about a chubby teenage girl with a working class background, living in a cramped house in a deprived area, yet wants to conquer the world - it’s a perspective that I’ve never actually seen represented in fiction before, which is strange considering it’s many people’s reality. And I think there’s a lot of really great feminist advice for young women in here too. Oh, and I also loved how very British it felt. But call me prude, I found a lot of the talk about sex and masturbation and substance abuse to be a little too vulgar and rude and often repetitive. Even though Johanna’s desire to experiment with sex made a nice change in the way that it felt very realistic, it sometimes came across as a little cringey and tedious and I didn’t find myself rooting all that much for her relationships. Nevertheless, I would still recommend How to Build a Girl simply because I love Caitlin Moran so much.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I physically don’t have the words to express how much this book 1) broke my heart, 2) made me wish I had written it, and 3) made me fall in love with WW2 historical fiction all over again. I knew pretty much by the first chapter that this was going to become one of my favourite books of all time, and even now I’m fighting back tears just thinking about the vivid and beautiful story that Kristin Hannah tells. The Nightingale is an incredibly moving portrait of sister relationships amid the Nazi occupation of France, and what this meant for the wives, daughters and widows left behind. It’s a story that sheds light on the French Resistance and the largely untold ‘‘women’s war’ - in other words, the incomprehensible strength shown by women during this time of atrocity, their determination not only to survive themselves but to help others survive too. Isabelle is one of the most fierce and inspiring female heroines I’ve possibly ever come across in literature, while the hardship and grief Vivianne’s story encapsulates absolutely ripped me to shreds. The Nightingale reminded me of just how cathartic reading sad books can be, and I’m already planning to reread it again this year.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Milk and Honey, but the fact remains that I think Rupi Kaur is an absolute inspiration and her poetry is so important. I truly don’t understand how people can claim that her poems are ‘cliche’ when every word just feels so personal and carries so much emotional weight - or at least that’s what I take from her writing. While Milk and Honey dealt primarily with themes of feminism and the body and self-love, The Sun and Her Flowers brings in a whole section on immigration and being a refugee. Now I can’t say I related to or felt altogether empowered by these poems, simply because I can in no way relate to these experiences, but I must say that brown girls NEED to pick up this book. There is so much beautiful positivity and important messages about acceptance of your skin that I honestly think could change someone’s entire way of thinking. Something that really stood out to me in this book, though, was how much I wish Kaur would use a bit more punctuation in her poems - I kind of understand the stream-of-consciousness thing but sometimes the big long-winded sentences that ran on for several lines got a bit tedious and hard to follow. That being said, if you want to feel empowered and inspired, just pick up Kaur’s work.