Monthly Wrap-Up: January

We are more than one month into 2021 and let’s be honest, we were expecting more weren’t we? We were hoping that a new year would be the end of the pandemic and the start of our ‘normal’ lives again. But instead, it’s been HARD. This lockdown in the UK has arguably been one of the worst. January always tends to be a difficult month anyway, but throw a national lockdown in there with no set dates/timelines in place for us coming out…yeah, thank God I’ve had my books with me.

I’ve noticed that I can get through one book every week, mostly reading in the evenings. I usually finish a book on a Friday night and pick my next one over the weekend. At the minute, my weekends aren’t busy, so I literally spend my days getting excited for the next book.

So let’s take a look at the books I read this month…

“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives–or to find strength in a very long one.”

Being over 500 pages, it took me longer than usual to read but like everyone had told me, it was an easy read. 

If you don’t know what The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about, then you’re in for a treat. The book follows a young woman named Adeline LaRue who, in 1714, unintentionally makes a deal with the devil in a desperate act to not marry the man her parents have found for her. The deal? That she will live forever but never be remembered. The moment someone turns away from her, she is instantly forgotten and can’t even write her own name. 

So we follow Addie throughout her 300 years of living in a kind of Forest Gump-style story that places Addie in some of the most important events in history. Yet in 2014, everything begins to change when Addie meets a mysterious man in a bookshop who remembers her… 

Although it took me ages to get through it, it felt a proper journey that I was on with Addie herself. I loved watching her live through decades of history and how she watched the world change before her. I also found it fascinating to see how she learned to worm her way out of sticky situations. 

However, as much as I loved the story, towards the end I felt like the story ended up being something else; more of a love story that felt like it was kind of thrown in at the last minute. I thought it could have easily been half the size it was. Had she focused more on the love story from the start, it would have felt more authentic.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 560
Genre: Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Abusive relationship, Alcohol abuse, Assault (physical and sexual), Death, Depression, Drugs, Prostitution, Sexism, Suicide (attempted), War
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“Category one is they can’t stomach the idea of a female colleague and nothing you do will change their minds. Category three is those that are supportive. Category two is the odd one. They tolerate you, but it’s because they’ve decided you’re an honorary man.”

From the start of the book, we follow Hillary in her law school years and in her early 20s where she meets and dates the infamous Bill Clinton. We see their relationship grow and begin to learn about Bill Clinton’s behaviour in his rise to political fame. Yet instead of marrying him and living a life of anxiety/worry, she decides to leave when she gets the opportunity and lead her own life. 

Hillary not only has to prove why she’s good enough to run the country, she also has to fight against the sexist beliefs instilled into generations of American voters. Not only does she have to behave more like a man so she can be heard by those around her, she also has to prove why she is a ‘good’ woman despite not being married or having children. The two consistently contradict each other throughout the book, with Hillary being referred to as ‘more like a man than a woman’ and having her relationship with Bill Clinton always discussed instead of her beliefs/policies. Even as a reader, you can feel the frustration and tiring effect it has on Hillary and her campaign. People don’t take her seriously because she’s either too manly or too womanly. She can’t do right from wrong. 

No matter your political stance, Rodham is a story about one woman’s rise to political fame/success in a world that ‘isn’t meant for women.’ Yet Hillary’s determination and dedication to continue on the path to get what she wants is probably one of the most encouraging parts to the story, even if it’s fictional. Oh, and the chapters featuring Donald Trump will give you a great giggle too.

Rodham

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 421
Genre: Fiction, Political
Trigger Warnings: Sexism, sexual harassment, sexual abuse
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets say.”

I had never heard of this classic until a few months ago when the new Netflix film sparked a huge influx in readers. I actually watched the film before reading and was shocked to see so many differences in the timeline of events in the film compared to the book.

The book starts off a bit slow and it took me a while to get used to the pace and the narrator. But once I was a few chapters in, I was hooked. I found the narrator’s style to be VERY (perhaps TOO) descriptive at times but I loved the details of every event.

If you’re unsure what the book is about, a young woman (our narrator) meets the affluent and popular Maxim de Winter whilst in Monte Carlo working as a kind of PA to an unbearable woman. Events transpire and Maxim and our narrator end up getting married and subsequently move back to Maxim’s grand mansion, Manderley. However, the house is riddled with the presence of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca and our narrator must learn how to familiarise herself in a house and life that isn’t hers. Yet when a dead body is found at the bottom of the sea close to Manderley, it washes up a whole different side to Rebecca’s story…

After finishing the book, it suddenly dawned on me how superb an author Daphne de Maurier is. The way she writes constantly puts the reader on edge and guides the reader to think one way, before brutally switching everything on its head. The constant references to the pungent smell of rhododendrons beautifully illustrates how Rebbeca’s influence is overwhelmingly hard to escape for our narrator.

A truly magnificent book that is as entertaining and relevant today as it would have been when it was released in August 1938.

Rebecca

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Virago
Published: 2015 (1938)
No. Pages: 428
Genre: Classic Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, sex, incest, unrequited love
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“We are still precious even with our flaws: they are part of what makes you.”

I understood the essay to be about mental health and nourishing yourself rather than beating yourself up when you feel sad/down. What I really liked about this one was that the author is extremely honest about her experience with mental health and mental health within her family. She writes this beautiful narrative about how it’s ok to ask for help and includes lots of helpful things to remember when things feel like they are too much.

I certainly feel (and have seen a lot of you talking about) that we are all struggling a little bit at the minute and it definitely feels like lockdown 3.0 has hit differently.

Break The Glass

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Publisher: Books That Matter
Published: 2021
No. Pages: 16
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, mental health, depression, anxiety, breakdown
Links: Goodreads

“You know the worst thing about a man hitting you? Ain’t the hurt. It’s that in that instant you realise the truth of what it is to be a woman. That it doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much better at arguing. It’s when you realise they can always shut you up with a fist. Just like that.”

This was my local book club read and to be fair, this book has been lurking around my TBR for quite some time now. I actually attempted to read it back in Jan 2020 but wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was then incredibly lucky to be involved with the press release for the paperback edition back in summer 2020 and NOW I’ve finally read it 😂

Now I know a lot of you that have read it, didn’t love it and you couldn’t get into it and I would agree with you. The first few chapters aren’t gripping and I found that I struggled to become interested in the story. But I managed to persevere and THEN I WAS HOOKED.

About 10 chapters in I realised that I was enjoying the story and forming quite a close connection with the two leading female protagonists, Margery and Alice.

The book for me was refreshing in the way that it gave a new narrative to a time period where women were often silenced and treated unfairly. Although Margery and Alice still experience unfair treatment from the patriarchal society around them, the story highlights the power of sisterhood and friendship.

I also love books that highlight the importance of books/reading and I loved Jojo Moyes’ narrative on how books were changing the lives of hundreds of rural/poor communities!

Overall, not the best book I’ve ever read but the imagery and characters were divine, and hit home a powerful message about sticking together.

The Giver of Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Racism, sexism, domestic abuse
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“Because there are men who are an answer to a biological imperative, whom I chew and swallow, and there are men I hold in my mouth until they dissolve.”

Ahh the book that EVERYONE seems to have read/reviewed. I have to admit when I saw all the hype around this book, I couldn’t resist an impulse buy and I had to bump it up a few places in my TBR too. I read this last weekend and it’s taken me some time to process my thoughts and feelings and decide how I really feel about this book.

All in all I really enjoyed it. It gave me Boy Parts vibes (if you’ve not read that then what are you waiting for?!?) and it made me realise that I really enjoy reading about problematic narrators and sexual relationships.

If you don’t know, Luster is about a young woman (Edie) who starts seeing an older white man named Eric. Eric is married and has an adopted black daughter, but it seems that his wife has agreed to a sort of open relationship and knows about Eric and Edie’s ‘relationship’ (if you can call it that). Edie then starts living with Eric and his family and the dynamic is just STRANGE.

There are a lot of racy scenes in this book, but overall I found myself feeling really sorry for Edie and the circumstances she found herself in. It’s like she thought so little of herself that she allowed Eric and other people around her to just use her as and when they pleased. I found myself wanting to just shake her and tell her she deserved SO much better. Yet, I suppose the circumstances she found herself in where a result of the questionable decisions she made.

Did I enjoy this book? YES!! Can I tell you why? No…I think it’s just one of them books that when you read it, you’ll understand what I mean. I wasn’t overcome with emotion and the story moves at a slow and steady pace, but the writing and descriptions are phenomenal and Raven Leilani is a true delight to read. I can’t wait to see what she brings out next.

Luster

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Picador
Published: 2021
Genre: Contemporary fiction
# of Pages: 227
Trigger Warnings: Sex, psychological abuse, BDSM, open relationships, adoption, racism
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

My February TBR is filled with a number of ARCs this month that I want to get ticked off before their publication date. I’m also reading Swing Time with Molly’s Book Club and Jane Eyre with my own book club, Let’s Get Classical.