Hello everyone! The end of January is upon us! And with that comes the very first of my monthly book reviews. OOoooo exciting stuff, am I right? This month I read: THE GIRLS (EMMA CLINE), BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY (HELEN FIELDING), MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE (SOPHIE KINSELLA), and PARIS FOR ONE AND OTHER STORIES (JOJO MOYES).
THE GIRLS - EMMA CLINE [4 stars]
"You wanted things and you couldn't help it, because there was only your life, only yourself to wake up with, and how could you ever tell yourself what you wanted was wrong?"
This, for me, was the kind of book that I enjoyed reading the first time around, but that I probably wouldn't fancy reading again.
The Girls is about an impressionable young girl named Evie who finds herself suddenly drawn in by a mysterious and alluring cult, with a Manson-type leader at the helm.
I gave it a 4-star rating as that's my default rating for any novel that ranges from slightly-to-mostly entertaining. I found myself eager to keep on reading whenever I settled down for a few chapters, as opposed to getting bored and daydreaming after just a few pages. That, for me, warrants 4-stars.
There were definitely parts that I did enjoy, which I thought Emma Cline did a fine job in creating. There was definitely vivid imagery throughout the entire novel - you didn't go through any scene feeling like you were getting only half of the story. The storyline itself was intriguing. You felt like at any moment, a pin could drop and the entire course of the novel would be altered. I'm always down for a good, suspenseful novel.
My major criticism of the novel as a whole was simply that I found it severely overwritten. As they say in Ocean's Eleven: "Don't use seven words when four will do". (Yup, I just quoted Brad Pitt in a book review... whatevs). [SPOILER] I also took some issue with the fact that Evie wasn't involved in, or even present for the murders. I felt a bit cheated if I'm honest. I waited for the length of the novel for a big climactic ending which ended up only being told through what Evie saw on TV or whatever. I would have much preferred a retelling of firsthand experience.
Overall, I thought that The Girls was an interesting take on teenage rebellion and the inner-workings of a cult. The characters were well-developed and the plot was nicely executed. Would be a good read for anyone interested in the Manson story and/or historical fiction.
BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY - HELEN FIELDING [4 stars]
"It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting 'Cathy' and banging your head against a tree."
Bridget Jones's Diary is the epitome of chick-lit. Written in the way of a personal diary, readers are introduced to the life of Miss Bridget Jones - a single, working woman who writes openly about her day-to-day struggles with her turbulent love life, her parental drama, and her career.
Though I hate to start off on a sour note, I think it may be best to get my complaints over and done with right away. My real issue with this novel is something very simple: I watched the film before the book. Bad move. I didn't only watch the film either - no, I watched the film a billion times, thus forming a deep love connection with it that could never be replaced by the book. Very bad of me, indeed. I have learned my lesson now. (Probably).
Book Bridget, I have since learned, is just as relatable to the modern woman as Film Bridget. She's a bit clumsy, quite awkward, very self-conscious - but also loveable and witty. I wouldn't say that Book Bridget made me laugh-out-loud like most who have read this book would say - but I did crack a smile once in awhile for sure.
I was very fond of the journal-style narration. I always enjoy when books substitute structured chapters for diary entries - it adds a bit of realism to the story. It makes for a quick and easy read, which I sometimes prefer over lengthy, wordier novels. I also quite liked the daily tallies of vices (i.e. alcohol, cigarettes, weight) that Bridget kept - and especially all the attached notes-to-self.
I did quite enjoy Bridget Jones's Diary. It was just the sort of fun novel that I needed to follow up a dark story like The Girls. It's the kind of book that I would want to take on vacation to read by the pool or on the beach. However, as I regrettably am not on vacation, I enjoyed it just as much while wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace on a rainy day. It's a cosy read for dreary days.
MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE - SOPHIE KINSELLA [3 stars]
"I think I've finally worked out how to feel good about life. Every time you see someone's bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too. Of course they do."
This was my first ever Sophie Kinsella novel. I went into it unsure of what to expect - all I knew is that it would be a cushy, chick-lit novel. With that, I thought it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, My Not So Perfect Life didn't really do it for me.
My Not So Perfect Life is about a young woman from the English countryside who has big city dreams. She wants the fabulous London life that she sees online, but slowly realizes that what she sees on the Internet is a far cry from the truth.
I enjoyed the overall storyline, and for the most part, the actual storytelling was well done. I just found that it was a tad overdramatic. Particularly the dialogue was what I wasn't so much a fan of. It seemed that every second or third line was an exclamation - which makes you wonder why these characters are constantly yelling at each other.
Although I did like the storyline, on the whole, there were bits I didn't like so much. For example - and I really should have seen this coming - the story is called My Not So Perfect Life and yet [SPOILER] Cat/Katie, the main character, does end up with a perfect life. She has a great job, newfound friendships with her boss and coworkers, resolved conflict with her family, burgeoning social media success, and a handsome wealthy boyfriend. And somehow, she tries to prove to you that her life is "not so perfect" by posting Instagram photos that show less-than-fab moments in her life. I would've preferred it if at least one thing had remained messy at the end of the novel.
One of my other little annoyances, which is a totally personal issue, was the character Alex. I never like it when books or TV shows have that token male character who has severe commitment issues, but the female character supposedly ~~changes them~~. (Logan Huntzberger, anyone?????). Blegh.
It was a good, fluffy read though. Definitely what I would consider a beach-read, much like Bridget Jones's Diary. Although I wasn't a huge fan of My Not So Perfect Life, it hasn't completely put me off of Sophie Kinsella novels. I just think I should've gone with my gut on this one, and tried out Confessions of a Shopaholic instead.
PARIS FOR ONE - JOJO MOYES [4 stars]
"'You don't ever do something just because it makes you feel good?' The assistant shrugs. 'Mademoiselle, you need to spend more time in Paris.'"
I really enjoyed Paris For One. I have been a Jojo Moyes fan ever since Me Before You so I was really looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed at all. I have an affinity for novels set in Paris, as it's my fav city, so this was just perfect for me. Paris For One seriously pulled at my heartstrings.
Paris For One is a short story that tells the tale of an English woman who gets stood up by her boyfriend on a weekend trip to Paris. Instead of going home, she decides to stick it out instead and she embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the City of Light.
I think what really drew me in was how strongly I identified with Nell, the main character. Like me, she is a bit reserved, a bit sheltered - not really one to be adventurous. But Paris For One is a story about finding yourself and finding your independence. That really inspired me.
As for the other short stories... I hate to say it, but meh. I wasn't really into them. I don't usually like short stories anyway (Paris For One being an exception). I'll quickly rate the other stories anyway, just for the hell of it.
Between the Tweets -- 3.5 stars
Love in the Afternoon -- 3 stars
A Bird in the Hand -- 3.5 stars
Crocodile Shoes -- 3 stars
Holdups -- 2.5 stars
Last Year's Coat -- 3 stars
Thirteen Days with John C. -- 2 stars
The Christmas List -- 3.5 stars
For more on my reading challenge and my book reviews, you can check out my GoodReads account here.