February Book Reviews

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This post is so overdue. I meant to post this about a week ago but things got so busy all of a sudden that I had to postpone writing this. But, finally, I'm ready to share my February reviews with you guys!! I only read 4/5 of the books I'd scheduled to read this month because, like I said, everything got crazy all of a sudden. So I'm just gonna tack the last book - Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - onto my March TBR. To read last month's reviews, click here.

This month I read: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA (BECKY ALBERTALLI), THE PRINCESS DIARIST (CARRIE FISHER), UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES (LOUISE GORNALL), and THE HELP (KATHRYN STOCKETT).

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SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA - BECKY ALBERTALLI [5 stars]

"He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to." 

Oh my god. THIS BOOK. I have not been this in love with a YA novel in a very long time, probably not since Anna and the French Kiss. Just the fact that I rated it 5 stars says enough, as I'm so reluctant to rate any book that high. But this one truly deserved it. Becky Albertalli has gone above and beyond.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is about a sixteen-year-old boy named Simon who is hiding a huge secret: he's gay. Everything is seemingly going pretty good for him - he's got a great friend group and an online correspondence with an anonymous boy whom he happens to like. But when someone discovers his e-mails and threatens to expose the two boys as blackmail in return for Simon's help, everything flips upside down.

Lemme start by saying that I don't think I've ever read a book with an LGBT main character. I don't even know how that's possible. It actually really bums me out because I have read a lot of books - I'm really slacking!! I've now made it my mission to find and read as many books with a diverse cast of characters as I can.

There's not really much I didn't like about this book, so I'll just point out some of my favourite things. First of all, thee-mails. The e-mails between Simon (known as Jacques) and Blue are clever, amusing, and sexy. I actually found myself laughing out loud at times. One of the things I often find with young adults novels that puts me off of them is that characters act and speak more mature than they are, but I didn't find that a problem with Simon. The kids acted like kids; they did immature things, they made mistakes and they were reprimanded for them. I really respected that. Even the use of Tumblr was appropriately used and really spoke to my generation. And, of course I have to mention, the romance between Simon and Blue was so. flipping. perfect. It seriously pulled at my heartstrings.

(I'd also like to ~casually~ point out - aka brag - that I correctly guessed the identity of Blue about halfway through the novel. No biggie.)

I would recommend this novel to anyone and everyone. I think that it's such an important conversation starter on sexuality and adolescence. It's funny and smart. It reminds me of what I've always loved about young adult novels. Please please please please please please please give Simon a shot. I'm serious. GO READ THIS BOOK. Especially if you're planning on seeing the film adaptation Love, Simon next month. Read the book first. You won't regret it, I promise.

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THE PRINCESS DIARIST - CARRIE FISHER [4 stars]

"I'm afraid that if I stop writing I'll stop thinking and start feeling." 

I ought to start this off by saying that I am a massive fan of Carrie Fisher. And of Star Wars, for that matter. God, 16-year-old me would never imagine me saying that. ANWAY. I've been wanting to read this memoir for a very very very long time and boy, am I glad that I finally got the chance to.

The Princess Diarist (can we take a sec to appreciate that title?!) is a memoir by actress Carrie Fisher about her time spent filming the first of the Star Wars saga back in 1976. In this book, Carrie discusses for the first time ever her love affair with co-star Harrison Ford and releases pages directly from the journal she kept during the filming of Episode IV - aka the first Star Wars film.

My family is really big on Star Wars. Like really big. It all started with my mum, who's been a fan since the original trilogy was released. Then my bf came along and he got into it. So, succumbing to peer pressure, my dad and I started watching with them and by the time Rogue One came out, we were hooked. Part of what grabbed my attention, of course,  was the absolutely bad-ass, irreplaceable Princess Leia. And then I started watching interviews of Carrie Fisher and realized she was even more bad-ass. So when I heard she was releasing this book, I had to get it.

The Princess Diarist is quirky and fantastic. I think the book really shows how honest Carrie Fisher was, as it leaves out no detail no matter how embarrassing or shameful. She never tries to impress you or make you think she's something that she's not. Carrie is unapologetically authentic and I loved that.

What I found so interesting about this book was how unavoidably eerie it was that Carrie repeatedly made mention of her own mortality. She made several comments about her legacy and her death. Given the proximity of this book's release to her untimely death, it is just vV strange. Yet, on the other hand, I think this book was meant to be released just when it was - bear with me for a sec. The story of her and Harrison - or "Carrison" as she puts it - was one that Carrie had been holding onto for such a long time - forty years, in fact. It was the last story she had to tell. Again, eerie.

I love memoirs. I love hearing true stories. I think we get so wrapped up in seeing celebrities as celebrities and not as what they actually are: real people. It's sometimes hard for people to separate Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher. People forget that Carrie isn't a space princess fighting off bad guys. This book, I think, alters the perspective. Carrie's a person, like you and me. She's an actress, a mom, a daughter, a human. She makes mistakes, she falls in love, she gets embarrassed. And sometimes, she even hooks up with her married co-star.

I love this book. Would I recommend it to non-Star Wars fans? ..... Probably not. She talks about the series a lot. So, if that's not your thing, this probably isn't for you. However, if you are a fan, then def give this one a go. You won't be disappointed.

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UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES - LOUISE GORNALL [4 stars]

"See, anxiety doesn't just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn't leave." 

Where, oh where, was this book when I was in high school???????

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a young adults novel about a teenaged girl named Norah who suffers from severe anxiety, agoraphobia, and OCD. She suffers so greatly that it is practically impossible for her to leave her house. Her life flips upside down when she meets the new boy next door who wants to be a part of her life.

Let's talk aout the mental illness representation for a sec. In the six agonizingly long years that I have suffered from severe, sometimes debilitating, diagnosed anxiety disorder, I have never related to any person or book like I did to Rose. I can't even tell you how important it is to me that this book exists. I feel like I spend at least half of my life explaining my anxiety to people and having them respond with, "Ohhhhhh so you get stressed out a lot." IT'S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. And this book really shows that. The depiction of anxiety in this book was so spot-on that I was for real questioning if I'd written this myself haha. So many times when I was reading this book, I'd turn to my boyfriend and go, "Oh my god, Norah does so-and-so just like me, I can't believe it." I haven't come across a lot of people in this world who understand how things, like reading the newspaper or going out your front door, can be anxiety-inducing. But Norah did. Although I don't struggle with anxiety as severe as Norah's, her experiences and daily struggles really resonated with me.

I did have this awful premonition in the first third of the book that Luke, the boy-next-door, would end up ~saving~ Norah by somehow curing her mental illness with ~~love~~. Blegh. For a second, I was ready to put the book aside and forget it.Thank god I kept reading. Overall, the relationship between Luke and Norah was sweet and realistic. Sometimes I think that YA authors forget that teens are awkward, nervous, and most of all, romantically inexperienced. I like how Norah doesn't know what she's doing, relationship-wise. I also really appreciated how Norah's mental illness never took a backseat to her relationship with Luke and wasn't used as just a plot device to get the two love interests together.

[SPOILER] I did have a teeny issue with the ending. Ok, maybe a medium-sized issue. It seemed pretty rushed if I'm honest. The home invasion came out of nowhere, and ironically enough, actually kinda triggered my anxiety. Irrelevant but ANYWAY. The whole ending seemed thrown together really suddenly, like a last min addition, and was a bit lacklustre in my opinion.

Overall, definitely a good read. I would absolutely recommend this to all. I actually think this would be the perfect book to assign to students in high school, as it's a great conversation starter and seriously brings light to the topic of mental illness. I would totally read this again.

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THE HELP - KATHRYN STOCKETTS [2.5 stars]

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

The Help tells the story of racism in southern USA during the Civil Rights Movement, told from the perspectives of three women. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is a white socially elite woman from a plantation-owning family who decides, with the help of two black women named Minny and Aibileen, to write a book that shares the stories of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi.

Okay. I'm just gunna come out and say it, even though probably the entire world won't agree with me on this. I did not like this book. I know. I can't believe it either. Especially after I'd heard so many good things about The Help, I was shocked to have not enjoyed it myself. You're probably thinking, "This girl is crazy!!" right now. But just here me out.

Unlike the majority of people, I did not read this book when the rest of the world did, which was right after it came out when it started to gain a whole lotta of hype. I've only just read it now, nine years later. That's a long time. If you don't know, in the time since this book was published, a woman named Ablene Cooper came forward and sued the author, Kathryn Stockett, for damages because she claimed that Stockett used her as a basis for the character Aibileen - Cooper used to work as a housekeeper for Stockett's brother. Now I am by no means about to go into a full analysis of whether or not Stockett did use Cooper's story in The Help, but hearing about the lawsuit did get me thinking about the voices of black men and women, and how they are drowned out by those of white people. In the novel, the black maids literally risk everything - their jobs, their families, even their lives - to share their stories to help Skeeter write her book. But their stories, their voices, are eventually filtered through Skeeter - a white woman. And it seems like the only ones who recognize the true sacrifice and heroism of Minny and Aibileen are other black people; even Skeeter doesn't truly understand what they've risked for the book.

I also kind of felt like the book favoured Skeeter over every other character. It felt to me like the novel was entirely focused on Skeeter, and that Aibieen's and Minny's stories were more for the purpose of background information - which was super uncool. It's almost like The Help is a coming-of-age novel about Skeeter growing into an independent grown woman and that her writing this book was just a plot device. Idk it just seemed sort of off to me.

Something that I did like about the book, however, was the relationship between Minny and Aibileen. I love seeing the unity among women in books, and in contrast to the toxic relationship between Hilly, Elizabeth, and Skeeter, the one between Minny and Aibileen was very refreshing. I also thought that relationship between the Foote's and Minny was much better than that of Skeeter and the black maids.

I don't really know what else to say about this book. I struggled to even finish it, if I'm honest. I think that after seeing the film, which was a dramedy, I was expecting the book to be meatier - as in a serious discussion on the Civil Rights Movement. But it didn't quite live up to that expectation. I think that the whole lawsuit between the author and her brother's housekeeper, plus the fact that the author was a white woman from Jackson, put a bad taste in my mouth. I think that if this book had been written by a POC, with a different perspective on the story, then it would've been a better book imo.

Anyway, that's all for this month. Hope you all had a fab February!

Felicia x