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Reviews & recommendations!
THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS - ELENA FERRANTE
This book is a very blunt, very true book about growing up, revelations and feelings we entail on the way. I didn't find this book to be extravagant in terms of storytelling. There was no real cliffhanger every time I finished a chapter or page, so if you're looking for something that keeps you hooked in terms of fiction, I would look elsewhere. On the other hand, that doesn't take away from the beauty of the literature. I felt a real difference from other books in terms of setting and culture, since it is set in Italy and translated, it gives a real sense of distinction between most books I've read and I'm glad more light is coming to authors like Elena Ferrante.
Furthermore, I did relate to this book on a deeper level. Set in Naples, Italy, it follows a young girl on her triumph and catastrophes through puberty and adulthood. She starts out surrounded by a generic love and warmth, it is everything we expected a 'normal' family to be. Protected by her father, they share a deep love for each other, a barrier between the young girl and the real world. She does well in school and has two best friends who are like her family, but just like most of us, she soon uncovers the lies that have been placed between her and the hurdle that is reality.
From affairs and expectations from adults to her own personal life, it truly shares the authentic issues of human life. I appreciated the effort from the author to include the ugly thoughts of this young girl. Too many times we enjoy books for the simple fact that we can attach ourselves to the main character for being 'good'. Though it's fiction, sometimes it makes us feel good for the main character to do ugly things, but for the author to still forecast the narrative that they are good. I don't agree.
I highly appreciated the writer's efforts in translating the true emotions of each of these characters. I enjoyed the "ugly", a word used frequently within this story, and I took away that ugly is not so ugly after all. It is real. I understand this girl, the transition from a child, losing her close father bond and the realisation that a lot of the men in her life don't see her the same way anymore resulting in making her feel ashamed and cover herself up. As a young girl, I used to do the same. I wore baggy shirts and jeans, I made myself generally "ugly" in hopes of not being truly recognised and judged. She did not seem to realise that her honesty and awareness alone made her beautiful, if she just let herself live outside of her head, she could have been a lot happier.
The girl looked for a lot of male validation, stemming from her father who she watched leave her and her mother for a close family friend in an unexpecting affair, the story shows us that life is not what it seems when we're younger. It seems she gave up on their relationship and looked for validation elsewhere. Her father was incredibly academic, he read, wrote and was a professor, and she soon finds someone else she idolises but also wants more from, a man a lot older, a man she can't have. It comes to her a few times after meeting that she wants more than just sex, she wants to share his mind and his love for his passions. The ironic part is that after seeing her father betray his wife with someone else, and her aunt betraying another woman by interfering with her husband, she is also perfectly okay with doing it herself due to her own desires. It is also worth noting that her father looks up to this man too, so for me, this was a clear correlation in the men she looked for to fill that void of abandonment between father and daughter. She chose one that was clever and concise like her father, yet she would not reconcile fully with her father himself.
For some, this may be difficult to understand as it is vulgar in parts, but I think that is what's so beautiful about the book. Not many authors write like this in fear of being judged, but I thoroughly relate and find truth in the vulgarity of the lead, Giovanna. From her parents to her sexuality, I appreciated the comments she made, it made me feel seen as a young girl who went through the same experiences. In the end of the tale, it seems she comes to terms with things not being so perfect, it made my heart smile knowing that even though experiences may not be "perfect" she was content with that, and at times enjoyed it.
I am recently enjoying this new stream of books being released that focus more on the underlying message rather than the drama of the story. I would definitely give this a read if the genre is your type of thing, it is a book a person can take away from in their own way, and I hope you enjoy this too!
3 1/2 stars
DEAR DOLLY, ON LOVE, LIFE AND FRIENDSHIP - DOLLY ALDERTON
After reading Dolly’s first book “Everything I know about love” I knew I had to pick this up when I saw it staring back at me in Waterstones. Dolly’s writing made me feel at home with the chaos of growing up, relationships and life. Her first book spoke like a true diary of the things we all experience from the ages of 16 onwards, I enjoyed reading about her judgements through adolescents and early adulthood, which I then looked forward to reading more about with this book too.
I didn’t realise when I picked this up that it was more of a curation of advice articles and less of a chronologically written book. As I said, I love her writing and find her incredibly kind and relatable, but as this is a book review, I recommend you buy the Audio version or a cheaper alternative online rather than the hardback. I am incredibly aware when it comes to book reviews that it’s different to each person, as I understand from personal experience the art of literature and how one can pour their soul into a book, it is very personal no matter what genre. That being said I don’t think this is worth the sixteen pounds I paid which is extortionate pricing on my behalf for a book. Though I think this is more the fault of advertising than it is the actual book, I didn’t expect it to be as newspaper-like as it was.
The way it is written is in the style of advice articles, split into 7 small chapters (dating, friendships, relationships, family, breakups & exes, body & souls ), it presents the issues of the audience who write in, with hopes that Dolly will reply with an answer or piece of advice for their hardships. Each question from the audience involves a short answer from Dolly which is around 3 pages long until it moves onto the next question from someone writing in. I finished this in a day but found it to be one of those books I could put down and pick up anytime without being truly emerged, which is why I read it so quickly as I prefer not to indulge half-heartedly in a book.
This book was lovely, with a friendly chatter behind the writing which I always appreciate from Dolly, but I do think it could have given us more considering the advertisement and the similarity in cover to her last one, which lead me to believe it was a lot more substantial inside, but I do think this could have been easily accessed on a blog or newspaper/magazine. I found it to be under-whelming but that isn’t a reflection on the actual writing. Maybe it could have been explained better or had a little more something added to it! Nothing major but if you like Dolly it’s a nice beach easy read. Enjoy!
2 1/2 stars
AS GOOD AS DEAD - HOLLY JACKSON
AHHHH! This fucking series. WOW.
Let me start by saying as much as I love reading, I’ve never been a ‘series’ type of girl. I’m not sure if that’s due to my ADHD brain, or just not finding the right ones. But I never knew this was even a series until the second book, and I found myself so excited to buy the third and last one when I did.
‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ starts out in a town called Little Kilton, following a young girl ‘Pip’ who has a keen interest in crime and murder cases. Soon, strange things start to happen in the town and Pip finds herself knee-deep in investigating them, taking over the role of the police and finding out more than they ever will. The books intensify through each one as we get to see more than just her justice skills, but also into her personal life and how her relationships grow.
The way this book is written is addictive. Holly Jackson has an incredible way of confusing you just when you think you know what’s going to happen next or who is guilty. I thought I was sure at times, only to be met by a cliffhanger that made me NEED to keep reading. This is one of those novels that makes you forget you’re even reading and when you stop it almost makes you sad that Pip isn’t real. I felt an attachment to her and everything she was, which shocked me in the last book but also made me incredibly empathetic to what she has gone through, not to mention this happens to people in real life which makes the story even more touching as Holly did a great job of making the audience understand how this type of situation can play out.
I truly loved this series, and I'm sad it’s over, but I will without a doubt be reading more of Holly Jacksons’ books as I’ve never been so hooked! I won’t spoil any more for you, but If you’re looking for a series and you don’t usually read them, these are for you!
NOVEMBER 9 - COLLEEN HOOVER
Colleen Hoover. The evermore controversial author that is taking over the winds of TikTok and social media. Some hate her, some love her, but the one thing you can’t deny is the dispute attached to her name.
I’ve read a few of her books so far and I’m not a hater of them. I think they’re very “easy” reads in my opinion, the type you read on a beach for comfort, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I go through months of reading cheesy romance novels before I touch an introspective piece that may teach me something. The way they are written makes them more straightforward to comprehend.
Though I’ve read a few and thought they were okay, I wasn’t the biggest fan of November 9.
The book follows a young woman called Fallon, an aspiring actress whose world was rocked when she was caught in a fire, which she blamed her father for. The left side of her body was scarred, and she feels shame for this, her father reminds her consistently that her “lack” of beauty is the reason why she no longer receives acting jobs, and whilst sitting in a restaurant, Ben, overhears this unpleasant conversation and takes it upon himself to act like her boyfriend in order to make her father feel bad.
They spend the rest of the day together before Fallon moves to New York on the night to pursue a career on Broadway, and they hit it off well. Soon after they agree to meet every year on November 9 and so the story follows each year they meet.
I found the narrative to be a little condescending, to be honest. I dislike the way Hoover made Fallon to be so insecure about something like ‘scars’, and the only way she felt a little confidence was from the male validation that Ben gave her. Whilst it is a story, I think this plotline is a little outdated and can do more harm than good for people reading. The way it was written felt rushed and I wasn’t stimulated at all, even for an easy beach read. It was incredibly predictable; they did the same thing every year and it was obvious what was going to happen in the end. There was a small plot twist, but I do think even that could have been executed better, and in real life, I’m not even sure a happy ending would have happened, it was a little damsel in distress but made me cringe because no woman would actually act like Fallon (I hope). Instead of evenly spreading that plot twist out, it was just, boring boring boring, OH! Bored again knew this was going to happen…
As you can probably tell I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I thought the way it was written and structured was weak and could have been more thought out, from the execution to the actual story, I couldn’t wait to finish!
CLEOPATRA & FRANKENSTEIN - COCO MELLORS
I have so much to say about this book and I’m scared if I delve into it too much, I’ll lose my train of thought. The class of the novel was like nothing I’d read before. Truly authentic, a no-bullshit story with all the right cliffhangers but just as much comparison to real life. I really connected to Cleo in this novel, and I’ll tell you why.
This novel follows a young girl, Cleo, a broke aspiring artist living in New York and searching for a home, which she never really had. Her mother committed suicide and her father isn’t interested in her life at all after he re-married and had another child. She has a best friend called Quentin who has a bit of a drug problem and is easily influenced, but nevertheless, he is hers. Cleo is in her early twenties and is as beautiful and radiant as ever, she is the epitome of sophistication and elegance and always dresses to impress.
One day, she meets Frank in his 40s, a highly successful CEO of an advertising company, a man of great taste who soirees from place to place, drinking and entertaining people in New York. Frank also has his own issues with his mother, and a sister who is lost and navigating her way through her own life, the same age as Cleo. After he meets Cleo, they hit it off and within 6 months, are married. The story then follows from their perspectives, as Frank’s drinking becomes worse, Cleo becomes lonelier and in search of meaning, and the story of how detrimental the wrong choices in life can be to one another carries on from theirs’s and their friend's points of view.
I found the chaos of love and truth really moving in this story. It shows that life is not so black and white, and you can still make bad choices whilst being worthy of forgiveness and change. I resonated with Cleo’s need for change as she decided to follow in the same footsteps her mother did, it was not that she wanted to die, but wanted things to shift, a deep sadness and solemn inside her that felt impossible to move. Though she didn’t die physically, we see how she becomes less and less herself as Frank drinks himself to oblivion. Whilst they are drifting away, they both find themselves in a form of infidelity, and Cleo wonders why in the end, the other woman got the Frank that she could never have, clean, no alcohol, no late nights, a gentle soul. I also understood this and found so many of the character's revelations heart-rending and genuine, it was not a book of fairy tales and unrealistic happy endings, which stuck with me even more.
If you love literature where you can take exposés from the book in your own way, then please pick this up. Whilst the story is not a massive whirlwind, I found comfort in the characters and story of how real life goes.
Here are some of my favourite quotes below…
"I don't think white women like me much," said Zoe. She stopped to think about this. "Or any women, for that matter."
"At least all men seem to like you," said Audrey.
- I found this to relate to Internal misogyny, and how Zoe isn't so kind herself but realises why other women don't like her.
"Did I ever tell you about the time a Hare Krishna flashed me on the subway?" said Cleo, clearly anxious to change the subject. "Just lifted up his robe. Never broke eye contact."
Zoe shuddered dramatically. She told them about the Janitor at her school who used to bet the girls that he could guess the colour of their underwear. If he was right, they had to give him the pair."
- This one made my heart heavy, I've had many a conversation with my girls about sexual deviance and things we weren't taught were wrong at the time, but talking about it is the beauty of sister and womanhood, this was an epiphany for Zoe and a step forward.
"Two parts contentment, one part desire."
"Everyone I know is either more successful or more interesting than me."
- We have all been there and I don't think this narrative ever stops creeping into your mind
"She should have known on their wedding day when Frank bought her the blue orchid, dyed with poisonous ink, that he didn't understand her, never would. She needed to return to the earth, simply and unadorned. She had been living too long in Franl's false world. She thought she'd find security here, but she had not."
- I really resonated with this, throwing yourself into someone else's life in hopes it brings you closer to them, in hopes of forgetting all your baggage and issues. Socialising with people you don't really care to be around and entertaining them for the want of love and security. If it isn't truly you then it won't work for long, and you will start to crumble once again.