Hello bookish friends! Hope you’re all well and have had fabulous Februarys!
I’m sorry I haven’t been around much (a.k.a. at all) this month. February was quite intense for me, because I started a new role at work (I now work with children, instead of in the nursery office dealing with finance, and I am so much happier, but so much more physically exhausted!), and then halfway through the month I went down with a nasty flu bug. Because I was extra tired and super ill, I got into a bit of a reading slump, and I spent most of February binge-watching BookTube videos instead of actually finishing books. I still managed to read 4 books this month, but that’s compared to 11 last month! Ah well, life happens.
Here are my thoughts on the books I did read this month…
How to be Champion by Sarah Millican
Rating: 4 stars
For those who haven’t heard of her, Sarah Millican is a comedian here in the UK, and she’s one of my favourites. How to be Champion is her autobiography, and it’s just as funny as she is. Her personality was everywhere in this book, and I could imagine every line in her voice. The humour in this book is quite crude at times, which normally I’m not a huge fan of, but somehow when Sarah Millican does it I end up snorting with laughter. I really enjoyed the life tips at the end of each chapter (some serious, some not so serious), and I found everything Sarah shares with the reader so relatable. She claims that this book is for ‘anyone who has ever buttoned their cardigan up the wrong way’ and HI THAT IS ME. I also really appreciated the positivity she writes with, and the way she manages to spin sad things into funnies, even things like being bullied at school, and her family’s money struggles during the miners’ strikes (her main positive take being all the free food they were given at the time). Another thing I loved about this book were her chapters on why she doesn’t want children, and on body image/women’s magazines (and how she set up Standard Issue, her own ‘no bullshit’ online women’s magazine. These chapters were interesting, feminist, and empowering, and I respect Sarah so much for not letting society pressure her into conforming to it’s (bullshitty) ideal of what a woman should be like. All in all, I loved this book, and I would very much like to sit and eat cake with Sarah, and be her best friend,
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
Rating: 5 stars
I absolutely adore the Diviners series by Libba Bray, and I think this third instalment might be my favourite so far. The Diviners series is a paranormal fantasy series set in 1920s New York, with a diverse set of characters (who have a diverse range of supernatural gifts), a creepy and mysterious villain we still don’t know everything about, and a whole bunch of ghosts. What I love most about how the overall storyline is progressing is that, whereas in the first book the characters had largely separate storylines, the Diviners are now coming together and working as a team. I love what this has meant for the development of their Diviner powers, but I also adore the way they are becoming an alternative kind of family. I just love them all together so much! I can’t say much about the plot of this book, as obviously this is a sequel, but things I loved included the parts that were set in the asylum (so atmospheric and cinematic), learning more about Project Buffalo, Bill Johnson (who I previously hated, but who kind of won me over by the end of this book), and all the challenging of bigotry. The setting, as in all of the previous books, was my favourite thing about this novel; it feels like a character in its own right. I love the sweep of it, and how many different stories the city has to tell. I am super in love with Libba Bray’s writing style, and I can’t wait for her next book.
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Rating: 3 stars
A Thousand Nights is a retelling of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, a story which I was only vaguely familiar with before going into this novel. I have mixed feelings about this book hence the middling rating. I think I enjoyed it, but my feelings were constantly shifting whilst I was reading it. One minute I was really into the book, and the next I was really bored. The story is quite slow paced, which I didn’t actually mind, because I enjoyed gently exploring the setting of the Qasr (the King’s palace), and the desert (where our protagonist lived in her family’s tents before she was taken away to marry him). Everything was vividly described and the writing was beautiful. For some reason I loved all of the scenes where the protagonist was being bathed or dressed, or where food was being laid out. I guess I just enjoy the idea of living in a palace, and so appreciated the little details about everyday life there. What I didn’t enjoy so much about this novel were the endless descriptions of spinning wool (the protagonist’s main hobby). I realise they were there for a purpose (one which I can’t really reveal due to spoilers), but they were way too repetitive and contained too much mundane detail. Another thing which bothered me about this book was that the magical elements were vague and underdeveloped. I spent a lot of time confused and wanting a proper explanation of how things worked. That being said, in some aspects of the story, this vagueness worked. I liked the mystery surrounding the demon possessing the King, and gradually learning more about him as the story progressed. Overall, this book was quite hit and miss for me. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don’t think I would re-read it.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Rating: 5 stars
This was by far the best book I read this month! I can’t remember the last time I was so hooked by a thriller. I stayed up way past my bedtime three nights in a row finishing this book, and it was totally worth the sacrificed sleep. This story is about an agoraphobic woman named Anna, who witnesses a crime through the window of the house opposite hers, but nobody will believe her, because she’s on medication that causes hallucinations, and she drinks… a lot! I love books which explore reality vs. imagination, and this one had me constantly questioning the unreliable narration. The story is told in super-short chapters which makes it incredibly moreish, and Anna’s character is so complex and compelling you can’t help but get invested straight away, and root for her throughout. The writing in this book is also excellent. Anna is obsessed with noir films from the age of black and white movies, and the way this book is written matches that aesthetic so perfectly. The descriptions of Anna’s house felt very gothic, dusty, gloomy, and lonely, and it was the perfect setting for the tone of this book. Every line feels cinematic, and I love the way the focus of the writing zooms in and out on different images, attaching and disguising meaning where necessary. This book is a strong mystery; apart from one thing we learn roughly half-way through anyway, I didn’t guess anything, and the twist genuinely shocked me. It also managed to jolt me, as if it were a jumpy movie, with the genuinely creepy reveal scene. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy thrillers; it’s a cut above most of them, and I am so excited to read more books from this author in the future.
How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What was your favourite book you picked up this month? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂