Review – Women by Chloe Caldwell

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely loved but you don’t think that many other people will get it? That’s exactly how I feel about Women. This short, stripped down story of a relationship just…spoke to me. It’s honest and raw and funny and sad and managed to give me all of the feels. It felt like I had stolen someone’s diary and was illicitly gobbling up the details of their life – a bit like when you come across someone who over shares everything on social media and you fall down a rabbit hole stalking  learning everything about them. 
I don’t usually like books that are either self published or haven’t had a lot of money spent on them because you can just feel the cheap – the oddly worded sentences, the rubbish cover page and the super obvious title (not to mention the typographical errors and misprints). I don’t know what it is exactly, but Women somehow feels like it fits into this category. Despite scoring a cover quote from Lena Dunham (I personally have nothing against her, but if you do then don’t let it put you off) it’s obviously not going to be a bestseller and it definitely has an air of “debut author/limited budget” about it. However, that all seems to form part of it’s charm and actually enhances the appeal of the book rather than detracting from it.

I think it’s the quality of the writing. Chloe Caldwell writes with the most unflinching honesty and has elevated the tale of a fairly short lived, obviously doomed relationship from one of navel-gazing self pity to raw exploration of human emotion. I loved that all of her characters were so flawed and that they acted in completely illogical ways because it made them real. I loved the detail, I loved the depth, I loved the characterisation. I even loved the sex scenes because again, they felt so honest. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the sex is detailed but not titillating, relatable but not comedic, orgasmic but not euphemistic. It’s so rare to see a character with unshaven legs and half her clothes still on having incredible sex and it’s this unashamed female gaze/queer perspective that makes this book stand apart. 

Overall, I loved this novella so, so much that in pretty much devoured it all in one go. Like watching a car crash in slow motion, I just couldn’t tear myself away. I can’t wait to see what Chloe Caldwell comes up with next. 

Rating: Five gut wrenching cries (lust, anger, joy, frustration and crazy monkey sex) out of five.

Passionate, realistic #ownvoices realistic lesbian fiction. Finally.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #15 Read a one-sitting book.


Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Or…the YA novel that made me realise I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.

Maya Aziz is a typical teenager. She hangs out with her friends, goes to school and dreams of moving to New York to study film making at college. The only problem is her Indian Muslim super conservative parents are more interested in Maya meeting A Suitable Boy and getting married. Maya, however, is too busy giggling, blushing and hair twiddling at boys (Suitable and Unsuitable) to pay much attention to what anyone else wants for her and blindly follows her own path, regardless of the consequences. 

You see, this book is all about the cute. It is a magical sparkle pony of adorable rainbow puppies on a candy floss cloud of glitter. It is super cute boys meeting a super cute girl and falling in love with blushes and nose scrunches and flippy shiny flip hair. It is so saccharine it could give you diabetes. Luckily, the sugar coated lipgloss gloop is tempered with a storyline about – you guessed it – terrorism. 

Yeah, no – really.

And actually – it kind of worked. Had the book continued in the “he’s so cute! I want to stroke his hair!” vein, then it would have been a definite DNF. I hate fluffy romances and the main character Maya seemed to fall in insta love at the drop of a hat. However, because she’s Muslim (ish – more on that later) she’s subjected to horrible abuse. It’s awful to say, but it was the violence and borderline psychopathic hatred from some of her fellow students that kept me reading. This is an #ownvoices novel and I really got the impression that the Islamophobia represented in the book came from previous experience. Some of the scenes where Maya is targeted were upsetting but brilliantly written and gave the novel some depth.

As a character, Maya seemed quite two dimensional when it came to her emotions. She really fancied someone – then she didn’t. Then she decided it was because she liked another boy that the first one had to go. Then she became insta-friends with the first boy. Urgh. Who can turn their emotions on and off like that? Maya’s relationship with her parents was basically pretty uncaring – she spent an awful lot of time sneaking around behind their backs with absolutely NO GUILT whatsoever. Now, I can remember what it was like to be seventeen (just) and “staying with friends” when I was actually going to parties with boys and getting drunk but I always felt guilty about it, especially if I had to lie to their faces (in fact, there was no point because my mum would know instantly that I was up to something). Maya, however, gives no fucks. Bikini on, off to secluded swimming ponds with a boy from school, staying out overnight regardless of her parents getting crazy worried. Surely even the most self-centered teen would feel some kind of remorse? Even to my liberal western values she was way out of line.

This leads me to the cultural and religious representation depicted in the novel. Now, I am neither Indian nor Muslim so I can’t really say if the representation was realistic or not but as someone looking in the depiction of many of the characters, including Maya’s parents felt somewhat stereotypical. They literally only seemed to care about her getting married – I get that that’s still a big cultural issue but it’s not the only thing that Indian parents are about. Oh, and they liked to eat samosa and pakora and roti and why were these foods italicised like they were some exotic new thing that no-one has ever heard of? Is it because I’m British and Indian food is so widely available here, but not in the US? Answers on a postcard…

The other thing I found weird about the MayaBot is that if she hadn’t explicitly mentioned being a Muslim, you’d never know. Religion just isn’t part of her life – but then she’s shocked when a fellow Muslim drinks wine. It felt utterly incongruous to be so judgemental towards others but also completely guilt free about some of the things she’d been up to. It would have been nice to see a little bit more about religion within the book, especially to see how second generation immigrants blend their beliefs and cultural heritage with a more western lifestyle. 

Overall, I thought that Love, Hate and Other Filters was a pretty trashy quick read saved by the more hard hitting elements about Islamophobia and terrorism. Parts of the book were terrible, whole swathes of text were average-forgettable with just a few bits that were brilliant. 

Rating: An average two and a half lovestruck dumbass teens out of five.

Saccharine cute fluffy nonsense underpinned with tales of hatred and terrorism made this novel just about palatable. 

Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #10 Read a romance novel by or about a person of colour.