What I read in June

2022, books

Hello!

Another month is coming to an end and although the reading speed of last month has not maintained, I’ve finished two audiobooks this month and I’m almost halfway through a third!

Most of my reading has been audio when I’m driving, either to work or my dance classes – I’ve been burning out pretty hard this month and accidentally overbooking myself with social activities so by the time I get into bed I am flat out and not in the mood to read a few pages, though I’ve got a week off next week and I’m hoping that I’ll have time to recharge and finish the book I’ve been stuck on for a month.

Here are the audiobooks I did finish listening to this month:

Take The Shot, Susan White – 3 stars

This was a free one from the audible plus catalogue that I made the mistake of assuming it was a sport romance, instead it was a Young YA (like, the characters are 14/15) sport story about an Australian boy with Marfan syndrome and it was really interesting to learn more about it and the impact it can have on those who have it. And I adore Australian accents so it was lovely to listen to.

All round, although a bit young for me it was a story where the heart of it spoke for itself and it was an enjoyable, easy listen.

Queen of Volts (Shadow Game #3), Amanda Foody – 4 stars

So realistically, I should have double checked what order the sequels to The Ace of Shades went in rather than assuming this one was second and convincing myself I’d just forgotten the details of the first book I finished in February, but I committed and it was only in finishing this one that I realised my mistake!

However, it’s still a fantastic series – the universe is so immersive, I wish I lived in a world with blood talents so I didn’t have to figure out what I’m good at and what I’m not! The characters are compelling, the story is medium paced but always engaging and although the narrator was a bit patchy with accents, I was wholeheartedly immersed by the end. Solid 4/5, brilliant series.

Currently reading:

Audio book – King of Fools (Shadow Game #2), Amanda Foody

It was only starting this book in a totally different place where dead characters had come back to life that I realised I’d read them in the wrong order, but knowing how it has to end and figuring out how they get there is enough for me to listen to it anyway! Same as above – I think this series is brilliant and I wish more people were talking about it!

Paperback – Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse, Alex Kingston

I’ve been so excited about this book for a long time, but I’ve been really disappointed with the 30-50 pages I’ve read so far. At the crux of it, Alex Kingston is an Actress who plays a character and that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s good at writing a story about her. But I’m not someone who DNF’s books because I always worry that the one I don’t finish will be the one that has a spectacular ending! On the next sunny day I have off I’m intending to take this book into the garden and plough through.

It’s not been a super reading heavy month but after having a block for a couple of months and coming back with a bang last month, I’m happy to have settled into reading as part of my routine again.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

2022 Goals – Mid Year Review

2022, goals

Hello!

June always feels like a really significant month for me – I will forever think of it as my nanny’s birthday month, but in June 2019 I shaved my head for charity and bought my car which were really important moments in my life.

But it’s also the end of the month also marks the half way point of the year, which always feels like the perfect time to review my yearly goals, evaluate my progress and adapt the ones that don’t feel relevant to me anymore.

To read my 2022 Goals in full click here!

To briefly summarise, I plan my goals in two different ways – the first way is in three categories, each with three goals and the second is a more ‘bucket list’ style where they don’t necessarily fit in a category but still 10 things I’d like to accomplish in the year.

First the categories…

Professional: Goals

Stay in the same job (if that’s what’s right for me)

It feels somewhat baffling that I’ve already been in what feels like my ‘new’ job for coming up to 9 months now, but so far I’ve kept my job and I don’t really have any plans to look for anything new anytime soon, unless something comes up which feels right in which case I won’t ignore that for the sake of a goal.

Learn how to use AfterEffects

I scrapped this goal as my role in my company has moved away from editing and more into writing and admin and learning this software (which, frankly, is very overwhelming to me) won’t serve my current role or my long term career if I continue in this sort of role.

So I picked a new professional goal which is to research media production related careers and figure out what kind of path I’d like to follow and set out some long term career goals. In reading job descriptions at other companies as part of my role, I’ve realised that I don’t suit marketing – I’m not up to date on the ‘hottest trends’ and realistically I have no interest in it; I’m not a Love Island, celebrity gossip, viral tiktok dance sort of girl – I’m a need-to-know-the-latest-about-Marvel, 2000s music listening, booktok girl and that’s a-okay.

Update my portfolio instagram account once a week

This one has been going really well! I’ve only missed a couple and that’s only because I’ve not done anything worth sharing that week – some week’s we’re trying new things with green screens, I’m writing scripts and maybe even presenting, some week’s it’s more of the same and that’s totally normal. I’m really pleased with my consistency on this one.

Personal Goals:

Duolingo

I started the French course on Duolingo in January and I think in total I’ve only missed four or five days! Now that I’m nearly six months in, I’m really starting to see my progress – especially when my fiancé went to work in France for a few days and I surprised myself with how much of the language I could communicate when I was taking the mick out of him for not speaking French.

– Cosplay

This is another goal that I have scrapped as I just don’t have the time to dedicate to learning how to make my own cosplays at the moment and the time I do have I have other projects that are more pressing (i.e. planning my wedding).

Initially I adapted this goal into exploring making content on tiktok, whether it’s in the cosplay/fandom sphere or just silly dances and sounds, but honestly turning that into a goal has made it way less fun and I don’t want it to feel like a chore. I’ll figure out something along these lines that I want to work on, but at the moment it’s on hiatus.

Blog once a week

This is another one that I think I’ve only missed a few and then it’s been because I don’t have an idea and I don’t have the time or energy to force myself into writing something I don’t think is any good and saving myself the stress of making something happen for the sake of being able to tick it in my bullet journal is so freeing. I’m constantly learning how to be more flexible with myself and not deeming myself a failure if I miss one tiny thing, but it’s a work in progress and I honestly feel like there is progress!

I need to figure out what kind of content I want to write, because at the moment it’s just monthly goals and monthly reading wrap ups but I’m sure inspiration will come – it always does in the end!

Home Goals:

The Wedding!

Planning everything into monthly goals last year has been an absolutely life saver honestly, though I always feel like I’m behind or forgetting something! It’s going well though – my fiancé has his suit, my dress has been ordered, we’re in the process of sorting my bridesmaids dresses and the groomsmen’s suits. I have a hair consultation, silk flowers on order, still need to find a make-up artist etc and the saving is intense but it’s all coming together and feeling much more real now!

Weekly saving challenge

Now this one I definitely haven’t missed a week! The principle of this challenge is putting money into savings every week going up by £1 – as I’m writing this I’m at the end of week 24 and so far, I’ve been on top of my budgeting to make sure I have enough money (bar some tax stuff with my income tax code at work, but that’s another issue).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m nervous for getting to the end of the year when it gets to £40-£50 a week, but the whole point of the challenge is to learn as you go and by the end of the year you’re prepared for the bigger numbers.

A summer holiday in the sun to read

So, we can’t afford to go abroad, absolutely no way with the wedding. But my fiancé and I have booked the last week of June off work and we’re going to go see some local places, hopefully the weather will hold and I’m sure I can bring my book!

We have booked our mini-moon which I’m really excited about – a cottage in Dorset by the sea – and next year we’re planning to go to MCM Comic Con in London and maybe we can think about a week in the Mediterranean but we’ll play it by ear.

And last but not least: 10 Bucket List Goals:

  • Read 36 books – 19 and counting babyyyyy
  • Year long book buying ban – my partner has bought two books that we will both read and I bought one as a fathers day gift for my dad, but nothing for myself!
  • Go to a museum – planned for our summer week off!
  • Go to a concert – keeping my eyes peeled
  • Go to a new place – our mini-moon is somewhere neither of us have been before!
  • Seasonal wardrobe updates – Spring and Summer have been a success so far and this is such an easy way to feel excited about clothes you already own four times a year. It’s made me so much more mindful when I’m shopping as well to consider what will go with what I already have and what I will actually wear.
  • Writing challenges January and April were a total flop, but I’ve rejigged my plan for the latter half of the year so rather than July and September, I’m going to try August (no dance, more time in evenings) and October (September I have plans every weekend, it’ll be too much) going into NaNoWriMo in November and I’m feeling pretty positive that this will go well! I’ve been feeling the urge to write recently so I’m going to try and map out some plot points and characters that I can really get to know when the writing challenges come round.
  • Monthly date nights – so far only missed one! I’m honestly so happy in my relationship it’s actually disgusting.
  • Monthly craft projects – haven’t even finished one, but I think this is similar to the tiktoks in that it’s not fun when it feels like a chore, so working on thinking of a new approach for crafts!
  • 1 Second Everyday video 2022 – filmed one second every day of the year so far!

And that’s it!

I feel so much more confident about goal setting and making sure I’m working towards things that actually serve me and not things I think I should be doing.

Things feel really good at the moment. It might be because it’s currently 29 degrees on a Friday which I now don’t work (4 day week club!), I stayed in bed till half 11 because I could, I’ve done some house chores at my own pace and I’m sat writing this in the garden shade with lofi hip hop radio on, but even if tomorrow is different, today is nice and I’m really working on focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

June Goals 2022

2022, goals

Hello!

June feels like it couldn’t have come soon enough this year – I think we’re already for a bit more sunshine and less dreary weather but I always like the marker for the middle of the year; a chance to review my goals so far, check in and look ahead for the rest of the year.

I can’t wait to get my summer wardrobe out, start wearing my sandals and spend more time outside – reading in my sun lounger, barbecues with friends, summer sunsets and long walks with my fiancé to any kind of supermarket and calling it an ‘adventure’.

Here are my goals for this month:

Career research – my job has taken a change in direction recently and it’s made my think about taking my career in that direction so I want to make some time to do some research, figure out what skills I need and whether it’s a suitable option to explore. I find research really difficult, especially when I find a lot of career stuff is hard to research but I want to try and make a plan.

Summer wardrobe update – it’s the time of year to put away my long sleeved sweaters and my chunky cardigans in favour of my shorts, my cute dresses and tank tops. I know full well that this task will take me maybe a couple of hours tops, but that can feel really overwhelming so if I set it as a goal maybe I’ll actually get it done!

Wedding tasks – this month’s goals are to actually send out our invites, draft the seating plan and go shopping with my little bridesmaids for their outfits. With only 5 months to go, it’s all starting to feel very real! The thought of getting to wear my dress and see my boy in his fancy suit and celebrate with all our family and friends is exciting and scary in equal measure. We were practising our first dance in the kitchen and the thought of dancing in front of an audience hit me harder than I thought it would, but I’m so excited to marry my best friend.

Museum date day – speaking of my best friend, we are giant nerds and we really enjoy a day out at a museum, so as we have a week off together at the end of the month, we’re going to use one of those days to hop on a train into London and go to a museum for the day, maybe take a picnic or go for dinner. I’m thinking maybe the Victoria and Albert museum but I need to have a look at what’s going on.

And my monthly goals are to read 3 books, save money (tick!), date day (museum trip!) and do a craft project.

I’m allowing myself to be mildly optimistic at this stage, I’ve started planning more time off with no plans so I can actually work on things for me and I’m excited to slow the pace down a little bit.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

What I Read In May

2022, books

Hello!

I finally got out of my reading slump! I took a fresh start at the beginning of the month and I got back into listening to my audiobooks and reading before bed (slash falling asleep mid chapter). I’m loving feeling totally absorbed in a story again and really escaping into a different world, however pretentious that sounds.

I’ve finished six books so far this month and it’s been a real mixed bag, so let’s jump right in.

Where There’s A Will (Beth Corby) – 4 stars

I’m not sure how a book can be both totally unrealistic and really relatable in equal measure but this one manages it – Hannah is invited with her family to a gathering to meet estranged Great Uncle Donald. Three months later when he passes away, she’s given a series of tasks for an undisclosed reward as part of his will. She moves into his house and starts working on the tasks with his PA Alec. Over a rollercoaster of unexpected tasks and finding out much more about herself, what she wants and her Uncle Donald, Hannah really finds out the true meaning of family.

A really lovely story of someone finally being truly themselves, embracing the people that help her grow and finding out all about the life and times of Great Uncle Donald. Lovely contemporary romance!

Heartstopper Vol. 1 (Alice Oseman) – 3 stars

Reading the first instalment of this graphic novel series definitely helped get my book count up as I could read them in one sitting. There’s so much hype around this story and as it was my first graphic novel I found it more difficult to engage with the characters because there’s so much less actual text, I found I didn’t know the characters as well so I didn’t really care as much when anything happened.

It was sweet and nice and Nick is such a sweetheart, but at this point after only the first 4 chapters, I wasn’t particularly engaged, hence the 3 star rating.

The Bridge Kingdom (Danielle L Jenson) – 4 stars

This was the period where I finished three books in two days because I happened to finish my audiobook and read two graphic novels all at the same time.

This one’s been in my library on Audible for ages and I honestly thought it was going to be a super spicy fantasy romance, but I was really surprised that it was actually a very in-depth marriage of convenience story that had some almost political themes with the relationship between the two kingdoms. The character development was really authentic, the world building was really solid and the dual perspective narrative worked really well with these characters. Really enjoyed listening to this one.

Heartstopper Vol. 2 (Alice Oseman) – 5 stars

Right, so this is where it all kicked off – suddenly I was knee deep in emotions for Nick and Charlie’s story and just how wholesome and heartwarming it is. It is a heart stopper, pretty sure my heart stopped because I just couldn’t contain how beautiful this story is.

I think what I’m learning about graphic novels with volumes is that each novel isn’t an individual story – it’s one whole story split into sections, like having different parts or acts or whatever. When I viewed the first two volumes as two parts of the same story then the 3 stars I have Volume 1 immediately became 5.

If you want something light and wholesome and sweet and you can sit down and finish it in one sitting, I can’t recommend this series more highly. I cannot wait to get my hands on Volume 3 and 4 and all of Alice Oseman’s other work. Also watch the show. I cannot explain how obsessed with it I am, the casting is actually miraculously perfect, the additional storylines are precious and the music and the animations? It’s perfect. I’ve lost the ability to form full sentences because I just can’t put into words how much I love Nick and Charlie.

The Traitor Queen (Danielle L Jenson) – 4 stars

Following the Bridge Kingdom, the Traitor Queen launches straight into the war that protagonist Lara has inadvertently caused. I feel like this is the one where the true character development starts to show – everything she’s been brainwashed with in the 15 years she was kept in an isolated compound with her sisters she now knows isn’t true, so she has to figure out the true intentions of her power hungry father, try and regain the trust of the Ithicanians she betrayed and decide what she’s prepared to sacrifice to bring peace.

I thought this one was paced fantastically, the character development for both Lara and Aren felt intimate and personal and the relationships between each other, with Lara’s sisters and the neighbouring kingdoms helped build such a solid universe.

A really good conclusion to the duology and one that I’d even consider listening to again, which I feel like is a big thing because I’m not much of a rereader.

Love, Lucas (Chantele Sedgewick) – 2 stars

This one’s hovering incredibly close to being 1 star the more I reflect on it, but I didn’t actively dislike it while I was reading it (at least not at the beginning) so it stuck with 2, though I can tell you the exact moment it dropped.

When I rate books I feel like I go in with them at an average 3, then if I enjoy them it climbs to 4 or 5, if they’re a nice, easy listen they’ll stick with being in the middle at 3 and if they aren’t as good they drop from down.

So this story starts with Oakley, who’s just lost her best friend and brother to cancer. Everything she knows is broken and she has no idea how to process her own grieving, so when her mum suggests going to stay with her Aunt in California just to get away from it all for the rest of the Spring, she agrees.

Oakley starts to explore, she loves being so close to the beach and she meets some local surfers her age, including… Carson. The ellipsis are because I’ve already forgotten his name, not for dramatic effect. Obviously Oakley and Carson get on really well and they start to get to know each other, but Oakley’s grieving gets in the way because she doesn’t think she should be allowed to be messing around with some boy when her brother’s just died.

Tie this in with a notebook full of letters from her brother in the last week’s of his life, and here’s the title drop ‘Love, Lucas’.

The whole thing just reads like someone who thinks they know what teenagers are like writing teenagers really stereotypically. Oakley makes some horribly insensitive comments to Carson about his prospective college and career choices, and then when they get round to talking about it, he decides it’s his fault and she accepts no responsibility and that’s what sealed it for me. It was ridiculous, it felt forced and at this point the only thing I could hear in Oakley’s narrative was a know it all seventeen year old who is so self obsessed she can’t even comprehend anything from anyone else’s perspective.

Don’t even get me started on the shark attack.

In Googling to remind myself of Carson’s name, I find that this is the first of a series of 4 and I have never felt less inclined to read something in my life.

Currently reading:
Take The Shot (Susan White)
Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse (Alex Kingston)

To be honest, I thought ‘Take The Shot’ would be a basketball romance but I think it’s an Australian coming of age story and to be honest, I’ll keep listening for the accents. ‘The Ruby’s Curse’ is one I’ve been really excited about reading for a long time but so far it’s just not very well written so I’m torn somewhere between wanting to power through so it’s done and not wanting to read it at all.

I’m so glad I got out of the reading slump that took over March and April – I’m so in love with being submerged in stories and escaping real life for a little bit.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

how I could spend my Friday’s now I work a 4 day week

2022, career, lifestyle

Hello!

As of the beginning of this month, my work has changed from working 5 days a week to working 4 days a week and now I have Friday’s off!

But I am a creature of habit and I thrive on routine so immediately my thoughts turned to ‘what task could I do weekly to fill that time’ so I thought I’d talk through some of the options that immediately sprung to mind!

First thing’s first…

Adulting

All the boring things – cleaning the house, laundry, tidying the garden, sorting letters and emails and insurance and phone calls and all the boring things that always get put off. It’s not how I want to spend my Fridays, but realistically it’s how I should.

Crafting / Starting an Etsy shop?

I have so many craft supplies that I barely use – my sewing machine? Still barely know how to use it. My Cricut? Actually don’t know how to use it. Can I crochet yet? Not a chance. I would really like to use this time to use all my knitting materials and finish a cross stitch I’ve been working on forever and work through all the kits I’ve got!

And the step up from that, maybe I could find something that I enjoy and I am good at making and turn that into a little Etsy shop! I quite like the idea of having a little side hustle business, but it’s got to be something I really enjoy or there’s no point and I won’t keep it up. But it’s a little background idea that might become something at some point.

Reading / Self Care

Have I made it clear enough that I like reading from the book account and the monthly book posts and the several hundred books in my spare room?

I think a really solid idea would be to take this day to really look after myself – take a long shower, actually do some skin care, do some activities that I find relaxing like reading, cooking, watching TV… sleeping. Throw in some exercise and some meditation or something and I’ll have cured my depression right?

(for legal reasons, that is a joke)

Spend time on music

I have a lovely electric piano, a guitar, a ukulele and maybe even a flute somewhere but can I play any of them properly? Absolutely not.

There’s so many apps and programmes and YouTube tutorials where I could relearn and get better at these instruments and I think it would be good for me mentally to spend time learning something new, I think it’s quite a therapeutic hobby.

Creative Writing

I’ve always said I’ll publish a book one day but the older I get, the less creative writing I do and the less likely this dream is to become a reality but now is the time to grab that dream by the horns! Setting myself weekly writing goals and setting up a desk at home to actually make some progress every week would be a fantastic way to use this extra day…

But the line I want to be very careful not to cross is not to put even more pressure on myself – how I’ve made my to do lists has kept changing this year as I try to fit in more and more and what I learnt from my April writing challenge is that I literally don’t have the hours in the day. Even if I was working at full capacity (which no one ever is right? Everyone gets distracted and tasks take longer than expected because we are not robots) I would not have literal time in the day between driving back from work, making dinner and driving out to dance on three nights a week and expecting myself not to take even ten minutes to just sit on the sofa after a long day and mindlessly scroll through Instagram is ridiculous and unachievable, which only makes me more stressed in the long run.

Realistically, I’ll probably do a combination of these things – when I’m run down, I’ll have a slow day and try to look after myself more, when I’m feeling inspired I’ll work on my writing projects, when I want to sit and cross stitch and binge a new Netflix show I will and when I need to do boring adult things I will get them done. All tied in with a healthy amount of seeing family and friends and planning my wedding!

Maybe as I settle more into the 4 day week, I’ll try something that’s more of a commitment like volunteering or doing a course or something, but for now, I’ll stick with this.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

Practicing the Work/Life Balance Thing | May Goals ’22

2022, goals, mental health

Hi there!

Another month means another set of goals to work towards.

April was a very mixed bag with my mini goals – I think I’m finding work very overwhelming at the moment and between that, bank holidays coming out my ears (I find not knowing which day of the week it is very confusing) and trying to main some semblance of a social life (badly) is burning me out and I’m only just managing to keep up with everything I have to do day to day, let alone something I want to achieve over the course of a month.

But I’ve reevaluated how I make my to do lists and I’m trying to reframe my mental attitude to not fill every moment with doing something – being ‘productive’ or pushing myself too far. It’s clearly a work in progress because I went to a drive through car wash and whilst my car was being cleaned, I did my daily Duolingo lessons so I could tick that off my list, but I am working on it!

So I took this approach when setting my monthly goals – I took the time to figure out what was actually achievable and what would help to benefit me in the long run. This is what I came up with:

Pick a new Professional Goal – one of my professional goals for the year was to learn a software called AfterEffects so I could include more animations and graphics in the videos I produce at work. But since then my role has adapted and now that we have more editors on the team, I don’t actually edit videos anymore (which absolutely suits me and my strengths, I want to clarify I am not complaining about this 😂). But as my role has adapted and this goal isn’t relevant, I want to decide on something else to aim towards by the end of the year that is relevant, beneficial to my career and achievable. Rather than just picking a new goal out of thin air, I set this goal so I can dedicate the time to research the skillset around the career path my job is now taking and figuring out what can help me learn and be better at it!

Wow, that was a bit long winded.

Make one piece of content a week for a new project – I’ve been meaning to try something new for a really long time and I know now that if I don’t set myself actual deadlines than I will not do the thing, so I’m aiming to make one piece of content for a new project I’m working on a week and I’m hoping it’ll inspire me to make more content more regularly going forward.

Wedding – rings and invites – My wedding is now less than six months away and I still can’t say the word ‘husband’ without feeling like I’m playing pretend. This month’s goals are to buy our wedding bands and send our invites – the invites have been ordered we just need to finalise the guest list and write them all. There’s also a couple of extra bits like getting in touch with a make-up artist, getting in contact with my florist and planning anything that I’m going to make for the day but those are just chugging along in the background.

Plan museum/concert/new place trips – Another instance of planning to plan a goal – on my ‘bucket list’ goals for this year is to go to a museum, go to a concert and go to a new place but it’s easy to say those things, but actually doing them is another thing entirely! At the end of last month we booked our mini-moon for after the wedding (we’re going to go on a proper honeymoon when it’s not November and the weather will be nicer) and it’s a place neither of us have been before, so that’s the planning for that one ticked off! The concert, I’ve not seen that any artists I’m particularly interested in are touring, but there’s still time! And I really want to go to the Victoria and Albert museum, so just need to plan a day that my partner and I are both free to take off and go to London for the day!

And my monthly goals are: read three books, save money (done), date night and do a craft project. I’ve nearly finished my first audiobook of the month so I do feel like I’m slowly creeping out of my reading slump!

I can’t believe we’re five months into the year and I absolutely can’t believe that I’m getting married in six months – how mad is that? Time is absolutely flying at the moment!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang | Book Review

2022, books, review

Hello!

Today I’d planned to do my April Reading Wrap Up post, but I’ve really struggled with this reading slump and I’ve only just finished my only audiobook listen of the month (my paperback has been a real slow read before bed!) so I thought I’d turn this months post into a book review because I have a lot of thoughts.

I’d seen people talking about ‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang all over TikTok – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I think my favourite genre is contemporary romance and my TikTok algorithm absolutely reflects that. But it wasn’t till a browse round Waterstones last weekend where I actually read the description of ‘The Kiss Quotient’ that it jumped right to the top of my tbr and my waiting Audible credit was used immediately.

A contemporary romance about an autistic girl who hires an escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Since being put on a waiting list for an autism assessment 18 months ago, I’ve learnt so much about it from #actuallyautistic content creators (shoutout @PaigeLayle and @rubyofmyeye) and I was so intrigued as to how to this autistic character was written, especially as the description used the term ‘Aspergers’ which has been somewhat shunned by the autistic community as a diagnosis that categorises autistic people into those that are ‘economically useful’ and those that aren’t.

Reassuringly, the term Aspergers is only used once by the protagonist’s parents, which kind of fits the narrative that she knows it’s an outdated term but they still see it as the ‘better’ form of autism, though it’s never addressed.

From the very beginning, I found main character Stella to be an accurate representation of someone who is aware of her autism but desperately wants to make sure no one else is aware of her autism. She keeps her head down, focuses on her primary special interest which is her work as an econometrician and does what she can to keep her parents and her colleagues happy. But after a comment from her mother about ‘being ready for grandchildren’ and another from her colleague about ‘needing to practice sex’, she spirals a little and ends up booking a night with a meticulously researched escort named Michael.

After proposing that he become her sex teacher, Michael has to seriously reconsider his ‘no repeat client’ rules, because he is taken by Stella in a way he absolutely can’t comprehend.

The first half, maybe two thirds of the book are some of the spiciest I’ve ever read – if you like your romance with *spice* then look no further because this book is steamy and seductive as much as it is sweet and poignant. Ever other chapter is incredibly detailed bedroom scenes which make listening to it on my way to and from work a tiny bit awkward.

But in between the detailed sex lessons, Stella and Michael are falling for each other hard and fast, whilst assuming that their ‘major character flaws’ mean the other could never be feeling the same way. Stella knows she is paying Michael for his service – he’s slept with hundreds of other women so she must just be another client to him. And to Michael, he knows that Stella is paying him so she can learn to be ‘better’ for someone else, so he assumes that their financial, educational and situational difference mean she could never see him as he see’s her.

Basically, both are incredibly insecure and are defining the phrase ‘to assume makes an ass of you and me’ because by god they cannot stop assuming they’re not good enough for each other.

But it’s written in the sweetest and most romantic way – each of them making the most of the moments, immersing themselves in the practice relationship while they have each other.

The last part of the book, where there is markably less sex but the character arcs tumble at great speed towards their conclusion, everything we love about Stella and Michael comes to light – it’s incredibly sweet, the narrative effortlessly switches between each character’s perspective and as I entered the last 45 minutes of the audiobook with so much left to happen, it was one of the most fantastically paced books I’ve read in a while.

I adored The Kiss Quotient – Stella’s representation of autism was spot on and I loved her full circle journey from ‘I am more than my autism’ to ‘My autism is a part of me and that’s not a fault’, her social encounters with Michael’s family, the scene in the nightclub and with her work colleagues were so wonderfully written between the spoken dialogue and the internal monologue. Michael’s story was so sweet and I loved that he was a little bit in love with Stella from the very beginning, rather than the enemies-to-lovers I was anticipating.

Fast paced and slow burn simultaneously, a fantastic representation of autism without leaning on societal expectations of stereotypes and incredibly written from the sexiest to the sweetest moments.

The Kiss Quotient gets a full 5/5 from me! And in writing this blog post, I found that there are two more books in the series focusing on other characters which I will absolutely be using my next Audible credits for!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

A Day Out In Oxford

2022, lifestyle, review

Hello!

This weekend has been a lovely mix of a lovely date afternoon and evening with my fiancé and then him leaving for work and having the whole day to myself to do very little. The ideal weekend with some moderately social plans and a day to recover – perfect!

I thought I’d do a little wrap up of the day I spent with my partner on Saturday because we went to a few places and it was a lovely afternoon!

We booked tickets to see comedian Ed Gamble at the Oxford Playhouse months and months ago – long enough ago that we had to keep reminding each other of the date because amongst all the other life things, it could have very easily gotten lost in our inboxes. But it didn’t!

As every good Saturday should, we started with a lie in (and nine and a half hours sleep, glorious!). We then had a very relaxed morning and lunch at home before setting off for Oxford. It sounds silly, but I get really nervous about parking and public transport and getting to the right place at the right time, so going to a Park and Ride that I’d never been to before to get on a bus I’d not used to go to a venue I didn’t know was quite a lot for my anxious little brain but it was actually incredibly easy, which was a huge relief.

As soon as we got off the bus in Oxford City Centre, I spotted a ginormous Waterstones and even though I’m on a book buying ban this year (four months without breaking so far!), that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to look at the five story book shop. We had a good old mooch in the Teen section (because growing out of YA is a myth) and then went up to the general fiction where I promptly starting making a list of the romance novels I wanted to read and will probably download on Audible whilst my lovely fiancé Lucas found the graphic novel and general ‘nerd’ section, promptly finding an Overwatch and a Doctor Who book that fell into the tote bag I suggested he buy to carry his new books.

Next, in taking a slow wonder through a very busy Oxford, we found ‘The HMV Shop’, which is a very Oxford way of naming an HMV but we move. They had loads of fun t-shirts and I accidentally bought a beautiful Hogwarts shirt that I will proudly wear to work next week as well as a Stranger Things notebook with lights in it (reduced from £14.99 to £3.99, probably because the lights were pretty disappointing) and a pretty Legend of Zelda poster for my nerdy boy because I’m a very lovely fiancé (and it was £3 and would look lovely on our living room wall).

From there we went into West Gate to peruse our options for dinner – the comedy show was due to start at 7.30pm so we knew we needed to eat sooner rather than later. I’ve been talking about taking Lucas to The Breakfast Club ever since an impromptu lunch with my masters girls back in pre-covid 2020 and now was the perfect opportunity! And it was absolutely dead in there because Google reckoned it closed at 5 when it didn’t and a rather large hen party went in which was rather off putting (but they were in a separate room and we could barely hear the singing).

Honestly though, The Breakfast Club let me down – I remember being blown away by the food two years ago but for the price, it was mediocre at best and the customer service was shocking. I’m all for colleagues being friends and having a natter but when they’re doing it at the till that is less than 2 feet from our table, shouting across the restaurant to each other and leaving us without giving us the bill for longer than we’d spent eating the underwhelming food, it leads to a pretty rubbish experience. And then putting the ‘optional’ service charge on the bill without asking? Bit much. Not going to be returning there in a hurry/ever!

Mediocre dinner aside, we were still really early for the show, but we took a slow walk to the Oxford Playhouse where my partner was shouldered in the elbow by a tweenager who promptly let the entire street know he thought he was a ‘wanker’ and we laughed at how the little silly tween boy thought he looked ‘hard’.

With the Oxford Playhouse being right in the city centre, we arrived approximately an hour before the show started, but so did lots of other people so we took a seat, debated getting drinks and decided they were too expensive before being some of the first ones sat in the theatre and playing a silly colour matching game on Lucas’s phone as the theatre filled up, the volume became a bit much and I very seriously thought I might have an anxiety attack. But silly colour matching game kept me occupied until the support act came on.

Chloe Petts was absolutely fantastic – I got a little too in my head about the whole thing and was mildly concerned I’d be the weirdo in the crowd that didn’t laugh throughout the whole show, but Chloe had the most wonderful stage presence and don’t you worry reader, I laughed the night away. Chloe’s parting words were ‘don’t be pussy, follow me on twitter and Instagram’ and I did, what can I say.

Then the man himself Mr Ed Gamble – what we didn’t realise when booking these tickets is that this show would be the last night of the first leg of the tour and with that in mind, Ed had no fucks left to give. He was absolutely brilliant and I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in a very long time.

I realised about half way through that every time I laughed I kept slapping Lucas’s thigh and I did wonder at what point I would actually bruise him. If that’s not a summary of the night I’m not sure what could be.

The whole set was fantastic – the whole journey home we kept reminding each other of some of the punchlines and giggling and now we want to go to all the comedy gigs. A perfect first comedy show for us, thank you Mr Gamble sir.

Now the end of the night is the boring bit right? Wait for the bus, see a whole plethora of Oxford students and young people preparing for their nights out as we were heading home, get in the car, beep beep down the M40 and basically straight into bed, right? Well, pretty much but there was one mildly entertaining thing that happened and I’m pretty sure it won’t be as funny in writing but I want to share it anyway.

We realised about three quarter’s of the way through the show that not having a drink and laughing the night away was not a fantastic combination, so we went to a little Tesco, witnessed someone buying far too many onions for 10pm on a Saturday night (like, 10+ onions), bought ourselves a couple of painfully boring non-alcoholic drinks and waddled on back to the bus stop opposite a Wetherspoons (entertainment enough, really).

We got on the bus with a bunch of lovely people who were getting off before us and let us have the two remaining seats and settled in for the journey back to the park and ride. Only to realise the next stop, was right outside the Tesco’s we’d just bought our drinks from and we’d walked all the way to the next bus stop.

Thank you for reading!

Sophie xx

7 mini blog posts – Fitness, Life, Reading, Wedding and a Film Review!

2022, career, fitness, lifestyle, review

Hello!

I’m feeling a bit in-between with my blog at the moment – I want to write but I’m quite stressed and I don’t have the creative energy to think of original ideas to write about. In the last 24 hours I’ve developed a rather disgusting cold (that thankfully isn’t covid!) and I’m very bunged up and my brain feels like cotton wool, which is absolutely not helping!

So I thought today I’d write a few mini blog posts of ideas I had that aren’t long enough to make a whole post. There’s a mix of mini life updates, random thoughts and even a film review, I hope you enjoy!

One – Making Progress With Exercise

I think if you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you’ll know I’m quite good at getting over excited about something when I start it and then not really following through. And to go with that – I started Couch to 5k this week… for the third time! Have I ever finished the nine-week running program before? No, but will I try again? Absolutely!

But what I wanted to say is that pairing running with having been doing three dance classes a week for nearly eight months now, I’m finally starting to see an improvement in my fitness. I’m very particular about monitoring my statistics on my FitBit and the section for ‘Cardio Fitness’ has always been rated as ‘Poor’ for me, but in the last few days I’ve actually got into the ‘Fair’ category and although I’m not losing a ton of weight and both my dance classes and runs absolutely exhaust me, I can feel a difference! And that progress is more motivating than anything else.

Two – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

My partner and I booked a random week off a couple of months ago, just to be able to spend some time together and actually take a break from work, because we were both exhausted. When we realised it tied in with the release of the new Fantastic Beasts film, we decided to treat ourselves and drive up to the Showcase Cinema near my mum’s house because they have the fancy pants comfy recliner seats and now I’m a cinema snob.

The film itself at surface level was fun – the music was incredible, there were some really funny moments and the magic will always be a place of home for me, despite all the controversy around the Wizarding World, I can’t help but feel comforted by it.

As proper nerds, there were a lot of points we made as we came out of the film that made it no more than a 6/10 (for me at least). Personally, I feel like the whole trilogy wasn’t really thought through and the intention of the plot got lost along the way, but I want to keep this a spoiler free review so I won’t go into it too much.

The one non-spoiler thing that really stood out to me is that a couple of the accents were really patchy? Jude Law, as an English actor, sounded both American and Irish in parts and appeared to struggle to maintain his English accent and the charms professor, we had no idea whether she was a Hogwarts teacher or an Ilvermorny teacher because her accent consistently switched. A little distracting. But still a 6 out of 10 film.

Three – The wedding is coming together!

Part of the reason we came up to the Showcase near my mum’s is that it’s also near our wedding venue and we had an appointment with the woman who’s helping us organise the day and I had a consultation with a hair stylist.

I had been using our week off to spend some time on some of the more tedious admin tasks around the wedding and I was just getting to the point where it was feeling a bit stressful and overwhelming, but our meeting went really well and we got a little tour of the part of the venue that’s being renovated so I feel much more calm about it all now!

It’s all coming together and is slowly starting to feel much more real.

Four – I did a dance show

I spent my entire childhood going to more and more dance classes – starting with ballet, then trying acro, starting tap and modern, adding hip hop – basically going to as many classes as I could and doing a big show at the local theatre every two years.

Never did I think at 25 I’d be doing it again but I donned my sparkly waistcoat for a tap duet and a jingly jangly ballet costume and performed for the first time since dancing at a cheerleading competition at uni.

It’s a funny one, because I don’t feel like it’s me in those photos – it’s not new information that I’m very insecure about my weight and I don’t feel like I look like me, but outside of seeing the photos and videos, I loved being back on stage and I feel very lucky to have found such a wonderful dance company to do it with.

Five – Work feels stressful in a good way

Despite having this week off (having desperately needed it!), work actually feels stressfully rewarding at the moment.

The department I work in has grown and changed exponentially in the six months I’ve been with the company and just a couple of weeks ago we did a massive content overhaul and started working to a new content plan and don’t get me wrong, it’s been incredibly busy, but it’s given us more structure to work with and I’ve somewhat been given the responsibility of making it sustainable and it’s getting there!

I’m learning a lot of organisational and management skills, which is nothing like the marketing job I thought I’d signed up for but I think I like the more ‘producer’ side of my role. I never thought I was the right person to work in media, but it turns out I’m actually not too bad at it!

What makes a huge impact is that I have the most amazing colleagues – I adore the people I work with and I feel like we work so well together as a team, the media production team are going to do big things this year and at surface level I will appear to be very stressed about it, but having had a week off to reflect I’m so proud of what our little media team has achieved.

Six – I’ve hit my reading peak already this year

I mentioned it briefly in my April Goals, but I’m basically not reading at the moment – I managed to listen to one audiobook in March (it was a bloody good one though) and in April so far I’ve not listened to or read a single word.

With my audiobooks, I feel like I’ve not got the brain space to listen to a story when I’m driving and to read a physical book before I go to sleep? Not a chance – I get into bed and I’m asleep within about 10 minutes!

I’m not sure what the solution is, I imagine I just have to ride the wave and get back to it when I feel ready, but I do miss it! When the weather gets better I can’t wait to get the sun loungers out and sit in the garden with a book.

Seven Why is it so hard to find plus sized active wear

This has always bothered me, but particularly recently – my ballet friend and I decided we want to go back to wearing tights and leotards to class (because why not?) and although I still have a bunch of leotards from when I was a teenager at dance (because I’m sentimental af), I’m not quite the same size I was then!

But finding leotards that go to bigger sizes are ridiculous! I’m lucky if the Large is bigger than a 14 and there’s no such thing as a plus sized leotard that’s not lycra and shiny – I want the pretty leotards too!

It’s not just the lack of availability that bothers me, it’s the teenage girls who did as many dance classes as I did being told that they’re ‘Large’ because they’re bigger than a 10. God forbid being tall! Or having broad shoulders! Let’s not even talk about boobs. The industry is so discriminative and sure, they want professional dancers to be a certain size, whatever – no random girl on the internet is going to change that – but there’s so much more to dance than being a professional ballerina.

But it’s not just dance wear – even just fitness clothes are difficult to find if you’re plus sized! It baffles me that we have to have different sections for ‘plus sized’ and ‘petite’ and ‘tall’ when surely it would be better if everyone had access to exactly the same options but available in all sizes, with a petite, regular and tall option.

I know I’m not the only one who thinks it but it is just another way to make people feel bad about themselves, isn’t it? Because there’s no way that anyone who shops in the ‘plus sized’ section should be allowed to feel happy with how they look?

Why are we gatekeeping exercise? I go to three dance classes a week and getting clothes to exercise in has been a nightmare, and I’m lucky enough to be a size that is sometimes catered for in the main range.

Maybe I’ve just not found the right places to shop, but the whole thing is incredibly frustrating!


Not quite the note I wanted to end on, but there’s a few thoughts I’ve had recently!

Of course, in the process of not being able to think of one complete blog post, I’ve written one three times the length I normally would! But like I said at the beginning, I love writing and I very much enjoy writing on my little blog!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

April Goals ’22

2022, goals

Hello!

Yes, I’m still here! March ended up being ridiculously busy between a relatively big change to my role at work which took me longer to process than it should have, rehearsals for a dance show that let me pretend I was a teenager again (except I can drive myself to the theatre now!) and trying to get enough sleep at night, I didn’t have the time let alone the brain space to think about anything else!

But, a personal goal of mine is to let myself get better at rearranging my to do lists and not beating myself up if I don’t finish every single task so in a way, it was all good practice!

And to be honest, the only thing you missed out on was a March Reading Wrap Up post where I said that I only finished one book (the audiobook for ‘The Love Hypothesis’ by Ali Hazelwood which was 5/5) and having a little sad ramble about how my brain is too busy and sleepy to make time for reading at the moment.

So now it’s April, my dance show is over (and went pretty well I think!), I’m starting the month with a week off work to spend with my partner and I’m ready to feel refreshed and re-energised! Here are my goals for the month:

Sort out my portfolio website – I’ve been getting emails about it left right and centre about domains and WordPress things and I need to figure it all out. I want to evaluate if it really serves me to have a half finished website that I don’t know enough about to make it look pretty and I can’t afford to hire a proper designer. Whether it’s finishing it or deleting it, I’m going to figure it out and sort it this month!

Start Couch to 5k – it’ll be my third attempt to finish the program, but my partner and I are going to try and do it together and pairing that with now getting a gym membership through work, I’m actually kind of excited about exercising. Since starting dance again last September, I’ve enjoyed feeling like I’m pushing myself and getting better at something and I think running will be really good for me.

Wedding tasks – bridesmaid’s dresses, hair and make-up, ushers suits – this month marks only 7 months to the wedding and with my wedding dress ordered (eeeee!) it all feels more real and I’ve really got to get a move on! I have a hair consultation booked with the spa at the venue but getting the outfits sorted for the rest of the wedding party is the main priority now (or at least, starting the process!).

Writing challenge – what did I just say about being adaptable and not overwhelming myself with tasks? Ha, why not set a challenge to write 45,000 words in a month and not start until day 4, sounds like a fantastic idea. But, the writing is more important to me than the word goal – the way I spend my free time has totally changed since I was a teenager and I don’t spend every waking minute writing anymore, I have to set myself goals or I don’t do it. And when I do set the goals I always realise how much I still love it.

Monthly goals:
Read 3 books
Weekly savings challenge
Date night (actually already done, as soon as he got his first negative covid test and we could stop social distancing in our own house!)
Craft project – Use my cricut

My craft project goals this year have absolutely fallen on the back burner and been the first thing to go when I’m busy, but starting the month with a week off, I want to make time to figure out how I can use it to do some crafts for the wedding – I’m really excited about it.

I absolutely need to work on setting myself less overwhelming goals – like starting a new workout plan, craft projects and writing challenges all in one month is a bit much, but it’s as much about prioritising what I really enjoy and learning about personal time management as it is about ticking off goals. It might not make sense, but I at least like to tell myself I vaguely know what I’m doing!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx