what I read in April ’23

2023, books, review


My consistency with reading is one of the things I’m most proud of this year so far – I’ve been really trying to spend less time on my phone in the evenings so I’ve read more in four months than I’ve ever read before. Then this snowballs into enjoying reading even more and spending even more time doing it!

As I’m writing this, I finished three books this month but I’m close to finishing my current paperback and my current audiobook so it might be on five by the end of the month! It’s been a really varied month featuring my first 2 star rating of the year, so buckle in!

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) – Naomi Novik (audio) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Honestly, I only used a credit on this book because I saw the third in the trilogy in Waterstones and thought it was pretty.

Galadriel (El) is a 17 year old junior at potentially the most dangerous high school in the world – filled with thousands of wizards, only a handful of which will graduate, the students have to navigate being hunted and attacked by the variety of creatures desperate to break into the school whilst navigating a teacher-less education system and working to build the energy they need to cast the magic they’ll use to make it out of graduation alive. Orion Lake has taken it upon himself to be the school superhero – destroying as much of the malificaria as he can and saving hundreds of lives, much to the dismay of the seniors approaching a graduation hall full of the hungriest monsters the school has ever seen. Somehow catching his attention and finding herself in a position of potentially making the alliances she needs to get out of the school alive, El needs to figure out Orion Lake and stop needing to be saved by him, before she let’s the dark magic take over.

The first half was a struggle – I found the protagonist, El, quite irritating and the narrator used such a snotty accent (and her American accent when reading other characters was patchy at best). But as I tuned in to El as a character, realising she wasn’t trying to be a hero but played more of an anti-hero role (as well as going through some more humanising character development), I found myself wanting to listen to the rest of the book in every spare opportunity.

The world building is fantastic, incredibly immersive without taking that narrative stance of ‘assuming the reader already understands and making them play catch up’ attitude that I find difficult to comprehend. The peripheral character’s are really sweet and the last few chapters found that perfect balance of feeling conclusive and like they had an ending, whilst leaving a little trail of a cliffhanger to make you want to read the next book. I was very lucky to find a physical copy of the sequel ‘The Last Graduate’ on a trip to Oxford Waterstones where my husband felt guilty that he was buying three books so bought me the one I really wanted.

The Giver of Stars – JoJo Moyes (paperback) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not normally one for historical fiction – give me fantasy, contemporary or dystopian any day – but as someone who loves learning about history, and has an unhealthy obsession with Bridgerton, I know I need to try more!

Set in 1930s America, ‘The Giver of Stars’ started very slowly – perhaps reflecting to mundanity of the life our protagonist has found herself in. Alice has moved from her home in England to a small town in Kentucky with the man she somewhat spontaneously married – trying to figure out her life as a wife in a country she knows nothing about with townspeople that think they already know her, Alice inadvertently signs herself up for the controversial Packhorse Library – taking books to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them in the rural mountains around their town. In trying to navigate her role as a wife, facing backlash for her part in in the library and finding friendships where her husband’s father doesn’t approve, Alice grows up fast and learns that the expectations set upon her might not align with the life she wants.

Although it dragged a bit at the beginning, the last 50% of the story was actually quite intense! With several major plot events that kept me hooked, I was squeezing in an extra chapter whenever I could. In the end, it was a beautiful tale of female friendships, the power of literature and the heart of real love that I actually think I will return to reread at some point.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon (paperback) ⭐️⭐️

Oooh do I have opinions on this one!

I read this one because it was my partner’s choice for our wedding library book club (context: for our wedding, we asked our guests to gift us a copy of their favourite book so we have a library of our favourite people’s favourite books, in an endeavour to read them all, we take it in turns to pick one a month and I call it a book club to make it sound more exciting than it is) and I was mildly apprehensive – I read ‘The Curious Incident’ for English at school and I didn’t enjoy it, so reading it again as an adult who is waiting to be diagnosed with autism, I was intrigued to see how my opinion of the book that is famed for it’s autistic protagonist may change as my understanding of ASD has developed.

Well, it turns out I still hated it.

But halfway through I decided to research the author’s relationship with ASD – whether he had it himself or knew someone with it. I found an article from his website where he proudly states that he doesn’t know anything about the disorder and didn’t do any research before writing Christopher how he did, saying ‘imagination always trumps research’ – cue, my blood starting to boil.

I realised at this point that I didn’t like Christopher not because he’s autistic, but because he is a presentation of everything that an ignorant neurotypical person finds inconvenient about their stereotypical perception of autism. Arguably, Christopher is not autistic – Christopher is a neurotypical assumption. How can anyone give themselves the illusion that they can write a first person narrative of a character they clearly intended to be autistic without doing any research?

It got 2 stars because it’s not technically badly written (badly researched, but I save my 1 star rating for very special occasions), but I would like to set it on fire.

Currently reading:

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) – Naomi Novik (paperback) – 60%

Following ‘A Deadly Education’, El has officially made it to her senior year, next step: getting back out into the world alive.

If I write any more of a summary of this one, I will inadvertently spoil the first one so I’ll leave it there for now but I’m actually enjoying ‘The Last Graduate’ even more than ‘A Deadly Education’ – it picks up right where the first one left off, so I’m glad I’m reading them in quick succession otherwise I’d have forgotten so many of the key details and there’s no reminders or recontextualising. I’ve used an audible credit so I can leap straight into the conclusion when I finish this one but so far, I’m thoroughly enjoying it and incredibly intrigued about what the subject of the third instalment could be.

Icebreaker – Hannah Grace (audio) – 69%

Anastasia is a college figure skater hoping to qualify for the Olympics. Nate is a college ice hockey player who has been offered a place on a pro team once he graduates. When a revenge prank goes too far and the teams have to share a rink for the duration of the semester, Anastasia’s neatly detailed planner is derailed and she’s not happy. But Nate wants to make the transition to sharing the rink as smooth as possible, and the fact that he thinks Anastasia is gorgeous is just a bonus.

This is one of the spiciest books I’ve ever read – listening to it in the car makes me wonder how much is too much because if anyone else could hear what I was listening to, I would get some incredibly funny looks!

The main characters are incredibly sweet, the presentation of trauma is incredibly raw and authentic and the smut scenes are something else (interpret that how you will). I’m definitely going to finish this at the weekend as I’ve got a couple of long drives but I have had a fantastic time reading this, despite how inappropriate it’s felt at times 😂

The only other book I have on the go is the sequel to ‘hush, hush’ by Becca Fitzpatrick on my kindle, but what I’ve learnt about myself this month is that I can manage one eye reading book and one ear reading book at a time, so when I finish ‘The Last Graduate’ I’m going to read the rest of the ‘hush, hush’ series and honestly, that sounds like a fantastic way to start my holiday!

I imagine May’s wrap up will be quite a bit longer, as I’m flying off to Greece for two weeks for my honeymoon and I cannot wait to have some time in the sun with a stack of books!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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