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

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Red, White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston | Book Review

2021, books

Hello!

Since I started my Audible subscription last month, I have used my monthly credits to listen to books I haven’t had the chance to buy yet (and it feels like I’m getting free books, which feels good!).

So when my credit came in at the end of September, I was browsing through my wish list on Storygraph to decide what I was going to use my credit on and as soon as I got to ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston, I knew that was my pick for the month.

I don’t know I’ve seen a book as hyped as I have seen RW&RB – on tiktok, Instagram, booktube, I don’t think I’ve seen a review less than 5 stars. A royal LGBTQ+ love story is a recipe for the perfect book right?

Yes, yes it is. I finished listening to this book in just two weeks (considering it was nearly a 12 hour listen and I only listen to audiobooks when I’m driving) and I was obsessed from the off.

The voice actor for Alex’s character was perfect – the charming First Son of the United States was the perfect mix of hardworking, ambitious politician and 22 year old college student just trying to figure himself out while journalists writes articles speculating every aspect of his life.

Then there’s Henry. This precious, posh British Prince who’s grown up being told about his obligations and duty, knowing that a core part of who he is doesn’t fit the ‘duty’ he is meant to serve. Behind all the bravado of being the Prince of England, he’s a giant nerd who loves Star Wars, the gay history of the British Isles and his dog David.

Even the secondary characters – the White House Trio, the super six, Zara, Amy, Cash, Shan – they were all such realistic characters. They felt real – if I didn’t know the unfortunate truth of the 2016 US Election and the names of the British Royal family, they all felt so human from just a few words on a page (or words coming out of my car speakers) that they felt real. The language was so authentic and didn’t sound forced, particularly the dialogue. The multi-medium storytelling with pros, texts, emails was so immersive and I’ll never get over the narration repeating ‘HRH Prince Dickhead Poop Emoji’ over and over again during the text message scenes.

I can’t put into words how much I adored this story – I have not laughed, gasped and commented out loud on a story as much as I did with Red, White and Royal Blue in a very long time, if ever. The sarcastic dialogue between Alex and his sister June, the authenticity of the President’s staff every time they tell Alex how fucking difficult he makes things and the honest conversations about being a Mexican kid raised in America and elevated to being America’s Most Eligible Bachelor.

It was honest and heartwarming and made me squeal like a fangirl – I’ve not finished a book and immediately wanted to read it again before, but after finishing the audiobook I went a bought a paperback copy almost immediately (and Casey McQuiston’s next book ‘One Last Stop’) and there’s a very real chance that I will read Red, White and Royal Blue again before working through the other two hundred books on my ‘to be read’ shelf.

Red, White and Royal Blue has made it on to my list of all time favourite books and I need somebody to fangirl over it with me please.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx