23 books for 2023

2023, books

Hello!

Books and reading appear to be my current hyper-fixation – I loved all the statistics that were being shared at the end of 2022 and managing to read seven books in December has really spurred me on for the beginning of this year.

I’ve already finished three books this year and I’m finally coming to the end of the Alex Rider series – I have just two more books to finish and then I can read something else! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series but after 13 books I will be very happy to read something else.

Although I am using the system of a tbr jar (all the unread books I own are on strips of paper in a jar – the jar choses what I read next!) there are lots of books that I would love to get round to reading this year. Will I get round to the them if I’m relying on the mystery of titles in a jar to determine my next read? Maybe not! But I thought I’d collate the list anyway!

One – The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

A contemporary romance I’ve heard loads about on TikTok and, in my experience, I’ve adored every contemporary romance I’ve read because of TikTok so I think this will be a good one for if I end up in a reading slump and I need something that’s easy to read that I can devour.

Two – Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom + Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Already picking more than one book and counting it as one! I’ve heard so many good things about the GrishaVerse and I think it’s one that I will thoroughly enjoy… when I get round to reading it. A lot of the cosplayers I follow on TikTok have done characters from these stories and I’m looking forward to understanding the references, honestly.

Three – The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

TikTok hype and Fantasy? Yeah, I think I’m going to like this one a lot. I’ve also convinced my partner to read this one too and we’ve already bought a very beautiful copy of the sequel The Atlas Paradox. I’m a sucker for pretty books with lots of hype, it seems.

Four – With This Kiss by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I preordered this book in 2021 and I never got round to reading it in 2022 so I really want to read it this year. I am a big fan of Carrie Hope Fletcher in her many endeavours but her books are hit and miss for me. I do like the fantastical realism in her first book On The Other Side so I’m hoping for something like that!

Five – My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth

An MCR joke in a contemporary romance sounds like a recipe for a book I’ll like very much. I also read somewhere that this author is the same as the writer of The Atlas Six and I kind of love that there are two such different books written by the same person both on my tbr.

Six – Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I wanted this book entirely because of the elements of the periodic table feature on the sprayed edges of the Waterstones edition and my husband bought it for me as a Christmas present and I don’t really know if I’m going to like the story but I’m excited to find out! Hopefully this year!

Seven – An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Another YouTuber turned author that I’ve been following for a very long time and now I want to read the book. I’ve heard fantastic things about the mental health representation and although I am starting to grow out of YA a bit, I love a contemporary story and I’m hoping it’ll be a nice easy one that I can get through quickly.

Eight – Loathe to Love You by Ali Hazelwood

I went to buy this on release day because I’m a slut for Ali Hazelwood – The Love Hypothesis and Love On The Brain were two of my favourite reads in 2022 and I’m really excited to read this collection of short stories. I’ve heard mixed things about them but that’s from a YouTuber who tends to be very critical of what she reads so I’m going in open minded.

Nine – Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I loved Beach Read by Emily Henry with the kind of ferocity of someone who is angry with how cute a puppy is. I adored it. I’ve seen lots of positive reviews of further Emily Henry books and with my love for Beach Read in mind, I’m very much looking forward to this one.

Ten – Babel by R. F. Kuang

Everyone on BookTok and bookstagram likes it and it’s pretty. Chunkier than most of the books I tend to read but maybe it’ll make me feel cultured.

Eleven – A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Mass

I’ve seen so many opinions on ACOTAR, definitely one that divides people but I do tend to like the books that are really popular. The thing with this is that if I like this then I have to commit to the whole series, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Twelve – Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

Another series? What do you mean I’m asking too much of myself? Another one I’ve seen on BookTok that I’m hoping I’ll devour as quickly as I devoured The Selection. A nice cheesy romance with some fantasy (I think?)

Thirteen – The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

I know, I’m three million years behind on this one, but I wasn’t that bothered by the concept and then it was super popular and now there’s a TV show so I now I feel like I need to read it. I read The Switch and enjoyed that as a harmless easy read, so hoping for the same from The Flat Share.

Fourteen – Alice Oseman novels

Solitaire, Loveless, I Was Born For This and Radio Silence. I believe they’re all set in the Heartstopper universe but Alice’s website says I can read them in whatever order I fancy so they’re all about different unconnected characters. I don’t think I’ve taken more than two days to read any Alice Oseman book so far but that’s been four graphic novels and two novellas so much shorter, but I can’t imagine I’ll take much longer to read the novels because I will get obsessed.

Fifteen – Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

I’ve had the sequel to this book, Spirit Walker, for maybe a decade? Probably even longer. But I got hold of the first in the series in… 2021 and now maybe I’ll actually read them!

Sixteen – God’s Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

I bought this for my husband’s birthday last year because we both love Greek God stories and then he recommended I read it, which I then added to my list and now we’re here. It’s on the list.

Seventeen – Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman

I want to watch the TV show. But I need to read the book first. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

Eighteen – His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

For our wedding, we had a reading from The Amber Spyglass as part of our ceremony. On our mini-moon, we realised that we should probably have a copy of the book considering the closest thing to a theme we had for our wedding was books. Next step: actually reading it.

Nineteen – Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve

My sibling gifted me this book ages ago and, again, I want to watch the film so I need to read the book first. Apparently the book is better so it’s probably best if I start with that.

Twenty – Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve never read a TJR book and this is an author that has summoned a lot of hype so I should definitely read at least one, right? Daisy Jones and the Six is the one I’ve heard the most good things about and it’s about a band so I’m excited.

Twenty-One – Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score

It’s got a pretty cover and I bought it recently. It hits all the dopamine spots – new and pretty.

Twenty-Two – Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Honestly, I don’t really know what this is about either but I’ve seen lots of hype and it’s got a pretty cover. I’m a basic bitch and I will judge a book by it’s cover.

Twenty-Three – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve ordered the rest of this list alphabetically by author’s surname but I wanted to drop this in at the bottom because Fangirl is my go to answer when someone asks what my favourite book is, so I’d like to reread it this year to see if it stands the test of time. We’ve just booked our honeymoon for two weeks in May so I might take it there with me and read it then.

I’m already having a minor complex about how many books I take on holiday, but worst comes to worst, I will sacrifice clothes. Books are more important than swimwear.

Realistically, I only read 39 books last year so if I make it through the 23(+) on this list based on the random titles I pull from my tbr jar with over 200 books in it, it will be a literal miracle. But if I don’t read them all, that’s also fine – they’re not going anywhere (because I will not throw away books).

Thank you for reading!

Sophie xx

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every book I read in 2022

2022, 2023, books

Hello!

Although I didn’t read as much as I did in 2021, I still hit my 2022 reading goal and I’m proud of everything I did read – I started my tbr jar (‘to be read’ – a list of every book I own that’s never been read…) and promptly chose a series that I owned six books of but had 13 total… I’m yet to pull another title out of my tbr jar… but soon!

In December, I managed to read 7 books and I’m hoping to take that momentum into January. My goal for this year is 42 books – I started with 12 in 2020 so it would be one a month, then 25 in 2021 (because 24 felt weird) to be roughly two a month, then 2022 was 36 books. I read 39 total, so jumping to the next multiple of 12 to 48 felt like too much of a leap, so halfway between at 42 felt like a good balance and breaks down to three and a half books a month, which I think I can manage.

I’m nearly finished my first read of 2023 (Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz – the 10th book in the Alex Rider series) so I thought I’d do a summary of all the books I read in 2022, what I rated them and a quick summary of my thoughts – enjoy!

OneGet a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert (audiobook, 4 stars)
This audiobook is a fantastic example of how the voice of the narrator can completely change your relationship with the story – I found the voice of Chloe so incessantly annoying that I really thought I wasn’t enjoying myself, but actually it was heartwarming, a fantastic representation of invisible chronic illness and an honest insight into how hard it can be to break away from what’s easy. I’d like to reread in paperback and maybe try the sequels as well.

Two – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz (audiobook, 5 stars)
I was in two minds about reading this one as it sounded a little bit pretentious, but when I had an audible credit and the narrator is Lin Manuel Miranda, I had to give it a go. Although it was a bit poetic and metaphorical in places, at it’s heart it was a story of two boys just trying to figure the world out. In my book journal I wrote: ‘It was wholesome and emotional and funny in the perfect balance. It was raw and real and unapologetic in a way you don’t often see in YA.’ It was a lovely listen and I hope to pick up the sequel at some point.

Three – Talk Bookish To Me – Kate Bromley (paperback, 4 stars)
I categorise this book as ‘one of those one’s that’s in the deals section of The Works that I’ve never seen anyone talking about but is actually fantastic’ and this is why I keep going back to The Works (I got 8 books for £24 last time I was there). Another sub-genre that I appear to love is books about people who love books, who are writers or work in publishing. This was a nice easy romance read that was very relatable as someone who also likes books and writing and Instagram. A lovely read!

Four – Albion: The Legend of Arthur – Robert Valentine (audiobook, 1 star)
I was so excited about this audible find – a full cast story about the Legend of Arthur, one of my favourite legends and one I love to see retold? It was one of the most painfully long audiobooks I’ve ever listen to and this was when I realised a full cast without a narrator is incredibly difficult to follow when the entire cast is posh British men who don’t sound that different, and I’m meant to somehow differentiate between? As well as having basically no plot and killing off the main character at the end, it was a huge waste of time. Glad it was on Audible Plus and I didn’t have to use a credit!

Five – Billy and Me – Giovanna Fletcher (paperback, 3 stars)
I only really know about Giovanna Fletcher as an author because of her husband and sister-in-law and it’s the only reason I own her books, but I was quite disappointed in the writing of this one. The characters felt fake and stagey and it made it hard to connect to them, but it was an easy enough read and engaging enough to make me actually pick it up and read it every night. An average 3 stars!

Six – Grand Theft Astro – Scott Meyers (audiobook, 1 star)
I don’t know if I just haven’t read enough sci-fi, or if this one in particular was just really bland. Having an emotionally devoid protagonist narrated by someone who sounded like they were bored out of their mind was so difficult to listen to. Most of the story was really in depth description of the main characters actions – she did this, then she did this, then in a really detailed long-winded way of explaining it, she did this. It was so dull and considering it was about a space thief doing a series of massive heists, it should have been so cool!

Seven – Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher – (paperback, 3 stars)
I have this terrible habit with reading that I have to give everything a chance to get better – hence why I will finish a series I’m not enjoying and I only stopped reading (DNF – did not finish) one audiobook this year. It was the same, slightly-below average women’s fiction. In my journal I wrote: ‘Standard contemporary romance; easy to read, predictable proposal conclusion.’ The subplot with the protagonists’ mum’s wedding, how she was running the little cafe and her life in her little town was way better than the romance plot. In my journal I added: ‘Would have been a brilliant curveball if she’d met someone more settled and she and Billy parted ways amicably wanting the best for each other’ (and I think it would have made way more sense).

Eight – Ace of Shades – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 5 stars)
I adored this series. I knew there was a popular TikTok book called ‘Ace of Spades’ and I downloaded this in confusion but I have zero regrets. An epic YA fantasy that built the most brilliantly immersive universe with seamlessly integrated fantasy elements that it felt so real. The characters were sweet and flawed and self-aware and I adored this series so much – need to get myself copies of the paperbacks! Maybe even hardbacks if they’re pretty.

Nine – Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Bayron (paperback, 2 stars)
Normally when I see books that are getting loads of hype online, I love them – I tend to have the same opinions as the majority but in this one I was so wrong. The concept was truly unbelievable, the laws and traditions make literally no sense and the ending was incredibly anticlimactic. The two main characters were so bland and I didn’t understand how anyone could feel any chemistry between them and it felt like shoving in some LGBT representation for the sake of it. I don’t understand. Donated this one immediately.

Ten – The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood (audiobook, 5 stars)
On the flipside, a TikTok book that I absolutely adored leading to me finding a new favourite author. What I wrote in my journal was: ‘Nerdy science shit? Enemies to lovers / fake dating / it was always you romance? YES PLEASE’ and there’s no other way to describe it. The characters were perfect, Adam the hero made my heart ache with love and wow, the spicy scenes were spicy. Considering I listened to most of my audiobooks while commuting to work, this felt borderline inappropriate and I kind of loved it. 100% adore Ali Hazelwood.

Eleven – The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang (audiobook, 5 stars)
Another fantastic book I saw getting lots of hype online but I was sold on it when I read the blurb on a random Waterstones trip and decided to use an Audible credit on it – an autistic main character! Whilst I’m on a waiting list to be diagnosed! The representation was beautiful and wow I love a dual narrative. Also incredibly spicy sex scenes again… oops?

Twelve – Where There’s A Will – Beth Corby (paperback, 4 stars)
I don’t know how or why I convinced myself this was a story about a guy called Will, but I really did. However, it was about an absolutely ridiculous challenge set by long lost Great-Uncle Donald in his will upon his death (no people called Will in sight) which leads protagonist Hannah to find out more about her family than she ever thought she could know, getting to know his assistant very well in the process. A lovely reminder to live in the present, take no shit and love wholly.

Thirteen – Heartstopper Volume 1 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 3 stars)
A surprise rating, but my first ever graphic novel and I think getting used to the format impacted my understanding of the story. Although I devoured it in one sitting and I found Nick and Charlie very cute, I found this format being so much faster pace meant I didn’t quite get to know them properly before it was all over. But I knew I needed to read Volume 2 before I watched the Netflix show…

But I also finished an audiobook in between so here’s that:

Fourteen – The Bridge Kingdom – Danielle L Jenson (audiobook, 4 stars)
I really thought this would be a smutty historical fantasy, but Audible Plus gave me so much more. Enemies to lovers, accidentally falling in love, manipulative political rivalry between Kingdom’s where a Princess has been trained as an intelligent killer. But by the time she realises everything she’s been told is a lie, it’s too late to save the Kingdom and it’s people she’s come to love. It was actually brilliant, though I don’t think it’s fantasy because there wasn’t any magic but it’s a bit historical and kind of mythical? The categories confuse me!

Fifteen – Heartstopper Volume 2 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
This is when I fell in love with Nick and Charlie. They’re the perfect representation of how wholeheartedly teenagers can fall in love, how difficult and complicated it can be to figure out emotions and sexuality and who your friends really are amongst the absolutely shambles that being a teenager is. And I’m going to take a moment to say Charlie’s casting in the Netflix show? Joe Locke was born to play Charlie – considering it’s a graphic novel and there’s less flexibility with what the characters can look like, it’s actually incredible how perfect he is to play Charlie.

Sixteen – The Traitor Queen – Danielle L Jenson (audiobook, 4 stars)
A fantastic second part to The Bridge Kingdom shows fantastic character development from Lara, the power of love despite betrayal and a fantastic demonstration of forced proximity and surviving in treacherous conditions to try and save the day. A lovely duology which I would happily revisit.

Seventeen – Love, Lucas – Chantele Sedgwick (audiobook, 2 stars)
I picked it because my now-husbands name is Lucas, but turns out the Lucas in this book is dead and his sister is trying to process her grief by reading a series of letters he left for her in his dying days. Angsty teenage romance that ended with the most ridiculous fight where she was definitely in the wrong and then the pivotal plot point was a shark attack? At the time of reading, I wrote in my journal: ‘An adult badly writing teenagers with no creative plot at all.’

Eighteen – Take The Shot – Susan White (audiobook, 3 stars)
Again, I keep making things up about books I download that aren’t true – assumed this was a sports romance, turns out it was a 14 year old with Marfan syndrome who loves basketball and is told he’s not allowed to play anymore. It was actually a harmless YA story of friendship, truth and lies that was easy to read and captivating. My first Australian audiobook too!

Nineteen – The Queen of Volts – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 4 stars)
Owing to an innate sexism I need to address, I made the incorrect assumption that ‘Queen’ came before ‘King’ in the sequels to Ace of Shades, so I actually listened to book three before book two which was only mildly confusing and still surprisingly easy to follow, which just further adds to Amanda Foody’s fantastic writing style and wonderful world building. I just wish I’d double checked the order before I listened to it.

Twenty – King of Fools – Amanda Foody (audiobook, 4 stars)
Though, there was an added suspense to reading them out of order that meant I knew of some major plot points that impacted book three and it was a waiting game as to when they would happen. The only reason I rated it four stars was because I actually found the supporting characters far more interesting than En and Levi – Tock deserves her own books, Jack and Sophia are really sweet and the introduction of Poppy Prescott was so fun. Definitely need to make time to re-read/listen to this (amongst my disgustingly long tbr…)

Twenty-One – The Mismatch – Sara Jafari (paperback, 5 stars)
I loved this book so much – I learnt so much about Iranian muslim culture and how it particularly impacts young people who’s parents grew up ingrained in the culture and figuring out where the line is for forcing that culture on their children now living in the UK. A wonderful intergenerational family drama/romance about the parallels and differences between a mother and her daughter’s romantic stories from the same age in different decades and countries. The romance was arguably the least interesting part of the story but absolutely wonderful nonetheless.

Twenty-Two – Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse – Alex Kingston (paperback, 2 stars)
The book that put me in a reading slump – a beautiful cover and one of my most anticipated books that I’d waited a really long time to get my hands on… and it was awful. The concept of the actress who plays the character writing a story about her was so interesting, but it just felt like a caricature of who River Song is and making a bunch of sassy, girl-boss jokes that didn’t land. Turns out, just because you play the character doesn’t mean you can write her.

Twenty-Three – Five Feet Apart – Rachel Lippencott (paperback, 5 stars)
Oh my heart. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I saw the advert for the film because I think Cole Sprouse looks adorable, but the story itself was just beautiful. I learnt a lot about cystic fibrosis and what it’s like to be a kid who lives with such a chronic condition, but on top of all that the characters were immediately so raw and authentic and real. My journal says: ‘It’s like John Green without the pretentious poetry and ‘I’m not like other girls’ attitude’ and that sums it up really.

Twenty-Four – Heartstopper Volume 3 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
By this point I am fully obsessed with Heartstopper and Nick and Charlie’s story – I love their characterisation, I love how inclusive the characters are and I’m starting to get used to the graphic novel style. Nick’s observation of Charlie’s mental health is the sweetest and most beautiful way to address such a heavy topic and, importantly, emphasise that it was not his job to ‘fix’ him. 10/10.

Twenty-Five – Heartstopper Volume 4 – Alice Oseman (paperback, 5 stars)
Perfection. I don’t cry at books generally, but this one had me on the edge of tears the whole time. How Alice Oseman has created such a compelling story with such loveable characters with so few words and some pictures is mind boggling. How I am full on obsessed with them makes me feel like I’m a fangirl on tumblr again.

Twenty-Six – Stormbreaker (Alex Rider #1) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 3 stars)
The first pick from my tbr jar! What I wrote in my journal was: ‘Nice, relatively short, generic YA read – nicely paced, not super obsessively in love with the characters but don’t hate them either – perfect middle ground’ and having just finished book 9 in the series, it’s funny seeing how I wrote about the first book. What I really learnt from Stormbreaker is how fantastic the 2006 film with Alex Pettyfer was made – a spot on adaptation.

I did accidentally have a reading slump for two months after I finished it as well as a mental health crisis, which might also reflect why I only gave it 3 stars.

Twenty-Seven – Love on the Brain – Ali Hazelwood (paperback, 5 stars)
My love, Ali Hazelwood. The one that brought me back from my reading slump and I started by reading this one by the beach in Brighton in October – cold, but lovely. Wonderful characters, really cool to have another science based protagonist and very, very spicy sex scenes. I could read Ali Hazelwood’s books on loop forever, I adore them so much.

Twenty-Eight – Nick and Charlie – Alice Oseman (borrowed, 5 stars)
I borrowed this novella from my sibling so had a time limit to read and return it, but I would have devoured it anyway. I didn’t think it was possible to love Nick and Charlie more but at seventeen and eighteen, going to parties with alcohol and not ashamed of talking about sex? Somehow Alice made them even better. I did prefer the novella format, though the intermittent drawings were lovely. I wasn’t sure what to write in my journal about this book that I hadn’t already written about the Heartstopper series, so I just wrote a list of things I love about Nick, Charlie and the Heartstopper universe and the point that just sprung out at me as I was looking back is ‘they’re big ol’ gay goofballs’ and honestly, that’s it.

Twenty-Nine – Point Blanc (Alex Rider #2) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
This was the point where I realised that just because it’s middle grade, doesn’t mean it can’t be dark and gripping – Alex as a protagonist may only be 14, but he’s been repeatedly put into life threatening scenarios and manipulated by MI6 and he’s aware of it. His awareness is a lot of the reason that makes the series feel so dark in a way. I believe the newer Amazon Alex Rider series starts with Point Blanc and I’m very intrigued to watch it.

Thirty – Skeleton Key (Alex Rider #3) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
With every novel in this series I’m more and more surprised that it’s recommended for 8-12 year olds and I have had a conversation with my god-mother’s 10 year old daughter about this series – Alex is put through so much and faces such evil that it really made me think about how there might actually be people like them out there in the world and it’s astonishing. In my journal I wrote: ‘It really does keep me guessing! Though that may be a poor reflection of my intellectual capabilities’. For now, we’re going to pretend it’s Anthony Horowitz’s genius, though.

Thirty-One – Eagle Strike (Alex Rider #4) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
Around this point I realised I wouldn’t be able to stop with the first six books in the series and I would need to acquire the remaining seven to have the full set of thirteen, though I would really like to use my tbr jar again. Another fantastic Alex Rider novel, which was actually the last novel I finished before I got married!

Thirty-Two – Scorpia (Alex Rider #5) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
The introduction of Scorpia and everything Alex learned about his dad in this one was honestly so enthralling I would consider bumping this one up to 5 stars in hindsight. Alex starts to scope out his own trouble without MI6 and I definitely don’t think this is suitable for children anymore, considering I found it heavy to burden a fourteen year old child with everything he’s been through, I definitely wouldn’t have coped with it when I was in primary school! Honestly, a fantastic addition to the series.

The rest of November was predominantly filled with writing for NaNoWriMo, so reading came back in December with the festive books I’ve been saving!

Thirty-Three – The Holiday Swap – Maggie Knox (paperback, 2 stars)
Although starting as a quirky, Hallmark-movie esque Christmas book, it became quite clear quite quickly that everything in this story would have been easier if the characters just talked to each other. How two women in a contemporary romance can be so detached from their phones (‘I lost it under the sofa and it ran out of charge for three days’… how!) would have been the least unbelievable bit, if it weren’t for the absolutely ridiculous epilogue.

Thirty-Four – The Christmas Murder Game – Alexandra Benedict (hardback, 5 stars)
I’m so glad I chose to read my Christmas books in this order because holy smokes The Christmas Murder Game was exquisite – I’m not much of a crime/mystery girl, or at least I didn’t think I was! The entire story was intriguing as I soon realised that not only was there lots that the protagonist didn’t know, but there was some things that the protagonist wasn’t sharing too. But the last 80 pages. I don’t want to say ‘everything’ happens in the last 80 pages but the story moved from nought to a hundred in a heartbeat and I am obsessed. Fantastically written, I’m definitely putting Alexandra Benedict’s ‘Murder on the Christmas Express’ on my list for next December!

Thirty-Five – This Winter – Alice Oseman (paperback, 4 stars)
Another story about Nick and Charlie, this time set during the Christmas of Volume 4 (I think?) told in three parts from the perspective of each of the Spring kids – starting with Tori, it was a heartwarming narrative of an outwardly heartless girl just wishing she could protect her brother from insensitive family comments during a difficult season for those with eating disorders. Then there was some lovely mushy stuff with Nick from Charlie’s perspective, all rounded off with a very sweet section from younger sibling Oliver’s perspective, showing how much little one’s really take in.

Thirty-Six – Ark Angel (Alex Rider #6) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
And with all my Christmas books read, it’s back on the Alex Rider train for the book that I met my reading goal with! I was seriously concerned I wouldn’t reach 36 books so I was really proud of myself for getting there. Ark Angel was a truly fantastic ‘end’ to Alex’s story (as it was meant to be, but of course an author that had worked so intently on such an engaging series couldn’t put it down!). The last few pages are an absolute rollercoaster that had me genuinely telling my husband about it in bed. Just astonishing.

Thirty-Seven – Snakehead (Alex Rider #7) – Anthony Horowitz (hardback, 4 stars)
The prettiest of the Alex Rider books that I have, probably a first edition from my husband’s collection when it was originally released. With more references to the organisation Scorpia, the promise of more information about his parents and working with yet another international intelligence organisation, Snakehead is as fast paced and exhilarating at the rest of the series, ending just days ahead of Alex’s 15th birthday.

Thirty-Eight – Crocodile Tears (Alex Rider #8) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
With more brilliantly written enemies, incredibly clever plot and an extreme attempt on Alex’s life at the end, I was as hooked on Crocodile Tears as I have been with every other book in the series. Though, at this point I think it’s pretty 50:50 that I’m trying to read these books quickly because 1) they’re very good and I’m enjoying them and 2) I’d really like to read about someone other than Alex Rider now!

Thirty-Nine – Scorpia Rising (Alex Rider #9) – Anthony Horowitz (paperback, 4 stars)
Scorpia is such a wonderful villain organisation and the reformed members plotting their revenge on Alex Rider by playing MI6 like a game was truly brilliant – the whole series continues to be clever, action-packed with just a touch of wit from a 15 year old who is bored of taking things too seriously. I was so determined to finish this on New Year’s Eve so I could go into 2023 with a brand new book, so I read over 50% of this book in a day (which is a lot for me) whilst sat in a broadcast truck at the Wolverhampton vs Man U football game (my husband took me to work).

This one is supposedly the last in the books about Alex Rider, with book 10 looking into the origin story of Yassen Gregorovich (which I’ve nearly finished and has been fantastic!) so I’m not sure what books 11, 12 and 13 are about but if you want to find out with me my reading Instagram would be the place to look! I post a review of every single book I read there plus I’ve just ‘announced’ (if you can even call it that) a new book club and the book I’ve chosen for January, if you’d like to read along.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! You just read 4000 words of rambling about books – I’ll have to come up with a shorter form of recap next year but in the meantime, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are reading lots of amazing stories!

Thank you,

Sophie xx

how I got out of my reading slump (this time)

2022, books

Hello!

I feel like there is no reader on the planet who is 100% consistently reading all the time – this year alone, I’ve had a couple of months where I’ve read 5 or 6 books and months where I’ve read one… or less.

(yes, some readers get through 30+ books a month and honestly, I can’t fathom reading that quickly/having that much free time – we work to our own goals! Comparison is the thief of joy, etc etc)

Though I still can’t pinpoint the exact reason why I fell into this slump, I’m 90% sure it was conveniently parallel to a severe drop in my mental health that saw me lose interest in literally everything that ever brought me joy, so rather than beat myself up about not reading enough (I was beating myself up about literally every other aspect of my life anyway), I just rode the wave. I didn’t want to read before bed – I’d play silly phone games with my partner, I’d do some creative writing or I’d just watch YouTube and fall asleep.

To then go into the following month with an unexpectedly lonely birthday, a change in mental health medication, suddenly finding myself jobless and still experiencing the worst depression I’ve ever felt, I didn’t have the energy to read!

What it took, was picking up a contemporary romance (my favourite genre) that I’ve been desperate to read for weeks and taking it to read by the sea when I highjacked my partner’s work trip for free transport to Brighton – after a long day of walking miles and miles and giving myself disgusting blisters, I sat on a bench on the sea front outside our hotel, watched the sunset, and started the book I would then become obsessed with and finish only six days later (which, for context, is fast for me).

Then I tumbled into reading the Heartstopper novella ‘Nick and Charlie’ (because my sibling loaned it to me while I was visiting them in Bournemouth, so I had a limited time to read it!) and finished it in 24 hours, all of which reignited my love for reading and I got back on track with what I’m meant to be reading.

I’m currently working through the middle-grade/YA Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and ‘Point Blanc’ was actually brilliant – I rated it 4 stars, I thought it was clever, fast paced and actually funny (not in a ‘funny if I was 14’ way). And I finished it in six days as well! Bringing my total for October so far to 3 books and I’m back on track for my yearly goal of 36 books!

So here are my three tips for getting out of a reading slump, that I will inevitably ignore myself next time I’m in a reading slump:

One take the pressure off – forcing yourself to read isn’t going to be fun and reading should be a relaxing escape. If your reading time is in the evening and you’re not feeling it, do something else. If your reading time is audiobooks while you’re driving and you want to listen to music instead, you jam away my friend. If you feel like you should be reading more than you want to read, do what you can to separate the obligation from something that should be a nice hobby.

Two – choose something that makes you excited to read again – I’ve recently started a tbr jar and whilst I was excited about it at first, it does mean I don’t always want to read what I pull out. So choosing ‘Love on the Brain’ as a book I was so excited to get stuck into, in my favourite genre, in an engaging, easy to read writing style was perfect for me because it made me excited to read again!

Three – if you do want to ‘kick-start’ your reading habit again, try and make a thing out of it (stay with me) – I carried my book round Brighton all day because I wanted to read by the beach while the sunset. This was two fold in that I was setting up the loveliest reading environment to start a new book and if I didn’t read, it would have been a waste of carrying it round all day. Not sure if it’s the healthiest way to look at it, but it works on my brain so I’m rolling with it!

The crux of it all is that life happens and it has a really great habit of getting in the way of the things that make us happy sometimes, but there is always a way back.

Happy reading!

Sophie xx

Love on the Brain – Ali Hazelwood – 5 STAR REVIEW

2022, books, review

Hello!

It’s a miracle – I’ve just finished reading an actual book for the first time in three months!

I’ve been in a slump and I knew a guaranteed win would be the way to get back into it – I absolutely adored The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazelwood’s debut novel and hugely popular book on TikTok (that originally started as Star Wars fanfiction, I love that fact!). I loved that it had such a fantastic narrative for women in STEM, I loved the insight into the life of a pHD scientist in America and the romance storyline was just fantastic, I gobbled it up.

Not to mention the spicy scenes. But I know my mum reads my posts so I won’t go into too much detail on that front.

I’ve been on a book buying ban for the whole year so far. Don’t get me wrong, I have caused books to be bought (thank you fiancé and parents ❤️) but when I got a book voucher for my birthday I was very excited to use it and knew immediately that I was going to buy Love on the Brain, even though I knew literally nothing about it.

Neuroscientist Bee has had a pretty turbulent first 28 years of her life – from losing her parents as a toddler, to being sent all over Europe and North America to live with a variety of family members with her twin Reike, to settling in the US for college, meeting and breaking up with fiancé Tim after he slept with her best friend Annie and she gave up on a fantastic career opportunity to get away from them and work with sleazy, sexist boss Travis at the National Institute for Health.

When she’s chosen to lead a fantastic new project at NASA called BLINK, working on developing helmets for astronauts that use neural stimulation to aid concentration she’s beyond thrilled – she sees her career blossoming in glittering lights… Until she finds out she will actually be co-leading the project with Dr Levi Ward, who’d made it glaringly obvious when their pHD placements overlapped that he didn’t like her, and she’s dreading working with him again.

(I hope that doesn’t spoil anything!)

Bee has such a fun narrative – she was so realistic and her side comments had me consistently laughing out loud, aptly described by my fiancé as ‘an evil giggle’. She was instantly likeable and the way she was written made the neuroscience and STEM aspects of the plot so accessible – no, I don’t know what all the big words mean and the chapter titles were a bunch of jumbly letters (I think they were parts of the brain?), but I didn’t need to. Whenever any work related jargon would appear in the dialogue, it was written brilliantly enough to be totally comprehendible.

And don’t get me started on Levi – he’s every romance booktooker’s new fictional boyfriend; tall, gorgeous, physically fit and has a wonderful, wonderful way with words, I know I won’t be able to get him off my mind for a while. I literally told my fiancé he should read Love on the Brain to get tips from Levi (in the most loving way possible, of course).

Not only were the protagonists wonderful, but the ongoing plot was delicious and the twist at the end??? The last 50 odd pages were an absolutely whirlwind and very, very much took my by surprise. I was wholeheartedly enthralled from beginning to end, which only took me six days (which considering I’ve been in a reading slump for three months, is nothing short of overwhelming evidence that this book is bloody brilliant).

I honestly have no criticisms about Love on the Brain – I adored the characters, the plot was fun, exciting and then very dramatic and honestly I learned a lot about Marie Curie, which is always a bonus to learn something new!

A very, very enthusiastic 5 star review from me ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

What I Read In August

2022, books

Hello!

This blog post could be an incredibly short one because I only managed to read one book this month – I had a lovely weekend with my mum at the end of July where I finished Five Feet Apart, Heartstopper Volume 3 and Heartstopper Volume 4, then starting Stormbreaker – the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz – finishing that relatively quickly ready to move straight on to Point Blank…

Then I spent most of the month in severe burnout so my two prime reading times – audiobooks on my drive to and from work and in bed before I go to sleep – were lost. If I listened to my book while driving it made me dangerously tired, so I had to listen to music instead then in the evenings, I would fall asleep almost scarily quickly the second I got into bed – I wouldn’t have made it through a page.

So Point Blank hasn’t been started, I’ve not finished listening to Daughter of Burning City by Amanda Foody and the amazing start I made in the last weekend of July did not follow through to August.

And you know what… that’s fine.

I think the danger with places like BookTok and Bookstagram is that the popular creators are the kind that can read a 300 page book in just a couple of hours and listen to audiobooks on three times speed (I can’t even fathom being able to listen to it that fast) so their reading goals are, like, 200 books a year and that seems a million miles away from my goal of 36 (which according to Storygraph, I’m still two books ahead of my target!).

I don’t know why I thought blogging about my reading once a month or setting up a bookstagram would make me read faster, because it absolutely doesn’t do that – I love writing reviews, sharing what I’m reading and seeing other people’s posts, but I’m really glad I haven’t starting forcing myself to read faster in order to keep up with the pace that I see others reading.

There’s a fine line between reading for enjoyment and reading to play the numbers game or post about it online, but I’m glad I’ve been able to focus on enjoying reading more than anything else.

So the one book I did finish this month was Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz. Although I’ve owned a box set of the first six books probably since the film came out in 2006 (when I was approximately 10 years old… I’m 26 next month) I’ve never read them and the only thing I had to go on was the film.

The writing style was definitely middle grade / YA, which makes sense with the protagonist being 14 years old, but it was a lovely narrative that well balanced the experience of being a teenage spy and a little bit of a sarcastic know-it-all, but set in the early 2000s so no iPhones or XBoxes! It was very easy to read whilst still being engaging and actually quite funny, which is an all round win from me.

Although I’m 16 years late to making the comparison, the film adaptation was actually very close to the book – it’s a very accurate page to screen transfer but as with every book-to-film, there was just more in the book that made it more exciting. There’s a whole scene where Alex has to swim blind in this underground cave thing to find out what’s going on in the lab with the Stormbreaker production and that would have been so tense on film, but perhaps a little much to watch a teenager nearly drown.

Considering how much I enjoyed reading Stormbreaker, I definitely had (and have) the enthusiasm to launch straight into Point Blank, the second of the six books I own and the now fourteen book series, but the amount of sleep I require to function disagrees.

I’m slowly getting my mojo back and I’m pretty sure I hit my breaking point earlier this week, so hopefully it’s all up from here and maybe I’ll actually get back to reading more consistently! Rather than reading 4-6 books in a month then only reading one, if that.

But that’s the thing about reading as a hobby – it’s not about how much you feel you ‘should’ be reading or the titles you think you ‘should’ be reading – it’s about reading what makes you happy, when you have time for it.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

What I Read in July

2022, books

Hello!

I have absolutely adored reading this month – other than the disgusting record-breaking heatwave in the middle of the month, I have very much enjoyed taking some time outside with my book, whether it’s on my lunch break, after work or in the evening.

For the first time since I discovered Audible, I have finished more paperback books than audiobooks this month and I’ve really enjoyed being able to get properly stuck in to a book and getting so engrossed that you accidentally turn the page before you’ve actually finished reading it (or is that just me?).

I’ve read six books this month and they were:

King of Fools, Amanda Foody – 4 stars

This is the one I accidentally read out of order because I didn’t double check it, but actually having listened to the third instalment in the trilogy, it felt almost like listening to a prequel where you know how it ends but how they get to that point feels like a million miles away and I ended up with an hour left in the book with lots of major plot points still to come to fruition!

The whole Ace of Shades series was actually brilliant and when I’m off my book buying ban next year I might buy the physical editions because I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Mismatch, Sara Jafari – 5 stars

I honestly can’t explain how much I loved this book – I loved the insight of a British born Iranian girl and her inner conflict as a non-practicing Muslim and living in a culture that doesn’t understand how she was raised, trying to figure out how her feelings for a white rugby player align with her family’s values. Alongside the juxtaposition of her mother’s story from when she was the same age living in Iran, meeting her husband, getting married, moving to England and the similarities and differences between herself and her daughter.

One of the easiest 5 star ratings I’ve given.

Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse, Alex Kingston – 2 stars

I was so excited to read a story about a character written by the actress who played that character, but at the end of the day – it was a book written by an actress, not a writer. The whole thing was a bit too over the top, the story was really slow and dull for the first part with a dual narrative of River Song in prison writing her book and the book she’s writing about detective Melody Malone, but then River ends up in her own story and that bit is never really explained. It probably would have made an interesting one-off Doctor Who special but it was a slog to read. I was really disappointed.

Five Feet Apart, Rachel Lippincott – 5 stars

Did I initially buy this book because the cover was pretty and I saw the trailer for the film with Cole Sprouse? Absolutely. Do I have any regrets? Not one. I immediately felt connected to the major characters – Stella and Will – because they felt so authentic; teenagers with a terrible disease that have had to come to terms with their own mortality, living in a hospital and always being cautious that those around them could give them the infection that kills them. It was heartfelt and heartbreaking in equal measure and I cannot wait to watch the film now to see if it lives up to the beautiful writing of the book.

Heartstopper Volume 3, Alice Oseman – 5 stars

I. Am. Obsessed. With. This. Series. I still don’t know if I’m converted to graphic novels but I adore Nick and Charlie, I loved this story, I want to wrap myself up in this universe and protect these boys at all costs. Their trip to Paris was adorable, I love how wholesome they are and how open they are about how communication is hard – they’re both teenagers who have questions about everything, but are figuring out the balance between not making themselves feel stupid, not being a burden to anyone and wanting to be loved.

I wish there was more and I absolutely cannot wait till the next season is released on Netflix.

Heartstopper Volume 4, Alice Oseman – 5 stars

These chapters were definitely the heaviest of the story so far, with a lot of focus on mental health and the place of a partner within that difficult balance. Whilst it braced these more serious topics, it did it with these wonderful comedic moments, the same wholesome, adorable relationship and learning the communicate with each other without unnecessary arguments. Honestly I would rate this series with all the stars in the sky, there are no words to explain how happy my heart feels. I’m going to rewatch the Netflix show.

So overall, a very successful reading month!

I’m currently listening to Daughter of a Burning City, by Amanda Foody which definitely isn’t as engaging as the Ace of Shades series and is feeling very long and slow, and then I have a new method of picking my next paperback read…

I started a tbr jar! I had a lovely afternoon typing everything up, cutting all the titles out and folding them up into a jar but now I can just pick what I want next out of there! I’m not being super strict on whether I have to read what I choose because that’s just going to make reading feel like a chore, but what I’ve settled on for my next read is the Stormbreaker series by Anthony Horowitz – if I don’t like the first one I won’t read the rest, but because they’re middle-grade/YA I’ll probably get through them quite quickly which will be nice!

August is the month I’m also doing another writing challenge so my reading might suffer, but hopefully I’ll be able to manage the two!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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

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

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

February Reading Wrap-Up

2022, books

Hello!

Another month has flown by and I’m so glad for it – the mornings are lighter, the evenings are lighter, but it’s still cold enough to wear cosy sweaters, thick tights and boots. I can’t lie, I’m mostly excited for pay day – January was long and that money disappeared very quickly, so I’m glad February is a short month!

I read 4 books this month so I’m roughly keeping up with the one I week I started in January. I would have squeezed in another audiobook but I tested positive for covid last weekend so I’ve been working from home so I haven’t been driving into the office and have lost 10 hours of driving time (great for my car mileage, less great for my book listening time). Could I have spent that time at home listening to a book? Yes, but I spent most of it sleeping and I have no regrets.

The first book I finished was Grand Theft Astro by Scott Meyers – I picked this one from the Audible Plus catalogue because it sounded fun, then I let my partner choose my next listen and I’m pretty sure he picked this one because of the pun on the video game Grand Theft Auto. But unfortunately there’s a reason this one is in the Audible Plus free catalogue and doesn’t appear on on Storygraph or Goodreads or anything – it was terrible. The narrator sounded bored out of her skull and I know it’s Sci-Fi but sometimes the techy descriptions went on for so long. The intricacies of a telekinetic wooly jumper and how it’s being used to commit intergalactic crime were incredibly dull. The issue with an emotionless character devoid of personality is it gives me nothing to care about – I didn’t care that she was sick, I didn’t care that they couldn’t find a cure, I didn’t care about anything. This one was a slog and I’m glad I got it out the way early in the month. 1 star.

Next, I finished Always With Love by Giovanna Fletcher, the sequel to Billy and Me that I read in January. I described the first one as an average easy-read contemporary romance and the sequel was much the same but with significantly less romance and a painfully predictable ending. It’s been less than a month and I can barely remember what happened, but I know for certain that I’d rather have read a story about strong independent business owner Sophie and the relationship she had with her mother following the passing of her father and the blending of her family with a new one. The romance was the least interesting bit and I really don’t think Sophie and Billy should have stayed together. I don’t know if it’s worthy of 2 stars, but I really don’t think it deserves 3 stars. Will probably donate the series to the charity shop!

Meanwhile, I was listening to Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody on Audible – I think this was another one on Audible Plus and I’ve seen lots of people on tiktok talking about it so I made the most of it whilst it didn’t cost me any extra! YA Fantasy seems to be the genre for me because I lapped it up like a teenage girl – a fantastically built universe with interesting, different but utterly believable magical elements and authentic characters makes for a fantastic story. As soon as my next Audible credit came in, I downloaded the sequel and when I’m back at work I will be jumping straight in on my commute. A 5 star read that I’m very excited to read the second and third instalment of.

And my fourth and final read of the month is Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – another one that has been all over tiktok. The concept sounded interesting but I can’t quite get over the overt sexism and how ridiculous it all is. Sophia as a protagonist was incredibly annoying, her relationship with Constance came out of nowhere and makes no sense. It’s the side of YA that I feel I’m too old for – the mentality that a teenager knows everything and will change the world and the naïvety to believe they can. Unrelated to the story, the book was bound in a way that made it very difficult to bend the pages and one of the pages ripped which was incredibly upsetting. Not worth the hype and felt too much like box ticking for me. 2 stars.

It’s been a month of extremes, with star ratings at both ends of the scale but I’m still feeling really excited about reading – I’ve managed month 2 of my year of book buying ban and although there’s no way I’ll finish everything on my tbr by the end of the year, I like that I’m making a dent.

Thank for you for reading,

Sophie xx