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

January Reads 2022

2022, books

Hello!

I know I say this every month, but how the heck is it already the end of January? Is this adult life? Time just keeps going faster and faster and you’re not entirely sure how it happened? I’m not a fan, but it’s an excuse for me to talk about all the books I’ve read this month.

And 2022 is off to a flying start – I’ve finished 5 books this month so far and I think I’ll finish my current audiobook on Monday before February joins us on Tuesday, but as of yet, not quite at 6.

Here are the ones I finished:

Get a Life Chloe Brown (Talia Hibbert) – 4 stars
The Brown Sisters books have had so much hype on bookstagram and booktok that I decided to use my audible credit on it, in hindsight I think I would have enjoyed the paperback more because the voice actor and the accents she chose were really irritating and made me think I wasn’t enjoying the story. Once I realised the story itself was very sweet, I decided it was definitely a 4 star book. Next year when I’m off my book buying ban I think I’ll buy the trilogy and give the characters my own voices.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Sáenz) – 5 stars
Narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda? Yes please! A lovely YA tale of a young boy’s discovery of himself, through friendship, family and a dog called Legs. Although short, I really enjoyed listening to this story – it was a really lovely take on a coming of age story with the perfect mix of naïvety, self-discovery and a nice reminder of what it was like to be a teenager in the late 80s without the internet, phones or binge watching TV. Definitely putting the sequel on my tbr.

Talk Bookish To Me (Kate Bromley) – 4 stars
A book about being obsessed with books? Count me in! Especially having just reviewed every book I read in 2021 I know I particularly enjoy books about people who work as writers or in publishing in some way. This was a nice easy read about a complicated college relationship that neither participant expected to ever have to revisit. Don’t get me wrong, the attitude of the two protagonists was a bit off sometimes and some of the behaviours threw a few red flags but at it’s heart, it was a nice easy contemporary romance.

Albion: The Legend of Arthur (Robert Valentine) – 1 star
Absolutely the worst Audible plus book I’ve listened to – I was drawn in by the Arthurian legend and the full cast (which theoretically was very exciting), but it was generally just not a good story. All that happened was battle after battle after battle, then Arthur died and the remaining characters went off to do their own thing and nothing appeared to be resolved at all. The full cast recording was cool in principle, but absolutely didn’t work because there was no narrator so the story was harder to follow, and as 95% of the cast was generic man, they were incredibly difficult to identify by voice alone (which is where a narrator would have really aided the story). All in all, it was a slog to listen to and it was just bad.

Billy and Me (Giovanna Fletcher) – 3 stars
Contemporary romance is my go to ‘easy reading’ genre for sure – in all honesty, I chose this book because I’ve seen lots of people on tiktok doing ‘Alphabet Challenges’ and I’d already read an ‘A’ so I thought I’d pick a ‘B’ book! Billy and Me started as a really lovely tale of a village girl who meets her very own Mr Darcy who is in fact an actor playing Mr Darcy in a remaking of Pride and Prejudice being filmed in the village. As the story develops and Sophie leaves her job in the café she’s worked in for her entire adult life, it becomes a bit less ‘cute romance’ and more melodramatic soap opera and some of the dialogue and actions read a bit like fanfiction, but it was an easy enough read and I’ll be reading the sequel before I decide whether they’re going to the charity shop or not.

Which leads me to, what I’m currently reading:

  • Audiobook – Grand Theft Astro (Scott Meyer)
  • Paperback – Always with Love – Billy and Me #2 (Giovanna Fletcher)

Balancing blogging and work and general life stuff has been a real challenge for me recently, but getting to write about things I really love like books and goal setting makes it much easier to write.

So thank you for reading what I love to write!

Sophie xx

every book I read in 2021

2022, books

Hello!

There’s every chance this blog post could get very long very quickly so I’ll keep it as brief as I can – here is a rundown of every book I finished in 2021, my star rating and a few words (though let’s be real, I’ll probably get carried away).

Just to give you an idea if you might be interested in similar books to me, here is the data on the moods of books I read in 2021, the pace and the genres, all in beautifully colour coded graphs courtesy of StoryGraph (the fantastic alternative to GoodReads that isn’t owned by Amazon).

(add me here)

Without further ado – my 2021 reads:

  1. Worlds Away From You (Charlotte Mednick) – 4 stars
    A self published novel by a friend actually, but a lovely gentle YA romance to start the year with and a very proud moment to see a friend publish an actual book!
  2. Suspicious Minds: Stranger Things Novel #1 (Gwenda Bond) – 5 stars
    I picked this book up almost exclusively because it was £2 in a charity shop but boy oh boy if you’re a fan of Stranger Things, this is a fantastic expansion of the universe which I’ve thought about rereading at least once a month since I finished it in January.
  3. A Quiet Kind of Thunder (Sara Barnard) – 5 stars
    Been on my tbr for a long time, I was very intrigued to read a story about a girl with selective mutism and a deaf boy and I’ve not been so moved by fiction in a very long time. I really need to learn sign language because the power of communication is just huge.
  4. See Through Me (Kevin Brooks) – 1 star
    Really disappointing – a massively out-there, sci-fi concept that doesn’t come to anything – there was no story, no plot, nothing happened and it was a slog to read.
  5. The Time of the Reaper (Andrew Butcher) – 3 stars
    A book about a pandemic during my country’s third national lockdown? Not great timing. But also below average storytelling about a group of very bland teenagers in an apocalyptic pandemic. This one quickly went in the charity shop pile.
  6. The Selection #1 (Kiera Cass) – 4 stars
    A ‘blind date with a book’ gift my sibling got me for Christmas that I wasn’t sure about – Royal romances have never really appealed to me before but wow I dove in head first. Somehow I didn’t love the characters but I immediately ordered the box set simultaneously? The concept and the male protagonists were so interesting, I will probably reread the first three books in this series at some point in 2022.
  7. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Rachel Cohn with David Levithan) – 5 stars
    I really loved this book but it’s been overshadowed in my memory as ‘the book I read whilst I waited for my The Selection box set to arrive’. I loved how whistfully Nick and Norah’s story was told over one night and I still really need to watch the film because the source material had a lot of potential.
  8. The Elite – Selection #2 (Kiera Cass) – 4 stars
    Just obsessed with this series. Protagonist America Singer (yes, that’s actually what the main character is called and yes, she’s a musician… you can practically hear me rolling my eyes) becomes more bearable in this one and there’s much more of a sense of purpose and community. Adored it.
  9. The One – Selection #3 (Kiera Cass) – 5 stars
    And the conclusion? Wow, just top notch. America and Maxon’s story is emotionally and dramatically told and I think it was at this point that I was describing the series as ‘reality TV in a book’ – it’s trashy in the best way and I adored it. Now I desperately want to reread it.
  10. The Heir – Selection #4 (Kiera Cass) – 2 stars
    The duology that follows was much more disappointing – America and Maxon’s daughter (who’s name I can’t even remember) is significantly less interesting. Plus the characterisation of King Maxon and Queen America all grown up is nothing like who they were described to be in the original trilogy. I think 2 stars is generous to be honest.
  11. The Crown – Selection #5 (Kiera Cass) – 3 stars
    Although I have no recollection as to why, apparently the second part of this storyline picked up and earned an extra star. I remember the climax being surprisingly refreshing but then rushing into a very abrupt ending. If the box set didn’t look so pretty together I would absolutely only keep the first three.
  12. In At The Deep End (Kate Davies) – 3 stars
    After falling so deeply in love with The Selection, anything I read afterwards was going to struggle, but In At The Deep End was an interesting saphic story about someone just figuring out their relationship and seeing emotional abuse from the inside. However it was quite slow paced and felt a bit repetitive towards the end.
  13. It’s Now or Never (Carole Matthews) – 4 stars
    A really lovely contemporary story about twins approaching 40 deciding to do something about their lives. A little strange in that it was told from three narrative perspectives – one told in first person, the other two in third – and it was a bit annoying to follow. But otherwise, I’m excited to read more from Carole Matthews.
  14. Ketchup Clouds (Annabel Pitcher) – 3.5 stars
    This book I picked up in a charity shop because it had the most beautiful pattern sprayed on the edges. The story itself had potential, but the protagonist was written quite inconsistently and I can’t remember the main event of the book, so not that memorable in hindsight.
  15. Lore (Alexandra Bracken) – 4 stars
    Adored this one – any story about Greek mythology I’m all over. My only slight thing with this one is that there are a lot of names from the mythology that the reader is just expected to know, especially when some characters are referred to by many titles, so it got a little confusing, but I can’t wait to reread this one with more clarity.
  16. A Nearly Normal Family (M. T. Edvardsson) – 2.75 stars
    Potentially my most disappointing read of the year – really slow paced, really anticlimactic and really repetitive where basically the same story is told from three perspectives. The father character was an absolute wet wipe, the daughter was actually really interesting but her segment was really short and the mother didn’t really have a character, it was like she was just a vessel to conclude the plot. Very odd.
  17. Flawed (Cecelia Ahern) – 2 stars
    I don’t know how to describe this book because I hated the protagonist – I thought she was whiny and entitled and painfully irritating, but I somehow became so attached to the book that I immediately ordered the sequel and deliberately chose a short book to read in the interim so I could start reading it quickly. Still haven’t figured that one out.
  18. The Mayflower Project: Remnants #1 (Katherine Applegate) – 1 star
    One of those books that I kept from my childhood because it sounded interesting, but actually it was awfully written, the characters were so weird and apparently it’s one of those series that has about a million books, but they’re out of print and really hard to find. Not that I think I’m missing much.
  19. Perfect – Flawed #2 (Cecelia Ahern) – 3.5 stars
    The sequel to Flawed picked up a bit judging by my rating, but I really have very little recollection of what happened other than the dystopian ‘Hunger Games’ revolution thing. Mixed reviews for Cecelia Ahern.
  20. Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie) – 3 stars
    I felt weird rating this one because it’s such a classic, but it was further from the Disney film than I thought it would be, but interesting none the less to read the source material.
  21. Adrenaline – Sam Capra #1 (Jeff Abbott) – 3.5 stars
    I’ve had the sequel to this book for years so was glad to buy the prequel and actually get to reading it in 2021! Sam Capra as a character was superbly written and wonderfully emotional and I was fascinated to read the kind of mindless-action-adventure story that my mum loves watching in films and I found it far more engaging!
  22. The Last Minute – Sam Capra #2 (Jeff Abbott) – 4 stars
    I don’t remember enough about this series to differentiate the first and second book, but I remember the second one taking me ages to read and I have no recollection as to why I ranked it higher. My greatest apologies.
  23. The 39 Steps (John Buchan) – 1.25 stars
    A classic I picked up because my dad and I watched a film adaptation once. Was incredibly difficult to read, I could barely keep track of what was happening and I had absolutely zero emotional connection to any of the characters and consequently couldn’t have cared less.
  24. The Shelf (Helly Acton) – 4.5 stars
    At this point, I really needed something to pick me up get me excited about reading again and ‘The Shelf’ was exactly the one – the same kind of ‘reality TV’ easy viewing as The Selection but in a contemporary rather than a dystopian style. I adored it, I devoured it, it was so much fun and I loved it so much – feel good, girl power sassiness!
  25. The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow (Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch) – 2 stars
    My first ever audiobook… and I kind of hated it. The narrator of the Texan character was incredibly evening and even the English character had a snooty, know-it-all tone. The story was poorly written and the plot was frankly boring. No intention of reading the sequel this year.
  26. Beach Reach (Emily Henry) – 5 stars
    My second audio book was the polar opposite and one of my favourite books of the year – a book about writers gradually falling in love? It was like it was written for me. This was the book that really solidified that I really enjoy romance as a genre, when I’d never considered it to be one of my primary favourites before.
  27. MumLife (Louise Pentland) – 4 stars
    My one and only non-fiction read of the year. I only listened to this one because I used to be a big fan of Louise Pentland so I’ve read all of her books an even though I’m absolutely not the target market for this one as I’m not a mum and I’m not really anywhere close to being there yet. But it was an insightful listen.
  28. Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs) – 2 stars
    Comparing this classic literature to the Disney movie was incredibly interesting – the book is way more savage but the ending was much sweeter I think. It took me a bit longer to read because I’m not very good at understanding older English and I don’t really enjoy reading it. Will probably opt for watching the film next time.
  29. The Cove (L. J. Ross) – 4.5 stars
    Although the protagonist was a little irritating, this story was really fun to listen to and it was a perfect blend of crime/murder mystery and romance. It was the kind of audiobook that got me excited to get in the car and drive so I could listen to it again.
  30. Good Girl, Bad Blood – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2 (Holly Jackson) – 4.75 stars
    I loved ‘A Good Girls Guide to Murder’ and I was so excited for the sequel – the way Pip’s story developed and the direction the story went was amazing and I was all over it. I was glad I’d already got the third in the trilogy so I could read it straight away…
  31. As Good As Dead – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3 (Holly Jackson) – 2 stars
    Then came the most disappointing book I read this year. Pip’s character was completely different and I know a big part of that was because of what she experienced at the end of the previous book, but it was just too extreme, it went way too far and it stressed me out reading it. So I’m going to pretend it’s a duology and ‘As Good As Dead’ doesn’t exist.
  32. Red, White & Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston) – 5 stars
    With the end of the year and everyone talking about their favourite book of the year, this is the one that always sprung to mind. Listening to this audio book was the most engaging reading experience I’ve ever had – I gasped, I laughed, I felt everything and I actually said it out loud, to myself in my car. It was beautiful, it was funny and it was so romantic. It’s worth every bit of hype and I thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook because the narrators are perfect and I don’t think I’d have had the same experience in reading it in my own voice. 6 stars. 7 stars. All the stars.
  33. The Switch (Beth O’Leary) – 4.5 stars
    One of my most highly anticipated books of the year – everyone was going off about the Flatshare but the concept of the Switch sounded fantastic to me. And it was – the characters were wonderful, it was so realistic, I could have stepped right into the story. Lovely reading experience.
  34. Every Other Weekend (Abigail Johnson) – 4.5 stars
    I’m so much more detached from YA than I used to be but occasionally I dip back in and I always have a good time. This was a really sweet stories about broken families and finding solace where you can. It was so heartwarming to see a story about teenagers handling difficult situations and growing and learning to be better. Another top notch audiobook from Audible’s plus selection.
  35. In The Time We Lost (Carrie Hope Fletcher) – 2 stars
    I love Carrie Hope Fletcher and I’ve read two of her other books and adored them so I was excited to use one of my Audible credits on her latest work, but I actually hated it. The protagonist was insufferably stubborn, the groundhog day concept is so unoriginal and the narrator was overacting so much.
  36. The Source (Sarah Sultoon) – 3.5 stars
    I love a dual narrative story so a story that was dual perspective, set in two different time periods and describes a journalistic investigation into the events of the past narrative was so clever. There was a lot of names and characters to follow which was a bit complicated, but otherwise it was very well written and fantastically performed.
  37. Bookish and the Beast – Once Upon a Con #3 (Ashley Poston) – 5 stars
    I own the physical version of ‘Geekerella’ so I didn’t want to listen to it, but another in the series would be fine right? Oh my goodness I fell in love – I loved Vance’s character, Rosie was so organically brilliant and it was just so sweet, I’m obsessed – nerdy fangirl contemporary is my new favourite genre.
  38. Geekerella – Once Upon a Con #1 (Ashley Poston) – 5 stars
    So of course I had to go back to the beginning of the series – which all made significantly more sense now that I had more context. Nerdy fangirl contemporary – new favourite genre.
  39. The Princess and the Fangirl – Once Upon a Con #2 (Ashley Poston) – 4.5 stars
    I still loved this one, but I just didn’t quite connect to the characters in the same way as I did in the first and the third.
  40. Bookish and the Beast (again)
    I truly believed the ‘Once Upon a Con’ series didn’t need to be read in order. They don’t really but it made so much more sense the second time round. I had to finish the trilogy properly after listening to the first two, right?
  41. The Plus One Pact (Portia MacIntosh) – 1 star
    This is where the Audible Plus catalogue let me down – I thought it would be a nice easy listening romance, but it was badly written, really unrealistic characters and so cringey. I’m too stubborn to not finish a book, but I’m so glad this one was short.
  42. Sunrise on the Coast (Lilac Mills) – 3.75 stars
    This one took me a while to finish because I spent the last 12 weeks of the year absolutely exhausted and reading before bed either didn’t happen or I only managed 10 pages at a time. This was the nice easy reading romance I was hoping for though – a relatively light story of a girl making a life for herself after being a carer for her mother, falling in love with the island of Tenerife and, inadvertently, one of it’s inhabitants.
  43. The Thursday Murder Club (Richard Osman) – 4 stars
    It took me a while to jump on the hype of this book that been at the top of the Sunday Times Best Sellers list for months and months, but it was so worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a group of elderly people living in a residential home, let alone read a book about a group of elderly people solving crimes in weekly meetings – it was funny and every bit an interesting murder mystery in equal measure. Very enjoyable.
  44. When Harry Met Harry (Sydney Smith) – 4 stars
    This had so much of the vibes of ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’, but that might be because it’s a gay love story set predominantly in the US, but it was brilliant regardless. It was funny, it was heartwarming and the actors were fantastic. I wanted to turn this one into a film or a Netflix series and when a story inspires me to create something I know it’s really good.
  45. A Perfect Paris Christmas (Mandy Baggot) – 3 stars
    I bought this book at the end of 2020 and have been saving it as my Christmas read ever since. It was lovely – a wonderful description of Paris that made me want to hop on a plane immediately. A somewhat predictable but still romantic love story that took some characters that could have been really stereotypical and absolutely weren’t, which was really refreshing. Nice, easy festive reading.

So my favourite books of the year were:

  • The Selection
  • Beach Read
  • Red, White and Royal Blue
  • Bookish and the Beast

I refuse to pick a favourite any further than this because Red, White and Royal Blue is so good but after finishing Bookish and the Beast for the second time (my only reread of the year) I planned an entire sequel novel (hit me up Ashley Poston) so they both had their impact on me in their own ways and it’s my blog post so I can choose what I want lol.

If you’ve made it to the end of this mammoth 3000 word blog post, congratulations and thank you! I hope you found some books that you’d like to try!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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

my book rating system

2021, books

Hello!

I’ve just finished my thirtieth book of the year (Good Girl, Bad Blood – Holly Jackson, fabulous read) and I feel like I’ve really figured out my own rating system so I thought I’d write it all down because my memory isn’t great and I like to have everything written down.

So let’s start at the top:

5 stars – the perfect book; one that is easy to read, characters I love and care about and a story that I want to reread over and over again. It’s a slim difference between 4 and 5 stars but a book that I know I could come back to and love it as much the second or third time as much as the first. The perfect ‘Sophie’ book – 5 stars.

4 stars – a fantastic book, wonderful narrative, interesting storyline, an enjoyable reading experience that I probably got through quite quickly. There’s probably nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t love it enough to find it re-readable. A 4 star book is still an entirely positive experience – there was no negatives to the reading experience; no annoying characters, no huge plot holes, just not one that I’m rushing to read again.

3 stars – not a badly written book, not a brilliantly written book. Maybe it took a lot of concentration to get through it, maybe there were characters that really needed to learn how to communicate better (one of my biggest bug bears). I kind of feel connected to the character but I’m not entirely sure why and I probably resent it, especially if there’s one character I like or care about and the others are annoying.

2 stars – there’s nothing wrong with the quality of writing, it just wasn’t for me. I probably didn’t enjoy the reading experience but I’m too optimistic to ever not finish a book. Sometimes it’s the characters, sometimes it’s a boring plot, sometimes it’s whiny, melodramatic characters making their lives difficult for no necessary reason. Technically not a bad book, but absolutely not for me (this includes most classics).

1 star – badly written, plot holes, annoying characters, probably reads like bad fanfiction. I still won’t give up on the book because I can’t help but hope it’ll get better than a 1 star rating, but at best I can hope it’s short. I feel like one star is relatively self explanatory.

On StoryGraph, there’s .25, .5 and .75 ratings, I don’t have specific criteria for those, that one’s more of a gut instinct. Not that there’s a huge impact of rating a book, it’s not like it ‘matters’ in the scheme of things but it’s a good way of giving the extra points before a whole extra star, y’know?

Having some sort of system makes me feel like the ratings make me sense, rather than randomly assigning numbers and then accidentally rating a book I kind of enjoyed and a book I really didn’t both at 3 stars because I was only comparing it to the book I just finished.

Is it a Virgo thing or is it a neurodivergent thing? Who knows, but I like it. And I’m obsessed with reading and stories right now, so I like having a system to rate them all by.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx