January Reading Wrap Up!

2023, books

Hello!

Somehow, January feels like it’s gone incredibly quickly and incredibly slow simultaneously – three weeks in, I couldn’t believe it had only been three weeks and now we’re approaching February and I’m not sure how we’re already one month down.

It’s been a very challenging month with my partner getting into a road accident on an electric scooter (yes, he’s been called stupid on a variety of occasions by the people who love him most) and after spending six hours in A&E, getting 7 stitches for a laceration in his eyebrow, getting a sling for a fractured elbow and being given a tuna mayo sandwich at 2am to help with the nausea of missing dinner and not eating for 12 hours, we were home and I had the responsibility of looking after my one armed husband who could only just manage to get dressed on his own and was stubborn enough to try everything without asking for help.

So this month has been a lot of watching TV (we’ve been binging Taskmaster on All4), doing a surprisingly complex Harry Potter puzzle (I’ve included a picture both for reference and because I’m unjustifiably proud), making things with my Cricut and cuddling the sad boy while he watched YouTube and I read!

Having finished 2022 by reading 7 books in December, I was hyped and motivated to bring that energy into 2023, as well as being desperate to finish the Alex Rider series because whilst I knew if I didn’t read it all in one hit I would forget certain details and characters, I was also so ready to read something else.

So far I’ve finished five books this month and I’m hoping to finish my current read by the 31st on Tuesday, so I’m really proud of the start I’ve made! Here are the books I managed to finish in January.

Russian Roulette (Alex Rider #10) – Anthony Horowitz

The first Alex Rider book that isn’t about Alex Rider – following the upbringing of Yassen Gregorovich, the assassin who worked with John Rider (Alex’s Dad) and is employed to kill Alex on a variety of occasions. It was actually a really lovely story of an anti-hero who never really wanted to be an assassin but life never really gave him a chance. Even as an assassin in the previous books, he’d been somewhat endearing and principled so finding out about his life as a teenager in Russia was lovely – a solid 4 star read to start the year.

Enna Burning – Shannon Hale

For context – at our wedding, for gifts we asked our guests to bring a copy of their favourite book so we could have a little snapshot library of all our favourite people from this specific moment in time. This included my cousins kids (aged 9 months and 2 years), my godmothers kids (6, 10 and 11) and all of our family and friend. I’ve decided that I want to read one book from the wedding library each month this year and Enna Burning was my first choice! A gift from my oldest friend.

I was a bit disappointed to only give it 3 stars, but I think this is entirely down to the fact that it’s the second book in the Books of Bayern series and unlike the Alex Rider books (which granted are aimed at middle grade readers, so perhaps are assumed to not remember things as well?), the narrative assumes you’ve read the first book and understand the magic system and the key words and the pre-existing relationships. With not having that context, I didn’t feel the connection between the main character and the love interest at all and it took me a long time to understand the friendship between Enna and the first book’s protagonist, Isi. However, the climax and resolution at the end of the book was actually very powerful and poignant. I’ve added the original book, The Goose Girl, to my tbr and will definitely re-read Enna Burning when I have the full context and anticipate it’ll get a higher rating then!

Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) – Anthony Horowitz

And with the wedding library read done for the month, I was determined to finish the last three Alex Rider books before February!

This book is the one that was never really meant to exist – originally the series was going to end with book six, then another trilogy came out, then the interim story in Russian Roulette was meant to be the end. I’m not sure if it’s a mix of me getting fatigued with this character or knowing that this series has been on going for over two decades, but I can’t figure out if this was a genuine love project where Horowitz had more of Alex’s story to tell, or is it a money grab from a successful series that will inevitably continue to profit.

Either way, I’d committed so I wasn’t stopping now.

Never Say Die was the first book in this series since the first book to only get three stars – it felt very slow paced and really dragged in places and I kept getting bored and having to take a break. The mission itself was very ambitious and the fact that MI6 didn’t really believe what Alex was investigating and he had to do it himself with no gadgets, no back-up and limited resources was impressive, but it took so long to get to the end game. And the title is really cliche.

Secret Weapon (Alex Rider #12 – Short Story Collection) – Anthony Horowitz

If it weren’t for these seven short stories, I’d have really struggled with finishing the series – I planned to read one at a time, but ended up reading the whole thing in three days (this is fast for me). It was nice to revisit some of the earlier missions and fill in some of the gaps between previous novels. I was particularly a fan of ‘Tea with Smithers’. The perfect break between the full length stories – another four stars.

Nightshade (Alex Rider #13) – Anthony Horowitz

I finally made it to the last novel (so far, but I’ll get to that)! Nightshade had been set up to be the most deadly enemy that Alex has ever faced and everything that was missing in ‘Never Say Die’ was back for Nightshade – the pacing was fantastic, the stakes were constantly high and although some of it was a bit predictable (which I’ll allow, because the target audience is 8-12 year olds according to the shelf labels in Waterstones), it actually introduced yet more incredibly interesting and nuanced characters that I really hope continue to feature in future novels.

Which there will almost certainly be, because in the last line of this book it’s practically confirmed that there will be another sequel – Nightshade was released in 2020 and I’m reliably informed that the next book is due for release this year, but there’s no confirmed information yet. Will I buy it and read it? Absolutely – Nightshade was my first five star review of the year and I’m a completionist, so I’ve got to make sure I’ve read everything. Currently, I feel like it’s all being dragged out a bit but that might be because I’ve just read thirteen books in the series and I need a bit of space from it.

And I’m currently 58% through Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon – I finally got to pick another title from my tbr jar (which I set up in Summer ’22, then picked Alex Rider and have only just finished it!). This was on my list of 23 books I want to read in 2023 which rounds off a very good start to my reading year; finishing a long series, starting the wedding library and ticking off one of the books from my 23 list!

I’m still really excited about reading this year and at this rate I’ll hit my goal by the summer, but maintaining this reading speed feels incredibly optimistic so I’ll just play it by ear!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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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