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

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 na├»vety 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

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