Last Year I Was Reading… | 17.09.20

In a surprising turn of events, we’re doing something different this week (woo!) and engaging in a little Throwback Thursday fun times. Maria @ReadingMaria came up with the cute idea of ‘Last Year I Was Reading’ in which you compare your current read to the book you were reading at the exact same time last year. You consider how they differ/are alike, which one you like better and mention any specific facts you feel like mentioning.

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City 1#) – Sarah J. Maas

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Here it is, my current read, in all of its 803 page, door-stopping glory. After powering through six romance novels in the first week of this month, I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t spend the rest of it tackling one of the bigger books on my TBR. HoEaB is an adult urban fantasy book full of fae, vampires, angels, shapeshifters and a bunch of other magical beings. The story revolves around a half-fae party girl named Bryce teaming up with a disgraced angel, Hunt, to investigate the brutal murders of Bryce’s friends. There’s magic, family drama, characters with plenty of baggage, a bit of violence, and romance typical of a Maas book.

At this point, I’m about 600 pages in and so far so…relatively good. It’s definitely a bigger book than it needed to be, the writing is questionable at points, and I’m still confused about elements of the world building. Still, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. I’ve heard that the last 200 pages get pretty crazy so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens.


The Institute – Stephen King

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In September of 2019 I was making my way through Stephen King’s newest release, The Institute – a sci-fi, fantasy, thriller mix. It involves a group of kids being abducted for their telepathic and telekinetic abilities and taken to a secret facility in Maine (it’s always Maine). Here, they undergo testing to enhance their powers for some mysterious reason before being sent to another part of the complex after which they are never seen again. This was King’s first book in a long time focusing on child characters, which he still writes fantastically. It was very well received, even scoring a win for best horror novel in the 2019 Goodreads choice awards (I wouldn’t consider it much of a horror book though).

I enjoyed The Institute but not as much as I did IT. The characters were certainly likeable and the story did build up to an action packed (if somewhat rushed) climax. Yet, the pacing was a bit too slow in some sections and the neatly packaged ending was disappointing. There was also something missing from it that I still can’t quite put my finger on.


These are two very different books so comparing them is tricky. They both involve fantasy elements I suppose but that’s where the similarities end – vastly different settings, characters, lengths and moods yet still enjoyable. Of the two, I would say that House of Earth and Blood is my preferred read but only because my love for magical creatures comes out just ahead of my obsession with humans with superpowers. I will say though that these are two books that could have had smaller page counts and improved story momentum in spots.

What book were you reading this time last year? Was it more or less enjoyable than your current read?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers that Make me Happy

Let’s be real – 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. Every time I watch the news, I’m hit with a constant stream of misery and awfulness occurring somewhere in the world. Considering the mental health stats at the moment, everyone is having a rough time. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to use this week’s TTT cover themed freebie (hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl) to showcase some book covers that bring me joy and elevate my mood. Sometimes it’s the colour and others it’s the imagery. Ten seems pretty short for this post (especially since I’m literally just copying book covers like the lazy person that I am) so I’ll do 12 this week.

I hope that this post lifts your spirits just the tiniest bit (and yes, there are quite a few YA contemporaries here).

What book covers give you a burst of joy just by looking at them? Spread the happiness around.

Binge Reading: How Many Adult Contemporary Romances Can I Read in a Week?

Now, looking at the title of this post you might be thinking: Why? Well, to that I say: Why not?

Okay, for a more expanded explanation: in August I finished a total of 2 books which is kind of sad and probably because I’ve been apathetic towards reading lately. Romantic contemporaries are always quick and easy reads for me so I thought, why not give my bookwormishness (what a monstrosity of a made up word) a jump start with an entire week of them?! I’m probably going to give myself whatever the bookish equivalent of a cavity after eating too many sweet things in one go is, but WHO CARES.

For fun, I’ll be scoring them using my usual star system but also doing individual ratings for sweetness, humour, sexiness/steam, and romance – just to give a better idea of their mood. I’ll also be mentioning whether they include any diversity because yo, it’s 2020. Let the week of romance begin!

Day 1-2: One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London

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Premise: A plus-sized fashion blogger goes on a reality dating show called Main Squeeze (a fictional version of The Bachelor/Bachelorette) and dates a bunch of hot guys whilst showing that bigger girls can be attractive and deserve love too.

  • Hurrah! A strong start to the week. I enjoyed this one, mostly because it was super relatable for me. As someone who’s far from a size 6, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have a protagonist who shares many of the same insecurities about love and relationships that I do. Reading about the MC, Bea’s, journey was hard but also empowering and encouraging. The body positivity message is very, very on the nose but I can mostly forgive it.
  • Diversity wise, this book is amazing. Aside from Bea being plus sized, among the contestants there’s also a black man, an Asian-American, and an asexual man. They’re all portrayed as being desirable & unlike on real life TV, they all make it close to the end!
  • The Bachelorette concept was fun and definitely why this caught my eye. However, having Bea cycle through different dates does mean that the love interests share the limelight, reducing the ability to give them lots of depth but the real focus is Bea anyway. Still, there are plenty of sweet moments and a little bit of sexual tension.
  • The book plays around with style a lot using articles, tweets and text convos in between standard third person narrative. It’s somewhat jarring to get used to at first but fine after a while.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! All the YES.


Oh god. A four star read out of the gate. It’s got to be downhill from here, right? Suddenly the books on my pre-made list seem risky and unappealing. What does Goodreads suggest instead…

This looks interesting. *checks Amazon* SIXTEEN DOLLARS? ON KINDLE? This better be worth it.

Day 2-3: You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle

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Premise: Naomi and Nicholas seem like the perfect engaged couple but, in reality, these days they can barely stand one another. Now with only 3 months left til their wedding, the pair decide to try their best to get the other to end the engagement and foot the massive bill. But what if they turned their attention to working out what went wrong with their relationship instead?

  • Yes, it was easily worth the $16. This was so unexpectedly enjoyable! I love a good enemies to lovers trope but it was great to see it used in a fresh way. I will gladly read another book about two people finding themselves again and remembering why they loved one another in the first place.
  • One of the best parts of this book was easily the humour. I was surprised by how funny it was. Like, actually laugh out loud funny. The banter between Naomi and Nicholas is great, mostly because, as a couple who’ve been together for a while, they know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Particularly where Nicholas’s mother is concerned.
  • The characters are very likeable, too. With the way Naomi acts at times, I should have found her childish and petty but honestly, I loved her boldness and vulnerability. Nicholas, meanwhile, can just marry me. A man who can banter, loves skittles, proudly owns a How to Train Your Dragon tie and will fight for his relationship – swoon.
  • I should also mention how seamlessly the book’s mood changed from light and fun to serious and emotional. I loved that I could enjoy myself reading about Naomi and Nicholas’s antics one moment then sympathise with their difficulties in repairing their relationship and behaviour the next.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: Nope.


We’re definitely going down now. It’s inevitable. Maybe I need something completely different. Well, different within the confines of contemporary adult romance. Just kidding. More enemies to lovers it is. But with cupcakes. Cause I love cupcakes.

Day 3 – 4: Kiss my Cupcake – Helena Hunting

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Premise: Blaire Calloway is excited to finally be opening her own cupcake & cocktail cafe. However, her parade is rained on when she discovers hottie Ronan Knight opening a sportsbar next door on the same day. The two clash, setting off a competition for customers. But when a chain of popular bars opens their newest location across the street, the two have to work together to keep their businesses afloat.

  • Can I just say, this book has SO MANY CUPCAKES. Thank god I had left over birthday cake in the house while I was reading this because I might have died of cravings otherwise (it’s possible, okay).
  • I quite enjoyed the chemistry between Blaire and Ronan. Blaire is somewhat over the top in her reactions to things (especially at the climax of the book) but overall she’s okay. Ronan is hot – physically and in personality. He can stay. Enough said.
  • At the end of each chapter, the book incorporates “tweets” supposedly posted by Ronan and Blaire’s businesses but honestly, they’re mostly cringy alcohol & cupcake puns which offer nothing to the story. I have no clue why they’re included.
  • With romance novels I always expect some drama around the 80% mark before the couple makes up and sails off into the sunset. Unfortunately, the dramatic climax of this book is super disappointing. In fact, it’s almost non-existent and just makes Blaire look bad for thinking so badly of Ronan with barely anything to go off. That this is then followed up by an over the top and cheesy ending put a dampener on my enjoyment of the overall book.
  • The story is told in split perspectives between Ronan & Blaire but the balance between the two is really uneven, leaving Ronan with only a couple of chapters. I found this a somewhat odd choice which made me question the reason for the split at all.
  • KMC is definitely the most steamy of the books I’ve read so far this week. As in, there’s an actual sex scene. There’s also noticeable sexual tension throughout the book. So if this kind of thing floats your boat, *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour:
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★
Romance: ★★
Diversity: Nooopppee


Alright, let’s turn up the “romance” rating a bit more. I want some swoon-worthy love story here. Real depth of emotion with boomboxes outside windows. I will accept no substitutes.

Day 4-5: One day in December – Josie Silver

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Premise: When Laurie locks eyes with Jack riding the bus home one day, it’s practically love at first sight for the both of them. That is, until the bus drives away with him on the curb. She then spends the next year searching London for him until finally she finds him – introduced as her roommate Sarah’s new boyfriend. What follows is ten years of missed opportunities and complicated choices.

  • Based on the few reviews I’ve read of this book, I honestly didn’t expect to like ODiD as much as I did. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for stories told over several years in characters’ lives. I just love watching people grow, change, and experience life.
  • Normally I’m 100% in the camp of NO to love at first sight but somehow, this book actually made me believe in it for its duration. Now, if that ain’t magic, I don’t know what is.
  • The characters in this book aren’t always logical and don’t consistently do the right thing by themselves or each other, but that’s people. For the most part, I cared about what happened to Laurie, Jack & Sarah, and genuinely wanted them to get their happy endings. ODiD is definitely one of those books where you do have to be invested in the characters and their lives to enjoy it, otherwise it’s going to be pretty darn boring.
  • I should warn you, if you hate cheating plotlines, there’s an element of it here. Physically only minor but emotionally, plenty.
  • My two main gripes are: 1) I wish the ending had been handled differently as it felt odd and abrupt when fit into the rest of the story (I mean, we’d been waiting TEN YEARS by this point). Perhaps another time jump afterwards would have helped? And, 2) I would have liked more done with Laurie’s career considering its importance to her.
  • Less of a fluffy read than the other books so far this week, but very enjoyable.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★.5
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: No, again. More straight, cis, able-bodied, white people problems.


I’ve just realised that this post is lacking a noticeable amount of gay so we should rectify that right now. Bring on the LGBTI romance!

Day 5: Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall

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Premise: As the son of two rock legends, Luc has always been in the spotlight. After a compromising photo puts him in hot water with his employer’s donors, Luc is told to clean up his image by finding a respectable boyfriend. Enter Oliver Blackwood – vegetarian, barrister and in need of a date for a big event. And so the two strike up a deal: a fake relationship for a few weeks and then go their separate ways. But what happens when real feelings get involved?

  • Did I pick this book because it reminded me of Red, White and Royal Blue? Yes, you caught me. And I’m so glad I did because it was the perfect combo of adorably sweet & hilarious. I had an absolute ball.
  • The humour in this is great, mostly found in the lengthy sections of dialogue. Part of it stems from the banter and chemistry between Luc and Oliver, but the rest can be attributed to the fun supporting cast. This includes Luc’s vague co-worker Alex (my favourite) and his publisher friend Bridget.
  • I loved the relationship between Oliver & Luc. It’s an opposites attract situation which requires time to sort through the kinks but develops into something wonderful. I really enjoyed how good an impact they had one one another, especially with regards to Luc’s self-esteem and trust issues.
  • Aside from the romance, BM also involves a plot to do with Luc’s estranged, famous father. However, for something that took up a chunk of the novel, it ended up weirdly…fizzling out. It’s even more disappointing considering how much Luc’s life was impacted by his dad’s choices and lifestyle.
  • Speaking of family, there’s also an incident involving Oliver’s which I wish had been built up to more over the novel instead of becoming a factor all of sudden in the later stage of the book.
  • This book is boyfriend material in more ways than one – would for sure recommend snuggling up with it on a night in.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★.5
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! We have straight, bi and gay characters in this one.


I might be able to squeeze in one more book. Just ONE more.

Day 6-7: Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

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Premise: After a near death experience, chronically ill computer geek, Chloe Brown writes herself a list of tasks designed to help her “Get a Life”. Realising she’ll need a hand in completing it, Chloe enlists the help of talented artist (and her building superintendent) Redford Morgan, who has baggage of his own to deal with.

  • Once again, yay for diversity: this book features a black, curvy protagonist with a chronic illness. Even better, Chloe’s condition isn’t forgotten about whenever it’s convenient. It actually factors into her behaviour and how the romance plays out. It sounds like such a small thing but I adored the fact that Red was so attentive about Chloe’s pain & exhaustion, and that he always kept her condition in mind when they did things together.
  • It was interesting having a male lead who looks physically strong dealing with getting out of an abusive relationship. Not just physical abuse but emotional, too. Seeing how this trauma impacted Red’s self esteem and his painting really added something different to the novel.
  • To my complete shock, GaLCB ended up being the most steamy book I read this week! From the description and cover, it seems super cutesy but then BAM masturbation scene, public acts of indecency, dirty talk, erections & taut nipples galore…!! To be honest, it was probably too much for my liking. There were quite a few conversations between Chloe and Red which I wish had been more emotional and less I-can’t-stop thinking-about-your-body-on-mine.
  • Based on the blurb I was under the impression that there would be more elements to completing Chloe’s list and that this theme would provide a more structured plot. I was also expecting that doing these things would be the reason for Chloe’s new lease on life but it ended up mostly being about her opening up to Red. This was nice and all but I wanted something a bit more.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: YES!


There we have it – 7 days, 6 adult contemporary romances. Phew! I’m pretty happy with myself to be honest. I had a fun week of reading, beefed up my Goodreads tracker for 2020 and I’m already looking forward to the next book I tackle. FYI, it will not be a contemporary romance. I’m starting to feel the bookworm cavities… Too much of a good thing.

Are you a romance reader? If so, what are some of your favourite picks?

Should I try doing this with a different genre in the future?

Romance for Bookworms: The Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

If there’s two things I love, it’s cute, YA romantic contemporaries and Beauty & the Beast. So, when I saw that Ashley Poston was releasing the next installment in her Once Upon a Con series combining both of these things, I quickly added it to my TBR. However, as much as it pains me to say, Bookish & the Beast just didn’t hit the mark for me.

Who, What, Where?

B&TB revolves around Rosie & Vance who meet at a convention whilst wearing cosplay. The two hit it off but don’t get details about who the other is. While bookish Rosie is currently trying to plan for college and dealing with her mother’s death, Vance is Hollywood Royalty and one of the stars of the Starfield film series. After a bad press incident gets Vance sent to a family friend’s place in Rosie’s town, the two run into each other which results in the destruction of an expensive and rare book. In exchange, Rosie offers to help organise and catalogue the owner’s library. Ordinarily Rosie would be excited to be working in close proximity to Vance but as luck would have it, he’s a massive jerk and wants nothing to do with her. Cue drama.

Missed Connections

One of my biggest disappointments on this one was the characters which I struggled to connect with. If I had to describe Rosie, the word would, unfortunately, be bland. All I seem to know about her is that she loves books, especially Starfield, and she’s the girl with the dead mother (something she says she doesn’t want to be defined as but won’t stop talking about). When she’s not being bland, she comes off as annoyingly immature – I mean the girl gets told off for using her phone at work and only a few minutes later does the same thing again! With Vance, I understood what the author was trying to do and probably liked/sympathised with him a bit more. Still, it didn’t click until a fair way into the book, probably because he spends the first half being a dick for very thin reasons.

Sparks Fly?

For romance stories, chemistry between the leads is everything and here I had trouble feeling the strength of the connection between Vance & Rosie. This wasn’t at all helped by the fact that they barely interact until the second half of the book (and, even then, it’s only over a couple of weeks!). Not the best approach when you’re trying to build a relationship solid enough to believe the two characters love one another by the end. Worse still, the moment real conflict affects their relationship, Vance immediately jumps to mistrusting Rosie without giving her a chance to explain. I’m sorry, but this is not what ships are made of.

Pop Culture Heavy

Something that’s damaged my enjoyment of books in the past is an overuse of pop culture references. They stick out like sore thumbs, age books much faster, and often feel forced. A few here and there is fine but when a book starts to feel cluttered, it bothers me. Particularly when it makes up a large chunk of the characters’ interactions. Did we need several references to Star Wars: The Last Jedi to legitimise the new Starfield film as being a big deal? Not really, no. And I love Star Wars.

Stuck to the Source Material

Retellings are tricky – you want to rely on the source enough that it provides a framework and satisfies reader expectations but not so much that it strangles the ability to tell a logical, creative, and enjoyable story. My issue with B&TB is there are multiple points where it feels like it’s trying desperately to cling to the Beauty and the Beast format even though it’s silly & forced in this context (Rosie chasing a “stray” dog into someone’s else’s house). But at the same time, there are others where it doesn’t feel related at all. Plus, the direct line references to the movie that should have been cute just left me cringing – “I don’t know half of the architectural jargon, but it’s pretty, and at least…it doesn’t use antlers in all of the decorating”.


On the whole, Bookish and the Beast isn’t a bad read but it’s a somewhat flat and disappointing one, especially after the highs of Geekerella. If you’re already a fan of the series, I’d recommend checking it out for yourself but as a first-time reader of Poston’s YA contemporaries, perhaps stick with the first entry.

ARC by Quirk Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

WWW Wednesday | 5.08.20

After what seems like a millennia, it’s time for another WWW Wednesday post! This meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words and asks you to answer the three Ws – what did you recently finish, what are you currently reading, and what’s up next? Here’s what I’ve been up to lately reading wise:

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

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My current thoughts and feelings about this book are gibberish. It was what I expected and yet, at the same time it wasn’t. I was really worried that I wouldn’t like TSH but, once again, surprises do happen. The plot was super slow for the most part (definitely not everyone’s cup of tea), but somehow I was gripped for the majority of the 600+ pages. The characters were plainly terrible people but for a bizarre reason I couldn’t help sympathising with them, even as they progressively went further and further down the rabbit hole. And the questions! My god, the questions. I have so many still which will never receive definitive answers, and it’s driving me mad! I do have to say though, I wasn’t entirely sold on the ending and do feel as though one character’s spiral felt out of sorts with the first half of the novel. However, it’s definitely a clever and well executed book. I understand why it’s been so popular for such a long time and I’ll certainly be pondering it for the foreseeable future.


Iron Gold (Red Rising 4#) – Pierce Brown

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That’s right! Ah, ha! I told you I’d finally do it this year and LOOK. Okay, sure….I know I’ve said I’ll do it like fifty times by this point so I understand if you didn’t believe me. But the time has come, my friends! I already know it’s going to take me a while to finish it (mostly because I’m remembering from my first attempt that some of the characters’ storylines take their sweet time warming up) but who cares. I’m doing it. I’m hoping take two turns out much better than the original. So far I’m about 80 pages in, getting the lay of the land. I mean, there’s been a 10 year time jump since the end of Morningstar so a lot has happened. Plus, it’s going to take some time to adjust to going from being in one character’s head to four but I’ll get there. The plotlines are also more complex, so it does require focus to follow what’s happening but I trust Pierce knows where he’s going.


Bookish and the Beast – Ashley Poston

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This is the third entry in the Once Upon a Con series. While I read and really enjoyed Geekerella, I didn’t get around to the follow up, The Princess and the Fangirl. However,because I love Beauty and the Beast, I was really excited to be approved for an ARC on this one. It’s about a girl named Rosie who after accidentally destroying an expensive, rare book offers to work off the debt by cataloging and organising the owner’s home library. Currently living in the house hiding from some bad press is Vance Reigns, star of the popular Starfield movies, who just happens to be a massive jerk. Unfortunately, Vance recognises Rosie – he met her while cosplaying at a convention and told her some things about himself that he probably shouldn’t have. Now he wants her gone, ASAP. As you’d expect from a B&tB retelling, the two start to spend time together, get to know one another and realise that the other person isn’t so bad. Here’s hoping for another cute contemporary romance read!


And that’s it for now. You’re all caught up. I have a feeling August will be a bit of a slow month for me in terms of the number of books finished but hopefully the ones I do read will be good ones. How has your reading been lately? Finished anything amazing?

Summer Romance with Depth: Beach Read by Emily Henry

I think it’s time that I list adult contemporary romance as one of my favourite genres. They’re just so enjoyably bingeable. The banter, the sweetness, the steam – it’s the perfect little package I can’t resist. Almost like wiggling a Mars Bar in my face. And that’s pretty much what hearing the premise for Beach Read was. Two authors, living in beach houses, engaging in some friendly competition to see if they can write a book in the other’s genre, bouncing off one another until they eventually crack and rip each other’s clothes off… You see what I mean, right?

January & Gus

The two leads in this book are great. They’ve got complexity, great chemistry and, most importantly for romance, appropriate levels of personal baggage to dramatically bring up at opportune moments. January is a romance writer who after the death of her father and discovery of his mistress has been suffering from severe writer’s block. In the hopes of finally getting something written and recovering her sunny, hopeful disposition, she moves into her dad and his girlfriend’s empty beach house. To her surprise, her new next door neighbour is her former university classmate, and now successful literary fiction author, Augustus Everett.

Unlike January, Gus is cynical, broody, and more than happy to murder fictional characters. But he’s also sweet, funny and somewhat mysterious. Also, to my immense joy, he has none of that Alpha male type bullshit typical of romantic leads these days. Look romance writers: Proof that you can be nice and still have sex appeal!

Banter-ific!

As you can probably tell, this is an opposites attract kind of relationship and it works really well on that level. January and Gus’s interactions are perfectly balanced between fun banter and get-things-off-my chest emotional. Even when there’s not much happening plot wise, the book is enjoyable simply by having them be around each other, whether they’re terribly line dancing or writing notes Taylor Swift style through their windows. These interactions make up the bulk of the novel so thank goodness their exchanges work as well as they do.

Battle of the Authors

I really enjoy books about authors and writing so the idea of a competition between two writers involving them producing work vastly outside their comfort zones was a massive draw card here. Yet, while the competition is present and does result in January and Gus doing several research activities, it isn’t as prominent as I would have liked. Mostly because it tends to take a backseat to their romance and dealing with past troubles, particularly in the middle. It does, however, pop more to the forefront toward the end of the novel.

In Cheesy Territory

Beach Read is cute, okay. It is. It’s fun and sweet and mostly enjoyable. But it’s also kind of… cheesy and over the top at points. There were certainly a few lines of dialogue (“I don’t need snowflakes.” He kissed me. “As long as there’s January.”) and moments I could have done without to avoid the cringe factor. This is especially so considering the seriousness of some of the plot points. The book also frustratingly leans into the age old complication of failure to communicate properly. I could see it coming and resigned myself to the fact, but I really wish it hadn’t been done twice. There were also a few points at which I feel January behaved somewhat annoyingly irrational but hey, you can’t have everything.

Deceptively Fluffy Covers

I feel I should mention that because of the genre, blurb and cover imagery, this is a book people will go into expecting fluff, levity and laughter but, like me, will probably be surprised to find there’s a heaviness to it, too (something that’s become common in romance reads lately). Infidelity is a big theme in this book but there’s also the death of January’s father, Gus’s research into a cult, and both our leads’ somewhat fractured outlooks on love and life to contend with. In other words, be prepared for things not to be constantly sunshine and daisies.


As far as contemporary romance goes, this is a good choice. It’s got more emotional gravity than you’d expect from something titled Beach Read, but that’s perhaps what makes it more memorable. While I wouldn’t count this among my favourite romance reads, it’s definitely a good way to spend a few hours. If this seems like something you’ll like, there’s probably about a 90% chance that it is.

3.5 stars

Bookish Fun: 16 MORE Book, Reading and Author Related Facts

That’s right, it’s time for some more fun, bookish trivia! You guys seemed to enjoy my original version of this post back in January so much that I thought, hey, why not go for round two (it may or may not also be because I’m running low on posting ideas at the moment…but we’ll keep that just between us). Besides, who doesn’t love learning fun, useless facts perfect for bringing up during long, awkward silences?

Bookish Facts

  • ‘Tsundoku’ is a Japanese term which refers to a person who acquires reading materials with a tendency to let them pile up unread. They know me, they really know me!
  • While we’re on the topic of bookish language, ‘Bibliosmia’ means enjoying the smell of good or old books. I have to say, the smell of books is definitely one of the reasons I prefer physical books to e-copies. Gimme that mustiness.
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  • The Harry Potter books are some of the most banned novels in America due to religious complaints. Can’t have none of that nasty witchcraft potentially infecting the minds of the young now, can we?
  • According to the NOP World Culture Score Index, the countries which read the most on average per week are India (10.42 hrs), Thailand (9.24 hrs) and China (8 hrs). I think that’s more than even I usually read in a standard week! Go Asia!
  • Slate magazine conducted a study which revealed the most commonly used sentence in The Hunger Games trilogy is “My Name is Katniss Everdeen”, in Harry Potter it’s ‘Nothing happened’ and in the Twilight series it’s “I sighed”. The more you know, I suppose.
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  • The longest title of a book has over 26,000 characters (!) and was published in Kyrgyzstan in 2019. If you’d like to see the full title (it is LONG, man), you can find it here.
  • Where the Wild Things Are was originally supposed to be about horses but when author Maurice Sendak began to draw the illustrations he quickly realised he couldn’t actually draw horses (I can relate – horse are hard!). As you can imagine, these eventually changed into the wild “things” we’re familiar with. Horses, can you even imagine?
  • The first draft of Lolita by Vladamir Nabokav was written on notecards. They had the entire text of the novel plus edits, additional notes and drawings. I don’t know about you, but I can feel the eye strain from here.
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  • I don’t know if I should label this a fun fact or a horrifying one, but Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James is the third bestselling book in the UK (it falls short only to The Da Vinci Code and, you probably guessed it, Harry Potter).
  • Back in 2008, the first ever Kindle sold out in less than 6 hours and stayed out of stock for 5 months. Also interesting to note, it only had about 250MB of storage. To put that into perspective, a Kindle Paperwhite today has 8GB. That’s certainly a lot more book space.

Author Facts

  • Sadly, Jane Austen’s novels were published anonymously until after her death. She was only identified as their author for the first time in a eulogy written by her brother Henry which was included in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously. Ah, the trials of being a female author.
  • Mary Shelley first wrote Frankenstein as part of a ghost story competition proposed by English poet Lord Byron while they were stuck in Switzerland following a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. The idea apparently came to her in a nightmare. Ahem, where is my literary gold dream, huh?
  • Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen used to bring a coil of rope with him whenever he stayed in hotels, just in case a fire emergency required him to flee out the nearest window. Amusingly, if you visit his museum in Denmark they actually have some rope on display. I guess you can never be too prepared.
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  • George RR Martin still writes his books on a DOS machine using word processing software that was popular during the 80s. No wonder his fans have been waiting so long for the next book…
  • C.S. Lewis and J RR Tolkien became friends after they met at an Oxford English faculty meeting and each encouraged the other to produce their most famous pieces of literature. Tolkien even helped convert Lewis to Christianity, the themes & imagery of which are quite prominent in his Narnia works.
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  • Last but not least, Shakespeare can be credited with over 1,700 words in the English language. A few of them are addiction, courtship, bloodstained and assassination. And people think millennials come up with a lot of new terms!

Hopefully you picked up at least one new interesting thing. Got any fun bookish or author related facts to share? I want to hear them!

July TBR: Ignoring my Existing TBR and Buying a Bunch of New Books

I have a list of purchased books sitting on my bedside table to help me keep track of them all and ensure I don’t let “the stack” get out of control. So, the logical thing to do in order to keep this list manageable would be to pick a TBR for July from these books. Right? Right?

Yeah, that would be a noooooo.

Instead, I went to the bookstore and bought a bunch of new books to read. Because clearly I want both myself and my credit card to suffer. Feel the joy. Here are the books I’ll attempt to tackle in July (50% of which I have a high chance of disliking. Woo?):

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

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There seems to be two kinds of responses to this book. 1) This is fantastic and 2) What is this pretentious load of boring bullshit? As I’m sure you can guess, I hope I fall into camp one. TSH is about a group of New England University Classics students who take part in a Bacchian rite and end up killing one of their classmates. It’s dense, slow, and supposedly full of terrible people. What a page turner, am I right? Yet, somehow it’s also a lot of people’s favourite book and apparently addictive. TSH has been around for a while now (28 years in fact) but if you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably familiar with Tartt’s more recent hit, The Goldfinch.


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

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I have no idea why I have the sudden urge to read this book, but the sudden urge I do have. I was kind of lukewarm towards Rooney’s Normal People and didn’t really see myself reading anything else from her, but then I watched the TV adaptation, loved it, and now here we are with a copy of Conversations with Friends. It’s about a college student named Francis and her ex-girlfriend Bobby who end up drawn into the world of a journalist named Melissa and her husband, Nick. Francis soon begins an affair with Nick which changes her outlook on life and herself. I’m probably flirting with disappointment on this one but I live in hope.


The Little Drummer Girl – John Le Carré 

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Yes, we’re trying some espionage. I know, not my usual wheelhouse at all. I’ve probably read one book in this genre period. Temporary insanity, maybe? This is another one of those cases where I saw the adaptation, liked it (probably because I adore Florence Pugh) and decided I’d read the book. It’s also a book I’m very nervous about not enjoying because COMPLICATED. But hey, you never know unless you give things a try. The Little Drummer Girl is about an actress named Charlie being used by Israeli intelligence to infiltrate a Palestinian Terrorist cell and capture their leader. I don’t anticipate this being an easy novel to read but sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself. At the very least I’ll be able to say I’ve tried le Carré , right?


Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

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My only not brand new purchase this month, I picked up Such a Fun Age on audible a few months ago. However, until this month, I just haven’t been in the mood to listen to it. Well, its time has come! I’ve heard some good things about the story, ideas and light, easy writing style so I’m looking forward to it. Such a Fun Age tells the story of an African-American woman named Emira who babysits for a wealthy, white family. After taking two year old Briar to a supermarket, Emira is accosted by security and accused of kidnapping her. Things kind of go pear shaped when Briar’s mother, Alix, tries to get justice for Emira. The book looks at race, privilege, white saviors, cultural awareness and more. I’ve heard the ending is a bit disappointing but I’m expecting an enjoyable story for the most part.


If I Never Met You – Mhairi McFarlane

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While romance is usually associated with summer, I’m feeling like bucking the seasonal trend. Plus, I definitely need something light to break up the rest of this month’s selections. I shamelessly love a good fake dating trope so this is pretty much gold for me as far as the blurb goes. The story revolves around Laurie who sets up a fauxmance with the office playboy, Jamie, after her partner of 10 years leaves her and shortly after shows up with a pregnant girlfriend. Meanwhile Jamie is in need of a respectable girlfriend if he wants to impress the higher ups. I’m looking for some fun banter, cuteness, laughs and a teensy bit of steam.


Five books for July. I have absolutely no clue if I’ll manage to read them all or just get stuck on one for over two weeks (pray for me – I started The Little Drummer Girl first). Guess we’ll have to see. I’m keen to try a few things which are very different from my usual reading choices but at the same time, this could also be a recipe for disaster.

What’s the number one book on your TBR for this month?

My Favourite Reads of 2020 (So Far)

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a few years now (you poor souls) will know that I like to do a mid year check-in of sorts with regards to my favourite reads. The main reason being that it’s always fun to compare the halfway year list to the final top ten books at the end of the year – what’s come out on top, what’s been bumped off by something I enjoyed more, and so on. To keep things fair, re-reads are excluded because how boring would that be?

Now, by this time last year I’d read 39 books which was a decent number to pick a top 10 from. In 2020, so far, I’ve read…err..well…27 books. Yes, I know. But hey, I did say at the beginning of the year I was going to take things at my own pace. So no complaints. However, with a lower number of books to select from, instead of doing a top 10 this year I’ll be doing a top 6 for my mid-year post.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara | Review

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If you’ve read my review for this book, you won’t be surprised to see A Little Life on this list. I loved this novel, which is such a strange word to use considering how difficult the content is and the fact that it broke my heart into a million pieces then drove a steamroller over them. The book follows a group of four university friends who move to NYC together and showcases the highs and lows of their lives over several decades. The writing is stunning and the characters are beautifully crafted. Although it’s a long book and has a couple of issues, it’s definitely worth the time investment and boxes of tissues you’ll go through in the last hundred or so pages.


Starsight – Brandon Sanderson | Review

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Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 so the fact that I enjoyed Starsight as much as I did was an enormous relief. It’s quite a different story from the first book in terms of the narrative direction, pacing and characters but still super engaging. Sanderson massively expanded his universe in this book which would ordinarily be a bit of a worry for me, but here it was done in such an interesting and logical way. I also really appreciated the growth and development of Spensa, the MC, in this book and I’m really excited to see how this continues. These books are quickly becoming one of my favourite series. I’m just ridiculously mad that I have to wait over a year for book 3, especially after THAT ending.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin | Review

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I’ve praised Wolf by Wolf repeatedly since I read it back in March (only because it’s so good!), so the fact that it’s showing up on this list isn’t a shock to anyone. I love competition narratives, historical fiction, fantasy, strong heroines, romance that doesn’t completely take over, and tragic backstories, so this book has pretty much everything I could possibly want. Set in a world in which the Axis won WWII, the book deals with an epic motorcycle race which our shapeshifting lead, Yael, enters in the hope of getting close enough to Adolf Hitler to assassinate him. The pacing is good, the story engaging, the characters likeable, and it ends on a twist that definitely makes me keen for book 2.


The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I would never have expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. Like A Little Life, The Dutch House is set over a period of several years and more about characters than plot. It’s a slower, quieter read which unfolds very much like a modern fairytale (wicked stepmother included). The book revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister and their connection with their childhood home, the titled Dutch House. It’s very well-written, with some of my favourite scenes consisting of Maeve and Danny simply sitting and talking with one another. Also, having listened to the audiobook, I can definitely vouch for the narration of the wonderful Tom Hanks.


The Diviners – Libba Bray

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I’m really mad that I put off reading this for so long because it was such an enjoyable read! The Diviners is so different from a lot of the other young adult books I’ve read which was super refreshing. The 1920s setting is wonderfully vivid, full of life and easily one of my favourite parts of the book. However, it also has a dark and engaging story and a diverse group of characters that are layered, rich and likeable. Also, my magic/special ability loving little heart was very much in her element with this one. I definitely see why this is such a popular series and I predict I’ll be giving the sequel a go some time in the next few months.


Becoming – Michelle Obama

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This is another book I read early in 2020 and have mentioned my love for several times since. Becoming is a fantastic autobiography (I say with my very limited experience of biography reads). I really enjoyed learning about Michelle’s life all the way from her childhood on the second floor of her great-aunt’s house in Chicago to her time as FLOTUS in The White House. In retelling her journey, Michelle touches on so many valuable topics and she does it with such grace and engagement. This is a book I honestly think everyone would take something away from. Even if you’re not a massive fan of Michelle Obama, I would have no hesitation in recommending it.


What are some of your favourite reads of 2020 so far? I hope that while the events of the year have been downright awful, your reading has been the complete opposite. Here’s to many more amazing books in the next six months!

Not Your Average Haunted House: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (ARC)

When I stumbled across Mexican Gothic several months back, my first thought was definitely: I have to read this. Okay, it was probably more like, is it possible to marry and have babies with this cover? But the immense need to read it was a close second.

Who, What, Where?

Set in 1950s Mexico, the story follows a young socialite named Noemi. After receiving a troubling letter from her newly married cousin, Catalina, Noemi travels to High Place, a crumbling, English-style manor in the countryside, to check on her.  Following her arrival, it doesn’t take long for Noemi to realise there is something off about not only High Place but the cold and mysterious family who live there. Her only ally is Francis, the shy and kind youngest son with a fondness for fungi. Determined to find answers about Catalina’s failing health, her cousin’s new family, and the weird occurrences in the house, Noemi sets out to dig deeper into the past and its secrets.

A+ for Atmosphere

The setting of this novel is easily one of its highlights. If you’re fond of misty, craggy moors ala Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, you’ll feel right at home here. I really enjoyed the concept of an English style house dropped onto the edge of small-town Mexico and the interesting mixture of cultures and imagery it created. High Place itself gives off this wonderfully eerie feeling which is perfectly suited to a novel of this type. With its moulding books, peeling wallpaper, strange noises, and foggy grounds, you can definitely see the gothic influence here. Where is the Addams family when you need them? 

Multi-Thread Mystery

The plot of Mexican Gothic has several mystery elements which cover Catalina, the family’s recent and older history, High Place, and the town. They’re all woven together into a confusing ball of unknowns which Noemi has to unravel. I liked this side of the story, particularly the questions surrounding the family mine and death of Catalina’s sister in law. My curiosity for answers is definitely what pushed me through this book, especially with its slower pacing in the first half or so. However, I can’t help feeling like these plotlines fell somewhat short of their potential in that the actual investigating and clues were very limited before Noemi was given the answers in the climax.

Nightmares & Visions

The incorporation of Noemi’s dreams and visions inside the house was interesting and really added to the sick, haunted feeling of High Place. I also thought it was a great way of supplementing Noemi’s learning about the family history with additional details that it would take time to decipher. I will say though, I wish that the information presented had been clearer for the reader to understand, especially considering its importance.

Socialite to the Rescue

As far as protagonists go, Noemi is a likeable character. She’s stubborn, confident and resourceful, but also this flirty, spoilt party girl who’ll doll herself up just because she can (which I kind of loved). More importantly, she’s able to go toe to toe with others in intellectual debates and what can I say? I love smart female characters. This aside, I would have appreciated a more noticeable character arc for her and wasn’t a fan of several scenes which forced her into a helpless position for very little reason.

Err…What?

The big reveal is where things got rocky for me. I have to give the author points for creativity and taking a direction I would never, ever have guessed. Yet, at the same time, I had trouble finding it believable, mostly because it’s…really weird and I’m still foggy on the nitty-gritty details of how it all works. This direction for the story’s climax felt fairly disjointed with the earlier, slower and more spooky parts of the novel, transitioning it from suspense to all out horror. I really wish I’d gotten the answers to the major questions with more graduality and build up than all together in a final rush to the finish line.

Chemistry Lite

The romance element of the book was, for lack of a better word, okay. I liked Francis, I liked Noemi, but I couldn’t see any particularly strong chemistry between them. This was especially the case for Noemi, who seemed to like Francis but never gave off a deeper romantic connection with him. She enjoys his company, finds him comforting and thinks he’s different from other men she’s met, but she’s always thinking about the fact that he’s unattractive and awkward. Still, I did enjoy some of their sweet interactions with one another.

Flat Characters

Other than Francis and Noemi, the characters in Mexican Gothic felt disappointingly underdeveloped. Despite Virgil, Catalina’s husband, showing up frequently, I know little about him besides him being attractive and a rape-y asshole. The family patriarch, Howard, whilst given some backstory and page time to espouse the value of eugenics, isn’t present enough to act as the threat he’s supposed to be. Catalina, meanwhile, is the catalyst for the entire story and having finished the book, I have absolutely zero feelings towards her whatsoever. And then we have Florence, Francis’s mother, who again, I understand nothing about beyond the fact that she’s completely awful.   


Overall, there were some things I enjoyed about this one but a lot of others that I wish had been done differently. While it may not have been the read for me, I see horror genre lovers finding something new and interesting in Mexican Gothic.

2.5 stars

**Thank you to Quercus Books who provided an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review.**