The Han to My Leia: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (ARC)

This book is probably one of the gayest things I’ve ever read…and my god, it was glorious. After the last two Netgalley ARCs I reviewed ended up sitting around the two-star mark, I was seriously starting to panic about ending up blacklisted for being a massive grump. Thank goodness for Red, White & Royal Blue.

Who, What, Where?

Alex Claremont- Diaz is the son of America’s first female president and has big plans for his own political career. That is, until a confrontation at a royal wedding between Alex and his so called “nemesis”, Prince Henry of Great Britain, is caught on camera, posing a threat to international relations. With the PR teams in damage control, a plan is devised to fix it: stage a fake friendship between Alex and Henry. Alex can’t imagine anything worse. However, as the two spend more time together, they start to realise that maybe the other person isn’t who they thought they were. As President Claremont kicks off her re-election bid, Alex finds himself in the middle of a secret relationship, the last thing he needs getting out to the press. But is being with Henry worth potentially jeopardising not only his own future but that of his family?

I Love You All!

I’ve had a lot of trouble lately finding book characters that I really love, but good gosh did I love these.

Alex: Cocky, smug, loud-mouthed, and YET, a damn national treasure. Never underestimate his ability to make you spontaneously break out into a giant grin. Honestly, he’s that little shit of a character that were he a real person would drive you up the wall but be impossible not to love. If that doesn’t convince you, let me also say, he’s a) mixed race, b) the grandchild of immigrants, c) bisexual, and d) has undiagnosed ADHD.

Henry: If you were sitting there going, I need another sweet, cinnamon roll character in my life, LOOK NO FURTHER. Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor has arrived. Henry is closeted gay and feels trapped by the expectations placed upon members of the royal family. He’s a romantic, big on both Star Wars and classic literature, a little more reserved, and genuinely enjoys charity work. He also has a thing for boys with chin dimples who insult him.

Henry & Alex aside, RW&RB is also full of great side characters. Even better, so many of them are amazing women. Firstly, there’s June (Alex’s sister) and Nora (granddaughter to the VP), who are the kind of people you 100% need in your support network. They’re smart, confident, ambitious, fantastic wing-women, and good at keeping Alex’s ego in check.

Nora grins. “Hmm.” She pretends to think hard about it. “Risk assessment: FSOTUS failing to check himself before he wrecks himself will result in greater than five hundred civilian casualties. Ninety-eight percent probability of Prince Henry looking like a total dreamboat. Seventy-eight percent probability of Alex getting himself banned from the United Kingdom forever.”

“Those are better odds than I expected,” June observes.

Alex’s mother, President Ellen Claremont, somehow manages to be both a respected leader and a supportive parent (but that won’t stop her from making jokes about faking your death for sympathy votes). There’s also Zahra, the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff, who has no time for anyone’s, especially Alex’s, crap. She’s half scary, half hilarious. Regarding Alex’s profile fact sheet to help Henry fake their friendship:

“Does he get one of these for me?” Alex asks helplessly.

“Yep. And for the record, making it was one of the most depressing moments of my career.”

Ouch.

Laughs for Days

This book cracked me up, repeatedly. Sometimes it was the situations, but mostly, it was the banter. My lord, the dialogue, the quips, there’s just so many winners here. Throughout the book, Henry and Alex spend a lot of time texting, calling and e-mailing each other from across the world, and these exchanges are fantastically done. The two just bounce off each other magically and the chemistry is off the charts.

“In world’s most boring meeting with Philip. Don’t let the papers print lies about me after I’ve garrotted myself with my tie”…

“[W]as it a meeting about which of your cousins have to marry each other to take back casterly rock?”

** ***** **

“Alex?…Have you really rung me at three o’clock in the morning to make me listen to a turkey?”

“Yes, obviously.”

Ship that Romance!

The relationship between Alex and Henry progresses nicely over the course of the book and I feel like having the story take place over a period of more than a year really helped with this. I adored watching these two characters grow from having a rather strained relationship to friends who could light-heartedly poke fun at each other and then lovers. While the amount of gushy-lovey-dovey-ness in the middle of the book did get a bit much for me (there’s a lot of e-mails involving romantic quotes from literature and history), it’s hard to mind too much because these two are so darn cute together. Just….argggggg…*unintelligible noises*

External Angst

One of the things that frustrates me a little in romances is when characters cause conflict unnecessarily by acting stupidly or worrying about silly things. While there is perhaps one moment of slightly internal based conflict in Henry & Alex’s relationship, it’s resolved quickly (mostly by Alex swearing loudly at a bunch of people). The rest of the issues they face are more of an us-against-the world variety which is so much easier to get behind.

Political Colour

While I massively enjoyed the main romance storyline, I also like the fact that the US election was more than just a background element. By having a proper contribution to the overall plot through some choice drama moments, the story felt better tied together and the ending was much more satisfying. Some of it may go over people’s heads, but for those that are disillusioned with the current American political situation, this alternate reality will make you feel a little better (and think about what could have been).

Celebrate Queer

Honestly, this book is just so wonderfully queer positive, I can’t even find the right words to express it. Is it all a little bit too good to be real, yes, but who the hell cares? You’ve got: *SPOILERS*

  • Alex questioning his sexuality, realising that he’s bisexual and coming out to his family with amazing support
  • Henry proclaiming that he’s gay, refusing to cover it up again and finally having his family rally around him.
  • A publicly gay senator, despite adversity, kicking ass in his political career and fighting against abuses of power
  • The broader international community standing up for Henry and Alex’s relationship

All of the yes.

I could go on, but I won’t. To put it simply, this book was wonderful, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. If you’re a fan of contemporary romances and looking for something sweet, funny, charming and positive, RW&RB will be the ray of sunshine your week needs.

5 Stars

*** ARC received from St Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

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WWW Wednesday | 15.05.19

Time for a reading update! And as usual, I’m doing it in the format of a good, old WWW Wednesday post. The 3 big questions are: what have you recently finished, what are you currently reading, and what’s next?

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston | GR

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I loved this book. It’s sweet, funny, sexy, and full of great characters. The novel is over 400 pages but it felt like it flew by. I don’t read a lot of new adult books but this is a great encourager to branch out more. All you really need to know is that the story revolves around Alex, the son of America’s first female president, falling in love with HRH Prince Henry of Great Britain. These two are for sure one of my new favourite ships. Alternate history has never been more fun or gay. My full review (of gushing) will be going up later this week.

Slayer – Kiersten White | GR

34723130

I’m a huge Buffy fan so you can imagine my reaction when I found out Kiersten was writing a new series set in its world with a brand new Slayer. I have a feeling I picked this up because I’d been working on completing a Buffy book tag right about the time I finished Red, White & Royal Blue. While I can’t say I’m absolutely living for it at this point, I certainly don’t mind it. The characters are fine, and I’m having a lot of fun finding all the little references and call backs to the show. However, I do hope the story picks up more soon. Also, could they maybe crap on Buffy herself a little bit less. The girl has saved the world only a gazillion times, okay?

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss | GR

34347493

Yes, I’m still bloody going. It’s happening, okay? Just really, really, really slowly. I’m enjoying it a lot, I promise! 350 pages down and only like… 350 pages to go. Basically nothing. Hey, it’s not like the last book in the series is coming out any time soon. At this rate, I’ll finish the first two in perfect time for it, with all the details still fresh in my memory. See, I’ve thought this stuff out. It’s the perfect plan.

Aurora Rising – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman | GR

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What’s that? Oh, just the sound of me screaming in excitement. It’s here, it’s here, it’s FINALLY here. I’ve been waiting on this for a while and I’m sooooo keen. Space adventures, fun characters, potential end of the universe, the usual Kristoff-Kaufman dialogue, um…yes, please. I admit, I would have started this earlier but by the time I was able to get into store to pick it up, I was already stuck into Slayer. I’ve got high expectations but with all the great reviews popping up, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

And that’s where I’m at reading wise right now. How is everyone else going? Is your current read grabbing you or are you already setting your sights on the shiny, attractive next one?

Top 10 Tuesday: Book Adaptations I’d Like to Watch

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is a freebie relating to Page to Screen. As I’ve already done two lists on great book adaptations and another on books I wish would be adapted, this time I’m doing a list of adaptations that I haven’t yet seen but would like to! Admittedly, I haven’t read many of the books these films & shows are adapted from, but I guess that doesn’t really matter all that much.

There are a lot of books out there where the rights have been purchased for adaptation or an adaptation is currently in the works but still a way off. For the purposes of this list, I’m just focusing on adaptations that have already been released or will be very, very soon.

Killing Eve (2018 – Present, Series)

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This series has been “killing” it lately (Drums: Ba dum tsh). But really, I have yet to hear a negative thing about it and it’s winning a bunch of awards. I love the fact that it features two strong female leads and Sandra Oh is absolutely fabulous. It’s about an MI5 agent, Eve, who becomes obsessed with catching a talented assassin known as Villanelle, leading to a high stakes game of cat and mouse between the two. The series is based on the Codename Villanelle novella series by Luke Jennings.

Good Omens (2019, Limited Series)

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Okay, technically this adaptation isn’t out yet but considering it’s set to be released at the end of the month, it counts. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the series follows a demon, Crowley, and an angel, Aziraphale, who team up to prevent the end of the world following the coming of the anti-Christ. The series has a fantastic cast, with the two leads played by Michael Sheen and David Tenant (who are both amazing!). It just seems like it’ll be a lot of really weird fun.

Gone with the Wind (1939, Film)

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Both the book and movie adaptation of Gone with the Wind are considered classics. It’s one of those films that you see pop up every so often, mostly because people are quoting Rhett’s parting line. I’ve always been curious about seeing it and almost did watch it on a international plane trip but somehow it’s never happened. Maybe because it’s about 3 hours long? Still, I’d like to give it a go and see for myself how the failed romance between good old Scarlett and Rhett went so very wrong.

The Green Mile (1999, Film)

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People have been telling me how good The Green Mile is ever since I was a kid. It’s considered to be one of the better Stephen King adaptations and what can I say, it’s pretty much impossible not to like Tom Hanks. The film (& book) tells the story of an African American man who is charged with the murder of two young girls and brought to a correctional facility. Shortly after, the guards begin to notice him performing what appear to be miracles of healing. I’ve actually seen a few small snippets from this but I’d like to see the whole thing. I know the ending is sad, but I’m sure it’ll be a good watch.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018, Film)

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I’m not entirely sure why I’m keen to watch this one, I just am. The word is that Cameron Post is supposed to be a decent coming of age film with wit and emotion. It tells the story of a lesbian teen in the 90s who is sent to a conversion therapy centre by her conservative relatives after she’s caught kissing a girl on prom night. It’s always good to see stories not shying away from some of the murkier parts of history and featuring sexually diverse characters. At the very least, I think it’ll be something different from my usual.

V for Vendetta (2005, Film)

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I’ve been putting this one off for years now. Worse, we even have it on DVD and I STILL haven’t got there. Like, what are you doing, Ashley? Technically this one’s based off a comic series (by Alan Moore & David Lloyd) so I’m stretching the whole “book” thing here, but it’s an adaptation so I’m counting it. I like Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman so the idea of seeing them portray masked vigilantes using terror tactics to fight back against a fascist regime sounds pretty darn cool.

A Walk to Remember (2002, Film)

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Yes, yes, we all like to make fun of old Sparky and his tear-jerker books, but there’s always a time and a place for them. This movie was extremely popular back when I was at school and yet, somehow I completely missed seeing it. Who knows how? I don’t mind The Notebook and I like Safe Haven, so I may end up enjoying this one. Next time I’m up for some emotional manipulation and a chance to get reacquainted with the black hole of sadness in my chest, I’ll pop it on.

After (2019, Film)

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Yes, you read that right. This dumpster fire of a film is on my to-watch list – just look at the poster, for crying out loud. I haven’t read the book but after watching the trailer for the movie, I feel the desire to watch the damn thing just to see if it can possibly be as bad as it looks. Well, that and because guaranteed there will come a time in the future where I need some trash viewing. Come on, we all do it. I’m hoping to find a heap of so awkwardly bad moments, much like Fifty Shades (the toast!), that it ends up being funny.

The Expanse (2015 – Present, Series)

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Finally! A book I’ve actually read…that’s part of a series of seven other books which I have not read. Regardless, I like a good bit of sci-fi and I’ve heard great things about this series. Its fans love it so much that Netflix actually saved it when Syfy decided to cancel it. The plot is complicated – a ragtag crew of ice haulers travelling across the universe, a conspiracy that threatens galactic peace, and a police detective tracking down a missing woman. I’ve had this on my to-watch list since it first started but I’ve just never been in the right mood for it. I’m hoping I’ll get there soon.

The Man in the High Castle (2015 – Present, Series)

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I love a good period piece and the concept of this series just sounds great. Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, it looks at what would have happened had the Axis powers won WWII. The series is set in alternate 1962 and details what happens when several people mysteriously find reels of film showing Germany actually losing the war. I was a history major at university, so this kind of thing is right up my alley. Now that I’ve got an Amazon prime subscription, I should probably sit myself down and finally watch it.

And there we have it, ten adaptations I’d like to see. Sometimes adaptations are good, sometimes they’re…well downright terrible. I haven’t read the source material on a lot of these but I feel as though that can often be beneficial because there’s nothing to compare it to. Guess I’ll have to find out.

What book adaptations have been on your to-watch list for a while?

Psychic Twins, Alchemy and the Potential End of the World: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (ARC)

When I first read the synopsis for Middlegame, my immediate thought was: Give it to me. Because, damn did this book sound good. Super-human intellectual twins and alchemists seeking to use them to become gods – it all sounded right up my alley. Plus, early reactions were flowing with five star ratings. It seemed like there was almost no way I wouldn’t enjoy it. And yet, somehow, this ended up being exactly the case.

Who, What, Where?

Roger and Dodger are twins. While Roger has always had an aptitude for words and languages, his sister views the world in numbers and equations. However, having grown up at opposite ends of the country, the two only meet when they realise that they have a psychic connection with one another. Little do they know that they are the carefully crafted experiments of an alchemist named James Reed, designed to embody the two halves of the Doctrine of Ethos, language and mathematics, which is believed to be the key to commanding all things. Reed seeks to use these abilities to access a place known as The Impossible City, and in doing so to gain unimaginable power.

I’m Sorry, but Huh?

If there is one emotion I associate with this book, it’s confusion, because good lord was I confused. Confused and then frustrated. This is one of those stories that holds back a large amount of information from the reader to allow for big dramatic reveals later. The problem with this approach here is that not only is the plot dealing with very complex ideas, but the answers to the big questions take so long to arrive (or never do), that you spend most of the book wondering what the hell is going on and why. What is the Impossible City? How does Reed intend to use Roger and Dodger’s powers to get there? What kind of power will reaching it grant him and why does he want that power? Somebody throw me a line here!

Slow & Messy

Middlegame is over 500 pages long and, until the climax finally starts to kick into gear, it’s a pretty slow 500+ pages. A large chunk of the plot is devoted to following Roger and Dodger through different periods of their lives. They interact with each other, go about their day to day activities, and steadily develop their abilities. Other than a few sparse dramatic events which separate them for periods, such as *spoiler* a suicide attempt, *end spoiler* that’s about it for a long time. At first, it’s not so bad, but after a while it starts to become boring and repetitive, and left me almost wanting to give up altogether. I’ll admit that things did pick up eventually, but by that point it felt like too little, too late.

*Spoilers* Another thing that bothered me was the plot’s use of time travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of time travel, but in Middlegame, I found its use messy and frustrating. At some point in the book, you realise that time is repeatedly being rewound to try to alter certain outcomes. Because of this, aside from a few crucial, fixed events, most of the story you’ve read thus far hasn’t happened as you read it. Like, WHAT??? Worse, the timeline continues to chop and change even after this point. Cue pulling my hair out…now. *End spoilers*

Middling Characters

Middlegame gives us a lot of quality time with Dodger and Roger, from their childhoods through to their post university years. For this reason, I do have a degree of appreciation for the two as characters. McGuire manages to make them feel distinct from one another and the relationship between the two is quite a nice element of the story, especially in the early years. Yet, as individuals, perhaps Roger more so than Dodger, I can’t help also finding them somewhat dull and unengaging. By the time they had reached adulthood, I realised that while I thought they were okay people, I just didn’t have all that much of an interest in or emotional connection with them as characters.

As villains, my enjoyment of Reed and his associate, Leigh, was massively dampened by the fact that I had no clue as to what their motivations or plans were beyond: get to The Impossible City. Besides their vaguely described goals and the lengths they go to achieve them, the two don’t really have much to their characters, leaving them feeling very flat.

The one character that I can genuinely say I liked was Erin, the embodiment of Order and part of another failed set of experimental twins. She may come off a bit crazy at times and definitely does a few downright horrible things, but she’s also smart, strong and a somewhat sad character in that she’s been placed in a rather awful situation but does the best she can with it.

Middlegame is an ambitious and complex novel which on first appearances had a lot of potential to be something great. There are likely to be some readers out there who will really enjoy what it has to offer, but unfortunately the slow pacing, confusing world building, and difficulty connecting with the characters meant that this wasn’t the book for me.

2 stars

*** ARC received from Tor via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Giving It the Old College Re-Try: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio (ARC)

If you’ve been around the bookish pockets of the internet, then it’s highly likely you’ll have heard about popular booktuber, Christine Riccio, or PolandBananasBooks. If you’re a fan of Christine’s videos, then you’ll also know that she’s been working on a book since at least 2016 which is now finally at the end of the publishing road. It’s titled Again, but Better and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC.  

Who, What, Where?

Shane’s been doing college all wrong – she’s studying a major she has no passion for, has made zero friends, and her love-life is non-existent. In the hopes of changing things up, she applies for a semester abroad creative writing program in London and an internship at a prominent travel magazine. To ensure she makes the most of the experience, Shane sets herself a list of goals – kick ass at her internship, start a novel, kiss a boy, make friends, and have adventures. However, when reality begins to set in, things quickly start to fall apart. But what if, with the help of a little magic, Shane had the chance for a do-over?

Bogged Down or Too Blunt

Having watched a few snippets of Christine’s book writing videos, I know that the first draft of Again, but Better was around 120,000 words. I couldn’t understand how this could possibly be until I actually read the ARC.

Now, this is a book that would have needed A LOT of editing.

Why? There’s just so much unnecessary detail. Being able to vividly visualise scenes is great, but there’s a point where it becomes information overload. Do I really need to know every detail about every street, building, corner, and shop on Shane’s journey to the supermarket? No. You’re writing a novel, not a London guide book.

On the flip side, the chapter ends have the opposite problem. While a lot of the story feels almost gushy, the chapters always seem to end in abrupt (but not cliff-hanger-y) ways. It’s almost as though you’d expect it to be the middle of a scene rather than the end. Because of this they felt a little jarring and anti-climactic, impacting the flow of the novel for me.

Didn’t You Realise, it’s 2011

A large chunk of ABB is set in 2011. This is fine but, for some reason, the book feels the need to remind us repeatedly. If I’d been doing shots for 2011 references, I’d have been on the floor. Shane playing Angry Birds. Shot. Avril Lavigne’s ‘What the Hell?’ plays. Shot. Now it’s Rihanna’s ‘Who’s that Chick?’. Double shot. Shane is re-reading City of Glass for City of Fallen Angels. SHOOOOOTTTTT. Luckily for my liver, the name dropping does calm down in the second half. Even better, Christine stops trying to casually (or awkwardly) integrate the references. Instead, she even manages to turn them into a fun part of the time travel experience.

Christine, is That You?

As someone who isn’t a PolandBananasBooks fan, after I while, even I started to notice that ABB’s MC, Shane has…er…well, a lot in common with Christine. Visually, they’re both white, blonde girls with slim builds who like their eyeliner.  Both have Italian families, social anxiety, and dream of being published authors. Christine’s username is PolandBananas20 while Shane’s blog is FrenchWatermelon19. They like the same books and music, name their laptops, and speak in the same generally excitable, “quirky” way. I get that authors are encouraged to write what they know, but when your MC is basically you, it does mean that your writing starts sounding a lot like wish fulfillment. As a result, there were parts of this that ended up feeling just a little bit cringy – especially the happily ever after ending.

A Re-Do on Boring

Plot wise, I enjoyed the second half of ABB more than the first. The way the book is set out is: Shane does London take 1#, short intermission in the present before BAM time travel twist, then Shane does London take 2#. The problem with take 1# is that much of it feels like an extended prologue – laying down the ground work for parts of take 2#. While there were a couple of moments where things picked up, most of the time I found myself bored. There are a lot of mundane conversations, quite a bit of repetition, and lengthy sections involving Shane recounting uninteresting details of her day-to-day life in her notebook.

The beginning of take 2# is where things picked up a LOT. The humour was better, the writing smoother, and the plot showed more direction. Then, to my frustration, (a) it slowed down again and (b) the characters returned to making frustrating decisions. *groans*.

A Bit of Positivity

At this point, I feel like I’m crapping all over a young author’s debut novel. So, with that in mind here are a few of the things I liked about ABB:

  • The book does have some genuinely funny elements e.g. Shane’s war with the flat’s dining chairs and her recount of the way she spent her spring break. Basically me.
  • Despite having issues with them as separate characters, I did root for Shane and her love interest, Pilot, to end up together. They have some nice interactions, especially in take 2#.
  • While the ending was rushed, unrealistic and corny, I couldn’t help finding it very cute. Stupid swoony heart, you’re supposed to be a cynic! Must be the magic of Taylor Swift.
  • *spoiler* There’s a really lovely moment during take 2# in which Shane helps out her cousin who is struggling with coming out. Super sweet.
  • I’m sure there will be people out there who can relate with Shane’s anxiety issues, and she does have a couple of panic attacks during the novel.

While I hate to say it, I wasn’t much of a fan of this one and probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a big Christine viewer (because it has her written all over it). Again, but Better has its brighter moments, but unfortunately they’re often overshadowed by the novel’s lower points.

2.5 Stars

*** ARC received from St Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***

And That’s a Wrap: April ’19 Edition (+ OWLs Magical Readathon Results)

As I mentioned in my TBR post for April, I participated in the OWLs Magical Readathon hosted by G @ Bookroast again this year. This time around we were able to tailor our subject choices to achieve certain wizarding career choices and I decided to go for either an Auror or Hogwarts Professor (depending on the number of subjects I managed to get through). While my blogging efforts may have been abysmal this month, my reading numbers were on track.

I managed to get through 6 books and 1 comic this month which I’m quite pleased with. I completed each of the core subjects I needed to cover for either of my chosen careers and covered enough subjects in total to do the Hogwarts professor career if I want to. Guess we’ll just have to see if I can keep it up when the NEWTs readathon rolls around.

Herbology: A Plant on the Cover

It Ends with Us – Colleen Hoover ★★★★

My first Colleen Hoover book and a great pick too. Colleen’s writing style is really easy to get on board with. She takes a heavy topic like domestic violence and manages to perfectly express the emotional complexity of such a situation in all its shades of grey. I really liked the characters and feel like they were given a good degree of depth. The book ends in a really nice way as well. I will 100% look into reading some of her other work.

Arithmancy – Written By Two or More Authors

Always Never Yours – Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
★★★★

Is this a perfect read? No, but is it enjoyably fluffy? Very much so. I mean, there’s a cute theatre related story involving a production of Romeo & Juliet, as well as a sweet, biracial romantic lead. We’re already ahead. While the lead, Megan, is frustrating (& young) at times, I did like the fact that she was confident in her own sexuality, learnt from her mistakes, and that she and Owen had fabulous chemistry (I ship them HARD). The plot was sort of on the melodramatic side at times but not enough to really turn me off. Also, for a co-authored book, the writing is very smooth (and in a few moments quite funny). I’ll definitely look into reading their next book – If I’m Being Honest.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: Book/Series starting with ‘R’

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman ★★★★

This book felt quite different from a lot of the other YA contemporaries I’ve read. The characters have great depth and are really well developed, plus the story just feels very real. There’s LGBTI representation all over it, but at the same time the focus of the book is on a friendship (& a really sweet one at that), rather than a romance which I freakin’ loved. There are also a lot of themes e.g. finding yourself, dealing with difficult family situations, and that there are multiple pathways to success in life, that I think younger readers will really relate to and benefit from. There are moments where it does feel a little long yet, overall I think it’s a good read.

Potions – Next Ingredient: A Sequel

City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare ★★★

Better than City of Fallen Angels but still nowhere near as enjoyable as City of Glass. That’s where we’re at with this. To be fair, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would, however there were still some majorly annoying elements. The frustrating Clary-Jace angst was still there, but because Jace is kind of mind-warped for most of the book, it’s far more bearable than CoFA (that’s wrong for me to say, isn’t it? Eh.) Maia & Jordan are boring and there’s quite a lot of nothing plot sections in the middle, but at least my little Sizzy Ship is starting to set sail. If only Alec and Magnus were doing as well…

History of Magic – Published at Least 10 Years Ago

Pet Sematary – Stephen King ★★★.5

If you were to look up the term ‘slow-burn’, you would 100% find a reference to this book. While a major moment does happen about two thirds of the way through, the s*** does not properly hit the fan until the book’s almost over. This was actually my very first audiobook and Michael C. Hall is an absolutely amazing narrator. While the book is slow, I found that it didn’t bother me a great deal as I was focused on what it was saying about ideas like death, grief and family. However, once again, King lets me down on the ending. Not a bad read but not something I’ll reread (re-listen to?) either.

Charms – An Adult Book

Middlegame – Seanan McGuire ★★ (ARC)

The blurb for this one had me really excited to get stuck in, but in the end the book didn’t live up to expectations. Confused is how I would describe myself through most of this. I kept feeling like things would finally make sense and…they didn’t. The concept is interesting, I just couldn’t get on board with the execution. The plot is really slow and while the characters were okay, overall I just wasn’t that phased by them. The constant time jumps and re-writing of history (aka the events I’d previously read) didn’t exactly help. Honestly, by halfway, this was struggle town to finish, but at least the momentum increased in the climax/ending.

Transfiguration – A Red Cover

Saga Vol. 2 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples ★★★★.5

This comic series is so bizarre and wacky but I kind of love it. The art is wonderfully done and the dialogue is fabulously funny at points. Even the story itself is a great blend of sci fi, action, and romance. I’m kind of disappointed in myself for waiting so long to read vol. 2, in fact. Good thing I have vol. 3 already ready to go because that ending…

Only three books to add to my TBR this month. The Near Witch I bought because I attended a V. E. Schwab signing and thought I should probably buy her new/first release for her to sign. Red, White & Royal Blue is a Netgalley approval and I’m so excited to read it because early reviews have been great! Verity I’ve been intrigued by for a while but because it’s not a wide publication, I ended up buying it on my Kindle. Truth be told, I’ve already finished it (in about two days) and it was great. Addictively dark.

It was a very, very sad blogging month in April but I think I needed a bit of a break. Next month may be light on the post count as well but there should at least be more than this month. Here are the extremely small number of posts from April (excluding my TBR post):

Aside from Verity, which I’ve already finished, here are some of the things I plan to tackle in May. I started One True Loves yesterday so that’s already under way. Aurora Rising comes out this coming week and of course I’m going to drop everything to read it. I also plan to continue with the Saga comic series. It looks like a good month ahead!

As I mentioned above, I went to a Victoria Schwab signing this month! AHHHHHH! I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get to meet Schwaby unless I flew to the states for some kind of event and then, next thing I know, she’s doing signings in Australia. Wooooo. At the Sydney event, she was interviewed by Australian fantasy author, Garth Nix (he wrote Sabriel). It was a short little Q&A but quite funny and nice. Among other things, Victoria talked about her crazy writing process, dog, love of Edinburgh, and current project – The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue (which sounds amazing). She’s such a sweet person and arrived wearing a cat ear headband, so there’s that. Plus she had no problem signing the mountainous stacks of books many people brought (me included).

TV & Music

This month I’ve started watching Gotham on Netflix. They’ve definitely done a lot of things different from what you’d expect of a simple prequel of the Batman comics but I guess that’s okay. Keeps things interesting. I’ve also got back into watching Grey’s Anatomy. My sister and I are now on season 7 – I cannot believe we’ve seen that many seasons so far and there’s still like…8 to go. Crazy. Even when it’s not amazingly good, the drama is so addictive.

Deluxe

I’ve been majorly replaying Aly & AJ’s new music this month. It’s got such a great sound and I’m loving the 80s synth/electric vibes. Plus the new video for their song Church is stunning. I used to love their music back in the day – it’s nice to see it grow and change as I have. Also, we’re finally in the new Taylor Swift era. YAAAASSSS. I am unashamedly a big T-Swizzle fan and it’s so exciting to be getting new music. Me! isn’t the best song she’s ever produced, but it’s definitely fun and happy, and I love that it’s a Brendon Urie collab.

And that’s it from me for April! As always, I hope you had a good reading month and I wish you an even better one for the month ahead. What was your favourite book of April?

De-Cluttering: Culling the Hell Out of my Goodreads To-Read Shelf

So. This week, I took a quick glance at my Goodreads to-read shelf and low and behold, it’s siting at 122. One-hundred-and-twenty-two books. Like, WHAT. How in the good lord of all things books did this happen? There cannot seriously be 122 books that I am ridiculously keen to read. I’m sure there are other people out there with shelves more than three times that big, but for me, that number is looking just a litttttttllleee bit ridiculous. And, as you can tell from the title of this post, that means it’s time for a….CULL. Basically, may the odds be ever in your favour (aka. may you have a blurb that still holds some interest for me and an average star rating that doesn’t resemble a train wreck).

First up, I think I’ll be taking a page out of the book of some other bloggers by separating out unreleased books from my to-read shelf into a separate shelf all on their own. This should cut down the number a bit.

…okay, it cut 21. Just 21. Damn it.

Well, I guess we better get stuck in then. This list ain’t going to reduce itself. Time to say goodbye to…

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

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I was pretty keen to read this once upon a time but since then I’ve increasingly lost interest. Based on the things I’ve heard about it and the sequels since, I get the feeling I’ll find it another average and forgettable read. I wanted political intrigue, backstabbing, awesome magic, and family drama, but it seems super slow and about 80% romance. *sigh*.

All the Crooked Saints – Maggie Stiefvater

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I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I’m not much of a fan of Maggie’s books. They’re not bad, but I always find myself extremely indifferent to them. I’ll willingly admit that I bought this one because I was 1) excited to find a release out in Australia before the US, (b) it has a stunningly colourful cover, and 3) I was trying to push myself to love Maggie’s books as much as everyone else does. I honestly have no desire to read this so I think it’s time to cut it (& donate the physical copy).

Truly, Madly, Guilty – Liane Moriarty

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I bought this one at the peak of the Big Little Lies craze. I honestly thought I wanted to read it, but now, nope. Not in the slightest. Having read reviews of it recently, people report that it’s extremely slow, the big reveal is highly disappointing, and that the characters aren’t interesting enough to make you want to keep going to the end. Basically, I’m out. Cull & donate.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzi Lee

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Yes, I know. I’m sorry, okay? I liked the first book, really I did. It was fun and the characters were cute, but there were also moments of drag and frustration. I just don’t feel at all compelled to read the sequel anymore. I can’t explain it. I mean, it’s got kick-ass Felicity, more European adventures, pirates, and the reviews are good! AND YET. No motivation for some time now. *sigh* Please don’t hurt me. Cull.

From Twinkle with Love – Sandhya Menon

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I’ve mentioned in the past that I wasn’t that keen on Menon’s first book, When Dimple Met Rishi. Still, I added this one to my TBR, drawn in by the idea of another diverse read and a super cute cover. Since then, the book has ended up with a 3.66 average GR rating and a few of the things I’ve heard about it haven’t exactly floated my boat – an annoying protagonist, a love square, reliance on tropes, letter style format, and that the book reads quite young. I think I’ll give it a miss.

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason – Virginia Boecker

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I think I may have added this book on a whim after seeing it pop up quite a few times, buzz words lighting up my brain – assassins, historical, theatre, enemies to lovers. Nowadays, I’m like, it looks okay but I feel as though I’m once again setting myself up for an average, forgettable read. The average rating is at 3.69 – not awful but not amazing either. So while this would probably be a decent book, I think I’ll pass for now.

The Crowns of Croswald – D.E. Night

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This is another book that’s fallen victim to time. The excitement and motivation was there once but it’s slowly up and disappeared. Looking at TCoC now, there are a few things that send up warnings. First, the book has been shelved as both middle grade and YA by readers. I’m not much of a MG reader so the fact that this either is or reads like MG, turns me off a bit. Second, it’s less than 300 pages. For fantasy that does make me worry about depth of story and characters. Either way, it’s time to let go.

The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

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This book has been on my physical and virtual TBR since about 2014 and I’m still yet to pick it up. I think it’s the fact that it’s an enormous book and the beginning of an ENORMOUS series. I also happened to buy this before I heard that Jordan was considered very similar to Tolkien, an author who’s style I wasn’t so big on. The fact that the series supposedly declines in quality further down the track also isn’t much of an encouraging factor. I feel like one day I’ll read it (when I have plenty of time and patience), but I don’t see it happening for while. Until then, it’s time to take it off.

The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

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Insert the same reasons here as for All the Crooked Saints. I’ve been wanting to read The Scorpio Races for a long time and have almost bought it quite a few times now. But, I feel like the combination of my lack of enthusiasm for Maggie’s books and that I’ve heard this book isn’t as action packed as I was hoping, is sending me reaching for the x button. I think I have to give this one a miss for now.

The Disasters – M. K. England

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I know why I added this one – it sounded vaguely similar to Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman which I am dying to get my hands on next month. I think I was maybe trying to find a way to sate my excitement? Also, the cover is cool and purple. I’ve heard since that the majority of the book doesn’t actually take place in space, the plot is a bit repetitive and superficial, and that the characters aren’t given enough depth. Who knows, I may completely change my mind but for now, goodbye.

Phew. Things are looking much healthier than they were before. This is manageable. I can deal with this. I’m sure there’s probably more I could cull but I’m constantly worried I’m going to get rid of something that I’ll actually end up wanting to read and enjoying later on. Ugh. This will do for now.

How many books are currently on your Goodreads To-Read Shelf? Is it tightly regulated or getting a bit out of control? (MAKE ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF).

Have you read any of these books? Did I make the wrong decision? *panics & flails*