Bookish Fun: Reacting to 1 Star Reviews of Books I Loved

Sometimes we fall in love with a book and sometimes…we really wish we’d spent our time doing something else. And, as we all know, just because you enjoy something that doesn’t necessarily mean other people will, too. Their reasons for this can vary from bizarre and hilarious to problematic to genuinely reasonable. With this in mind, I thought I’d try my hand at a post that quite a lot of other people in the community have done previously – reacting to some really negative reviews of books I loved. After all, sometimes it’s good to challenge your own viewpoint. So, I’ve scoured Amazon and Goodreads to find some short and complete opposite opinions to my own on a couple of my five star reads.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I loved this book and even named it my favourite read of 2018. Here are a couple of people who were…less enthralled than I was.

While I loved the characters, I’m not going to argue with someone about not feeling the same way. Hate’s a strong emotion. At least they weren’t boring, right? In terms of ‘difficult to believe’, aren’t most of the crazy things that happen in Hollywood hard to believe? Seven husbands alone sounds ridiculous but, then again, Elizabeth Taylor got married EIGHT times. Plus, it’s a guarantee that many famous people in this era had to cover up the fact that they weren’t straight. Yes, the relationship between Evelyn and Celia isn’t perfect or entirely healthy but a large part of that is due to the stress of the circumstances and time. Besides, doesn’t that make it far more interesting from a literary perspective?

Hey, I’m sure plenty of other people wish that, too. Then they would’ve been further up the holds list at your library to read it.

Does every book need to do something profound or entirely new to be considered good or worthwhile? I mean, I love rom-coms largely for their predictable, fluffy formula. Everything has its purpose. As for particularly interesting, well, we disagree. I know plenty of people were divided over the content of the twist but placing it right at the end isn’t an uncommon way to use that device. As for boobs, lesbians, gossip columns, and green dresses, well geez, someone better call the literary police! We can’t have those infesting our books now, can we? Think of the children!


Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

The fact that the number of 1 star reviews for this book doesn’t even constitute 1% of the total on both Goodreads and Amazon gives me such warm fuzzies. But let’s check out that <1%.

Um, I may be missing something here but… how can something be overdramatic and super boring at the same time? But just speaking to the ‘boring and predictable’ part, I’m even more confused because this book has so much action. Literal SPACE BATTLES. Deaths, plot twists, alien attacks! Trust me, you missed a lot in those intervening pages.

“Teenage girl drivel”. *breathes heavily* What? Is it purely because Spensa is a teenage girl? Because if we’re talking stereotypical “teen girl” stuff (with which there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying, liking and/or partaking in), there’s basically nothing here. Spensa is training to become a pilot (a field dominated by men), she has almost no traditionally girly interests, and there’s no romance in the book whatsoever. It’s basically sci-fi Top Gun. Please, explain.

Not one? Really? Not a single, teeny, tiny thing? Even one vaguely amusing line of dialogue? Gosh, that sounds like absolute torture. I mean, I don’t give out 1 or 1.5 star reviews very often but even then I usually have at least something positive I can mention.


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

I’m probably asking for pain and suffering with this one because I know it’s divisive. Funnily enough, that’s what I’m actually expecting the 1 star reviews for CWF to say.

Hm, I guess it depends on your idea of “substance”. If we’re talking about plot, Rooney’s books are generally more about characters so the substance comes from them. However, I realise this is up to personal preference. Also, fair point about the lack of quotation marks. It is confusing before you get used to the flow and structure of Rooney’s writing. But mainly about lesbianism? That’s where you lose me. First, is this supposed to be a statement or a criticism? As far as statements go, it’s kind of wrong. Yes, f/f relationships play an important role in the book but the central character is bisexual and the central romance is between her and a straight man. Colour me confused.

Well, you’ll probably get just as much conversation from it as you would trying to converse with the book but you do you.

Ouch! Okay, yes, the characters aren’t the best people but that’s why I find it interesting. They’re layered and very flawed, and I get why they won’t be for everyone. But, come on, you read a book dealing with US attitudes towards race and this made you angrier? Sounds pretty suss to me. Now, a blurb that claims you can read this as a romantic comedy or feminist text? That can’t be right. *flicks through Goodreads* Oh god. As much as I hate to say this, he’s right. Whoever wrote the blurb for that edition, how do you read this as a romcom?! Romcoms are FLUFFY. I love this book but never in a million years would I call it a romcom. And while there are feminist commentaries in the book and it does involve strong female characters, I don’t know if I would label it a “feminist text” per se. I’m afraid you may have been misled here a bit, buddy. I blame the publisher.


The Poppy War – R F Kuang

I love this series but it’s one I can understand people not liking because of their tastes regarding things like violence. These books get DARK. However, as usual, there are always people who conflate ‘not for me’ with ‘not for everyone’ or just plain terrible. *sigh*

  • I might be wrong but the only similarities I see between TPW & Nevernight are that they’re fantasy and both involve the training academy and mentorship tropes (my faves!). I suppose there are Gods? But these aren’t important in Nevernight until book 3. Oh, and MCs who are orphans with something to prove, perhaps. Hmmmm…
  • Sure, there are some common fantasy tropes so I understand this. But also keep in mind it’s inspired by Chinese history so there are some limits to originality.
  • I sincerely hope the 45% mark was before all the violence otherwise this is worrying on many levels.
  • It’s kind of a chunky book. You can’t start the violence that early or it’ll run out of steam. But also, why are you actively waiting for violence?
  • Why skip pages? Just stop reading.
  • If you’d kept reading, you would have found out.
  • *eyerolls back* Sorry, it’s all I could think to say because I wanted the same number of points.

Firstly, TPW is classified as Adult, not YA. Second, ah yes, I can clearly see the glorification of drug use in: If you continue using drugs to commune with the gods, eventually you will go so insane that we will lock you up in a prison where you will remain trapped in rock but self-aware for the rest of eternity. Yep, gimme some of that. It just sounds so appealing!

Lord, where do I even start? This may not have occurred to you before so brace yourself, but, some women do not want to be mothers. Whoa! Crazy, I know, but true, and calling childbearing ‘the greatest gift a woman has’ is absolute sexist rubbish. Women have so many fantastic qualities. Some become mothers and some don’t. Either way, they’re amazing. There are so many women out there who know that motherhood is not what they want even from a young age and struggle for years to find a doctor who respects their autonomy enough to give them a tubal ligation or hysterectomy, even when they have existing medical conditions. Rin may be young but she knows that she doesn’t ever want to have children. If she’s old enough to prepare to fight in a bloody and brutal war, she’s old enough for us to respect her decision on this. It is in no way a judgment on those women who do want children and what their capabilities are.


If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

Oh, ho. I’m expecting some very unhappy campers on this book because it’s somewhat polarising. I’m also expecting A LOT of ‘terrible copy of The Secret History‘ comments.

Two seconds in and we have a The Secret History mention. I’m not even going to argue because yep, IWWV is pretty much The Secret History but Shakespearean. I love both so you won’t catch me complaining. As for being pretentious, I’ll give you that as well because you bet it is, but I’m known for liking the occasional pretentious book so… Let’s be real though, The Secret History is pretentious as hell, too. You can’t accuse one without the other.

I had a giggle over the title of this one. Can’t really argue with most of the points made because it’s all subjective and since I loved it I obviously disagree. Yet, I do think one or two of the characters could have been given more attention. To some extent, I find most dark academia to be a bit unrealistic but isn’t that all part of the fun? As for plagiarism, you do realise that plagiarism is trying to pass off the work of someone else as your own without acknowledgment right? Trust me, Rio acknowledges The Bard. Many, many, MANY times. Not to mention the plays themselves.

Don’t worry, I gave it 5 stars and still think I’m too dumb to fully appreciate it.


Okay, this is where I stop because otherwise I’ll never get out of the vicious spiral starting to occur whereby I question all of my reading taste (do I have any?) and whether I’ve somehow missed a million problematic elements of my 5 star reads. I know I poke fun at some of these reviews but everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what they read. We’re not always going to love the same things and that’s great because it allows for a more diverse publishing market.

What was the last book you gave 1 star to? (Mine was Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami).

Top Five Tuesday: Books About a Death

Welcome back to another edition of Top 5 Tuesday! It was originally created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm but now has its home at the lovely Meeghan Reads. This week’s topic is books that revolve around a death! Ooooo…sounds dramatic. With this topic, I tried to mostly stay away from just using straight-up murder mystery books (because, duh, a death is the whole damn premise of the genre) in order to give the list a little more variety. So, here are five books that I really enjoyed whose plot rests largely on a significant death.

The Push – Ashley Audrain

To explain how this book is about a death would be a spoiler so I won’t. In truth, The Push is about so much more than that – the relationships between mothers and daughters, mental health, and societal conventions of motherhood, just to name a few things. However, it’s the death of a particular character that sets off a series of events that massively changes the life of the narrator. The book is about a woman named Blythe who struggles to connect with her daughter Violet after she’s born. As Violet grows, Blythe begins to worry there might be something…twisted and wrong with her child.

Sadie – Courtney Summers

Oh, Sadie. I feel like I haven’t spoken about this book in a while and since it’s a) fantastic and b) perfectly suited for this week’s topic, let’s rectify that right now. It’s just so darn heartbreaking and I don’t think I’ve really read many books like it. The death relevant here is that of Mattie, little sister to our 19-year-old protagonist, Sadie. Mattie meant everything to Sadie and with the two having grown up in a terrible home environment, Sadie felt responsible for keeping her sister safe. So, following her murder, Sadie sets out, determined to track down Mattie’s killer and get revenge. It’s a dark, raw, and expertly told story that won’t be for everyone but is well worth a read.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

While Rebecca is about a wedding, which was last week’s topic, it’s more importantly about the death of the titular character. The novel centers around an unnamed protagonist who after meeting wealthy widow Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo marries and returns with him to his famous English estate, Manderley. However, she soon finds that the presence of Maxim’s glamorous former wife, Rebecca, lingers over everything, aided by Manderley’s hostile housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who refuses to allow her mistress’s precious memory to be papered over. Our protagonist begins to question whether she will ever measure up to the legendary first Mrs de Winter. But the real question is, is Rebecca truly gone?

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

The Secret History is one of those books that if you were to try and explain what it was about, you would probably say it’s about a death. A murder to be exact, committed by a group of university classics students against one of their friends to cover up another murder that took place during an ancient Roman ritual. In truth, it’s far more complicated and deals with a myriad of themes and ideas. It’s about group dynamics, the power of guilt and secrets, social class, the nature of beauty, fate vs choice, and so much more. The writing is dark, intense, intelligent, and wonderfully addictive. If you’re curious about the book that kicked off the dark academia genre, this is the one to read.

Vicious – V. E. Schwab

Another great read that I haven’t chatted about for a bit. So, technically there are a bunch of deaths in Vicious and that’s because the whole premise is people dying, being brought back, and developing special X-men type abilities as a result. Yet, these people don’t stay dead so the death I’m actually referring to is that of Angie, a university classmate of our leads Victor and Eli (& Eli’s girlfriend). While Victor and Eli have a friendship/rivalry before this event, it’s Angie’s death that puts their whole Professor X-Magneto conflict into full motion. The book follows the two men years later as Victor tries to get revenge on Eli for putting him in prison and Eli seeks to kill Victor as part of his plan to hunt down all ExtraOrdinary humans.


What are some of your favourite books that centre around the death of a particular character?

The Power of Phil Collins Compels You: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Just when I think I’ve started to gravitate away from YA books, gems like this reel me back in. I’ve heard My Best Friend’s Exorcism described as a cross between The Exorcist, Heathers and Beaches, and you know what, that’s about right. This book is all 80s vibes, malicious demon exploits (slash mean high schooler antics), and the amazing power of friendship. And gosh, it’s good.

Who, What, Where?

Our story revolves around best friends Abby and Gretchen who have been tight ever since they were ten years old. While partying at their friend Margaret’s lake house, the girls take LSD and Gretchen mysteriously disappears into the woods only to return hours later disoriented and dishevelled. Although Gretchen claims to be fine, in the weeks that follow she begins to act strange, scared and, eventually, cruel. As terrible things start to happen to their classmates, Abby tries to put the pieces together and starts to wonder whether Gretchen might in fact be possessed by a demon.

Time After Time

If you love 80s nostalgia, come right this way. I know I normally criticise books for an overreliance on pop culture references but, much like Ready Player One, this is an exception because I had a blast. I mean, even the chapter titles are named after 80s songs! The feel of the story and setting details (complete with ‘just say no’, rumours of satanic cults, and crazy 80s diet fads) are spot on, even the attitudes of the characters are believable for the time. The story itself also follows a similar trajectory to an 80s horror/teen flick and balances creepy and gory against a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to high school drama. It’s probably why it’s so bingeable.

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Although MBFE deals with horror themes like demonic possession and it’s marketed as involving “unspeakable horrors”, don’t go in looking for something genuinely scary. That isn’t what it is, and you’re bound to be disappointed. Sure, there are a couple of gross out moments, one of which involves a tapeworm, but it’s more on the side of paranormal thriller. Almost like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The possession itself happens fairly early but the book does require some patience afterward with regards to Gretchen’s transformation. It’s somewhat of a slow burn to reach the sly demonic mayhem you’re probably looking forward to most but, for me, it’s worth it.

Never Gonna Give You Up

While the nostalgia and high school horror is fun, the heart of the book is the friendship between Abby and Gretchen in all its Phil Collins sing-a-longing, roller-skating, late-night phone calling, ET loving glory. Hendrix fantastically sets up the bond between the two early on and it’s so easy to believe that the girls are as close as sisters, especially in the face of their difficult home lives. Despite being severely tested, it was lovely to see just how far Abby would go to save her friend, even at the risk of potentially permanently blowing up her own life. The exorcism scene itself hit me hard in the feels because the Devil may be strong, but ain’t nothing stronger than the love of high school besties.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I really enjoyed this book but there were a couple of little things that let it down. First, there are a few issues with the editing, particularly names, which caused some confusion during certain scenes. Not the end of the world, though. Second, I wish we’d gotten more clarity as to how Gretchen became possessed. We’re given a few puzzle pieces but never told how they fit together. Third, there are some references made to satanism and a murdered girl that are never expanded on. It’s kind of odd and I’m left wondering, was there a purpose or was it simply referencing the 80s satanism panic? Guess I’ll never know.


Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Sorry, couldn’t resist using another 80s song title. If you’re looking for a quirky and fun take on 80s horror that blends creepy with coming of age and features a heart-warming female friendship, pick this one up!

4 stars

(If I gave out extra points for awesome covers, the paperback edition pictured above would get so many. The old VHS look is ridiculously cool).

The Great Unhaul 2022: 20 Books I’m Donating Before I Move

As some of you may have seen in my Feb-March wrap up, I accepted a job offer last month and this means I’ll be moving to a new city in a few weeks’ time. It’s exciting, it’s scary, but it also means that it’s time for me to go through my bookcases and unhaul some things. Here are 20 books that I’ve decided to let go of:

  • The Near Witch – Victoria Schwab: This hurts because it’s a lovely hardcover (hardcovers are gold in Aus) and it’s signed! Yet, as much as I love Schwaby, The Near Witch didn’t do much for me. I appreciate it as her debut but I can see how far she’s come since.
  • Lore – Alexandra Bracken: I don’t have anything major against this book, but overall I was pretty apathetic towards it. I don’t think I’ll muster the energy to read a sequel. Probably due to my growing fatigue with repetitive YA fantasy stories and characters as I get older.
  • The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli: This one pains me because the sparkly cover is so pretty. Quite a lot of people really liked The Last Namsara but my reaction was lukewarm. The world-building was okay but the plot and romance didn’t do much to grab me. Goodbye, pretty sparkles.
  • Legend – Marie Lu: This is the kind of book I would have been nuts for had I read it at the time it came out. Reading it in 2019, though, my reaction was: it’s okay but nothing special. The characters were fine, the plot was fine, the rushed romance was unnecessary…I don’t know, I just need more these days. Time to unhaul.
  • When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon: This wasn’t for me. It was nice to have a YA romance between 2 POC but I wasn’t a fan of the story and some of Dimple’s treatment of Rishi was…questionable. Almost want to keep it for that cheerful cover and orange spine, though.
  • Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline: While I love the cover & spine, there’s no way I’m re-reading this or recommending it to anyone. It’s just not very good, super disappointing considering it’s a sequel to a really fun read.
  • Chosen Ones – Veronica Roth: This wasn’t as bad as other reviewers made it sound, but it was definitely one of those books with a good concept and disappointing execution. It takes ages to get going and the characters are pretty eh. I have no plans to ever re-read it or read the sequel so to the unhaul pile it goes.
  • Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake: This was a great YA contemporary that handled a challenging subject matter very well. The cover is lovely, too. However, it’s another YA book that I know I won’t re-read. Plus, there are other people who’ll benefit from having this more than me.
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper – Kerri Maniscalco: Why my pretty HARDBACKS? (As if I’m not in control of which ones go and stay). This book had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I’ve often thought of giving the series a second chance but I think the time has come to let that idea go. These books were SUPER popular so maybe someone else will fall in love?
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins: For those of you familiar with my views on this book, I don’t need to offer an explanation for why it’s here. All I’ll say is BYEEEEEEEE!
  • All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven: I had a mixed reaction to this book and I think it’s partially because I was expecting more based on how popular it was. For the most part, I enjoyed it and I appreciate that Niven took on some very difficult topics, however, I wasn’t a fan of the way they were handled. I don’t see myself revisiting this so off to a new home with you!
  • More Than We Can Tell – Brigid Kemmerer: I adored Letters to the Lost and while More Than We Can Tell was a decent read, I didn’t fall in love with the story or the characters in the same way. This was particularly the case for the female lead, Emma. I liked it but not enough to hang onto.
  • Slayer – Kiersten White: As big a Buffy fan as I am and as mildly enjoyable as I found this, I remember very little about it and I don’t think I’ll ever read the sequel now. The world-building is good but the pacing and the characters have their issues. Still, I’m sure there will be plenty of people who’ll enjoy this in all its monster-butt-kicking glory.
  • Mirage – Somaiya Daud: Are we sure I read this? Okay, yes, I know I read it but seriously, I have no memory of anything besides it being a dystopian fantasy The Princess Switch. Must have been okay if I gave it 3 stars. Regardless, it’s going to join the pile.
  • The Flame in the Mist – Renee Adhieh: Another 3 star YA fantasy that I have few memories of. I know this was a sort of Mulan retelling but Japanese? I also vaguely remember the story being a bit flat and not liking many of the characters. Basically, to the pile.
  • Insurgent – Veronica Roth: Don’t we all wish that the books after Divergent had simply not happened? I know I do.
  • Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi: I think I just heard a few people scream in horror. I’m sorry! The setting/world-building here was great but the characters and the plot didn’t really do it for me in the way I’d been expecting from the crazy hype train. Time to say goodbye (I’m definitely sad to lose that stunning cover).
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor: I love Laini’s Strange the Dreamer duology but couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm for this series. I really liked the world-building, backstory and some of the characters but wasn’t a fan of the romance at all, which dominated the book. Not for me but maybe for someone else?
  • The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski: Another lovely looking hardback! It’s even got those fringed page edges! If only I were as fond of the content as I am the pretty cover. I ended up reading the sequel on kindle and found it slightly more enjoyable but I don’t really get the hype so unhaul it is.
  • Ash Princess – Laura Sebastian: I actually remember really enjoying this book, even though I knew it was like every other YA fantasy I’d read before. I even planned to read the sequel, which did not happen at all. Despite it being entertaining, like others on this list, I don’t see myself going back to it so it’s time to go.

Believe it or not, I’m unhauling more than double the number of books that I have listed here but because I’m trying not to actively bore you guys to tears, I thought 20 would suffice. I haven’t really done a proper clear-up of my shelves for a few years now and while it’s sad to be getting rid of things, I’ve realised I own a lot of books that I don’t really love and what’s the point of that? Despite the clean-out I still have multiple tightly packed boxes coming with me to my new place which I will get to lovingly reorganise.

What do you think of my unhaul? Are there any books listed here that you feel I’ve made a big mistake in letting go?

And That’s a Wrap: February and March 2022 Edition

Another month is over and, as usual, that means it’s time for a reading wrap-up! Let’s jump in, shall we?

February this year wasn’t a huge reading month but I finished an ARC I had, re-read a favourite, and finished a fantastic 1000 page novel that I’ve had on my TBR for like 5 years, so you’ll hear absolutely no complaints from me!

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★

I finally did it. I read the first (giant) book in The Stormlight Archive and it was fantastic. The first few chapters were slightly disorienting but after that, I enjoyed myself so much. The world-building is vast and impressive, and I loved the way the drama and action of the story ebbed and flowed over the course of the book. The climax, in particular, was so darn good – I just couldn’t stop reading. However, my favourite part was definitely the characters – they’re so well developed and it was really interesting seeing how their paths intertwined. I’m really keen to read the next book in the series so you can bet Words of Radiance will show up in one of these wrap-ups later in the year.

One Night on the Island – Josie Silver ★★ | Review

I really enjoyed Josie Silver’s One Day in December so I’d hoped this would be a similar experience, especially considering the cute blurb, but it was not to be. The setting for the book, a beautiful and remote Irish island complete with sweet locals, was great and I liked the story’s ideas of self-love and self-partnering (despite them feeling at odds with the romance). However, for something marketed as a romance, the relationship between leads Cleo & Mac seemed underdeveloped and downplayed in favour of their individual journeys. It also felt undermined by Mack’s unresolved marriage situation. Additionally, my warmth towards the characters themselves was…rocky. In the end, not for me.

Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney | Review ★★★★★

I love this book and it held up just as well the second time through as it did the first. I’d been planning on rereading this right before watching the adaptation (due in May) to refresh my memory but I got so excited about the prospect that I’ve done it several months early! Ah well. Worth it. Conversations won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but this is easily one of my favourite standalones.

Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy ★★★

I didn’t end up liking this as much as McConaghy’s most recent release, Once There Were Wolves, but it was a decent read. It’s slowly paced and tonally bleak due to its focus on humans’ devastating impact on the natural environment and the MC’s backstory. It’s about a woman named Franny who is desperate to find a place on a fishing vessel to follow the last migration of the Arctic Terns towards Antarctica. I know a lot of other readers have really loved Migrations and I can understand why that might be but I feel as though it took me a while to really understand Franny as a protagonist or the connection between her and her husband, something that was crucial to the emotional weight of the story. It’s very different from a lot of other books I’ve read, and I have this inexplicable feeling that I might enjoy it more in the form of the adaptation currently in the works.

March was a pretty good month for me reading-wise. I read 8 books (why are kindle books so much easier to read quickly??) and went on a brief historical-romance trip while waiting eagerly for the second season of Bridgerton to release on Netflix. However, my reading buzz came to somewhat of a screeching halt after reaching one book in particular. It won’t be hard to guess which from the star ratings.

The View was Exhausting – Mikaella Clements & Onjuli Datta ★★.5

I picked this up on a whim while at the book store one day. I had a good feeling about it and after seeing some Evelyn Hugo comparisons (the acting, fame, secret relationship vibe minus the historical setting), I was even keener. As it turned out, TVWE was okay but unmemorable. I didn’t dislike it but it didn’t inspire much of an I-need-to-keep-reading headspace. It’s about an actress called Whitman who has an on-off again fake relationship with a party boy named Leo which they utilise whenever her public persona needs a refresh. The characters were fine, although I can’t say I grew particularly attached to them and I found Whitman frustrating in the second half. The chemistry between Whitman and Leo was decent and I did want them to be happy together, but far from one of my favourite romances. Honestly, I don’t really have all that much to say about this one.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons 2#) – Julia Quinn ★★

I had a lacklustre reaction to the first Bridgertons book (despite loving the Netflix series) but I was determined to try this anyway. I liked it slightly more than book one and enjoyed Kate but the big problem is that Anthony’s still an ass. Might be because he says things like: “I don’t like being denied my rights” when Kate asks to hold off having sex for a week. I get it’s historical but jeez…my ovaries just shriveled. There are also a couple of story elements that feel a little silly, like why Kate & Anthony get married. Don’t get me wrong, though, there was fun stuff, too – Kate’s troublesome corgi, Newton, the Bridgertons playing aggressively competitive Pall-Mall (like croquet), and Colin being an absolute shit-stirrer. Not sure if I’ll read book 3 but one thing’s for sure, if I have to read the word “rake” again for the 1000th time, I will gouge my eyes out.

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke 1#) – Tessa Dare ★★★★

After my disappointing experience with The Viscount Who Loved Me, I thought I’d give popular romance author Tessa Dare a try and, you know what, this was really good! As far as historical romance goes, it felt more on the modern side but I liked that because it meant we avoided a lot of the toxicity you often find in the genre. The writing was really funny, even slightly satirical at times, but so easy to get sucked into. I liked the characters, especially our heroine Emma, and thought the interactions between her and male lead Ash were sweet and fun. I wasn’t swooning or shipping as hard as I have with other romance couples but it was cute, fast-paced, and humorous so I’m definitely up for more. If you like rom-coms with historical flavour, this is a good choice.

The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke 2#) – Tessa Dare ★★★★

I’d heard that a few people were disappointed with the second entry in this series but I actually enjoyed it slightly more than the first! Shocking, I know. I liked the setup for the story, the characters (especially the child wards of our male lead, Chase, one of which kept “killing” off her doll in a new way every day), the banter and chemistry, and Tessa Dare’s once again engaging and fun writing style. Clearly, I should be reading more of her books in the future.

Dead Silence – S. A. Barnes ★★★

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super vibing with this at the beginning. It took a little while to get into the swing of things and I wasn’t sure what to make of the characters or the split timeline. Yet, once I got toward the middle, it seemed to find its footing and I began to enjoy myself. I feel like it manages the cross-over between sci-fi, horror, mystery and slight romance fairly well. The world-building is comprehensive enough to support the story and there are a couple of good creepy moments. I thought the twist and explanation for events were pretty reasonable but the fact that a couple of things were left unexplained was annoying. I also wish there’d been more development to the side characters to increase the emotional impact of the story.

Hook, Line, and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters 2#) – Tessa Bailey ★★★★.5

I loved this. Surprisingly, even more than the first book! It’s the perfect combination of sweet and sexy. The romance was super enjoyable and the chemistry between Fox and Hannah was fantastic. I adored them together – the intimacy, the trust, the ease of their interactions! – but also I just really liked both of them as characters. The growth and development they undergo over the course of the book alongside their somewhat slowburn romance was so nice to see, especially Fox overcoming his negative perceptions of himself. Plus, the smut was pretty fire, too, just in case you were wondering. It’s probably not the best example of friends-to-lovers because the friendship isn’t exactly “solid” but I’ve never been a huge fan of that trope so no bothers here.

The Atlas Six – Olivie Blake ★★★ | Review

Finally, after what feels like forever, I read The Atlas Six. I wish I could say it was everything I was hoping for but, unfortunately, not. While I really liked the premise and found the characters interesting (despite some being underutilised), the writing style and I didn’t fully gel. I also wish that there had been slightly more structure to the magic system and the book’s plot aside from a few decent twists. Some more emotional conversations between the characters rather than the frequent, but admittedly captivating, attempts at power play would also have gone a long way. Still, I’m intrigued enough to read the sequel.

Norweigan Wood – Haruki Murakami ★

There were several points during this that I should have DNF-ed and I regret not doing so because…oh, boy. Would someone please explain how this book was so popular that Murakami fled Japan to get away from the publicity? I don’t think I’ve ever had such an emotionally negative reaction to a novel before. Anger, disgust, boredom, frustration, disbelief – I ran the gamut. I mean, good lord, the red flags! The depiction of women, slight paedophilic vibes to some descriptions (actual paedophilia in one scene), handling of mental health, asshole MC that every character feels the need tell us is such a nice guy, suicide used FOUR times and not well, the constant (& pretentious) book/music title drops…I almost want to write a review just to rant and rage. I actually thought this was going to be fantastic but, plot twist, one star it is.


It’s been a lazy start to 2022 for blogging and of the limited posts that I’ve uploaded, a chunk of them have been book reviews. Admittedly, I don’t have a problem with that because, well, book blog. I’m hoping to up my posting frequency in April (the public holidays should help) but we’ll see how that goes since there will be a few things going on in my life over the coming weeks. Here are the posts from Feb & March that aren’t already linked above, just in case you missed them:


In life news, I’ve got a new job! I’ve been in my current position for several years now so I’m very excited (and a little nervous) about trying something new. My new role is in a different city from where I am now so over the next few weeks I’ll be getting ready to move, finding an apartment, buying furniture, and all that big stuff.

As far as non-bookish entertainment stuff goes, when it comes to TV I’ve been watching:

  • Love is Blind, S2: Bit of a frustrating experience this season and the editing is wild!
  • Arcane: League of Legends, S1: Why did I wait such a long time to watch this? It’s so good! The art is amazing and I really enjoyed the story. Such a bummer that season 2 will take so long to make. This is proof you can make good adaptations of video games if they’re done right.
  • Bridgerton, S2: I binged this like crazy. It was very different from the book, in some great and less problematic ways, but also some…not-so-good ways. There were too many subplots, I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle, and they dragged out the will-they-won’t they a tad too long. Some more post-marriage time would have been nice. However, the chemistry between Anthony & Kate and the last few minutes of the season, *chef’s kiss*.
  • Nevertheless, S1: I’ve never watched a K-drama before and my sister recommended this to deal with my boredom/post-Bridgerton depression (watching Pride & Prejudice helps, by the way). I’m not really sure what I think at this point or whether I want to continue but it’s always good to try different things.

For movies, the list is short. I went to see The Batman and loved it (despite all the people in the cinema trying to ruin it for me). So worth the wait. I’ve always wanted to see Batman actually act like his ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ moniker so this was right up my alley and I could definitely see the Seven, Zodiac, Bladerunner type influences. I also watched Deep Water on Amazon prime with Ben Affleck and Anna de Armas, and the only two things I’ll say are 1) the kid was adorable and 2) it’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

Gaming-wise, my The Sims 4 addiction has returned in a big way and kind of killed the progress I was making with Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Guardians of the Galaxy *sigh*.


And that’s it for February and March! I’m hoping you’ve all conveniently forgotten that I just skipped January when it comes to wrap-ups but what can I say, it wasn’t very eventful. I hope you’ve all had a great first quarter of the year and that more good things are yet to come.

Let’s Talk: 5 Bookish Things That Make Me Cringe

I love books. I really, really do. But there are certain things about them that on occasion make me cringe in a really big way. Nothing’s perfect after all. Now, you may well be wondering where I got the idea for this post. Okay, you’re probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. The reason for the rant that you’re about to skim is THIS abomination:

Yes, this. It seems that there has come a time when I don’t only need to cry about printed stickers, but TIKTOK printed stickers. Excuse me while I go scream into a void. Printed stickers aside, the whole publisher obsession with BookTok begs some further discussion and since I’ve already brought it up, let’s start this list there.

TikTok Sensation Labelling

TikTok is big, I get it. However, I’d be lying if I said a little part of my soul didn’t wither and die every time I see a book cover with something along the lines of ‘As Seen on TikTok’ on it or download an e-book listed as ‘[TITLE]: THE TIKTOK SENSATION’. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but it feels so cringey to me. Social media has been used to promote books into popularity for years now and as a member of the online book community myself, I love that. I have no problem with Booktok itself, it’s simply another branch of an already wonderful thing. Yet, as far as I can remember, I can’t think of any other platform being used by publishers in this way. You know, spamming its name all over the place to such a degree that you’d think someone had just invented the new sliced bread. I have to ask, why? It feels like the type of marketing that’ll date book covers within only a few years. Like, hey, remember when Tiktok was new and shiny and publishers kept plastering its name all over everything to sound hip and young? Oh, yeah, that was weird. Weirder still, quite a few of the books that have suddenly become “TikTok sensations”, like It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover or We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, are backlist books that have already been popular online for several years. It’s not as if it’s showcasing anything revolutionarily different or underrated. If bookstores want to do a table showcasing popular BookTok reads, go for it. But publishers, for the love of all things holy, keep it off the books themselves.

First Person Blurbs

I know this one’s going to be subjective so if I’m all alone on my little hill here, I understand, but the fact is: I don’t like first-person blurbs. There, I said it. They feel cheesy and CRINGEY. I think it might be because the blurb is trying to give the reader a broad overview of the plot but still sound character-focused. This never works for me because (a) it comes off sounding extremely melodramatic in a way that an omniscient narrator blurb ordinarily wouldn’t and (b) the character voice always feels so generic and different from the actual narration of the book’s MC. I believe this trend arose because people started to complain that third-person blurbs were misleading for books written in first-person, but this is super bizarre to me because I always thought it was widely known or accepted that blurbs were a third-person thing. Maybe I’m wrong? Regardless, I’m not a fan and it’s a trend I wish would disappear.

Bad Dirty Talk

Dirty talk in books can be extremely hot, but it can also be very, very bad. There’s nothing like a line of dreadfully written dirty talk to make me want to curl up into a ball of awkwardness and second-hand embarrassment. Like, no. Please, stop. While this is something I more often see in romance reads, there are certainly offender books from other genres, too. I’m sure that everyone has their own standards for what they like and don’t like in this area. All I know is that the minute a character opens their mouth during an intimate scene and says something cringey, I’m done. The mood is ruined. It somehow feels even weirder and more cringe when this dialogue is completely out of sorts with the character’s outside-the-bedroom personality.  A recent example I had of this was The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas, in which I found myself dying slightly more inside every time the romantic lead, Aaron, opened his mouth during the first sex scene. It’s times like these that I genuinely feel pain for audiobook narrators.

Male Authors Badly Describing Women (Especially Their Bodies)

I’m confident that everyone is aware of the 1000% cringe level of this entry, especially if you spend time on Twitter or Reddit (do a quick search if you’re in the mood to experience an even blend of humour and horror). I think it’s safe to say that most of us have come across something like this at one point during our reading travels. You’d think authors would learn and yet, clearly not. There are few things that make me cringe harder than a male author’s creepy, awkward, incorrect and/or unnecessary descriptions of female characters – bodies and behaviours. What is it about boobs and butts? Seriously. Why do they constantly need to be pointed out and in the weirdest ways possible? Not to mention the subtle paedophilic undertones that pop up from time to time…yikes. Even my most recent read, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, is guilty of this and I wish I could say it was just the once. Unfortunately, I think I’m bound to suffer this particular form of bookish cringe many more times in the future.

Bare Torso Covers

Now, this entry is definitely a romance-only offense. I love romance books but sometimes the cringe factor is high, particularly with cover trends and none more so than the let’s smack some dude’s set of washboard abs right in the centre, that’ll pull in the readers!  I get absolutely nothing from these types of covers. Nada. Zip. No sense of the story, vibe, characters, just the usual feelings of awkwardness, plus the annoyance of knowing there’s no way I’ll ever be able to bring the darn thing on the train without getting weird looks. They feel staged, weird and, of course, cringey. Please try something new, I beg you.


Trust me when I say that this list is far from an exclusive summary of the only bookish things that make me cringe. There’s always that one scene that pops up unexpectedly which makes you want to cover your eyes and not in a good horror book kind of way. Still, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, I suppose.

What bookish things make you cringe?

Are You the Weapon or the Target?: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Damn you, hype train, and your creation of excessively high expectations!

I was really, really hoping that this book would make all my fantasy-dark-academia dreams come true but, sadly, there were a few too many things missing for it to hit the high notes for me.

Who, What, Where?

Six of the most talented young magicians are chosen by The Alexandrian Society to be given the chance to join their ranks. It’s a secret society of advanced magical academics who act as caretakers for the prized knowledge of antiquity, and whose members usually rise to positions of wealth, power, and prestige. Candidates are to spend one year together with access to the believed lost Library of Alexandria, researching and experimenting in areas of arcane magic. The six include: Libby & Nico, rival cosmologists who control physical matter; Reina, a naturalist with a unique relationship with plants; Parisa, a telepath who relies on her looks and seduction skills to survive; Tristan, the son of a crime boss who can see past illusions; and Callum, an empath with terrifyingly powerful talents of persuasion. However, only five of them will be initiated.   

Playing Favourites

Although it’s called The Atlas Six, this book often feels like The Atlas Four and, even then, there’s an imbalance. While I understand that authors have their favourites, it’s important that other characters’ development doesn’t suffer because of it. Despite the rotating third-person POV, which I really liked, I feel as though I know very little about Callum and Reina and that both were underutilised considering their potential. In Callum’s case it’s problematic because of the villain-ish type role the story wants him to fill. Like, yes, his powers are terrifying, but I need more. With Reina, it’s almost as though she could have been deleted from the book and barely anything would have changed. It’s frustrating because from the small carrots that were dangled, there’s clearly so much more to explore.

Within “The Atlas Four”, I enjoyed Parisa, Nico and Libby (I’m torn on Tristan). They’re not exactly likeable characters – that’s dark academia for you – but there’s depth and intrigue there. The dynamics each of them has with the others are compelling, although often more about a power struggle than emotional connection – something the book could have done with more of. The level of conversation between the characters generally is also somewhat limited considering the story’s circumstances. Still, there’s something enthralling about a group of morally ambiguous magicians constantly alternating between the 3 states of – I want to f*** you, I want to kill you, and I need to remind you that I’m the hottest shit here. Make of that what you will.

Philosophical and Indulgent Prose

I genuinely believe I would have rated TAS a lot higher if I and the writing style had meshed better. There were times when I’d be really feeling it but then, suddenly, a switch would flip and the next thing I knew, everything sounded so overcomplicated, indulgent, and pretentious…The dialogue, especially, tended to quickly veer into this territory. For example:

“Every single one of us is missing something. We are all too powerful, too extraordinary, and don’t you see it’s because we’re riddled with vacancies? We are empty and trying to fill, lighting ourselves on fire just to prove that we are normal – that we are ordinary. That we, like anything, can burn.”

Perhaps I’m too simple-minded or impatient for this type of poetic and philosophising purple-prose. All I know is that if I were to describe dark academia as a writing style rather than just a genre, it’d be this book.

Plot-Lite

If you’re a reader who prefers plot-heavy novels, this won’t be for you. The opening chapters are great – not only as an intriguing hook but a fantastic introduction to the characters. After this, The Atlas Six rests largely on vibes and The Six themselves, at least until towards the end. It’s slowly paced, and most scenes are devoted to the characters reading/conducting research, having subtext-filled one-on-one conversations, and thinking A LOT. To an extent, I was okay with this because the characters were interesting and the tension was high. However, I’ll admit that I expected there to be much more structure to the initiation year – goals, more in-depth lessons, measures of success/failure, etc., but that wasn’t the case, and it felt somewhat odd and empty as a result.

The book does include a couple of plot twists. The first falls kind of flat, mainly because we’re aware of the gist of it from the blurb & prologue, but also because it bizarrely fizzles out by the end. The later twists, on the other hand, are much stronger and tease an exciting sequel.

Vaguely Scientific-Magic

I have no idea what was going on with the magic in this book. At a surface level, I can see that Blake was going for a scientific approach as we get mentions of things like gravity, matter, patterns of thought, and so on. The way these were utilised to explain aspects of magic in specific scenes was fine. However, the problem lies in that there’s no explanation for how magic works broadly. For instance – how are spells cast? Or, what governs the categories of magic magicians can do spells from? For example, others can perform aspects of Nico & Libby’s specialty but no one else seems capable of what Callum or Parisa can do. Honestly, I’m just lost.

Then, we have the world-building around magic, which is similarly vague. We’re made aware that magic users in this world are out in the open but not told much about what the world looks like. How do magic users fit into society? How has history deviated? Are magicians accepted? I feel like there’s so much potential, but I’ll have to wait until the sequel to see if it’s realised.


Overall, not a perfect read but enjoyable enough to convince me to continue with the series.

3 Stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Autumn 2022 TBR

Happy Tuesday, bookworms. It’s that day of the week again so it’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the lovely Jana @ ThatArtsyReaderGirl). This week we’re talking books on our TBR for the season. As always, I’m Australian so while all you northern hemisphere babies are busy planning your spring reads I am extremely happy to be reunited with my favourite season, Autumn. Because my mood reader self panics at the idea of having to plan 10 books for this list, I’m only doing 8 – shorter and sweeter. Here are the reads on my TBR:

The Atlas Six – Olivie Blake

The re-publish is finally out and, as of last weekend, I have a copy sitting in my house. Woo! I’m excited because I’ve been wanting to read this for ages now but I’m also worried about being disappointed because in that time it’s become extremely hyped. Like, EXTREMELY hyped. On its face, The Atlas Six seems like it should be right up my alley – magic, competition plot, dark academia, grey characters, but there’s always room for things to go wrong. It’s about a group of 6 magicians competing against each other for only 5 spots in a secret society of magical academics. Please, be good, please, be good!


Cleopatra and Frankenstein – Coco Mellors

This is another one of those books that I bought on a sudden whim while perusing the book store. It’s been marketed as being suitable for lovers of Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney which I love, however, I’ve been burnt by these types of recommendations before. But after seeing a few positive reviews from people who actually did like CwF, maybe the suggestion is legit? It’s about a young painter named Cleo who impulsively marries a man named Frank, twenty years her senior. The book looks at how this decision impacts their lives and those of their close friends and family.


All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) – Martha Wells

I’ve heard so many positive things about The Murderbot Diaries that I think it’s about time I see for myself what everyone’s talking about. These are sci-fi novellas (eventually progressing to a full-length novel) so they’re fairly quick reads and there’s always something fun about a sarcastic, dysfunctional AI. It’s about a self-aware security droid tasked with protecting a group of humans doing research on a far-off planet. However, Murderbot (as it refers to itself) doesn’t really like humans and would rather just be sitting around watching videos, doing stuff all. Sounds like me. Here’s hoping I find an enjoyable new series.


Jade City (The Green Bone Saga 1#) – Fonda Lee

Okay, yes, mentions of this book on my blog are starting to feel a bit Jack in the box-ish lately so I won’t rehash the blurb for the umpteenth time, but here we are again. I’d really like to get stuck into this series sometime over the next few months. I’ve finally managed to find a copy at the book store (they were all weirdly sold out for a while there – guess everyone else had the same idea as me) so I’m ready to go. I still have no idea if this is going to be something I enjoy as I’ve never really gravitated towards mob-like stories before but I’m really intrigued so I suppose we’ll see.


A Lady for a Duke – Alexis Hall

I only recently heard about A Lady for a Duke and it’s annoying because had I known earlier I would’ve included it in my 2022 anticipated releases list. I had a lot of fun with Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material and I’ve been reading a few historical romances lately so the idea of combining the two is exciting. This book sounds so good! It’s about trans lead Viola who after being presumed dead at Waterloo takes the opportunity to finally live as herself. She ends up reconnecting with her best friend, Justin, who hasn’t handled her death well and becomes determined to help him find happiness again. We don’t often see a lot of mainstream romances where trans characters get to take center stage so this is such a nice change. This one will be a very late Autumn read due to the release date (but if anyone wants to send an ARC my way…*wink wink*)


Skyward (Skyward 1#) – Brandon Sanderson (Re-Read)

I received Cytonic, the third book in this series, for Christmas but I haven’t read it yet because I’d really like to do a re-read of the first two books in the series and then make my way through the two novellas set in between books 2 and 3. It seems like a stack at the moment, which is likely why I’ve put it off for months, but I really love this series so I should just get to it already. This will be my third time through Skyward but it’s such a fantastic book that I have no doubt I’ll power through it as I have the first two times. If you haven’t read it and have been thinking about doing so, I 100% recommend going for it!


The Hacienda – by Isabel Cañas

This is the second book on this list that has yet to release but I’m so keen to read The Hacienda that I’m including it anyway. It’s been likened to Mexican Gothic, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but also Crimson Peak and Rebecca, both of which I did like. Combine that with a great-sounding blurb and I’m hoping for a hit. The story follows Beatriz. After losing everything when the Mexican government is overthrown, she marries the handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano and moves to his country estate. However, something seems off about the Hacienda and there are rumours about what happened to her husband’s first wife. Desperate for help, Beatriz seeks assistance from a young priest in getting rid of the malevolent presence plaguing the house.


Fence, Vol. 2 – C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

I’m in the mood for something fun and what’s more fun than a comic about silly, competitive boys fencing? I read the first volume in this series ages ago and bought the next two volumes expecting that I’d get around to them shortly after but, as usual, I didn’t. So, let’s change that, shall we? I feel like this will be a good way for me to break up one of the larger and more dense reads on my TBR with a couple of hours of something fluffy. The fifth volume in the series is due out in August this year so perhaps I’ll be all caught up by then.


Let’s see how many of these I get through over the next couple of months. For all I know, I could suddenly have an urge to binge read massive amounts of thrillers and this could get thrown out the window. Hopefully not, but life is full of surprises.

What books are you hoping to read this Autumn/Spring?

First Lines Friday | 04.03.22 | Deciding My Next Read

This week, we’re trying something different – well, different for me at least! First Lines Friday! Previously hosted by Wandering Words, this weekly feature asks us to judge books by their opening lines rather than their covers. Normally the feature asks you to choose a book, copy out the opener, and then get people to guess which novel it belongs to before finally revealing the answer. However, I’m going to change things up and do three! As I’m currently in between books, I thought it might be fun to choose my next read based on its opening lines. So, let’s get into the 3 options I’ve selected:

OPTION ONE

The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant. The windows were open in the dining room, and the onset of evening brought a breeze off the waterfront to cool the diners, but in the kitchen, there were only the two ceiling fans that had been spinning all day to little effect. Summer had barely begun and already the city of Janloon was like a spent lover—sticky and fragrant.

I hear ‘would-be thieves’ and already my brain is excitedly screaming: HEIST! I also like that this opening already gives me a sense of the world I’m soon to read about.

Any idea what the book is? No? Well, here are three clues:

  1. It’s an adult fantasy.
  2. It’s the first in a trilogy.
  3. The author has described it as ‘The Godfather with magic and kung-fu’.

OPTION TWO

When Red wins, she stands alone.

Blood slicks her hair. She breathes out steam in the last night of this dying world.

Well, damn. Isn’t this dramatic as hell? I love it.

Ringing any bells for you? If not, these hints might help you out:

  1. It’s a sci-fi novella
  2. The story involves time travel and a f/f romance
  3. It has two authors.

OPTION THREE

And last but not least…

Anthony Bridgerton had always known he would die young.

Oh, not as a child. Young Anthony had never had cause to ponder his own mortality. His early years had been a young boy’s perfection, right from the very day of his birth.

Anthony, stop being so darn melodramatic. Jeez. I like the fact that this opener seems to support my assessment by pointing out just how perfect his life has been for the most part.

Okay, be honest, do you even need a hint to guess this one? Still, for consistency’s sake…

  1. It’s a sequel.
  2. It’s a historical romance.
  3. The series name is in the quote above minus an ‘s’.

The (Not So) Big Reveal

*Drumroll*

1. JADE CITY – FONDA LEE

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

2. THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR – AMAL EL-MOHTAR & MAX GLADSTONE

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

3. THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME (BRIDGERTONS 2#) – JULIA QUINN

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…


Did you guess any of the three correctly? Which book do you think I should read next?

Alternative Models of Loving Each Other: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

The time has finally come to review one of my favourite standalones.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when writing a review I will have endless things to say…unless it’s something I loved. If I read a book and give it five stars you can almost guarantee that if I try to tell you WHY the only thing my brain will produce is an assortment of positive, but useless, adjectives. However, this is my second time through Conversations with Friends so here’s hoping that the power of repetition will help me coherently explain why I adore it as much I do beyond simply cry-saying: It’s just so good.

Who, What, Where?

Conversations centres around the mess of relationships between four core characters – Frances, Bobby, Melissa and Nick. Best friends/ex-es, Frances and Bobby, are students at Trinity who regularly perform spoken word poetry together. During one of their shows, they meet Melissa, a thirty-something journalist who asks to write a piece about them. The girls are drawn into Melissa’s upper-class lifestyle and introduced to her handsome but quiet husband, Nick, an actor who never really reached his full potential. While Bobbi is enamoured by Melissa, Frances begins a flirtation with Nick which evolves into an unexpectedly intimate affair. She soon finds herself navigating spiralling relationships, confronting deep personal insecurities, and thinking about her life and the type of person she is.

The Rooney Style

Like many other people, Normal People was the first book I picked up by Sally Rooney. At the time, I distinctly remember having trouble adjusting to her writing style with its direct prose, absence of quotation marks and nonlinear scenes. With Conversations, however, we clicked. The writing is so smooth and effortless, almost like a continuous stream of thoughts, dialogue and images. It feels like a long, get-things-off-your-chest chat with a close friend in the wee hours of the morning. Rooney’s prose seems so clean and innocuous that it’s tempting to brush it off as being simple but more and more I find myself rereading dialogue or small details, picking up on subtle nuances that enrich her scenes in beautifully real ways. Her prose isn’t for everyone but I frequently get lost in it.

It’s (Not) Just Sex

The relationship between Frances and Nick seems like something I should be adverse to. It’s an affair and a toxic one at times, too. Yet, I’m so captivated by it. There’s just something about these two shy, awkward people forming a deep connection but being unable to express it because they’re terrible at communicating about their feelings. And so, they make jokes and downplay it as just sex because they have low self-esteem and worry that if they did admit they care, it wouldn’t be reciprocated. As a result, they actively look for things to support this conclusion, feel hurt by what they find and then, in the case of Frances, lash out at the other person. Can you tell I have a lot of feelings about this relationship? I think I like it so much because it doesn’t feel idealised. Sure, there are bad moments but so many sweet ones as well.

Unlikeably Loveable

The main reason people cite for not enjoying this book is the characters, and I get it. They can be selfish, dishonest, pretentious, privileged, plus they’re wrapped up in messy relationship drama. But, for some reason, I can’t get enough of them. Despite their tendency to frustrate, disappoint, even anger me, I love how emotionally complex and real they feel. Each person has a distinctness to the way they speak, act and think, to the point that I can vividly imagine having a conversation with them. They’re not “nice” people, but these flaws make them so much more compelling and I cared for and sympathised with them all the same.

As our narrator, Frances often bears the brunt of the criticism. People have a tendency to write her off as being spiteful, childish and a stereotypical millennial, but I have such a soft spot for Frances. She’s wormed her way into my head and heart and refuses to leave. She feels so vivid to me – this mess of loneliness, insecurity, self-destruction, and the strong desire to be loved. There are parts of her that I relate to so deeply it hurts, even the uglier ones, but mostly, I just want so badly for her to be safe and happy.

Quiet but Memorable

Conversations is not the book to read if you’re looking for something plot-heavy. It isn’t a big, flashy drama full of cinematic moments, nor is it a swoon-worthy romance to get swept up in. And yet, both times I’ve read it I’ve been glued to the page from start to finish. It’s a quiet, emotionally resonant novel about people, their lives and relationships. It looks at themes like love, monogamy, mental health, youth and belonging in very personal and intimate ways. I truly felt this book, in more ways than one, and I suppose that’s what matters most.


Conversations with Friends is unlikely to be everyone’s perfect read but, to be blunt, I absolutely love this book and it’s something I’ll continue to think about for a long time.

5 Stars