Coffee Time Tuesdays: Mid-Year Freakout Tag

This week’s Coffee Time Tuesday will be a little different. The reasons for that are threefold: 

  • one, I don’t have new current reads or finished books
  • two, I love the mid-year freakout tag and wanted to share mine with you, and also to reflect on my reading so far this year
  • three, to keep content fresh and invite you to reflect on your own reading in the first half of 2022

I’m in the process of moving house and it’s intense. All I’ve been wanting to do this month is nap or fantasise about the first week of July, when, in my new flat, freshly unpacked, I can chill on the sofa with my knitting and some new books. I’ve been so tired, unmotivated and overwhelmed lately that books just haven’t been on my mind.

But fear not. With a new start comes new motivation, so I’m sure next month’s Coffee Time Tuesdays will be packed full of exciting reads.

For now, let’s go through the mid-year freakout tag, a fun challenge that always takes over Booktube around this time of year.

Mid-Year Freakout Tag

So far, 2022 has been very successful for me in terms of books. I’ve read 26 of my intended 55 books this year, so I’m on track. Of those, only one was a 2-star read, with the majority of the books I’ve completed being 4-star reads. I’m excited about this tag, I think I’ll have lots to share.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2022?

The winner for me right now is Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams. This acclaimed contemporary fiction is a wonderful exploration of womanhood, in all its complex forms, written from the perspective of a Black woman, which adds more profound nuances to the themes of the book.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2022?

I’m a standalone kind of reader, so the only sequel I’ve read this year is Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli and adam Silvera. This is the sequel to What If It’s Us?, a sweet YA queer romance which ended in uncertainty and was begging for a sequel. I liked Here’s to Us, it was cute and brought me the closure I needed.

I am ecstatic to read two particular sequels later in the year though, but I’ll cover those later on.

3. New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?

I would love to read Akwaeke Emezi’s latest book, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty. I recommended this as the new release in a previous Coffee Time Tuesday column. The story has very similar themes to the second novel I’m working on: the death of a partner and navigating love and identity while still dealing with grief.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

This has to be 100% the third book in T.J. Klune’s The Extraordinaries trilogy, Heat Wave. I am so ridiculously pumped for what is essentially a superhero book and that in itself is impressive enough.

The Extraordinaries is a queer, fantasy story with a neurodivergent main character who discovers he has superpowers like the few exceptions he knows of in the world. These ‘extraordinaries’ do their best to make the world a better place, but there are rivalries and political implications that stand in their way. 

This series made me realise I have ADHD. Aside from the fact that it’s sweet, incredibly funny, wholesome, romantic and features some of the most iconic quotes ever, the fact that Nicky, the main character, has ADHD, made me discover I have it too. I’ve been on a path towards getting it formally diagnosed ever since.

Heat Wave comes out on 19 July and I can’t contain myself.

Another one I can’t wait to read is Alexis Hall’s Husband Material, the sequel to Boyfriend Material. This comes out on 2 August.

5. Biggest disappointment

To be honest, most of the books I’ve read this year have been amazing, and although this isn’t my lowest-rated one, Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson has to take the stage here.

I had such ridiculously high expectations for this dark academia mystery and it fell so, so flat for me. If you want to know more about why I was so disappointed with this book, my review explains it all.

6. Biggest surprise

The book that absolutely shocked me with joy and wholesomeness and one I didn’t expect would slip into my top favourite books of all time is The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun.

Oh my God, this book. I read it three times in the space of a month. The mental health representation and the way it’s explored in this book is exquisite. I was expecting a sweet, cheerful, fairytale queer romance and got a lot more than that.

I did proclaim my love for The Charm Offensive loud and clear in this review if you want to know more. But really, romance, validation, faith in humanity restored, all those elements should be indication enough to read it.

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

Caleb Azumah Nelson, for sure. His debut, Open Water is the second-best book I’ve read this year and I will read anything this man comes up with from now on.

8. Newest fictional crush

Harper Harper from Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth. Beautiful, successful, humble, mysterious, a caring elder sister and a great actress, what else could you ask for?

9. Book that made you cry

I was a hot mess at the end of The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. If you’ve read this, I’m talking about the sacrifice at the end. So terribly tragic. I have a full review of this Greek myth retelling, and I recommend you check it out.

10. Book that made you happy

How to Be a Normal Person by T. J. Klune was so sweet, so wholesome, and made me believe that there’s a person for everyone out there, no matter how broken, how weird or how alone you feel.

11. The most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Plain Bad Heroines for sure. Have you seen that cover?

12. Favourite book-to-movie adaptation you’ve seen this year?

Heartstopper. Technically a book-to-show adaptation but this has to be my top pick. Oh my God. The cast. The sweetness. The representation. The family-friendly atmosphere. The soundtrack. The happy queer experiences. Four hours of pure joy.

And that’s it for today’s column! The sun is shining in the North of England (miracle), and I’m about to head out and possibly get some bubble tea and pizza. What are you reading with your (hot) drink of choice this week? And let me know some of your answers to the freakout tag questions!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: A Rainbow TBR and Bookish Minimalism

Summer is here, the Jubilee celebrations have finally calmed down here in the UK, and I’m ready for a sugary sweet TBR to make me feel like my heart is bursting.

This week’s Coffee Time Tuesday is sunny and full of potential, as I go through my Scribd and Kindle picks for the colourful joy that is Pride Month.

This month is all about being happy with who you are and celebrating your identity, but also supporting and honouring the wonderful spectrum of identities that exists outside your own.

LGBTQ+ literature is one of my favourite genres and I almost always have a book on the go that features characters (or whose author is) from the community. 

So join me in choosing my three must-reads for June, get involved in the bookish minimalism debate I’ll be covering later, and discover my pick for the hot new release of the week.

My Rainbow TBR

Every month, I choose just three books I absolutely must read, leaving myself some space to play around. I don’t like deciding on all of the books I plan to read a month in advance, because I know I’ll go off track. But there are some books on my must-read list, so planning a semi-TBR works to keep me accountable.

For my audiobook of choice, this month I’ll pick up Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, a wonderful coming-of-age story about a transgender boy navigating his identity as he falls in love for the first time. I haven’t read many books with trans representation, so I always like to use Pride Month as a reminder to actively look for books with characters I’m not so used to.

Because LGBTQ+ literature isn’t only about queer romance, I’m also picking up a memoir this month, which I’ve had on my long-term TBR for ages. Life as a Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi is the heartfelt story of multiple layers of identity, and how the author came to terms with their identity as a Muslim queer drag queen. Special thanks to Anangsha Alammyan, my trusty fellow fan of queer books, who recommended this memoir to me.

And, quite uncharacteristically for me, I’m also planning to read a graphic novel this month, and my title of choice is all about queer and trans activism. Our Work is Everywhere: An Illustrated Oral History of Queer and Trans Resistance by Syan Rose gives a colourful and symbolic face to the diverse and powerful queer trans activists who have been fighting oppression for decades. What drew me to this book is Syan Rose’s choice to tell their story through their own memorable words.

Bookish Reflections: To Keep or Not to Keep?

With the risk of becoming a bookish world pariah once again, I’ll repeat that I don’t own many physical books and I don’t intend to change that in the near future. I sometimes get the well-known bookworm’s urge to buy books, but most of the time, they’re second hand, if I really want the physical copy. 

I have several reasons why I’m, I guess, a bookish minimalist (only owning, at the moment, about 10 physical books). 

  • One, I don’t have a permanent home and books are heavy and hard to move without a car or help. 
  • Two, I can’t afford to buy new books to the extent to which I’d like to read them. My budget simply wouldn’t keep up. 
  • Three, environmental issues. As much as I love the publishing industry, it’s no secret digital books are more eco-friendly. 
  • And four, portability. I’m an immigrant, so I go abroad at least twice a year. I like the portability of my Kindle and my Scribd app.

I’m moving house again in a couple of weeks, so I’ve been donating a lot of the books I’ve accumulated in the house I’ve lived in for two years. As much as it makes me sad to part with them, I don’t think decluttering books is a bad thing.

In the UK, most second-hand shops are called charity shops, because they donate the profits to different charities. This makes it very easy to simply donate things you don’t need anymore. Knowing my books will get bought at a very low price (so they become accessible for people with smaller budgets too) and the money made will go to a charity makes decluttering them a lot less painful.

The only physical books I keep are books I’ve been gifted, books I bought because I love them so much, that I needed to own them, and books signed by authors. Absolutely nothing else.

But I know this is a huge debate in the bookish community. Of course, in an ideal world, I would love to have a room with walls filled with shelves full of books. But realistically, I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever. Is it weird to be a bookish minimalist? Does that make me a less dedicated reader? I’m not sure. 

What’s your take on the debate?

Hot New Release

This week’s hot new book release is Kate Khavari’s A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, a historical mystery about a clever woman in STEM who finds herself pulled into a murder investigation. When a professor’s wife is poisoned at a party and Saffron’s mentor becomes the main suspect, she begins a search for what exactly killed the victim and what it says about the murderer.

All of this while fighting to challenge the misogynistic perceptions of her suitability as a botanist. Sign me up.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday! On to you now: what’s on your TBR for June? Do you have any Pride recommendations? And please tell me it’s not a crime to declutter my bookshelves!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Book Cravings, a Wrap-Up and This Week’s New Release

Coffee Time Tuesdays caught me off-guard this week, with little to no progress or change in my bookish life since I last wrote this column.

But there are a few things I’d like to share today, one of which is supremely spontaneous. I’m curious if other readers have experienced the same thing.

As May is coming to an end, I thought I’d also share my reading wrap-up, which, compared to other months, is a little on the thinner side:

  • Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli — 4 stars, really cute and quick YA coming-of-age romance all about the idea of coming out
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney — 4 stars, wonderful exploration of existentialism, happiness, beauty and humanity
  • Open Water, by Caleb Azumah Nelson — 5 stars, incredible portrayal of young Black love with all its social, political and emotional implications

I’ve been ticking off at least five books every month since the start of the year, so having a quieter month was going to happen at some point. But I do feel like I connected with the books I read in May on a more profound level, and I took longer to digest their themes.

It’s super gloomy in the North of England today and I woke up with the rain tapping on my ceiling window, so join me and my huge cup of coffee in sharing what we’re reading and thinking about this week.

What I’m Reading

Does it ever happen to anyone not to want to read anything on the last day of the month, so you can start fresh? Because that’s where I am now.

On Saturday, I finished the last book I’ll complete in May, and I spent some time with my audiobook, Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur, over the past couple of days, but I haven’t felt the urge to start anything new.

I’m still reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and the more I share this in the current reads section, the more embarrassed I feel for taking so long to finish it. But I only read a little bit at a time. There’s a lot of information and wisdom in this book so I enjoy taking the time to assimilate some of the knowledge in it.

Little Fires Everywhere will have to be given another chance in June. I keep wanting to read it, but something stops me. I dread it, in a way. I’m a few chapters in and, although I can see Celeste Ng’s great writing shine, something about the world makes me hesitate.

Bookish Reflections: Do You Have Book Cravings?

This is the spontaneous idea I wanted to explore this week. Last night, as it was pouring it down outside and I was feeling lethargic, I got a very specific urge to start a true crime book.

Do you ever get specific cravings for books?

I always do, although lately, I’ve been trying to go by a structured TBR, rather than by feeling.

So, in June, I’ll start The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This is the true story of serial killer H. H. Holmes, known for his numerous murders of young women at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. 

I read Thunderstruck by Erik Larson two years ago and I loved how detailed and well-informed it was. At the end of the book, you get an insight into how Larson gathered all the information to put the book together.

Larson is a journalist and a skilled one at that. He basically creates true crime documentaries in book form. I’m excited to dive in.

Hot New Release

This week’s super hot new release is Phaedra Patrick’s The Messy Lives of Book People. It just came out today and it’s a books-focused mystery fiction, where a maid becomes good friends with her employer, who is an author. When the employer suddenly passes away, she’s tasked with her dying wish: completing her last novel.

How interesting, right? This plot sounds super promising. Stepping into an author’s shoes in order to continue their work is no easy feat. Writing novels is intimate, unique to each author, and hard to replicate. I think this will deal with some juicy bookish themes about writing, life and the emotional connection to our art.

Over to you. What are you reading this week and do you have a TBR planned for June? And please tell me I’m not the only freak who craves specific types of books.

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Reading With a Writer’s Mind

Writing this column is significantly changing my reading habits for the better. 

When I decided to start a column to hopefully refresh some of the content at Coffee Time Reviews, I didn’t expect it would take such a toll on my own reading experience.

Every time I pick up a book, finish a book, buy a book or sit down with a book, I’m now a lot more observant of my thoughts as I’m reading, my reasoning behind choosing my next read, and my feelings about the story.

There have been some exciting developments in my bookish life since last week’s Coffee Time Tuesday. Firstly, I began to develop a plan for my second novel, the inspiration for which has been haunting me for months now. Secondly, I realised I needed some substantial research in order for this novel to be good and believable. Thirdly, I bought books. Oops.

If this is the first time you’ve read something from me, I’m a published poet and aspiring prose author, with a debut novel very close to reaching the stage at which I will start querying for an agent. One of my most ambitious goals in life is to score a publishing deal for my novels. And the more I write, the more inspired I feel and the more novels I can see in my future.

Reading is of course a great asset to writing, particularly if we’re talking about fiction writing. Now, I read with a writer’s mind almost always. That means I ask myself why a book works and why another doesn’t, what makes a character so good, what makes a plot point fall flat and what makes dialogue come to life.

Lately, as I’ve been thinking more and more about my next novel, I’ve also been looking into what kind of books I want to start reading in preparation. I’m writing a novel about ballet dancers and figure skaters, none of which I am. But I’ve been fascinated with both worlds for so long and the story has been developing in my head for basically over a year now, so I need to get it on paper. 

Critically speaking, I think it has a lot of potential. But I need to consume some material about ballet and figure skating before I can dive into the meaty parts of my story.

This is not to say I want to start studying handbooks on ballet and skating technicalities, of which I actually have a good basic knowledge. But no, I want to read novels and memoirs focusing on the human aspect of these two sports. I want to know how it feels to live in that context.

And that’s why I bought new books last week. 

What I’m Reading

Waltzing into Waterstones the other day, I spotted The Turnout by Megan Abbott, a thriller about two sisters running a ballet school and an interloper who comes to ruin their plans as they’re preparing for the Nutcracker performance. 

This book seems to explore family relationships of all kinds (mother-daughters, sisters, husband-wife) in the context of ballet and I expect it has an interesting take on running a dance school. I’m reading this with a pencil and notebook in hand, taking in all the ballet-related details.

I’ve also been reading Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson, which has been praised to the heavens since it came out. It’s a short exploration of Black love and it’s beautifully written. There’s a lot to learn from Nelson’s style, which makes the mundane seem intense and authentic. I’m sensing a 5-star rating.

On audio, I started Written in The Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur, in preparation for a list of Pride recommendations. I almost always have an LGBTQ+ book on my list of current reads, and Scribd has a great selection of audiobooks, ebooks and graphic novels with wide representation.

Hot New Release

With Pride Month coming up and generally because we all need to read books with a diverse set of characters and by under-represented authors, this week’s hot new release is Akwaeke Emezi’s You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty.

Emezi’s latest book comes out today and it’s a story of loss and navigating romance through grief, themes I’m exploring in my second novel too. So I’m excited to pick this one up and get a glimpse into how this acclaimed author explores rebuilding your life after the death of your significant other.

And that’s it for this week’s Coffee Time Tuesday. Lots of vulnerable talk about my author plans and some insights into how my writing and reading are interconnected. What are you reading with your hot drink of choice this week? Any new releases that caught your eye? Let me know!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: A Revived Reading Appetite and an Exciting New Release

It’s already been one week since I started this column and I can feel my motivation springing back up because of it.

Knowing the next issue of Coffee Time Tuesdays was underway, I began to think about what I was going to share this week and how to keep it refreshing and exciting.

A few days ago, I wouldn’t have had anything new to share in the current reads department. Progress has been slow and tedious on the books I’ve been reading for the past couple of weeks.

But last Saturday, the sun was shining, I had a new and exciting knitting project on my needles, and a refreshed taste for life, so I ended up binging almost the entirety of my audiobook for Beautiful World, Where Are You?.

This kicked my reading mojo back into gear, because not only did I enjoy the book itself, but the thought of starting something else to share with you today made a huge impact on my reading mood.

What I’m Reading

I finished Sally Rooney’s latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You?, yesterday on my lunch break and I’m relieved to say it did not disappoint. Rooney’s beautifully simple writing packs a heavy punch, making me wish I had the physical copy so I can annotate the living soul out of it.

When I finish an audiobook, I immediately go to my saved queue on Scribd to choose a new one. I always have an audiobook on the go. The very process of looking at the titles available and choosing something new brings me so much joy and love for reading.

So today, I started Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon because I’m in dire need of a sugary romance, and this one happens within a book club, so I couldn’t resist. 

Additionally, I’m reading The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration by Wayde Crompton. This is a short graphic novel available on Scribd which I started a while ago as inspiration for my latest poetry collection, Why My Country Failed Me And Other Bird Songs, whose main theme is immigration. But because reading digitally on Scribd can’t be done on a Kindle, I’ve struggled to find the time to dive back into this story, so I’m giving it another try this week.

Carrying over from last week, Little Fires Everywhere and Sapiens are still in the currently reading pile, as I’ve been having some trouble focusing on them.

Bookish Reflections: Finding Motivation Again

To me, choosing my next read after finishing a book I really enjoyed is always guaranteed to get me excited for reading again. I love browsing Scribd for my next audiobook and even looking through my own Kindle library gives me that much-needed dopamine rush.

I have other ways to salvage my lost reading mojo, like setting aside some time every week for a dedicated reading session or catching up on my favourite book clubs.

What strategies do you use to get your motivation back up?

Hot New Release

This week, I have to recommend The Murder of Mr Wickham, which is supposed to be an intriguing Jane Austen/Agatha Christie mash-up

Claudia Gray took one of Austen’s most despised villains and had him murdered. Other well-known characters from beloved Jane Austen books make an appearance for what seems to be a frightful and entertaining investigation of Agatha Christie proportions into what happened to Mr Wickham.

I used to read Agatha Christie around this time of year when school was coming to an end, so anything like this puts me in a vacation kind of mood. I’m curious to see if Claudia Gray does her own premise justice.

What are you reading with your hot drink of choice this Tuesday? And do you have other new releases to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Relabelling the Reading Slump and Finding a New Favourite Book

Welcome to Coffee Time Tuesdays, a new weekly column exclusive to Coffee Time Reviews, where I invite you to take a few minutes every Tuesday afternoon and reflect on your reading.

This week, I’m writing about my current reads, my attempt to relabel the dreaded reading slump, and I will also be diving into some bookish reflections. We end every Coffee Time Tuesday with a new book release, that I will carefully select to reflect the times and overall mood of the world.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t been in the best place with my reading since May came along, but I’m trying to enjoy the experience and think less about my reading goals.

Right now, I’m reading three books, one physical, one audio, and one digital.

My physical book of choice is Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, a widely acclaimed favourite in the bookish community and one that has been on my TBR for embarrassingly long.

I must admit, though, that the beginning feels a little wonky. Although it starts with a bang, and it does everything to lure and intrigue the reader, there’s such a huge cast of characters that I’ve been struggling to keep up with.

I’m trying to get in about a chapter every day, but it is proving a little bit challenging, for reasons I’ll get into shortly.

The audiobook I’ve picked up the weekend just passed is Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You?. I’m about two hours in and it’s good. The writing is beautiful in its simplicity, and I already like the average-seeming characters. I’ll say it as many times as I need to: literature is in dire need of average characters living their average lives.

Digitally, I’ve been enjoying Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, but, surprisingly, this book is the one I’ve been picking up the most out of all three. I’ve been reading 20–30 pages every night before bed and I love the witty, cynical tone and the easy to digest language.

Bookish Reflections: Is It Time to Stop Acknowledging the Slump?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. This year has so far been my best one yet, reading-wise. I’ve been reading at least four books every month, most of which have been a huge success. 

Naturally, when May came along, I expected the same upward path. This is where mixing reading with stats can genuinely trick you. It sets a precedent, you start thinking in numbers, and when those numbers inevitably change, you panic. Or, at least, I do. 

It’s 10 May and I’ve only read one book this month. Judging by my meagre progress on my three current reads, it doesn’t look like I’ll finish any more for at least another week or so.

At first, I started feeling seriously concerned about this. Am I in a reading slump? How have I fallen into it? What could have caused it? Is it salvageable? Maybe I need to read something short or fast-paced.

But then I stopped to rethink my strategy. So what if I’m reading a lot slower than last month? Who am I racing against? Is it time to stop acknowledging that reading slumps exist, and start reading intuitively?

That definitely seems like an attractive option for me right now. Reading intuitively. Not because I feel like I need to, because I might be falling behind.

Hot New Release

And for the new book release I’m recommending this week, I bring to you When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.

This came out just last week and it sounds wicked. A feminist fantasy where women become dragons and start wreaking havoc in the world of the 1950s when we all know how women were treated? Sign me up.

This is part of the blurb:

A rollicking feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are. — via

What are you reading with your hot drink of choice (if it’s coffee, let’s be besties) this Tuesday? Do you agree with scrapping the concept of the reading slump altogether, if it starts messing with your reading flow? And do you have other new releases to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

3 Books I Absolutely Must Read This May to Please The TBR Gods 

Do you ever look at your unread books and get this eerie feeling that someone somewhere above is tutting at you for ignoring them?

Because I do.

Every time I buy more books, I get this negative energy from my unread ones, making me feel guilty for not picking them up before turning to new and shiny reads again.

This is what I call the wrath of the TBR gods. It’s a real thing. I wouldn’t try to Google it, though, if I were you.

Every month I pick up my little bullet journal of which I’ve completed exactly five pages since the start of the year, and I give myself about three books to read for the following month.

Long, pre-planned TBRs don’t really work for me, as I am this cool and spontaneous (I’m really not) reader who always picks up books on instinct. I have book cravings. And I can never anticipate them when I try to plan my to-read list a whole month in advance.

I’ve gotten into a pleasant reading rhythm where I finish around five or six books every month, so I decided, in order to stop the chaos that is my reading life, to plan just half of those titles in advance and see what happens. 

This method has, for the most part, been a fail, if I’m honest with you. So far, I managed to tick, at best, exactly one of the three titles I promise myself to read every month.

So for the month of May, I’ve decided to share my little TBR list to have some form of accountability and hopefully escape the rage of the TBR gods.

‘Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda’, by Becky Albertalli

Genre: LGBTQIA+ young adult

Length: 303 pages

Format: Physical book

I’ve been really into YA books for the past couple of years, probably because I feel like I need to make up for my teenage years when I completely missed all the good YA books. But also because this genre is sweet, meaningful and a great way to escape reading slumps.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda has been on my radar for ages so when I finally found a copy in my local charity shop a few weeks ago, I knew it was time.

Straight people should have to come out too. And the more awkward it is, the better.

Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is — and what he’s looking for.

But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated.

Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal …

It’s a holy freaking huge awesome deal. — From the publisher, via

I love the tagline of this summary and I’m curious how the notion of coming out no matter your sexuality will be addressed in this little book. As a bisexual person, I feel like I don’t owe it to anyone to come out or make some big announcement every time someone brings up sexuality. 

But we have these expectations from the LGBT community, yet no one asks for any explanation from straight people. This is a topic close to my heart and I’m curious about seeing it tackled in a young adult novel.

‘Beautiful World, Where Are You?’, by Sally Rooney

Genre: Adult contemporary

Length: 10 hours

Format: Audiobook

You either love Sally Rooney’s writing or you really really don’t like it. This seems to be the consensus in the reading community surrounding the popular Irish writer’s books.

Well, I fall in between. I loved Normal People and really disliked Conversations With Friends, so ever since Rooney’s latest novel hit the stores, I’ve been questioning whether to read it or not. 

But finally, this May, I plan to make a decision on Sally Rooney’s writing and I’m hoping Beautiful World, Where Are You? will help tip the balance one way or another. I’ve heard great things about it from people whose opinions I trust completely, like Violet Daniels, whose overview of Sally Rooney’s books and why they’re worth reading, is what placed BWWAY on my TBR list, to begin with, so I’m finally ready to give it a chance.

‘Little Fires Everywhere’, by Celeste Ng

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 388 pages

Format: Physical book

Another title that’s been on my to-read list for years at this point is this widely acclaimed family drama I can’t wait to dive into. I read Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You in 2019 and absolutely loved it, so I’m almost certain Little Fires Everywhere will not disappoint.

Family dramas are a shockingly underrated type of story, particularly given how difficult it is to write one. Contemporary fiction is my favourite genre because I love when stories explore the subtilities of daily life and tense family dynamics are definitely a grim but widespread reality.

If Everything I Never Told You is a good indication of Ng’s writing and the way she builds characters, I’m sure Little Fires Everywhere will become one of my favourite books of the year. Despite the dark topic, I’m fascinated and curious to dive into the character study which Celeste Ng is known for.

Have you read any of these books and can you relate to my complete inability to pre-plan all of my reads one month in advance? What’s on your TBR list for May?

Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. Please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link for more of her stories.

‘Loveless’ Is the Celebration of Friendship the World Desperately Needs Right Now

“I’ve learnt some Things. Like the way friendship can be just as intense, beautiful and endless as romance. Like the way there’s love everywhere around me — there’s love for my friends, there’s love for my paintings, there’s love for myself.”
Alice Oseman, Loveless

Alice Oseman’s most recent novel, Loveless, didn’t make me squeak, ship or root as much as her other works have, but it did give me a very powerful reminder.

I am a huge fan of Oseman’s flawless stories of love, friendship, identity, youth and everything in between. Ever since beloved booktuber Kat from paperbackdreams was crying on main for the millionth time because of Alice Oseman’s second novel, Radio Silence, I knew I had to give this author a try.

So I read Radio Silence and it really did it for me. The commentary on being academically bright and forced into a specific educational path by obsolete social expectations spoke to me on many more levels than I thought possible. 

I reviewed Radio Silence already and you can read there in more detail why I think it’s an exquisite YA story.

After Radio Silence I binged nearly all of Oseman’s other books, but for some reason, I never felt compelled to pick up Loveless until only recently. And boy do I regret that now.

It’s no news that Alice Oseman is known for the wide representation they always prioritise in their works. From amazing representation of sexuality to race to mental health to educational and intellectual preferences, chances are you will identify with at least one of their characters.

Now that I’ve read the entirety of the osemanverse, so everything she has ever published, I can safely say I strongly relate to Tori Spring from Solitaire and Heartstopper, probably the most of all Alice’s characters. However, I have found myself in Nick Nelson’s journey to discovering his sexuality (Heartstopper), in Frances Janvier’s educational aspirations (Radio Silence) and in Jason Farley-Shaw’s kind and reserved romantic spirit (Loveless).

But all of Alice’s stories up until Loveless had some kind of love story at least going on in the background that I always rooted for. Well, enter Georgia Warr, our aromantic and asexual main character.

Alice Oseman is also aro/ace so Loveless is very much based on their experience in a world where this particular sexuality is seldom known or spoken about, making those who identify as either one or both aromantic/asexual feel inadequate.

Our protagonist has never had a real crush, never dated, never kissed anyone and now she is a university student, she tries her hardest to find her match. The only problem is that physical interactions make her severely uncomfortable and she seems to not be able to have any romantic feelings for anyone.

“Friends are automatically classed as ‘less important’ than romantic partners. I’d never questioned that. It was just the way the world was. I guess I’d always felt that friendship just couldn’t compete with what a partner offered, and that I’d never really experience real love until I found romance.
But if that had been true, I probably wouldn’t have felt like this.”
Alice Oseman, Loveless

The story is a candid but difficult one of self-discovery, as Georgia finds out she is aro/ace and begins to embrace her sexuality.

The main idea of the story is that, although we’re raised to believe romantic relationships are the main way to be happy in life, other relationships are just as, if not more important.

Although I’m not aromantic, nor asexual, and unfortunately know no one who is, it was refreshing to watch Georgia give everything to strengthen and cherish her friendships, once she accepted she didn’t need to look for a romantic partner in order to be happy.

I think I’m not the only one who has felt lost after a breakup and only found solace in the company of their closest friends and family. And although I am in a happy, stable relationship, the connections I have with other people I love are just as important and should never come second to my romantic relationship.

Loveless is a celebration of powerful connections and unromantic love, and I can see how it can make a significant difference in the lives of those who identify as aromantic/asexual. But even if you don’t, you will find great value in Alice Oseman’s novel, much like in everything else she has written. 

It’s not only about being able to relate to the main character, it’s about learning to understand how different people identify and how they feel, and about learning to nurture your other relationships.

Have you been checking up on your friends lately?

Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. Please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link for more of her stories.

This Violent Fantasy Is The Best Book I’ve Read In 2022

Fantasy has been one of my favourite genres for as long as I can remember. I love getting caught up in the rich and imaginative worlds, losing myself in the pages for hours at a time. 

Some of my most beloved books include fantasy classics such as The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. There’s something truly magical and breathtaking about them.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was first published in 2018 and received wide praise for its brilliance as a debut novel. The story is inspired by Chinese history, particularly the Second Sino-Japenese War, and tackles the gritty reality of warfare, addiction, and empire — all with a fantastical twist.

I knew the book would be a five-star read after a mere 50 pages. That’s how good it is. Now, I’m quite an easily pleased reader but not every book joins my exclusive group of all-time favourite reads — and this one certainly does. 

It knocked my socks off, and it will be hard to top. I feel a little sorry for the book I pick up following the trilogy as I’m not sure how it can compete. 

The Poppy War follows Rin, a war orphan from the rural Rooster province, who stuns everyone when she aces the Empire-wide test for talented youth and secures herself a spot at the elite military academy, Sinegard. 

The threat of war from their neighbours, the Federation of Mugen, looms over the country, but Rin’s life is further complicated by her newfound connection to the mysterious pantheon of gods.

The characters are well developed, the dialogue is witty and quick, and you’ll be sure to feel every emotion under the sun. The world-building is immense — Kuang paints a truly unique environment with an impressive magic system in place. 

I studied military history at university, so combining my love of fantasy with my interest in the subject matter made this book an instant win for me. However, as the plot might suggest, I will warn any future readers that it is very dark, very gritty, and very gory. 

Kuang doesn’t hold back or shy away from difficult topics, so just be aware before you get stuck into reading it.

The Washington Post and The Guardian actually featured the book in their best picks for 2018, noting that though it “begins as a familiar enough coming-of-age adventure in a magical China, [it] builds into a scorching, ultra-violent portrait of war’s horrors.” 

Ultra-violent is definitely the keyword here, but Kuang does balance it out with humour, strong character relationships and moments of tenderness. 

The fantasy genre isn’t for everyone, and quite often the books are giant in comparison to some of their peers in contemporary literature or thriller, for example. 

However, The Poppy War — though a whopping 544 pages — is a real page-turner. I devoured it in days. Always thinking about it, always itching to pick it back up. The sign of an incredible book.

The good news is that if you love the book, there’s a whole trilogy to dive into. Finish The Poppy War and quickly grab the sequels, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God, because I assure you, you won’t want to stay away from the world for long. Kuang also released three additional short scenes on her website, allowing us insight into a different character’s perspective.

It was also announced at the end of 2020 that the TV rights for the trilogy have been picked up by Starlight Media, whose previous credits include Crazy Rich Asians and Midway. Whilst seeing the books on screen is still likely a way off, I can’t wait to see what they do with this thrilling trilogy.

And if you do end up loving Kuang’s work like I do, she’s got a new book coming out later this year. Babel, a dark academic fantasy set in Oxford, is set to release in August 2022 and is sure to be as immersive and brilliant as The Poppy War trilogy.

If you liked this story and want to read more, why not take out a $5 Medium membership using my referral link. You’ll support my writing and many other writers out there!

How This Hidden Gem Stopped Me in My Tracks and Why You Should Read It

I love finding new writers. Don’t you?

I especially enjoy it when the writer is my age or older. Gives me hope, don’t you know? (I was born in 1965, the writer was born in 1957.)

Books are so good for us for so many reasons, but I think the most significant is that they teach us empathy. 

We imagine what it’s like to be something other than ourselves. 

The main characters are girls in their late teens. One is black and experiences racism, and the other has to live with an abusive father. Education and upbringing limit both girls. 

I’m a white, college-educated male. (Plus, I’m old.) 

I scoffed a bit as I read this book. I didn’t believe in the character’s actions. I couldn’t imagine them doing or not doing the things asked of them in the plot. 

I caught myself, though. I reminded myself that I wasn’t a 17-year-old black girl living in the deep South in the 1920s. So, how the heck would I know what she would or would not do? 

The other girl is 16. She’s forced to drop out of school. Her mother has passed away, and she lives with an abusive father. She ran away with a traveling musician at the age of 15. The book opens with her returning home. 

It’s hard not to get frustrated with her lack of confidence and unwillingness to try new things. 

But for me, at least, it was easy to remember that I’m not her and have no valid basis for judging her actions. It was cool to just sit back and learn, and not judge. 

What an incredible gift. I couldn’t put the book down, but I also learned what life’s like for other people. 


There is a lot of chatter about this book on the internet. 

It’s a USA Today bestseller. 

Google returns 4,320 hits when you search for the title. Dig a little, and you’ll find many sites that loved the book. 

The Country Bookshop said it was the #1 best-selling paperback of 2021. (Okay, you caught me. The Country Bookshop is in North Carolina, and surprise, the author, lives in N. Carolina. But still…) 

Look at what Publishers Weekly has to say. 

“Remarkable debut…. [a] nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance, and redemption.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

A plot summary from the publisher

Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder — perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don’t Rise.

Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.

Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she’s holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.

What did I think? 

Books that entertain and teach at the same time are all too rare. 

For that reason alone, it’s worth your time. 

The main characters are believable and likeable, so much so that I, a person who has nothing in common with them, loved the book. 

I would be aghast if you read it and didn’t care about the ending. 

Surely there must be some faults in a first novel? 

The middle of the book is all about character development, and I guess some of you might find that boring. 

It’s not; internal struggles, conflict, and growth make for absorbing reading when you like and care about what happens to the characters. 

I predicted the last conflict in the book. But, I certainly didn’t anticipate the resolution.

I listen to books while riding a spin bike. The ending was so good that I listened to the rest of the book after completing my ride while standing in the cold basement in my sweaty workout clothes, putting off my shower until I finished. 

Read this book! It has my official seal of approval, and I guarantee it will leave you satisfied. 

Hey! If you liked this review, think about following me. I’m mighty close to the magic number of 100 followers, and it’d be cool to tell people that I’m a blogger. Plus, I promise to follow you back.