Book Review: How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

I have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit.

Spoiler-Free Thoughts

If you like dark comedy, I think you’ll really enjoy this book. Mackie writes a really clever twist on the usual crime novel by making her narrator, Grace, fully transparent and unapologetic about her crimes. The premise is familiar; a confessional written from jail, a wrongful conviction, and the idea of vengeful killing in connection to a dysfunctional family. Yet, somehow, this novel feels really fresh and different from anything I’ve read before.

I think this book has the perfect balance between satirical comedy and deep social analysis. This definitely isn’t an easy task, and Mackie toes the line to create the perfect anti-hero. This book really had me questioning who I was rooting for, and to what extent my investment in the characters became morally problematic. We all love a complicated crime case that defies the evil, soulless villain stereotype and draws in a whole manner of issues that complicate our notions of human compassion and justice- this is exactly what How to Kill Your Family presents.

The plot is very well-written, and maintains momentum despite the series of murders on paper creating a fairly monotonous plot. I don’t think this book is overly gory or violent, but it does offer detailed descriptions of the process of murdering someone, so if you are particularly sensitive towards death I perhaps would avoid it. I listened to this as an audiobook and it never got too intense for me, but it’s definitely something to take into consideration.

Mackie doesn’t shy away from the darker sides and actions of Grace as a character, and yet the anti-hero still gained my sympathy due to her dysfunctional family. I think my opinion varied throughout the books and with each murder as to whether I could feel some measure of understanding for her motivation, but this never impacted my enjoyment of the book. All of the characters are unlikable to a certain extent, including Grace, who is arrogant and has a superiority complex that at times made me physically eye roll in response. However, I think this just made her and her crimes seem more realistic- you couldn’t have a likable narrator killing off her family.

Overall, without spoiling anything, this is a really great crime novel that is perfect for anyone who loves dark humour and is looking for their next read.

In-Depth Review (Spoilers!)

I liked the structure of the narrative, and how it followed Grace’s enactment of her plan with the present day dispersed throughout. At first the time jumps confused me, but I think that was just because I was listening to it as an audiobook and therefore not as tuned in as I would be reading it. I though the murder of her grandparents was a really interesting starting point, because it was the death that felt the most movie-like and outlandish (how many people have plotted to drive their grandparents off the side of the road in a foreign country?). Here, we get to see Grace in action before we have much investment in her character and story, and it established from the outset the problematic nature of any positive feelings towards her that develop later. I did worry at times that it would get a bit repetitive watching her murder each person one by one, but the extreme circumstances of their deaths stopped that from happening. Killing someone by remotely locking a sauna door and strangling them in a sex club can never be seen as boring.

I though Mackie struck the right balance between telling Grace’s tragic backstory and not overdoing it, and it felt like the sympathy I ended up feeling for her was organic rather than orchestrated by the author. I really began to doubt my judgement of people and morality by the end of this novel, and was very uncomfortable by the fact I was rooting for her crimes to go undiscovered and for her to be successful. I think that stands testament to the quality of Mackie’s storytelling and writing. It managed to be both funny and tackle deep social and moral issues, which I think is a really difficult task.

The only problem I had plot-wise was with the ending. It all just felt a bit too convenient to have an outside player swoop in last minute and steal her success away. I liked that Harry was peppered into the narrative the whole time, but it did feel like a way that Mackie could resolve the uncomfortable feeling of rooting for a murderer by delivering some wrong-doing to her at the end. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the twist, but it just felt a little too abrupt for my liking. Perhaps this was again down to me listening to the audiobook (having a male voice suddenly start talking was a little confusing!). I wish we could’ve seen Grace’s reaction to finding out that her plan had been intercepted, which I think would’ve tied the story together a little better.

In terms of characters, Mackie did a good job at not turning the family into caricatures of dysfunction. The Artemis family were awful and arrogant, but they felt like real people of the upper class that are too deep in their own privilege to care about social issues. The same goes for Grace: of course she was unlikable and judgmental, but without it her ability to murder would have seemed completely unmatched to her personality. She is completely savage about anyone or anything she doesn’t agree with, and yet she remains somewhat relatable. I think the strength in her character came from her killing the family members directly implicated in her difficult childhood. When she starts killing peripheral members of the family, it becomes harder to sympathise with her.

Overall Thoughts and Rating

This was a really enjoyable, unique book that is perfect for anyone who likes dark comedy and books that address deeper social issues. The plot and the characters invite the reader to invest and challenge their own morality, which makes for an effective and intense reading experience.

I’m giving How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie 4 stars.



Book Cover Opinions

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone knows this idiom, but does anyone really follow it? I know I can definitely be swayed by a cover, positively or negatively. I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a deep dive on this topic, and unpick what my opinions on this famous topic are.

A little disclaimer: these are just my opinions, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who likes these book covers, or perhaps has published books with these covers themselves. I appreciate there’s a lot that goes into covers that limit what can be created (money, access to resource or skilled creators etc.), and I would never want to foster more gate-keeping or elitism within literature.

What Book Covers Do You Like?

For me, there are two very distinctive categories of book covers that I’m particularly drawn to. Firstly, there are the stereotypically ‘pretty’ covers, often with pastels or shiny decoration that are more often than not illustrated rather than photographic. Here are some examples of the covers I own that fit into this category:

I just find my eye drawn to these books in stores, and therefore I’m more likely to pick them up and read the blurb. I do sometimes choose editions of books I already know I want to read based on the cover, because a minor price difference really isn’t enough incentive to look at an ugly book on my bookshelf for years to come.

The second category of covers that I’m particularly drawn to are the weird ones. These tend to be a little out of left field, and definitely play into my love of the absurd. These are still often illustrative rather than photographic, but that’s definitely less important than it is for ‘pretty’ book covers. Here are some examples:

Once again, I just find myself drawn to these covers, probably because they stand out so much. I like that these covers set the tone for the rest of the book, especially if that book requires you to let go of reality and accept the strange logic it presents you with. I also really enjoy reading books with strange covers around other people and just watching their confusion as they try to figure out what you could possibly be reading. Maybe that’s just me.

What Book Covers Don’t You Like?

Personally, I don’t love covers that include photos or realistic illustrations, particularly of people or when there’s a generic background photo with the title in large text over it. I just think it cheapens the look of the book, and often makes it blend in with the crowd. When I’m buying books in person, I don’t always go in with set titles in mind, so naturally I end up picking up the ones that are unique and stand out. Examples of these include:

This doesn’t mean that I’d avoid books with these covers if I was really set on reading them, it just means I’d be less likely to buy them randomly. I think these covers just sometimes feel like an afterthought or a literally translation of the content of the book, whereas illustrations (especially abstract ones) feel like a more subtle reflection.

Do you judge a book by its cover?

The ultimate question, and what this blog post was building up to. I think it’s very clear that I have preferences that definitely guide my selection of books when browsing in physical bookstores, but I don’t think these are decisive. There have been times when I’ve bought a book that I was interested in without even looking at the cover, and I really don’t worry all that much about the appearance of my books. I buy a lot of books for university that are required to be either Penguin or Oxford World Classics, so most of my books are fairly plain and (dare I say it) boring. I also buy most of my books online, so I really rarely do the cover-based browsing where my preferences take the reins.

I think if money was no object I might be a lot more selective about the editions of the books that I buy, but I could never see myself refusing to buy something because the cover wasn’t to my taste. Some of my favourite books have been purchased purely because I found the cover interesting though, so the superficial method has served me well.

I guess in my case the idiom still stands but with a small addition: don’t judge a book by its cover, but perhaps let it influence you.


Top 5 Popular Series That I’ve Never Read (and Probably Never Will)

I got this idea from the brilliant @ May’s Book Vault, so please check out her post after mine! I thought this was the perfect follow on from my childhood favourites series, because instead of hearing about the books I have read, you get to hear which ones I haven’t!

I’ve decided to just focus on popular series that I haven’t read, but I might do a similar post for stand-alone books in the future.

Without further ado, let’s begin looking at the big gaps in my reading of popular literature!

The Divergent Series

This series followed The Hunger Games (which I have read) to dominate popular culture when I was a teenager. I actually own all the books, but I just never got round to them. I was told not to watch the films until I’ve read the books, and subsequently I’ve completely missed the Divergent series.

I think it was purely just a timing problem, because I think I bought them at the same time as the Maze Runner series, which went on to being one of my favourites. I don’t really see why I would read these now, especially considering I remember hearing some more negative things about the later books. This was definitely a series I should’ve read in my teenage years.

The Mortal Instruments Series

This is one I am quite sad that I missed, and once again it is a simple matter of timing. I actually borrowed City of Bones from the library, but I was reading Pride and Prejudice at the time so I had to return it before I got the chance to start it. I’ve seen rave reviews about it, and everyone on BookTube was obsessed with these books years ago, so it really is on me.

The main reason that I wouldn’t read this series now is because I think I’ve outgrown them. It’s also a matter of buying books that aren’t my favourite genre just for the sake of it (I’m really trying to reduce my book buying). I’d never say never, but my never reading them is as close as possible.

The A Song of Ice and Fire Series

A.k.a The Game of Thrones series. What could be more popular in modern times that this TV show? Unfortunately, I never started watching it, and by the time I realised it was something I should watch it was far too big of a task to catch up. The same applies for the books; it’s not my favourite genre, and the books are all very long, so I’ve just never felt the urge to read them.

I know a lot of people read the books because of the TV show, so I think it’s quite logical that I would have not read them. I’m not too sad about missing out on this one, because I know they wouldn’t be my favourite. There are a lot more long books out there for me to tackle that would be more to my taste, so I think I’m fine with avoiding these!

The A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

I know, booktok is going to hate me for this one. I’ve heard a lot of people praising this series as being amazing, and I’ve had a lot of people urge me to read them, but I just can’t see it happening. I’m not really a series reader anymore, and honestly I don’t think I’d ever reach for them.

Fantasy is something I don’t read much of anymore, and if I do I like to stick to stand-alones. I think if this series had been popular in my early teens I would’ve read them for sure, but unfortunately I think that time has passed for me.

The His Dark Materials Series

Finally, we move onto the series I feel most guilty about not reading. I really don’t know what went wrong with this series, because I do own The Golden Compass. Maybe it was the film that didn’t click with me and put me off reading the book, or maybe it was starting with the second book in the series. Whatever it was, I begrudgingly have memories of being actively disinterested in this series when I was younger.

For similar reasons that I’ve mentioned above, I just don’t see myself ever reading this series. Now when I read literature aimed at younger age groups, it tends to be re-reads or by authors I know I like. I just don’t see where these books would fit into my tbr, and if they did I think they would just consistently be pushed to the bottom.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the series I’ve managed to skip over the years. I’m sorry if your favourite was listed- try and convince me otherwise in the comments!


Book Review: Wuthering Heights

If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.

I had a lot of high hopes for this classic because it seems to be a lot of people’s favourites, and I’m a lover of 19th century Gothic writing. I’m not quite sure I would place this in my top spot.

Spoiler-Free Thoughts

My opening statement probably sounds quite disparaging, but I really do think this is a good classic. It feels particularly accessible because of the plot and writing style, so if you’re new to classics and you like spooky romances, this would probably be a good place to start.

That being said, I wasn’t blown away by Wuthering Heights. That might in part be because of my high expectations, but I was left feeling a bit disappointed.

The story itself was quite interesting, and I think if you go into it playing less attention to it as a romance you’ll get a lot more out of the book. There are a lot of different themes and ideas going on that get quite lost if all you focus on is the central characters and their relationship to one another.

I did really like the darkness of this book, and the fact it doesn’t shy away from the bad parts of life and human nature. Sometimes reading classics can feel like a very idealised version of life, but Brontë manages to capture negative experiences in a way that is realistic and yet intriguing.

The characters for me are where my disappointment largely lies. I wasn’t really invested in any of them, and so whilst I could pass judgement based on the morality of their actions i didn’t really care what happened to them. Not to say that they’re not well-written, but something just didn’t click for me.

I’m going to discuss the book in more specific detail, so if you don’t want to see any spoilers scroll to the bottom of this review to find my rating and concluding thoughts.

In-Depth Thoughts (Spoilers!)

As I said above, I really don’t want to be too down on this book, because it is popular for a reason. I enjoyed Bronte’s writing a lot, and I think this is a great example of classics addressing the same topics and classes of people whilst being accessible to a modern reader. Her descriptions of the landscape and spaces that the characters inhabit were very vivid and captured the Gothic feeling of the novel perfectly. I think the scene she creates helps to set the bleak and tumultuous tone that permeates the story, and reinforces the atmosphere of isolation.

In terms of the plot itself, I did find it slightly anti-climactic. I feel quite indifferent to the narrative choice of having Heathcliff and Catherine’s history being relayed to Lockwood by Nelly, and him recording it in his journal alongside his own narrative. I think it served its purpose of showing how interlinked the characters were and it did keep the mystery of what happened suspended for longer, but it did just seem like a convenient way to explain how the story was coming to be told. The main events of the novel are undeniably dramatic, covering everything from cross-generational child abuse, violence, romantic betrayal, impossible desires and insanity. For whatever reason, though, the full force of these never really connected with me. Maybe that’s because I’ve read books that cover similar topics that are far more extreme, or maybe I just never invested in the characters beyond a basic moral judgement.

Following the transition from Heathcliff being welcomed as an orphan into the Earnshaw’s home, to his suffering under Hindley due to jealousy that his late father came to prefer an orphan over him, to his running away after Catherine’s engagement definitely makes for an interesting but tragic character development. I definitely liked the fact that Bronte avoided creating a stereotypical villain who is evil for no reason, but rather explained a history of abuse and betrayal that corrupted him. I think what was missing for me from the characters of Wuthering Heights was a slither more of humanity and warmth. I know the focus on abuse and violence means that this coldness was appropriate, but I felt like there was a lack of a spectrum. Catherine was forced to make choices that went against her feelings, but she also felt unnecessarily cruel and cold throughout the novel. Her relationship with Heathcliff had far less high stakes because the passion they had for each other felt unrealistic considering their wider characters. That is probably just down to a personal preference, and I do think that after studying the book more I could change my perspective on this.

I did quite like how Linton and Young Catherine’s relationship mirrored their parents, but how the situation was reversed: whilst Catherine felt forced not to marry Heathcliff, Young Catherine is trapped and forced to marry Linton. I think this is one of my favourite aspects of the novel because of the clever aligning and reversing of each generation’s fates. Whilst Catherine was forced to leave Wuthering Heights, Young Catherine is forced to stay there with Heathcliff. In this sense, not only does Catherine haunt the space in which he lives in his mind and spectral visits, but also physical in Young Catherine’s DNA.

For me, Heathcliff’s decline into insanity and his death on the moors wasn’t the best end to the novel. I felt like Bronte didn’t want to full commit to a supernatural element to her story, and this ambiguity really diffused the tension that had been created. For such a prominent and emotional character, I would have expected a few more dramatics. I did like the way he died though, as it did reinforce their relationship for me.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

Overall, I think this just wasn’t the book for me. It is partially my fault, because I went in with certain expectations that left me disappointed. I do think this is a great classic for people to read, especially if you enjoy Gothic-style narratives or if you want something that’s a bit more accessible in terms of writing style and language.

If anyone loves this book and has anything that might make me understand or connect with this book more, please do let me know in the comments! I really want to be proved wrong on this one.

I’m rating Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte as 3 stars.


Posting Schedule


I wanted to write a short post explaining my posting schedule, so that the followers of this blog know when they can expect to see new posts from me.

I have finally settled into a schedule at university as lessons have now started, so I can create more of a definitive schedule for when I will be uploading posts to this blog. I will put in every effort to keep to this schedule (I know how important consistent posting is in blogging!)

Unfortunately I can’t commit to a blog post everyday, but I have huge admiration for anyone who does. My schedule will instead be four posts a week, uploaded on:

  • Monday
  • Wednesday
  • Friday
  • Sunday

If you want to stay updated with my blog, please do give it a follow. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and it’s been really exciting seeing it grow.


Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night

The Night CIrcus

Spoiler-Free Thoughts

Let me start off by saying, I do not read a lot of fantasy. At some point during my transition from YA into adult literature the genre got left behind, and now it’s very rare I get to pick up a fantasy book.

For me, though, this book just has such an alluring premise. I’ve included the quote above because I think it perfectly captures the mystery that surrounds this book. The idea of a circus that magically appears and opens only at night, with a name as beautiful as ‘the Circus of Dreams’, is almost irresistible. If you’re reading this as an adult, Morgenstein really captures the feeling of being a child, and staring in wonder at all the things that are beyond understanding and therefore must be magic.

It’s set in an ahistorical Victorian England, and I think Morgenstein really uses the mystery that we perceive the past to be cloaked in to enhance her story. As you travel across countries with the circus and its characters, she creates a world that is slightly unfamiliar to you, never allowing you to fully decide whether the difference is because it is a past version, or because of magic. The same can be said for time in the novel, as Morgenstein manipulates the passing of time so that everything feels a little bit distorted.

Her descriptions of the circus itself and the wonders within the tents is where the true literary magic of this book lies, and it really does alight a childish curiosity in you. I thought the characters were well-written and complex, and their relationships to one another felt very genuine and real. If you get into this book because of the concept, you will very quickly become invested in the characters and their various fates.

If you don’t want to see any spoilers, scroll to the bottom of the review to see my concluding thoughts and my rating!

In-Depth Thoughts (Spoilers!)

We start the book with a very enchanting description of the circus, and I actually did like the POV sections that intermittently interrupted the narrative. Sometimes it felt a bit disjointed, but I think in a fantasy book that’s so set on fully emerging you in the world you can get away with it.

At first I found the initial stages before the circus was established a bit confusing. I kept getting confused about whether Celia was with Prospero or Mr A.H. and vice verse with Marco, but once I had my characters straight I really enjoyed it. I liked having an insight into the two different teaching styles because it really cemented the point of the competition beyond it just making for an interesting plot.

Now, I have seen a lot of people say that they were disappointed because it wasn’t a typical duel per se, but I didn’t have that expectation and therefore wasn’t disappointed. I thought the drawn out, passive duel was actually really unique and fit the novel far better. It was very cool to see how their tents reflected their personality and also their relationship with each other, both as competitors and later romantically.

I don’t normally like romance inserted into books that don’t really need it, but here I think it really worked. It was a bit of a basic and predicable star-crossed lover situation, but I fell for it.

The peripheral characters were also really interesting, and I liked the Morgenstein didn’t use the ‘circus freak’ stereotype as a cheap way to make them interesting. They each had their own complexities and depth, and were integral to the narrative even in a minor way. I really enjoyed the Poppet, Widget and Bailey subplot which turned out to be the solution to the competition, and these characters also helped to really activate my childish curiosity by seeing the circus through their eyes.

The ending was quite intense, and I was really rooting for them to find a solution that kept everyone safe. I thought Bailey was a really good choice to continue on the circus, and it emphasised the idea that it is a welcoming and inclusive space for those who feel like they belong. I liked that Prospero’s death wasn’t just a convenient way to make both sponsors abandon their competitors, but rather gave the idea so that Celia and Marco could stay together and escape the bounds of the competition.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

Overall, this is a great fantasy novel that will make you feel like a child again. It’s a really well-written magical atmosphere, and the characters are easy to invest in. If you love magic and the circus is a setting that intrigues you, you’ll like this book.

I’m rating The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein four stars.


The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

I knew this book was going to be beautiful and moving, and to be honest that’s the very thing that put me off for so long. I wanted my mind to be in the perfect place to appreciate it.

I’m so glad I waited.

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Spoiler-Free Review

I listened to this as an audiobook, and I firstly just have to say if you like listening to books in that format you need to do so for this book. It really enhanced my reading experience, and it was very compatible with the story itself. The narrative is told very much like someone is telling the story of Nuri and Afra’s journey (although it is 3rd person), so the audiobook just enhanced this.

The plot is very engaging, and it really maintains the suspense right until the end of the book. There is some time jumping which occasionally confused me, but that could be because I listened to it rather than read it. Even though it isn’t fast-paced, I was completely hooked from the offset, and just wanted to know how the story was going to unfold. There are definitely twists and turns, which makes the story feel very unique and yet realistic.

The characters are really complex, and Lefteri avoids writing any two dimensional characters. If you want a book where you really connect to the characters, this is the one for you. I think this is what makes the book so great, because you get the sense that these could be real people who are going through very real problems. Lefteri never shies away from a difficult topic, but rather handles them beautifully.

The best thing about this book though is just the beautiful descriptions that Lefteri gives. You can picture the scenes perfectly because they are crafted so eloquently throughout. Every setting is presented as having good and bad aspects, which really helps to create a sophisticated portrayal of the places she writes about.

If you don’t want to see any spoilers for this book, scroll to the bottom of the review to see my concluding thoughts and rating!

In-Depth Review (Spoilers!)

I love the way that the plot always keep you in suspense for what’s coming next by splitting their journey into stages. With each new place or country they reach, there’s another difficulty that brings doubt to their successful arrival in England. Not only does this make the book feel like a very realistic portrayal of the struggle to seek asylum across the world, it also makes for a very engaging read. Never did I feel bored or less invested, because I was constantly worried about what was going to happen next.

I also found it interesting to see the different types of places they had to stay in. Their house in Aleppo, the refugee camp, the safe house in the school and the second camp never felt repetitive, and it allowed Lefteri to show the flaws with each setting. If anyone was ever unsympathetic to refugees or needed reminding of the poor condition in camps, then this would be the book to give them.

I really loved how Nuri and Afra’s relationship was written, because it felt so real. They were never painted as ‘perfect despite hardship’ like a lot of books do; their relationship was flawed and complicated. I really felt for both of them, and the emotional investment that Lefteri invites with her characters is on another level. I really felt for both of them, especially during the flashbacks when you learn what happened to their son. Learning about Nuri’s PTSD and Afra’s trauma-induced blindness was heartbreaking, especially because you then have to watch all of the hurdles they face in their journey make it worse.

I really didn’t expect Mohammed to be a trauma-driven replacement for their son, so that was a really nice yet devastating twist in the story. I had to rewind my audiobook and re-listen to make sure I’d heard right, but it was the perfect way to bring the story to a close. After the emotional experience of reading the book, having a more uplifting ending was definitely a good choice, and infuses the book with an irresistible bittersweet feeling.

The tertiary characters were just as well-written as the main ones. The Moroccan man, the man with the ‘wings’ and Mustafa all had their individual characteristics and development despite not being central to the story, which really enhanced the book’s realism. Everyone in this story has some experienced some kind of tragedy, even the ‘villains’, adds to the beautiful complexity that Lefteri creates.

My only qualm with the book was at time it was hard to keep track of who all the characters were and where they fit in with the chronological journey from Aleppo to England. This might have been purely down to me listening to it rather than reading it, but at times I felt a bit lost in the story.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I would encourage everyone to read this book. It is very serious and emotional, but what Lefteri writes about is so important, especially in today’s world. Her writing is beautiful, and I can almost guarantee you will get absorbed by her rich plot and characters.

I’m giving The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri 4.5 stars.


How I Rate my Books

I’ve been writing this blog for around two months now, and I thought it would be interesting to give a break down of how I rate the books I read! Obviously you can tell from the reviews I give individual books, but there is a rough overarching scale that I use to assign ratings to books.

I think it’s really interesting to read how other people rate the books they read, and what elements they prioritise when deciding this! We all have very different qualities that we look for in books, and I think it helps you get to know the reviewer when you can see their thought processes.

So without further ado, let’s get started! I will only be looking at full star ratings, but I do sometimes give half star ratings, so if it would be helpful for me to do a blog post about how I make that decision let me know in the comments.

One Star

This is a rating I really don’t ever give, because I don’t tend to read many books that I really dislike anymore. I think I’ve fine tuned what I like to read in my head at this point in my life, so I tend to pick out books that are at least a two star read.

However, a one star read for me is a book that was very disappointing. Maybe it was a genre that I was interested in trying for the first time and it didn’t end up appealing to me, or maybe it’s a book in a genre I love that just fell flat.

I’d say that one star and DNF’ing a book almost go hand in hand, but I rarely find a book so bad that I can’t find any redeeming qualities in it. There’s usually at least one section or element of the writing that helps me to carry on and gets it a higher rating.

Maybe I’m too generous with my reviews, but I do think looking at books from an academic standpoint also helps you to see the better aspects as well as the bad. Even if the plot was dry and the characters were awful, there was probably a choice of writing style or narrative voice that I really liked.

I would just like to say that if I DNF a book, or I find it offensive and don’t want to read anymore, I would give it zero stars. For me, even a one star book has to have at least one small redeeming feature, even if that’s just me being able to read until the end.

I can’t give an example of a book that I’ve given one star too yet. I’ll update this post if I ever do, but hopefully that will never happen

Two Stars

Much like my one star rating, two star reads tend to be books that were disappointing. They were probably very hyped up online, and I just didn’t share everyone else’s enthusiasm for them.

This tends to be books that were from a genre that I like and fell short of the other books I’ve read. Not the worse book I’ve ever read, and I can appreciate some aspects of the book, but overall I wouldn’t really recommend it unless someone loves the author or the genre and is really interested in it.

Sometimes I think two star books are sometimes worse than one star books because I always have more hope for them. There’s nothing worse than getting a book with a really interesting premise that just doesn’t amount to much.

I also think that two stars reviews are often more because of personal preference than the book being objectively bad. If I’ve given something a two stars, I definitely don’t think it’s a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

An example of a book I’ve given a two star review is The Watsons by Jane Austen.

Three Stars

We’ve finally broken into the more positive reviews! Three stars is, of course, a book that was middle of the road. It was an enjoyable read, but not something I’d necessarily rush to re-read or recommend to everyone unless it met their personal tastes.

For me, a three star book perhaps is one from a genre I don’t normally like and that surprised me by being enjoyable, or a book that I thought I’d quite like and it met those expectations.

I always feel boring when I give three star reviews because it’s such a neutral standpoint in my opinion, but quite often that’s what fits the book! I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I enjoyed it for what it was but it didn’t change my life. I probably give out the more three star ratings than any other rating, maybe because I’m trying to make sure I’m not being too generous when reviewing.

The writing and characters are usually good in three star books, and it was interesting enough to keep my attention throughout the whole thing.

An example of a book that I’ve given three stars to is Pine by Francine Toon.

Four Stars

This is another rating that I rarely give out, and I think it’s because I struggle to differentiate between books that I really love, and books that I like a lot. Nevertheless, four star books are ones that I really enjoyed, but just had an element missing to stop it from being one of my favourite reads.

This usually tends to be a book that is from one of my favourite genres, or really surprised me in enjoying it so much. The plot and characters were really interesting to me, and I never felt bored or like I was struggling during the reading process. There might have just been one small problem with the premise or the ending that made me wish something was slightly different.

I think there’s a really big drive to not give all books you enjoy a five star review and to think critically to identify which books were really amazing and which fell slightly short. I’m definitely going to try and give more four star reads in the future.

An example of a book I gave four stars to is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

Five Stars

And finally we reach the pinnacle: the five star rating. These are the best of the best, the books that you finish and just want to start over again straight away. I try not to give too many five stars out, so when I just can’t resist I know it’s worth it.

For me, five star books are almost always from my favourite genre, and probably my new favourite book within it. I would recommend this to anyone, regardless of their taste in books, because I’m sure it’s that good.

They’re the type of books that you can’t think of a way to make them better, which is so rare but so great when you find them.

I really think that people shouldn’t shy away from rating books five stars. I get why you shouldn’t give every book you like five stars, but honestly I think it just encourages others to give those books a try, which in my opinion is the whole point of book reviewing! I definitely am not scared to give books five stars, as much as I try to keep things critical and not be too generous!

An example if a book I gave five stars to was Mythos by Stephen Fry.

Thank you for reading! Let me know what you use to choose how to rate the books you read in the comments!


Reading Formats

The debate that often gets talked about, and has proven very controversial as technology advances, is physical book versus e-book. However, this binary is too simplistic nowadays, as more ways of reading emerge, and our own habits no longer tie us solely to one camp or the other.

I thought it would be interesting to speak about my thoughts on the different reading formats, and talk how this has changed in recent years.

Physical Books

We have to start with the tradition method of reading: the physical book. I think there’s a really interesting purity complex that surrounds the glorification of the physical book that’s quite unique to the reading community, in that it diverts from society’s common valuing of the new and technologically advanced.

Personally, I prefer reading physical books. It’s nice to hold the book in your hand, it feels more like an active process of reading than a passive one, and you get to keep it on your bookshelf as a physical memento. It’s also nice to cut down screen time, especially after a year of online learning that I’m sure has done permanent damage to my eyesight. I do have to admit, reading a physical book does feed into my ‘I’m a reader’ superiority complex, because it signals to everyone what you read, and that you read a lot.

However, there are definite downsides to reading physical books. They’re hard to transport, they’re breakable, and they tend to be more expensive. And yet, we seem to cling to them despite these disadvantages and form an emotional connection with the books themselves. I have books that I would never want to throw away because of the nostalgia they hold, or because someone special to me bought it as a gift for me. I think it’s this hook that brings us back to physical books, and brings horror to us when we hear about more and more libraries being closed in favour of providing the books online.


Kindles have been popular for a good few years now, and I can definitely see why. Being able to transport that many books with you at once definitely would prevent the feeling of not being in the mood for any of the books you chose to take with you, and offers the chance to have instant access rather than waiting for delivery or going to a book shop. Aside from buying the actual device to read it on, a lot of e-books can be found for cheap or for free on online book resources, which makes reading a lot more accessible. I think accessibility also comes from e-books being more adaptable for those who struggle with reading in terms of changing text size and colour and background colour.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of e-books. I think this might partially arise from studying because our secondary reading is always online, so after spending all day reading on a computer I like to switch to a physical book. I just also find that I’m less engaged when I read online for some reason, and I don’t know if my brain still associates reading online only with things like news articles or blog posts that don’t require quite the same mental processes. You also lose the physical show of your progress a little when you’re online, because although a lot of devices show you the percentage that you’ve read, the physical movement of pages from one side to another motivates me a lot more.

I would just like to say that I think reading on a kindle or another online reading device is a lot more appealing to me than reading on my phone. For me, the key thing is making reading a separate activity, and staying on my phone doesn’t really give me that. The main thing holding me back from e-books is that I don’t think I’d use a kindle enough to warrant spending the money on it.


For a long time, I swore I hated audio-books. I didn’t get them and they just weren’t for me. However, I recently tried to use an audio-book to get me out of a reading slump, and it worked. I really enjoy listening to podcasts, so why not audio-books? There’s not that much difference between the two. So I’ve decided to give them another try, but only in specific contexts.

My problem was always that my attention drifts very easily, and I felt like I was missing half the story. It’s a very passive form of reading, and I found it frustrating that it took twice as long to listen to them (even on 2x speed) as I could read the book myself. I’m not the type of person that would listen to audio-books whilst doing something- I definitely need to be sat still. I think that’s really important with choosing reading formats; you can have different preferences depending on what you’re doing. Like I said at the start of this post, you don’t have to be in one camp or the other.

I listened to an audio-book on a long train journey I took recently and I really enjoyed it. I don’t get travel sick, but I don’t really like reading physical books on trains, so it was the perfect compromise. I also think the book I was listening to (The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri) was really well-suited to the audio-book format (I’ll talk more about this in the review I post for this book). So, maybe my thoughts are changing regarding audio-books, but I don’t think they’ll become the main reading format I reach for.

Overall, I think that my loyalty still lies to the physical book, but I am starting to diversify a little. Honestly, I don’t think any format can categorically be labelled as the best for everyone, because we are all so different and want different things from our reading experience. Instead of viewing the different formats of reading as competitors, we need to start seeing them as a way to find what best works for you, and solve a problem that arises in specific areas and contexts of your reading.

I still personally have a long way to go with figuring this out, but I’m glad I’ve started to diversify my reading!


WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words! All you have to do is answers the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

My current read is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. I’m actually listening to this as an audiobook, and this format really complements the story. As you can see from the picture above, I’m almost finished, so I will post a review soon. I will also probably do a blog post on my feelings about audiobooks, and why I tend to shy away from them.

Recently Finished Reading

The last thing I read was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein. I actually listened to the first 60 pages as an audiobook (narrated by Jim Dale, very nostalgic), but then I switched back to a physical copy.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and it is rare that I read a magical fantasy novel so it was a great change. It was on my tbr list for years, so to finally have read it and enjoyed it is amazing. I’ll post a review for this soon.

Next Read

I think my next read will be a re-read of Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. I really loved re-reading the first book in the series, and I definitely plan on continuing this. With university reading though, it might not be the next book I read overall, but it’ll definitely be the next book I read for pleasure.