Pages of September & October || Reading Wrap-Up

Reading has been a vital part of my days for half my life. Since the first time I picked up novels in middle grade, books have been my companions through rain and shine. They gave me comfort, advice, life lessons, and escape. My reading increased whenever my stress increased.

But in the past couple of months, I found a new level. One where I was so stressed that I didn’t even read, even romance. One where I took over two months to read a book. Where I wanted to read but the idea of reading a new book or a whole book further stressed me out.

September pushed me beyond my point of burnout. I did not read, blog, draw, or do anything else that gave me true joy. Getting back from that has been a struggle. It took me the entirety of October to slowly get back to reading alone. It was a process. Through this wrap-up, you can clearly see it all.

ella enchanted by gail carson levine

ella enchanted by gail carson levine

I started this at the end of August and finished it on September 1st. The fact that I was already stressed enough to rereading very old favourites was definitely an indication of my burnout.

I read Ella Enchanted for the first time in 7th grade. I fell in love with it and have reread it up multiple times since then. This endearing story is about a rebellious girl trying to defeat her obedience curse and making friends and having adventures along the way.

Ella was someone I wanted to be. She was full of life, decisions, and rebelliousness. And she had this one thing that she was tirelessly fighting against. And the way the book ended? It was very inspiring.

The writing style and the pace make this book so easy to read. Initially (in 7th grade), I thought it was a long book but now it feels so short and I wish it were longer. I finished it in no time and wanted to read it again immediately just to prolong the feeling of it.

Content warnings: death, grief

the coincidence of callie & kayden by jessica sorensen

the coincidence of callie and kayden by jessica sorensen

After Ella Enchanted, I couldn’t read at all for a while. And the thought of reading a full book was not appealing. I didn’t have the brain space for it so I was rereading my favourite comforting parts of old books. After a couple of weeks, I started The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden.

I can say with confidence that the only reason I read this entire book was that my favourite part is in the beginning and I somehow couldn’t stop reading.

The first time I read this book was in 2015. That was my New Adult romance phase. I devoured books about characters going to college and finding themselves, reinventing themselves, and healing.

This was one of my favourites then because it has characters who are so broken and slowly become better through distance from their families and home, new good friends that become family, and time.

It’s not a happy book and can be triggering for many people, but it gives hope. I really love the relationships in this book, especially the friendships. I love how the characters are all going through so much and still show up for each other all the time. Each of them is struggling themselves but they help the others rise.

It is not one of the best books ever written, I’ll admit, but it gives a specific kind of comfort. And I really needed that.

Content warnings: slut-shaming, paedophilia, rape, child abuse, self-harm, bullying, homophobia.

the redemption of callie and kayden by jessica sorensen

the redemption of callie and kayden by jessica sorensen

The first book ends at a huge cliffhanger, so of course, I immediately started book 2.

The titles of these books are apt. The first book is about Callie & Kayden leaving their history behind, coming to college, and getting to know each other. They also get to know themselves a little.

The Redemption of Callie & Kayden is about healing. This is not a romance book where they both become okay after finding love. They both go through a lot alone and together. While the first book gives the comfort and hope of finding people whom one can call family, the second book gives the hope of not losing that family and becoming better with them.

Book 1 is still my favourite but book 2 has this one scene, a very small scene, that is super comforting to me. I don’t know why that scene makes so much of a difference to me, but it does.

I actually thought that scene was in book 1 and did not recollect that it’s a series. That shows how I binged the books even back then.

the resolution of callie & kayden by jessica sorensen

the resolution of callie and kayden by jessica sorensen

After book 2, there are a couple of books about two other characters. They have a nice enough storyline too but Callie & Kayden’s is my favourite. So I directly jumped to book 5 which is kind of like an epilogue. It’s a really nice ending to the series.

The Resolution of Callie & Kayden is about the two characters, and their friends, making a lasting life for themselves and truly moving on. Until book 4, they all are still going through dark times and trying to get out of them. Book 5 is like.. sunlight.

My only complaint is that it is way longer than it has to be. 300 pages for it doesn’t make sense. But oh well.

a lie for a lie by helena hunting

a lie for a lie by helena hunting

After that, I got some motivation to read something that is not an old comfort book. I went through my list of books in Kindle and just picked this. The first time I read it, I really liked it. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much during my reread.

It’s about Rook and Lainey who meet during vacation and have a thing. They lose touch afterwards but Lainey ends up pregnant and is not able to contact or find Rook. Rook is actually an NFL athlete and lied about his career to Lainey because he wanted “a real connection”. Later, they cross paths and things come to light.

I liked this book the first time because it did the secret baby trope well. The initial meet, the fallout, the lies, the reconnection, and the forgiveness—it was done just right. I also liked that the characters took their relationship slow and didn’t rush things.

During my reread, I noticed that while it is a good secret baby romance book, it is not that good when compared to all books. It didn’t make me feel at any time. And I didn’t finish the book with the usual HEA satisfaction. So yeah, this was disappointing.

the unhoneymooners by christina lauren

the unhoneymooners by christina lauren

After the last disappointing read, I gave up on newer books and went back to old books that I enjoyed. When I initially read The Unhoneymooners, I devoured it. It didn’t stand out all that much but I loved the writing, the pace, and the ending. This was also my first romance book where I didn’t fully like either of the characters but still liked the romance and the book. It made me accept flawed characters, honestly.

I don’t know why I picked this up for a reread. It was just there in my Kindle library so I opened it.

The Unhoneymooners is a hate-to-love romance where the main characters hate each other’s guts and, over the course of a vacation, grow closer and reconsider each other. The reason why they went on the honeymoon is so funny too. Their siblings got married but the entire wedding party fell sick from the food served in the ceremony. These two didn’t eat the main food due to separate reasons and were the only ones who can go on the non-refundable trip.

The way they slowly learnt about each other all over again and bonded was really nice. The pace is just as I remembered—not too fast but things do go by pretty fast. It is just right to keep the reader’s attention.

This reread was a success.

the heart principle by helen hoang

the heart principle by helen hoang

After all that, I finally got the courage to try a new book. But I wasn’t ready for a book that wasn’t romance. And I wasn’t sure about being able to sit down and read. So I turned to audiobooks. I got The Heart Principle on libro.fm and had also heard a lot about it, so I started it.

It was not the kind of book that I was expecting. The book does start off as a romance and but it is so much more. Anna, one of the leads, is going through severe burnout in the book (I related lol). She meets Quan through a dating app and their relationship goes totally unlike what both of them wanted and expected. They were going for a hookup but ended up having a meaningful connection.

After about half the book, it almost completely turns away from romance. It is about Anna’s autism diagnosis, her caregiver grief while she takes care of her dad, and her issues with her family. The book became so heavy. It took me a week to finish the short audiobook because of the caregiving part which brought me down every time. It was quite depressing. I had to take breaks during some of Anna’s monologues because they were too much for me.

The story is also heavily biased towards Anna. Even though he has his own life moments and milestones, Quan is not given as much page time as Anna. It really grated me.

Towards the end of the book, I stopped considering it as romance. While it started as one and is set during the romance of Anna and Quan, it was simply too much about things other than their relationship. I wish it was categorized properly and spoken about better because I wouldn’t have picked it up at a time when I wanted light-hearted romance.

The book itself is good but it is not a proper romance and I picked it up at the wrong time.

Content warnings: anxiety, panic attack, depression, autism, masking, ableism, cancer, sterility, suicidal ideation, severe (non-cancer) illness of a family member; caretaking, caretaker grief; burnout; death of a family member; toxic family relationship; classism; unnecessarily putting oneself in danger; overexertion as a coping mechanism, gaslighting.

summer sons by lee mandelo

summer sons by lee mandelo

Sai sent me his copy of Summer Sons in August and I was already in a slump by then. I got time one afternoon and breezed through half the book. And then I didn’t read it for 6 WEEKS.

Summer Sons is a horror book following Andrew who’s best friend Eddie suddenly killed himself and Andrew is determined to figure out why. Oh also, Andrew and Eddie can see ghosts or “remnants” and it is just as ghastly as you can imagine.

The book is pretty slow-paced but I enjoyed it for the most part. Towards the end, though, I just wasn’t into it. Especially the last few chapters. I expected something different and it wasn’t as punchy as I wanted it to be.

My lack of enjoyment towards the end could also be because of my slump and the huge gap in reading in the middle. Or maybe because horror is not my genre. I don’t know.

But yeah, while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t that great for me.

The one thing that I really liked was the vibe of the book. The writing and the pace really simulated the environment of a hot and stifling summer. Even though I read it in the rainy season, at times I wanted to fan myself because I was imagining the heat. Especially the small descriptions like “Andrew felt his shirt sticking to him” set the mood. The attention to detail was nice.

a man called ove by fredrik backman

a man called ove by fredrik backman

Afte Summer Sons, I took a week’s break because I didn’t want to rush into reading in case it turns out badly. Then I picked up A Man Called Ove because it’s short and people said that it would make me cry.

This is my second book by Fredrik Backman and I totally understand why people love his books. Right from the first chapter, I could picture Ove and dive into his life. It was really cool how the author showed an image of Ove and, throughout the book, revealed more of him and made me realize I had Ove totally wrong.

The book is written in just the right about of comedy and seriousness. The author skillfully played the emotional parts after making us get attached to the characters. At times, there are random facts and history lessons, but they all matter. Nothing is unnecessary.

I absolutely adored Ove. Reading the book was like slowly peeling layers of him. At the start, I was so sure that he was one type of man whom I don’t like but then I grew to really like him.

The entire cast of characters is so easy to get attached to. They all have quirks and flaws and are so lovable. Seeing the way Ove’s life changed over the course of the book was a really nice journey.

The interspersed flashbacks were the ones that really showed who Ove was as a man and made him likeable. Without history, it would have been hard. While reading this, it really hit me how much a person’s history matters to truly know them.

I annotated the book a lot and while I didn’t cry, it was a really good book and one I will think about at random times. Highly recommend it, in case you haven’t read it.

heiress apparently by diana ma

heiress apparently by diana ma

I was scrolling on my Kindle for a book and was going to select Undercover Bromance but selected Heiress Apparently by mistake and thought, what the heck, and started it.

I found this book initially on someone’s blog (don’t remember who’s) and immediately added it to my TBR because I thought it was about separated identical twins*. Later, I saw the reviews on Goodreads which were less than stellar but I still wanted to read it.

The book is about Gemma who goes to China for her first proper acting job and gets mistaken for a local celebrity. She realizes that it may be related to why her parents told her to never set foot in China and don’t tell her about her mom’s family or past. As she begins to ask and find out, she unravels a lot of history which changes her life.

During all this, she also meets a boy and falls in love. Because, it’s YA, and apparently a YA book is not complete without it.**

I was NOT impressed with the book. I didn’t like the characters or the romance or the family plot. It was meh.

*I love stories about separated families who reunite, especially if they are twins. Don’t ask me why.

**yeah, I’m a little salty because I could care less about the romance here.

beautiful world, where are you by sally rooney

beautiful world, where are you by sally rooney

I had not read any book by Sally Rooney before this. When this was released, a lot of people were talking about it and praising it. Recently, a tiktok showed how someone recommended it while asking someone out too!*

Beautiful World, Where Are You is mainly about 4 characters going through life and trying to find their place in the world. The book has chapters from all their POVs but we see more of Eileen and Alice, two friends who’ve known each other since college. There are also entire chapters showing email correspondences between them talking about anything and everything.

I listened to the audiobook on libro.fm and I’ll be honest, I’m on the fence about this book.

What I liked:

  • The writing style was very even. There were no ups and down, everything was neutral, throughout the book. It took me a while to get used to but soon it became soothing to listen to. I ended up listening to most of it while doing chores and it was nice.
  • The discussions about random topics between Eileen and Alice in their emails were nice. They spoke about history, politics, love, career, social media, and more. I couldn’t relate to some of it due to cultural differences but it was good otherwise.
  • It was easy to get into and read. I never felt like taking a break. The audiobook was soothing and became a nice companion while doing chores.

What I didn’t like:

  • Because the writing was even-toned, it made some scenes feel off because they have to have different energy. Like the sex scenes. The first time one came, I was so surprised and was weirded out because the writing and narration were so flat.
  • While Eileen and Alice seemed interesting and knowledgeable in their emails, their actual personas were drab. It created a weird disconnect in the book. It was almost like the author wanted to add in these discussions but couldn’t make the characters say them in dialogues (rightly so, the characters are SO not the type to have discussions) so emails were made up.
  • I couldn’t connect to or care for any of the characters. While the struggles and life were relatable, I simply didn’t care about them. Towards the end, in one “critical” scene, I was like “why??? are they like this?? move on!”
  • At the end, the pandemic was referred to and I hated it. I am very much okay if books pretend as if the pandemic doesn’t exist, thank you very much. Hence, the book ended on a sour note for me.

So, yeah. While I liked the book, some of it was really off. The hype doesn’t make sense. I do want to try other books by the author though.

*when will I ever experience something romantic like this 

isn’t it bromantic? by lyssa kay adams

isn't it bromantic? by lyssa kay adams

Even though I DNFed Undercover Bromance (more on that later), I had high hopes for Isn’t It Bromantic? because it has the marriage-of-convenience trope and I already liked Vlad from the previous books.

The first thing that I noticed, and highly appreciated, was how this book admitted that Vlad was used in jokes too often when it is not actually funny. The guys in the group often used Vlad AKA “the Russian” in jokes by referring to his digestive system issues. Dealing with that is not funny. This book acknowledged it and even made the guys apologize for it which was nice.

The book is about Vlad and Elena, childhood friends who secretly like each other, who got married so that Elena can come to America. But they never admitted it and have been living apart as she studies in college away from him. After seeing his friends fall in love happily, Vlad tells Elena that he wants to make their marriage a real one and she responds with a divorce proposal. It breaks him, obviously.

But when Vlad gets severely injured while playing, Elena steps up to take care of him as he recovers and they slowly grow closer and have to admit their feelings for each other.

The romance was slow and really nice. The marriage of convenience trope is not strong here because while they’ve been married for years, they only grow closer as Elena is taking care of Vlad during recovery. I enjoyed how smitten they both were for each other and the way they finally got together at then.

Coming to the characters, Vlad was seriously adorable. This book did him justice. It was so nice to read about this gruff Russian who cries easily, takes care of his friends, would do anything for Elena, and is a romance book writer.

This book also showed way more of the romance book club. The previous two books had them but here, we get to enjoy them actually hang out more and support each other. I loved how they stepped up to help Vlad with his recovery, love, and book.

While this wasn’t a mind-blowing read, I quite enjoyed it and finished it in one sitting. I hope there is more of the series!

the startup wife by tahmima anam

the startup wife by tahmima anam

I first found out about this book through Evelina’s review which sold the book to me. It sounded so good, and I trust her opinions. So I bought the book. It was sitting in my Kindle until last week when I finally picked it up.

The Startup Wife is about Asha who married her school crush soon after meeting him during her PhD and came up with an idea based on him. Along with their friend, the three launch a company that changes their lives. The book shows Asha’s point of view and highlights the experience of minority women in tech companies, especially when they’re working with men.

I read most of this book in one sitting and it was a whirlwind of a journey. Reading about Asha’s experience with love and career, how they became inseparable and how she dealt with it, her highs and lows was interesting. Asha’s story really shows how talented and skilled minority women get pushed back in the tech and business world, partly by choice and partly by force.

Asha steps back initially because it was easier and seemed better but it eventually affects her worth in others’ eyes and hence her power in the company she built. She is also in love with Cyrus through it all, which adds another dimension to it all.

The book makes us experience Asha’s life with her—her highs, lows, helplessness, and growth. It showed how something good can convolute and become something else entirely without one being able to prevent it.

The book’s concept was really cool as well. An AI-powered platform that can suggest curated rituals for any event based on your specific interests and puts you in touch with people with similar interests, which eventually leads to a new type of faith and religion? It sounds mad. But the book explained it all and delivered it perfectly.

It missed the opportunity to raise specific questions about faith and religion which makes the readers think, but I understand that it didn’t fit in with the plot and writing style.

The only thing that I didn’t like was how it included the pandemic. It irritated me BUT it was incorporated in a really nice way which made perfect sense with the plot. So by the end, I was actually intrigued by it and accepted it as a plot device.

Overall, a great book that I would recommend to all!

Content warnings: grief, familial abandonment, death, racism, sexism, suicide, fire injury.

extras: books I DNFed

Since this post is already really long, I don’t want to spend much time on these. I’ll try to keep it short.

undercover bromance by lyssa kay adams

A long time back, I read a negative review on this which laid out the problems with this book and the main character Liv. I still wanted to give the book a shot since I really liked book 1.

I agree with that review but also, I hated Liv. I could not stand her. Her motivations, her issues with Mack, and her mission against her boss which made her push other women. In book 3, the guys refer to Liv as a badass girl and I honestly don’t see it. I could not see proper chemistry between Mack and Liv too. They did not make sense. I DNFed the book at 65%.

fat chance, charlie vega by crystal maldonado

I’m sure this book is perfectly nice and interesting, but I was turned off by it from the first page. I wanted to read it for the fat main character but this was just so.. YA. And I’m not doing great with regular YA books at the moment.

The first line is about Charlie imagining being kissed. And then she talks about it for a while. As the chapters go on, she thinks so much about kissing and this one guy’s face and body. I simply can’t bear with that. As someone on the ace spectrum, I’m not always open to reading about sexual thoughts. At least in romance books, characters have sex and then move on. I can skip if I’m not into it. I couldn’t do that here.

The book does have other things, but I was not into the writing or the character. In chapter three, Charlie goes on this long random narration trip which made me forget the current scene completely and I had no clue what she was doing before she went on the monologue.

This book might be good but it is just not for me. I DNFed it at 19%.

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