What I am Reading

Literature & nail polish.

Your Queen devotes a fair amount of time reading and it occurred to me it is about time to start sharing the love (and boredom and ennui). I chose 10 books I recently read, wrote brief reviews and rated them for you.

I have inexplicably paired them with nail polish (etc.) but bear with me. Here it goes.

1. The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

In one line or less: Dystopian page-turner.
Tell me more: Important disclaimer, I was extremely late to this party – I read this before reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” (which I have since read but will save for the next round of reviews) and I have yet to see a single episode from the TV series. I found it to be an absolutely compelling read. Respect to Margaret Atwood for having such a mind-blowingly active imagination – her imaginary universe feels so real it might as well jump out of the book and absorb you. Just read it.
I like it with: Essie Platinum Grade Finish top coat.
The Queen’s Grade: 9+
(commoner’s Grade: 9)

2. Mayflies – Andrew O’Hagan

In one line or less: The juxtaposition of life & death in a background context of disease.
Tell me more: I am not sure O’Hagan is everyone’s cup of tea but I find his writing arresting (I am assuming he is around my age) and I automatically relate with a lot of what he is negotiating, even when it has nothing to do with me. I felt very “at home” with this book and recommend it, just without guarantees.
I like it with: Essie Platinum Grade Finish top coat + Essie Jamaica me Crazy.
The Queen’s Grade: 8
(commoner’s Grade: 7)

3. Identity Crisis – Ben Elton

In one line or less: Funny commentary on the tyranny of woke culture.
Tell me more: A murder investigation and a middle aged police officer act as the vehicle for this satyrical expose of political correctness, the power of social media and “snowflakes”. If you are over 40 expect to nod in agreement every 3 minutes. Currently reading this (too early for a final review) but it is clearly funny, spot on and generally what you’d expect from a good old BE book. Ben Elton fans alert!
I like it with: Essie Treat Love & Color Mauve-tivation.
The Queen’s Grade: 7
(commoner’s Grade: 8)

4. Burnt Sugar – Avni Doshi

In one line or less: The dynamics & repercussions of unresolved relationships between mother – daughter.
Tell me more: Contrary to my reading buddies, I found the book interesting and somewhat of a page-turner (though it does get boring at parts). I always enjoy a book featuring parallel narratives and this one, set in India, rather artfully mixes present and past. I wouldn’t go as far as “Booker” good (its shortlisting echoes more of an urgency to hit some obscure inclusivity target) but it is a quality read and a proper example of actual “literature”.
I like it with: Essie Bustling Bazaar.
The Queen’s Grade: 7
(commoner’s grade: 7)

5. Jenny Colgan – Five Hundred Miles From You

In one line or less: Something to read at the beach, enjoy and forget about it.
Tell me more: Chick literature alert. There is not much to say, this is a classic example of a romantic comedy with a happy end and it is actually above average in its genre. Recommended if it is your kind of thing.
I like it with: Essie Jamaica me Crazy.
The Queen’s Grade: 6
(commoner’s grade: 8)

6. Just Like You – Nick Hornby

In one line or less: Another book to relax to.
Tell me more: And here is some Lad Lit for good measure. Just like Colgan above, Hornby writes an easy book to turn to when you just want to switch off your brain. The review could be a copy-paste of the above – in fact I accidentally even used the same nail polish!
I like it with: Lancaster Satin Dry Oil SPF30 Tan Optimiser & Essie Jamaica me Crazy + Zest has Yet to Come.
The Queen’s Grade: 6
(commoner’s grade: 8)

7. Second Place – Rachel Cusk

In one line or less: Existential rant.
Tell me more: The book made this year’s Booker Prize shortlist (not the final shortlist though). All I have to say for it is that it’s been a while since I genuinely disliked a fictional character. Cusk’s heroine is disturbingly undignified & delusional. My disgust for her kept me hooked in certain parts of the book. If this was intentional, kudos but I still didn’t enjoy it.
I like it with: Essie Expressie Speed of Life.
The Queen’s Grade: 6
(commoner’s grade: 8)

8. Everything is F*cked – Mark Manson

In one line or less: Aggressively delivered positive reinforcement /or/ “Let’s write another global best seller”.
Tell me more: Currently reading this. Mark Manson’s pressure to follow up on the success of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is understood. Here we are looking at the same concept: tongue-in-cheek, provocative language, aggressively served useful advice, with an undertone of sweetness. The problem is that (so far at least) all the propositions of the book have been exhausted through his website and newsletter – there is nothing meriting a new book. Probably great read for Manson “virgins” though.
I like it with: Lancaster SPF30 sunscreen.
The Queen’s Grade: 5
(commoner’s grade: 9)

9. The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

In one line or less: A book about regret and hope?
Tell me more: It is somewhat endearing that this book is a “multi-million copy best seller” – indicative perhaps of the collective fantasy to magically eliminate personal failure. The premise of the book is naive (one can test-drive alternate versions of one’s life and decide what the best fit is), the delivery is engaging at first but quickly turns tiresome, the ending is both corny and predictable – yet at the end of the day it is a book that leaves an optimistic imprint on the mind. If only for 5 minutes.
I like it with: Essie Zest has Yet to Come & Essie Strong Start base coat.
The Queen’s Grade: 5
(commoner’s grade: 8)

10. Own It – Diane von Fürstenberg

In one line or less: A-Z collection of random words & concepts that allegedly help build a winning mindset.
Tell me more: I wasn’t anticipating a revelation of any kind here but as a fan of this specific book genre (& an admirer of DVF) I was expecting it to be entertaining and possibly inspiring. There is definitely no “secret” to life here, except maybe the secret to how to capitalise on one’s personal brand to generate more hype. It is a collection of haphazard words, put together to fulfil the task of getting on with it. The book design is great though, a good-looking one to have lying around.
I like it with: Essie Haute to Trot.
The Queen’s Grade: 4
(commoner’s grade: 7)


If you find the grading to be erratic (i.e. you notice horrifying analogies between patently different books, or extreme discrepancies between the Queen’s and the commoner’s rating) please take into account that a) the Queen grades 100% objectively and b) her perception of the common mind justifies honouring a masterpiece and a page 3 article with the same grade.

All images © The Real Queen of Stuff

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