Wanted: One (fake) boyfriend Practically perfect in every way
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.
But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.
Title : Boyfriend Material Author : Alexis Hall Format : eARC Page Count : 432 Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca Release Date : July 7, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and while I know this year has gone mostly to shit, and expectations should be rightly tossed into the incinerator at this point, I didn’t think I’d have to add BOYFRIEND MATERIAL to the heap of 2020 disappointments. Because this should be everything I could ever want : queer, fake dating, Hall. And it was those things. But I was scraping near the bottom of the barrel to round up past average feelings of like for the first half and by the end I just sat on my couch, looking around, feeling let down.
This is a very OTT kind of romance/comedy/story, and if you’re familiar with Hall you might have long ago learned to just roll with it. Or, maybe like me, you’ll just be tired of it. I hate to compare but nothing has ever measured up to GLITTERLAND or FOR REAL but I thought maybe this could be a contender for those classic favourites. Unfortunately.. no.
“[..] really, what do you have to lose?“ “Pride? Dignity? Self-respect?“ “Luc, you and I both know you have none of those things.“
There were moments of enjoyment — pretty much every scene with Luc’s mum was great — or feels but overwhelmingly I’m just back to the OTTness of it all. Both in the characters (oh all the random wtf is happening conversations.. they went from could-be-charming to when-will-it-end), some of the events, and also in the handling of things.
I found myself staring into the kindly, twinkly eyes of the late Sir Richard Attenborough. Wtf is this?I [text] back. A dick pic. You are not funny.
I can appreciate some of our protagonist’s character growth, because he’s a hot mess at the beginning, and he’s not quite as bad near the end, and at first I loved the stiff upper lip-y rigidness of the love interest, with the added bonus of some baggage in the family dynamic part, but then it all went sideways on me with him, too, so I don’t know where we are in the end. With either of them.
Or, really, the story.
If you’re into quirky strange characters, love a heaping pile of British in your contemporaries, you might like this. If you don’t normally care for either but you loved Hall’s take on FSoG, you also might like this (spoiler : I didn’t, and in hindsight I think my dislike of both are rooted in some of the same issues..). Overall, the premise, the concept, it will definitely appeal to many (it appealed to me!) but this just didn’t pan out. And as a result of yet another recent failed-to-enjoy-a-new-release from what I thought was a favourite author, I may just resign myself to rereading my two favourite Halls in the future instead of stumbling through anything new. I’m sad about it but alas.. here we are.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!
As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.
THE DAMNED by Renée Ahdieh is the much-anticipated sequel to last year’s THE BEAUTIFUL which is said to be the headliner of the new resurgence in vampire stories. We know there are lots of readers excited for this one today!
GIRL, SERPENT, THORN by Melissa Bashardoust has a unique world arising out of Persian mythology, this release with the gorgeous cover is a fantasy standalone, which is always something we want
BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall has an adorable cover and a fake dating plot between two opposites. We’ll have a review up on the blog tomorrow!
The blurb for BURN OUR BODIES DOWN by Rory Power goes “a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery–until she decides to return to her mother’s hometown . . . where history has a tendency to repeat itself.” We’re into it!
THE SHELF by Helly Acton is part reality TV hell but with an insider view that really gets you on board with the story. If you enjoy character growth, this contemporary should be on your radar.
Alice Oseman has a full novel release this week with LOVELESS. Ace-aro readers have been highly anticipating this title set in a university age-range.
Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!
New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with the second installment of her new sumptuous, sultry and romantic series, The Beautiful.
Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.
Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.
Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.
Title : The Damned Author : Renée Ahdieh Series : The Beautiful #2 Format : eARC / eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 456 Genre : Fantasy Publisher : Hodder Books Release Date : July 7, 2020
Reviewer : Micky / Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5 /
Micky’s 4.5 star review
Damn but that was good (see what I did there). THE DAMNED utilised all that world-building from book one and just pressed launch. This read was full to the brim of vampiric content and I came to love these characters so much more in this installment. It was an exciting read from cover to cover with a reasonably fast-pace, peppered with lulls to catch your breath.
Sometimes when a book is really good, I highlight and highlight text but with THE DAMNED, I forgot about highlighting, I was that absorbed. The characters I’d come to like from THE BEAUTIFUL became characters I loved and of course, Bastien and Celine were central to this. With that ending to THE BEAUTIFUL, you just know that the world was a confusing place for both these characters at the start of this book.
The story was complex and cleverly woven, but some of the confusion I felt in book one was not a factor in this book. That previous world building paved the way for the characters and different beings to play out with ease. There were so many unexpected factors and plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed particularly the Wyld and the Vale components to the story.
This book /series has delicious side characters and Odette continued to float my boat and I enjoyed getting to know Jae, Ahrun and even Nicodemus better. Pippa had some low level involvement but I see more from her to come.
The chemistry between Bastien and Celine was like a vampire sizzling in the hot sun (snort). These two had a journey and I had no idea where it was going to end up. I will say that Bastien was the kind of hero I could get on board with.
“Do you wish you could make this decision for me?” “I do. More than I care to admit.” “Then why have you given me the choice, against this inclination? “Because I should not make your story about me.”
THE DAMNED blew book one out of the water for me. It gave me all the vampire I wanted and needed and a story to grip consistently. I want more from this series and the end indicates that’s the case.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.
Hollis’ 1.5 star review
So my biggest take-away is : you mean to tell me this isn’t a duology? Siiiiiigh.
Appropos of said realization was the fact that I could not understand how this sequel fit in that two-book wrap up. I felt we took such a dramatic turn from the lack of worldbuilding in book one to overdosing on it, but not in a good or helpful way, in book two that the whole pacing and feel of this world was just.. off. Not to mention, did we have this many POVs in book one? That threw me off, too. Particularly because I wasn’t having fun with any of them..
Most of these issues are clearly my own fault for not understanding this was a series, not a duology, but I’m still not satisfied. I genuinely feel like nothing about this fit. We either have lots of nothing or lots of everything and no middle ground. But then there is also a whole host of secondary characters with their own set of problems (and, if you’re Odette in one of the early chapters, a whole monologue of speaking aloud to.. no one) we’re supposed to apparently care about — which I feel is unrealistic given their page time — and then.. the villain? That whole element/plot/evil plan? I don’t even know where to begin.
I’ll probably read the final (please tell me this is only a trilogy and nothing more..) because hashtag completionist but wow what a disappointment. I mean, it’s not like I had been a huge fan of THE BEAUTIFUL, I only rated it a three for the potential, but I guess I expected better or at least something on par with that. Not.. this. Guess middle book syndrome strikes again.
A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
Title : Girl, Serpent, Thorn Author : Melissa Bashardoust Format : Paperback ARC Page Count : 336 Genre : YA Fantasy Publisher : Hodder Books Release Date : July 7, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
Micky’s 3.5 star review
What a cover and what a world Melissa Bashardoust created. Based in Persian mythology, tales and beliefs this was an exciting fantasy with some fresh concepts to get your teeth into and a main character who I really liked. This story took me back and forth on whether Soraya was a victim or a villain. I wasn’t 100% sure by the close, but I was grabbed by the journey.
GIRL, SERPENT, THORN tracked royal family dysfunction at its best and I actually enjoyed reading about Soraya’s captivity life, her boundaries, weaknesses and strengths. I utterly disliked every person in her family, including her so called childhood friend. The appearance of a new friend Azad, had me suspicious, but he won me around.
The world had a later complexity but an earlier ease in terms of building the context, belief systems, divs and other beings. I did like the world but found events from half way a little chaotic as the plot moved and waned a little. There was a lot of double crossing and it was like a tennis match at one point, a good way to keep the reader guessing but I could have managed with a little less back and forth.
Soraya’s sexuality deserved more exploration of her feelings and identity on the page. She was a bisexual character but everything about that was vague, she did not once go through any introspection as she kissed a male and then a female in short break between. The development of the f/f relationship was weak and I didn’t feel invested in their connection or anything deeper, again some more page-time would have enhanced my reading experience here.
So overall, this was a strong 4 star read for the first half, then the plot got a little fadey. The setting, the fantasy world, rules and main character were such strengths in this book. The final quarter did pull things back together again for me but just not enough to warrant a 4 star.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.
Everyone in Amy’s life seems to be getting married (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she’s falling behind.
So, when her boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday to a mystery destination, she thinks this is it — he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf.
Along with five other women, Amy is dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’.
Will Amy’s time on the show make her realise there are worse things in life than being left on the shelf?
A funny, feminist and all-too-relatable novel about our obsession with coupling up, settling down and the battle we all have with accepting ourselves, The Shelf introduces the freshest new voice in women’s fiction.
Title : The Shelf Author : Helly Acton Narrator : Daisy Edgar-Jones Format : eARC/audio Page Count : 400 Genre : Contemporary Publisher : Bonnier Zaffre Release Date : July 9, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
I didn’t expect to enjoy this one as much as I did considering I’m not a fan of reality shows but with the protagonist, Amy as an insider and almost a victim of the show, this was super clever. A great concept, good writing and fantastic narration, THE SHELF turned out to be a winner for me.
I mostly listened to the audio on this one but also a little ebook (ARC) too at night when I just had to carry on with the story. This story is a woman in a relationship’s worst nightmare of dumping alongside a reality TV show. It provoked some serious irritation in me on behalf of Amy but this was an unfolding story, with character development and resilience to come. It was also a story of sisterhood and I really appreciated that.
What stopped this from feeling a too tragic or morose was the with which Helly Acton told the story. Amy had an awakening and with that came a more quippy character who could laugh at herself and her outlook on life. I love a flawed character (aren’t we all) and Amy delivered on that. I would have loved to have known a bit more about the red flag development in the epilogue. The other characters in the house brought a fair bit of hilarity.
What was a constant theme was the misogyny underwriting the whole of the TV show, get ready to feel irritated and incensed by that. I have to admit the whole time I was listening, I was imagining the big brother house and that helped me.
The narration was exceptional and if you’re a fan of Normal People from Netflix you will recognise Daisy Edgar-Jones voice. She brought character, tonation and spirit to this listen and she brought the characters alive.
I’m not 100% certain what genre to call it but I’m not sure that’s important, however I’d go with contemporary women’s fiction. It’s definitely a read to pick up and a great debut from Helly Acton.
My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.
Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
Which could spell death for us all.
Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.
Title : Crave Author : Tracy Wolff Series : Crave #1 Format : Hardback Page Count : 592 Genre : YA PNR Publisher : Entangled Teen Release Date : April 7, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review
Well then, that was one heck of a crazy experience. It had unapologetic shades of twilight but it was original enough to carry a fresh story. CRAVE was full of violence, wars and rivalry at a boarding school for all sorts of paranormal creatures. I found it addictive and fun with some good twists, whilst also being somewhat predictable.
The reading experience was an addictive one, it was hard to put this down and reading this with buddies made that feeling even worse as we egged one another on and built up the angst (as if it needed any help).
I’m pleased to say that both the main characters, Grace and Jaxon had more actual personality than Edward and Bella but the story wasn’t as good (if you are a Twlight fan). There were sercrets to make the reader infuriated and lots of guesswork about who, what creature and again…who. I really enjoyed the guessing and laughed at how involved I got in the book, it really did take me back to the original feeling of reading it’s cover inspiration.
I’m really not going to tell you anything about the story but it ended in a really unexpected way, knocking the rating up to 4 stars. I respect the story so much more for that ending despite the dramarama and angsty fun on the way.
So, should you read it, hell yeah, why not! Oh and if you have a first edition, you get some alternate POV chapters at the end, which is a nice touch.
Well, we made it! We’ve survived the first half of 2020. And unlike last year this feels like a much bigger achievement because.. you know. 2020 has been A Lot.
This year, we’ve decided to do a follow up to 2019’s post, which didn’t actually follow the tag but was more a glimpse at reading stats, as well as actually participate in answering the tag’s questions. Spoiler alert : Hollis cheats at pretty much every tag question.
What is the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020? M : CLOCKWORK PRINCESS by Cassandra Clare, late to the party as ever. H : THE FAITHLESS HAWK by Margaret Owen (I read this recently for the original pub date but it’s been pushed back to August now) and NETWORK EFFECT by Martha Wells which, isn’t technically a sequel, I guess, but an installment in a series!
What is your most anticipated release for the second half of the year? M : THE IPPOS KING by Grace Draven, long awaited but hopefully worth it. H : The Draven is definitely up there but I think.. ooh, this is hard. Either EMERALD BLAZE by Ilona Andrews or A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik. The former I know I’ll love and the latter I hope to love.
What has been your biggest disappointment? M : THIS IS HOW WE LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Hollis says ouch)…and Micky is still aching from the pain. H : It’s not my lowest rated of the year (so far..) but it’s the one that I think I was most surprised about considering I expected it to be a new favourite. And that’s BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall.
What has been your biggest surprise? M : THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon, which was a situation of moving from intimidation of that tome to impressed as anything at the world, characters and writing. H : I think I expected to like this but didn’t quite anticipate just how delightful it would be? And that’s KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames.
Do you have a favorite new author (debut or new to you)? M : AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando because it has everything contemporarily relevant, YA issues of mental illness, BIPOC author and characters and its set in my home city of Manchester. H : I might have to go with TJ Klune. I had read one book by him previously and didn’t love it. And 2020 proved to me that I had clearly started with the wrong series/book. I mean, I could love nothing else but the Green Creek series and THotCS but.. well, we won’t know that for a while yet!
Who is your newest fictional crush? M : Zafir, the king of swoons from TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert. H : I mean.. if you’ve read TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN, there is no acceptable answer other than Zafir. We twinned on our love for the book so no surprise we twin on this answer, too.
Who is your newest favorite character? M : Alyrra from THORN by Intisar Khanani, she was humble maybe partly due to low self-esteem but also strong and had all the character growth as she was thrown into the worst of circumstances. H : Murderbot from the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.
What book has made you cry? M : SEA PRAYER by Khalid Houseeni, brace yourself. H : Almost everything I read makes me cry. Better question would be which book didn’t make me cry. But to answer the real question? WIRE WINGS by Wren Handman.
What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)? M : UK hardback of DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor (gifted by the one and only Hollis) H : Sticking with the Laini theme, I’ll say my IG giveaway win of NIGHT OF CAKE AND PUPPETS, which was also the UK edition.
Hollis Once again we have a lack of GR reading goal and thank goodness for that because 2020 didn’t come to play. I’m all over the place on reading and that was my norm pre-COVID but the pandemic has definitely not helped. I am (obviously) not one of those lucky souls reading more than ever right now. I wish. That said..
As of June 21, 2020, my total reads are : 120 (down by six from 2019 by this point). Of those reads, 6 are five-star reads (down by one from 2019) and 2 are one-star reads (down by five from 2019). Also, for one reason or another, 4 books were left unrated (down by five from 2019). Additionally I’ve DNF’d 1 book this year (down by five from 2019).
Further breaking this down, of those 120 books, 36 were ARCs (down almost half from 2019), 30 were from my OverDrive (literally the same!), 46 were bought/freebie eBooks (up by thirty from 2019.. it’s lots of shorts/freebies for series, though, in addition to working through already-owned eBooks/backlist), 2 are physically owned by me (down by five from 2019.. though there might be a few more I’ve since bought in physical but also have as eBook), I’ve read no graphic novels from hoopla (down by five from 2019), and 1 was a physical library book (same as 2019 so I can’t even say elle oh elle COVID). Incase you were doing the math with me, yes, that leaves 5 books unaccounted for (up by two from 2019, wtf). Once again I’m as confused as you. But you get the idea.
I hope to break this down into genres and categories, own voices, representation, etc, by the end of the year for an overall stats wrap up. .. at least that’s the goal!
Micky Again, it’s been about 4 years since I’ve set a Goodreads reading goal but I do keep track of my reads on different shelves and I keep a detailed reading journal because I love the creativity of that. I’m not following the same pattern as Hollis on stats because my brain is a completely different creature.
So far in 2020, I’ve read 121 books and I’m pleased to say that 21 of those were owned books or backlog reads. Reading the backlog is a constant aim for me, if only I could stop acquiring at the same time. I’ve only listened to 15 audiobooks so far this year and that’s low for me. I listen to audiobooks on my commute so working at home over COVID has had a significant effect on that. What is also on the down trend are dnfs – only 5 so far and I’m hoping to keep that number low-ish.
I’ve read 16 BIPOC reads and I’m hoping to increase this exponentially (own voices). I’ve also read 18 LGBTQIA+ books, 9 of which were own voices. Both BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ books have been spread across my reads for the year for the last few years. Current events have me being a little more purposeful.
I’ve continued reading from the library, a few physical but mostly ebooks and they account for 24 of my reads. ARCs and ALCs (advanced listening copies) make up 70 of those 121 book which has shocked me a little. I want to level that out a bit and make room for non-ARC reads more. That said, over my years on netgalley I’ve how given feedback on 364 titles and I’m happy with that. I guess I’m on track for about 100 netgalley feedbacks in 2020.
And, phew! Congrats if you’ve made it this far, frankly we’re feeling a bit exhausted after all that brain crunching. We’d love to know how mid-year has you feeling about books, especially for a year that’s had a lot of us house-bound so far. Are you reading less or more? Feeling accomplished or exhausted or slumpy? Tell us your feels.
To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads
THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant — see Micky’s review here STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor — see Micky’s review here
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads
KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames — see Hollis’ review here TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here WIRE WINGS by Wren Handman — see Hollis’ review here AIX MARKS THE SPOT by S.E. Anderson — see Micky’s review here ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson — see Hollis’ review here THE WIVES by Tarryn Fisher — see Micky’s review here CHASING LUCKY by Jenn Bennett — see Micky’s review here WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin DiAngelo — see Micky’s review here A MADNESS MOST DISCREET by Laura Lascarso — see Hollis’ review here BEACH READ by Emily Henry — see Micky’s review here SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT by Meryl Wilsner — see Micky’s review here THE BLACK FLAMINGO by Dean Atta –see Micky’s review here
☆ ☆ ☆ star reads
JUST FRIENDS by Holly McCulloch — see Micky’s review here TWO ROGUES MAKE A RIGHT by Cat Sebastian — see Hollis’ review here DARING AND THE DUKE by Sarah MacLean — see Hollis’ review here
☆ ☆ star reads
CONVENTIONALLY YOURS by Annabeth Albert — see Hollis’ review here NIGHT AND SILENCE by Seanan McGuire — see Hollis’ review here THE UNKINDEST TIDE by Seanan McGuire — see Hollis’ review here DRAGON UNLEASHED by Grace Draven — see Hollis’ review here SOMETHING LIKE PERFECT by SC Stephens — see Micky’s review here
☆ star reads
u n r a t e d
additional reads not reviewed for blog : 6 (including a bunch of shadowhunter short stories) total reads by Micky : 18 favourite read of the month : THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant least favourite read of the month : SOMETHING LIKE PERFECT by S.C. Stephens most read genre : contemporary
total reviews by Hollis : eleven favourite read of the month : KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames least favourite read of the month : DRAGON UNLEASHED by Grace Draven most read genre : fantasy & contemporary evenly split