CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman

A powerful and captivating novel about mental illness, Challenger Deep is a tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn. 


Title : Challenger Deep
Author : Neal Shusterman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : August 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

I started this a while ago and picked it back up today, powering through to the end. This was an ambitious and brave project by Neal Shusterman as it plunged the reader from page one into a teen’s mind amidst a psychotic episode as he experienced severe mental illness.

The protagonist, Caden thought he was on a ship with a mundane task as part of the crew, at the same time, there was some awareness of family life, school life and someone who was out to kill him. It was a confusing start, if I’m honest, I didn’t know up from down and the chapters were really short, adding to that abrupt feeling. However, I did settle into the read more the second time I picked it up.

Having some professional experience of delusional states, I realised very quickly how well Shusterman had assembled this character, his delusional world. The world on the high sea was actually quite engaging after a while, but I was constantly looking for the chinks of reality in his sea-life, what might be analogy for what was going on in real life. I did find some ideas of reality in his imagined world; it was all pretty tragic.

I have to say this was discomforting reading, seeing a young man in crisis like this was not easy. Shusterman did not shy away from this theme and I commend him for this. I did however find the pacing slow and difficult to keep going with at time. There were chinks of hope though that helped me push through.

I don’t think this is a read that everyone will appreciate but I do think some will identify with or be curious about this experience that some young people go through. I also think this could be triggering for some readers, so do look closely at the blurb and reviews if you have experienced significant mental illness.

Thank you to Walker Books for this early review copy.

HERE IS THE BEEHIVE by Sarah Crossan

it happened,
again and again
and
again and again and again.

Together
apart.
In love
in aching.

Tangled
unravelling.

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it.

But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret.

How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach – Connor’s wife Rebecca.

Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here Is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.


Title : Here Is The Beehive
Author : Sarah Crossan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 272
Genre : Literary Fiction/Verse
Publisher : Bloomsbury Circus
Release Date : August 20, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

If ever there was a case of a book putting you off doing something in your real life, this book is it. Anyone tempted to cheat on their partner, would think twice after reading this unpleasant depiction. Strangely, the blurb was appealing and the cover was gorgeous.

My impressions on finishing this was that this was morose, depressing, disjointed and unfortunately, I have very little that is positive to say about this novel told in verse (other than it was told in verse). This wasn’t the strongest book I’ve read in verse but it did flow.

THIS IS THE BEEHIVE was a rather hideous story of deception, cheating, desperation, grief and blackmail. I hated pretty much all the characters and none more than the protagonist Ana. In fairness, she was left in a very difficult situation but her inner monologue of processing and looking back was uncomfortable and unpleasant reading.

The formatting of the arc was awful and this didn’t help the lack of sense between past and present transitions (which were non-existent). I only got through this because it was a short read but realistically what doesn’t work for me, might work for others.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the early review copy.

TRADE DEADLINE by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn

It’s a reunion to remember…

Don’t miss this friends-to-lovers hockey romance from Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn.

Daniel “Bellzie” Bellamy should be on top of the world—a Stanley Cup is the perfect topper to his fourteen-year NHL career. But despite the post-win high, something’s missing. When the chance to play for his hometown team, the Miami Thunder, comes along, he’s open to it. And when he runs into an old friend from his past soon after he makes the move, he wonders if it might be kismet.

Micah Kelly never thought he’d see his childhood crush—and first kiss—again. Danny Bellamy moved on to bigger and better things when they were teenagers, and the idea that Micah’s relationship with the professional hockey player could be anything more than one-sided Instagram thirst seems too good to be true.

Maybe too good to be true is the new reality, though. As the season goes on, Micah teaches Daniel to surf, and Daniel introduces Micah to his lovable pack of rescue dogs and the world of being a hockey boyfriend. Life is good. But when things on the ice don’t go as planned, they’ll have to decide if their rediscovered romance is built to last.


Title : Trade Deadline
Author : Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn
Series : Hat Trick (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : August 17, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad book, but it was definitely the least enjoyable of the series so far. I’ll always have a soft sport for hockey/sports romances, particularly m/m, but this one just didn’t have any real tension or intensity going for it. Which isn’t to say it’s a requirement for me but when nothing else is really egging me on to read, either..?

Huge gold star, though, should be awarded for having a non-evil ex element at play, particularly in the form of an ex-spouse, even more importantly because kids were at play here, too. Everyone was lovely, kind, understanding.. it was all so amicable. Which might be a great paralell to the story itself. It was all just.. fine. So courteous. So considerate.

I know I have a loud voice.
You definitely do. I could always hear you yelling at my games.”
That’s because there were only ever eight people watching. And six of them were cheering for whoever the other team was.”
Too soon, man.”

Not helping matters was the fact that I wasn’t really into the love interest, so, I had one foot out the door kind of early on.

Bellzie’s got a new boo?
Do not say ‘boo’. You’re not a ghost. Or a thirteen year old girl.”

I love me an ensemble cast, all the group scenes featuring previous couples and a character who is sure to get his own feature moment in book four, were a good time. But overall this was just okay. I will continue to read on in hopes book four rekindles the spark of my enjoyment and also because this genre is my weakness. I have no control.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE FAITHLESS HAWK by Margaret Owen

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze. 


Title : The Faithless Hawk
Author : Margaret Owen
Series : The Merciful Crow (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 18, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

I’m going to start out by saying that unless you remember the events of THE MERCIFUL CROW really really well, you might want to reread it before diving into this one. Or at least the last few chapters. Because despite how much I thought I remembered, because it’s stuck with me as I loved it so much, it took me way way too long to get back into this world. And that definitely did a disservice to the overall reading experience because I dragged my feet through the first hundred pages, putting it down, going on twitter, playing with the cat, until I hit a turning point and then demolished the rest.

I have standards. It’ll take more than a moon apart for me to roll a lad in a pile of guts. Besides, you’d be dead in a week.”
Worth it. It’s been a long moon.”

This book is fantastic. Which is why I’m sad I did it kind of dirty.

There won’t be much I will, or can, say about the second, and final, in a series. So suffice it to say, if you haven’t yet picked up THE MERCIFUL CROW? What even, man. Help to redeem the year 2020 and do yourself this favour. Bonus because you can binge without waiting, like I had to, and be satisfied beyond belief.

There’s thousands of people like that [guy], all across Sabor. They talk and look like anyone else, but they’ll take any excuse to get rid fo Crows for good. And all they were waiting for was permission.

I remember complaining about the plague element and the explanation of why and I feel like all the stumbling I did with some of the world building, whether because I wasn’t getting it or it wasn’t explained, everything and more is explained in this follow up. So if you were like me and wanted a clearer picture, be prepared for some satisfaction.

Every time I think we’ve hit the bottom of how bad it is, we just peel off another layer, don’t we?

But also, like, satisfication in so many areas. Also a lot more cats.

Owen is definitely an author I will be keeping an eagle (hahah bird jokes) eye on because I can’t wait to see where she goes next. But I’m also really looking forward to rereading these books, catching everything I missed, and also just reliving all the moving moments, brutal betrayals, sassy snark, realistic representation, and eerie echoes to our own reality.

We made a society where the monarchs could ignore the suffering of their people because it was nothing but an inconvenience, and we punished those who used their position to speak out.

Don’t let this series pass you by. Pick up these books.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE TRUEST THING by Samantha Young

Nine years ago, Emery Saunders moved to Hartwell to start her life over as a bookstore owner. Her inability to trust people made it hard for her to find a place in the small community until Jessica Lawson moved to town and befriended the shy beauty.
But there was one person in Hartwell who tried to befriend Emery long before Jessica arrived…

Jack Devlin has his secrets. One of them is that he fell hard for Emery the moment she appeared in Hartwell. Another is that his father blackmailed him into covering up a dark family tragedy. It forced Jack to sever his relationships to protect the people he cared about. Yet, staying away from Emery has not been easy throughout the years and he hasn’t always succeeded. When Jack’s mixed signals hurt Emery once again, she puts him out of her heart for good.
Until the Devlin family secret is finally revealed, freeing Jack from his father’s machinations. What Jack wants more than anything is to repair his relationships, starting with Emery.

However, Emery isn’t ready to forgive and Jack’s not ready to give up.
And when the town’s latest scandal ties Jack and Emery together, Jack is not above using their new reality to prove to Emery once and for all that their love is worthy of the legend of Hart’s Boardwalk.


Title : The Truest Thing
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Hart’s Boardwalk
Format : eARC
Page Count : 380
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : August 18, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Fans of this series have been waiting for this book, for Emery’s story in particular. She’s been a rather special side character, present in most of the book and I have needed to see her story in focus. Thus the joy at this precious landing on my kindle.

I liked the style of storytelling for THE TRUEST THING, it started nine years ago and edged its way through Emery and Jack’s hurtful dance around one another to the present time. It was frustrating, slow-burnish and traumatic all at once but I couldn’t put it down.

The best thing about this story for me, was Emery’s slow emergence from her shell, her shyness and beginning to form friendships to eventually standing up for herself. The female friendships in this group were great reading and felt real to me. There was a moment, a line from Cat that completely cracked me up.

“Dana Kellerman is a pile of shit frosted in diamonds.”

Jack on the other hand, I really struggled at times with him. He frustrated the heck out of me. Yeah, yeah, he had all the reasons but how Emery stayed the hopeful distance is beyond me. I came to a place of grudging acceptance with Jack but I never really liked him.

This series has been a favourite of mine and each book has delivered on story, couples to cheer for and a building groups of characters across Hart’s Boardwalk. THE TRUEST THING really did feature all the couples from the other books and I loved their involvement.

If you’ve not started this series, or you’re not up to date, get on that, so that you can read this final (I think) instalment.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

 

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 18, 2020

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 MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig was actually released August 13th. This sometimes painful story, told with magical realism was rather special. Check out our review here.

THE FAITHLESS HAWK by Margaret Owen is the fantastic sequel to the equally fantastic YA fantasy debut THE MERCIFUL CROW. Fans of the first will be incredibly satisfied and I hope it encourages other readers to pick up book one and binge.

THE TRUEST THING by Samantha Young brings Hart’s Boardwalk to Emery’s story at last. If you’re a fan, you’ll have been waiting for this one.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

DROWNED COUNTRY by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country is the the stunning sequel to Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh’s lush, folkloric debut. This second volume of the Greenhollow duology once again invites readers to lose themselves in the story of Henry and Tobias, and the magic of a myth they’ve always known.

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea―a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him.


Title : Drowned Country
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : August 18, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

In some ways this follow up to SILVER IN THE WOOD, a lush reimagining of the Green Man legend, couldn’t be more different than its predecessor. Tone wise, in the telling of the story, almost everything. It actually took a few chapters for me to warm upto this one because it felt like such a change. But eventually it did win me over. Not to the extent of book one, but I was solidly enjoying it.. right up until a, in my opinion, fairly abrupt ending.

The ending aside, I thought this was really well paced. I loved how the timeline since book one was explained, even if at first I wasn’t sure the why or how or what had happened. As it all unfolded, I thought it worked so well. I won’t say much about this, though, because spoilers.

It makes me sad this is the end because I did really enjoy the time spent with these characters, in this strange little world. I wish I had ended this series on a slightly higher note but nonetheless.. still good.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE BLACK KIDS by Christina Hammonds Reed

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?


Title : The Black Kids
Author : Christina Hammond Reeds
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

THE BLACK KIDS is a compelling look back at a black teen’s life in the Rodney King riots era. This couldn’t resonate more with recent events if it tried, but this was more so focused on Ashley’s realisation about her personal identity. I loved the era and the music but it was hard to like Ashley’s crew of friends.

Ashley was living a less usual life for a black teen, living in a white neighbourhood, going to a mainly white school and choosing to have only white friends. Both at school and at home, she lived a life of privledge and had lost some of her black identity along the way, as her parents aimed to keep her safe, well educated and give her a ‘better’ life.

My parents and grandparents have made it so that Jo and I know nothing. We know nothing of crack or gangs or poverty….We are, according to my father, spoiled rotten little brats.

This story was the unfurling of contemporary events at the time, prompting Ashley to pause, think about who she was, who her friends were and what direction she wanted to go. She had a pretty eclectic family mix and I really liked her sister and that side story. The school friends however, were all superficial friendship with a bit of vile mean girl under the surface. I welcomed seeing Ashley spread her friendship wings.

“Since when do you listen to so much black shit?”
“I’m black,” I say.
“Yeah, but you’re not, like, blackity black,” she says.

This was a full and deep story despite it coming from a seemingly flighty teen. There was great character development and weaving in of the riots of that time. I was absorbed throughout and I really enjoyed the writing. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for the early review copy.

THE FIXED STARS by Molly Wizenberg

At age 36, while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney she hardly knew. Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but something inside her had changed irredeemably. Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe.

Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re “born this way.” Suddenly she realized that her story was more complicated. Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family. In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to co-parent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love. The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are. 



Title : The Fixed Stars
Author : Molly Wizenberg
Narrator : Erin Mallon
Format : Audiobook
Length : 6 hours 21 minutes
Genre : Non-fiction, memoir
Publisher : Dreamscape Audio
Release Date : May 12, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Don’t let that cover confuse you. To me, the cover conjures chick lit or romance, but this is non-fiction, a memoir. This memoir tackled interesting themes – understanding sexual orientation, gender and the potential for people to change in these respects as they grow and age. The author, Molly was in her 30s, married and a mother, when she went from feeling 100% straight to a different position.

This memoir was the unravelling of the status quo of her life and her process of working out who she was as a person, a woman, as a sexual being. Molly’s journey was incredibly interesting as was her self examination and discovery. However, the narrative style wasn’t particularly one that appealed to me. This story was told from the present time, then it would jump back into the past with lengthy descriptive periods that just lost my interest. Added to that, the timeline continually jumped back and forth in time but not staying with consistent time periods, if that makes sense. I found that approach jarring and confusing. I also wasn’t particuarly interested in her childhood or college years but I get that they had some foundational relevance.

I liked how the author used other texts and quotes to support her position, how she felt and that her experience was one that others had trodden. I do think it was a brave, exposing memoir.

The narrator is one known to me and not a narrator I favour, so I guess that might have slightly affected my listening experience too.

Overall, I think this is the kind of memoir that will appeal to those interested in a personal lgbtqia+ experience and also those trying to find answers to their own questioning. I generally found this anthropologically engaging and I think many others would too.

Thank you to Libro FM for the #gifted advanced listening copy.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781690588672-the-fixed-stars

BADLY BEHAVED WOMEN: THE STORY OF MODERN FEMINISM by Anne-Marie Crowhurst

Badly Behaved Women is the illustrated story of the past 100 years of the women’s movement, from suffrage, alleged bra burning and the politics of hair to Beyoncé, body positivity and #MeToo.

In the early twentieth century, through ceaseless dedication and fearless campaigning, the women’s movement achieved what had previously been unimaginable: a woman’s right to vote. Four waves of feminism and a century on, the rich cultural history of this movement is truly worthy of celebration.

Accompanied by stunning photographs, personal testimony essays from key figures and archive material from sources around the world, Anna-Marie Crowhurst’s compelling and entertaining retelling of this multi-stranded, global and ongoing story also examines the flaws of the movement and the future of feminism.

Personal testimony essays from: Alice Coffin; Juno Dawson; Diana Evans; Nadia Ghulam; Susie Orbach; Helen Pankhurst; Gisela Pérez de Acha; Laura Perlongo; Emeli Sandé; Anne Wafula Strike; Hibo Wardere; Harriet Wistrich; Rosie Wolfenden.


Title : Badly Behaved Women
Author : Anne-Marie Crowhurst
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 192
Genre : Non-fiction
Publisher : Welbeck Publishing
Release Date : August 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

The concept, the size…everything about BADLY BEHAVED WOMEN was stunning. The chapters, the timeline of feminism from 1900s to present time and most of all the powerful pictures supporting the themes were superbly thought out. This book had easy bites for chapters, you could dip in and out as well as read front to back, like I did.

I loved the stroll through history from the early 1900s starting with suffrage for white women , then considering black womens’ experience of this. From the fight to wear trousers to how WWII changed how women were perceived from a usefulness perspective. I found the start of reproductive rights so interesting. Initially, was the right to take the contraceptive pill and having some control over the number of children women had to have (unthinkable at the time that women might not want to have children). I never really thought of this when I started taking the pill, that women had once had to fight to do this. All closely linked to the women’s right to have sex as she chooses.

The book tackles the concepts of equal pay – this is still an issue in my career as is career progression. That said, I’m a white woman, this is so much worse for black women. Women of colour and their experiences were threaded throughout the book but also with some separate chapters as well, featuring some heroes of all our times, such as Angela Davis. Queer womens’ experiences were considered as a discreet chapter but were not particularly threaded through the book.

Not every topic was super serious, there was humour and celebration. Shoulder pads and handbags were featured. We might laugh at the Shoulder pads of the 1980s but they’re were a sign of power, think Grace Jones and Princess Diana.

I really enjoyed reading about the power of the media, such as TV, movies and music. I remember watching some movies when I was young with women as working women, juggling children as though a novelty. Then TV such as Buffy and The X Files where strong women were the centre. All this was alongside the reality of things such as female astronauts in space. I also loved the section on women’s football.

Present times in this book brought us to the #metoo experiences and movement, feminist comedians, and body positivity. The whole read felt like an enlightening and empowering stroll through the collective female journey. I highly recommend this for teens, adults and all genders, it was fantastic.

“Woman are powerful and dangerous.”

Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the beautiful gifted copy.