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THE EXTRAORDINARIES by TJ Klune

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.


Title : The Extraordinaries
Author : TJ Klune
Series : The Extraordinaries (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : July 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I feel like my feelings on this book went up and down as the story went along. There were some pretty great highs (and I mean that not necessarily limited to light hearted delight but also momentsof pure emotion and sadness) and also some middling.. not lows but, like, middles. 

Are you both all right?
Aside from the emotional trauma that will probably rear its head when I’m thirty-seven and working at my cubicle in a dead-end job that I hate, just fine.
I’m fine. Any trauma I might have had is being washed away by the tragic comedy occurring right in front of me.

If you’re a fan of Klune’s humour, you’ll absolutely have a good time. Some passages had me in stitches. If you’re a fan of Klune’s angst, you probably won’t be super satisfied but you’ll be content. This is a YA with comedic leanings, so, it’s got sufficient heartache but isn’t quite on par with the torment the author inflicts in his adult stories. And we also have a story that looks fairly typical on the onset and maybe doesn’t go in every typical direction. There’s still some predictable paths taken but less than you might think. I don’t know if some of that predictability comes from the fairly standard superhero/comic tropes or it was done to showcase just how stunningly oblivious our main character was, but.. I mean, it could be both. 

He felt badly for all the generation that had come before him, unable to access queries immediately such as if it was okat for boys to give other boys flowers. Two minutes later, he was somehow reading a Wikipedia article on the Women’s Cricket World Cut, unsure of how he got there.

I’ll admit said main character, Nick, was maybe my least favourite character of the bunch, which had nothing to do with his ADHD, or how extra of a stan he was about his love for his heroes, though maybe was influenced by his self-centeredness, but was really more to do with how fabulous Klune’s supporting cast was. Gibby and Jazz were just exceptional. And Seth was the soft geeky cinnamon roll we all love to love. But where Nick was his best was in every father-son scene. His relationship with his father was complex and hard but their devotion, their love for each other was just wonderful. And I can’t wait to see more of that in future books and how, maybe, that might change. Or won’t. You know. Depending on.. things. Which, yes, again, maybe a little predictable. But it’s fine.

I’m not fragile.”
I know. I figured that out the first time I dropped you on your head and it made a little dent. You didn’t even cry.”
What do you mean, the first time? There was more than once?
Being a parent is hard. Kids are slippery.”

So, yes, this is a like not a love but I think many readers will love this one. And I will definitely read on in the series.

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

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise. 


Title : The Vanishing Half
Author : Brit Bennett
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 343
Genre : Literary Fiction
Publisher : Dialogue Books
Release Date : June 25, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

A powerful read that was a little slow to get going but hard to put down pretty quickly. This was a story told across generations, with different characters at the fore at different times. Reading the blurb, I thought this was just about the twin sisters, Desiree and Stella and while all the stories branch out from them, there were other characters at the fore at different times. The other characters in the story were such a rich tapestry of interest to me.

I found it took me a good few chapters to get into THE VANISHING HALF but once I had a feel for Mallard, the sisters and their life, I was on board. Initially, my focus was all on Desiree as she seemed to be the brave and bold one, with Stella being quiet. Stella later blew my expectations out of the water, bringing a difficult to read narrative but also one so powerful. I struggled with the thoughts of should I or shouldn’t I empathsise with her situation but as a white woman, how could I possibly judge her? The life she chose for herself was still hard, I cannot imagine a life of such secrecy.

The sisters’ story gave way to their progeny and the characters that stole the show were Jude and Reece. Their story had an evolving beauty that swept across the page, totally absorbed me and made me long for their success and good outcomes. Early was another character that I really loved, the way he subtly emerged into the story, with kindness, was everything. I didn’t particularly like Kennedy but she had a important part to play.

This was an epic story, grand over time and impressionable to readers. It left a melancholy feeling for me at the end but I was completely satisfied with the conclusion. It has a message for contemporary times, I read this thinking, how much has actually changed with regards to some attitutdes? The writing was powerful and I am going to seek out Brit Bennett’s other book immediately.

Thank you to Dialogue Books and Tandem Collective for this gifted copy.

MOST ANTICIPATED READS IN 2020 — JULY TO DECEMBER

Even with half the year behind us, and so many books already read, there are still so many books still to come for 2020!

We would like to preface this with a note that these release dates are, of course, subject to change. Particularly in 2020 when release dates are being bounced back, then brought forward, with little to no notice. Also you’ll note in some cases we have indicated a specific country next to a title. This might mean it’s lagged release, ie, already out in the US but now released in the UK, or available everywhere but the US, and doesn’t make the release date wrong. However we did not duplicate titles to indicate multiple release dates. Just something to keep in mind!

Topping our lists of Most Anticipated Reads in 2020 — July to December (in order of publication) are :

July
THE DAMNED by Renée Ahdieh (7th)
GIRL, SERPENT, THORN by Melissa Bashardoust (7th)
BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall (7th)
BURN OUR BODIES DOWN by Rory Power (7th)
LOVELESS by Alice Oseman (9th)
WHAT YOU WISH FOR by Katherine Center (14th)

August
HARROW THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir (4th)
MIDNIGHT SUN by Stephenie Meyer (4th)
SEVEN DEVILS by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May (4th)
THE BLACK KIDS by Christina Hammonds Reed (4th)
BOY QUEEN by George Lester (6th)
EVERY LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART by Non Pratt (6th)
DEAR EMMIE BLUE by Lia Louis (6th)
STAR DAUGHTER by Shveta Thakrar (11th)
THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig (13th)
THE FAITHLESS HAWK by Margaret Owen (18th)
EMERALD BLAZE by Ilona Andrews (25th)
THE SUGARED GAME by KJ Charles (26th)

September
A ROGUE OF ONE’S OWN by Evie Dunmore (1st)
NONE SHALL SLEEP by Ellie Marney (1st)
AS THE SHADOW RISES by Katy Rose Pool (1st)
THE LOST BOOK OF THE WHITE by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu (1st)
CHARLOTTE by Helen Moffett (3rd — in UK)
IPPOS KING by Grace Draven (15th)
THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan (15th)
GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson (15th)
TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey (22nd)
WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca (22nd)
EARLY DEPARTURES by Justin A. Reynolds (22nd)
ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrgan Byrne (29th)
DEAR JUSTYCE by Nic Stone (29th)
A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik (29th)
FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez (29th)
THE TOWER OF NERO by Rick Riordan (29th)
THE RETURN by Nicholas Sparks (29th)

October
THIS GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND by Ayisha Malik (1st)
THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V.E. Schwab (6th)
IN A HOLIDAZE by Christina Lauren
BROTHERSONG by TJ Klune (13th)
THE DEEP BLUE BETWEEN by Ayesha Harruna Attah (15th)

November
CHASING LUCKY by Jenn Bennett (10th)
THE FIRES OF VENGEANCE by Evan Winter (10th)
HOW THE KING OF ELFAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES by Holly Black (24th)

December
EVERY LAST SECRET by A.R. Torre (1st)
FOREVER WILD by K.A. Tucker (1st)
LAYLA by Colleen Hoover (8th)


What titles are topping your list for most anticipated for the later half of 2019? Let us know!

AURORA TERMINUS by S.E. Fanetti

The end of the world came quietly, in a breathtaking display of light and color, while everyone stopped and watched, entranced.

And then the lights went out, and death and chaos took over.

A woman went up, high above the fray, and tried to build a life alone from what was left of the world that had been.

A man stayed down, in the midst of the turmoil, and tried to find a home in the world that had become.

But neither life nor home is possible until there is family, until love and trust and hope return.

Until then, there is only survival.


Title : Aurora Terminus
Author : S.E. Fanetti
Format : eBook
Page Count : 527
Genre : post-apocayptic
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 7, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

AURORA TERMINUS was a book recommended to me ages ago by a friend and one I just kept putting off. Reading friends’ favourites is scary, yo. We all know this. So naturally I felt the best time to pick up a post-apocalyptic event story was during.. now. 2020. Making great choices every day, I am.

The end had come, but quietly, even gracefully.

But I have zero regrets. Except for the regret regarding the fact that I waited this long to read this.

The Sunstorm had torn off the fragile veneer of decency and shown most people to be, at best, insular and suspicious, and at worst, bestial and cruel. Whatever bond of humanity still pulled anyone was only strong enough, and elastic enough, to reach the limits of a small group. At best.

This story is something of a mashup between STATION ELEVEN and 28 Days Later (yes, the zombie movie) and yet it’s also distinctly it’s own. The world ended, not from plague, not from war, or aliens, but from solar flares. Society crumbled with it. And so did humanity; at least for some. The story follows a woman surviving in a cabin off the general radar, on her own, self-sufficient, and a man who has been both a solo wanderer and now finds himself with a group. Their stories play out, then converge, but it’s all about the realities of surviving in a world that has turned against its people, and those people who are just trying to go about the rest of the lives, while also surviving those who prefer to do harm to them just for living or having what they don’t.

As implied, there is some darkness, some violence, in this story but the gory bits aren’t sensationalized and the more targeted harm is pretty much all done off page. 

The world would live on without people. That was the story of the Sunstorm. Not the end of the world. A cataclysm, but not the apocalypse. Simply the end of the human era.

But for all the stark and bleak realities within these pages, it also shines light on hope, on living instead of just surviving, on a possible future. There is healing, love, and dogs. Pretty sure most of my tears spilled over the animals, actually. But the characters of the two legged variety were pretty okay, too. Diana was an absolute force. She’s made me realize I don’t need (or want) a burly creature as my partner when the end of times (or zombies.. or zombies in the end of times) comes. Give me the person who has well researched what might happen in a fictional universe where everything goes to shit and how to navigate it. Proving that nerds are not only the new sexy.. but the secret to survival.

Jokes aside, this read was totally absorbing (I literally devoured it and stayed up past my bedtime because I refused to put it down), and would definitely recommend for fans of the genre — even if you might want to avoid this kind of book in the immediacy of our own circumstances — and I want to say huge thanks to Paula for the recommendation. Sorry it took me so long!

MONDAY’S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone? 


Title : Monday’s Not Coming
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA mystery/contemporary
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : May 22, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Oof, man, oof. Jackson does not pull punches with her stories.

Whereas ALLEGEDLY gripped me, sometimes terrified me, twisted me up in knots, MONDAY’S NOT COMING, by contrast, was an equally important story — this time about the children, particularly those of colour, (and in this case, a young Black girl) who go missing — but failed to maintain that same intensity, of suspense. There was definitely some dread to be felt, as a reader, knowing that this would not have a happy ending, but getting to that moment, and wading through all the scenes leading upto it, felt a bit.. arduous. This wasn’t helped by the fact that our protagonist, Claudia, read very young. I mean, she is, I believe she’s fourteen or fifteen at the onset, but her voice felt even younger. Particularly when set against some of the subject matter. But maybe that was a deliberate choice.

This story was heartbreaking to read because for so long only Claudia notices something is wrong. Only Claudia cares. And watching how others were so slow to action, how reluctant people were to pay attention, was just excruciating. The circumstances that Monday (and her siblings) endured? Horrific. That’s where the aforementioned dread came in. You could see it happening, unfurling in slow-mo, as we live through the “before” moments; all the clues that Claudia was just too young to understand, too quick to believe otherwise, it was awful.

Where this particular read failed to land, however, was in the timeline shifting back and forth; yet another unexpected element that definitely makes me think I should be wary of getting the rug pulled out from under me for all of Jackson’s books; and there was a little too much meandering around in-between all the Monday-centric stuff. That said, of the meandering, I did like that we had some focus on Claudia’s struggle with dyslexia and some very positive and helpful moments with teachers towards coping with that.

So, yes, I had some pretty high expectations coming off of reading this author’s debut and this didn’t quite measure up. But it’s still a read touching on some very real and important issues and would recommend you give it a go.

BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall

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. **

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JULY 7, 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 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!

THE DAMNED by Renée Ahdieh

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
Page Count : 456
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : July 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
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.

GIRL, SERPENT, THORN by Melissa Bashardoust

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.

THE SHELF by Helly Acton


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.

Thank you to Bonnier Books for the ALC.