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.

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. **

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.

CRAVE by Tracy Wolff

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.

2020 MID-YEAR BOOK FREAK OUT

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 book you’ve read so far in 2020?
M : Drum roll…THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant.
H : I can’t pick just one. I’m going to be that person. WOLFSONG by TJ Klune, THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA also by TJ Klune, and BEACH READ by Emily Henry.

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’s a new release you haven’t read yet, but want to?
M : The only one I’ve not read from our Top Ten Most Anticipated 2020 release post is CHAIN OF GOLD by Cassandra Clare and I’m ready!
H : The good news is, from our Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases of 2020 list, I’ve read them all! So I’ll go with AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando because I’ve been keen to read it since Micky’s review.

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 book has made you happy?
M : ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED by Sophie Gonzales, mostly read with a smile on my face.
H : TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert because it’s Talia Hibbert.

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.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
M : HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones, SKYWARD by Brandon Sanderson, A HEART SO FIERCE & BROKEN by Brigid Kemmerer, THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett, TIES THAT TETHER by Jane Igharo, MIDNIGHT SUN by Stephenie Meyer.
H : I’m going to steal from our last Five On Our TBRs post and say SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid, AURORA TERMINUS by S.E. Fanetti, and THE BEST THING by Mariana Zapata. I need to knock these out before next year or the point of that post is just.. pointless. But also I want to finally get to the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, I’m waiting on my hold of FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender to pop up, and more non-fiction titles.

credit for the Mid-Year Book Freak Out tag goes to :
Chami → https://youtu.be/EB8OrYHBvM8
Ely → https://youtu.be/X_Wh0rPGfRg



Now it’s stats and reading review time!

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.

DARING AND THE DUKE by Sarah MacLean

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns. 

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess. 

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.


Title : Daring and the Duke
Author : Sarah MacLean
Series : Bareknuckle Bastards
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 30, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

My trepidation for starting this book was two-fold. One, because I was slumping hard, and two, I worried about how this story, featuring this particular male protagonist, could win me over after all the chaos and damage he had done over the course of this series.

So I’m pretty pleased that a, this book pulled me out of the world for a short time, and b, that the turnaround for this character felt.. valid. Very different from the last third-book-in-a-series-asshole-redemption installment I experienced from MacLean, so. Yay.

DARING AND THE DUKE was definitely not my favourite of the series, probably at least a bit becuse I went in uncertain, and, again, I’m probably influenced by everything happening around me just a tad, but. It was swoony, it was angsty, it had agency, and it had a happy ending. And there’s a lot to be said for a lot of that.

It’s hard to say much without spoiling any details or reveals from previous books but the main plot point of this series, of a terrible man willing to uphold his legacy in any way he can, and the children who are at the mercy of his machinations, was so unique. And the dynamics of all four, and how things play out, provides much angst, a bit of darkness, and a whole lot of opportunity for the author to balance that with (particularly for the first two books) feisty, fabulous, women, and, in the final book, a good grovel.

If any of that sounds like a good time, I would definitely recommend!

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