UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by TJ Klune

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.


Title : Under the Whispering Door
Author : TJ Klune
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021/October 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  / ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone else find they go back to the cover of a book they’ve just read and notice things they didn’t before? Because it me.

Here, at the end, he’d found a friend.

Surprising no one, this book made me cry. A lot.

I can’t grieve for myself.”
Of course you can. We do it all the time, regardless of if we’re alive or not, over the small things and the big things. Everyone is a little bit sad all the time.”

If you’ve read the synopsis for this one, there honestly isn’t a whole lot more I can say without ruining everything. But this story deals with grief, death, and the unfortunate reality of hindsight and perspective; and how often it occurs to us too late. But it’s also about being a better person, or trying to be, even if — especially if — there’s no benefit to you. Just doing the right thing because it’s what should be done.

What if across the top, written in bold letters (and in Comic Sans!) was a summation of Wallace Price’s life that was less than flattering? HE DIDN’T DO A WHOLE LOT, BUT HE HAD NICE SUITS! or, worse, NOT THAT GREAT, IF I’M BEING HONEST.

For all the tears, and for all the story is saying something lovely, though not particularly profound — though maybe the simplicity makes it profound? you decide — I’ll admit that, some fun antics with the characters who live in this bizarre tea house side, there was only so much that could happen, that we could see play out. The journey is mostly internal for Wallace, our lead, to relive moments of his life, to relearn things he had forgotten, to be better. We do sort’ve go through some motions, which makes sense because, I mean, he’s dead, all he has is motions to go through, but this story is almost all character-driven. There is more action, more excitement, near the end, though. Both related to, but also not, to all my tears. There’s one character, Cameron, well.. yeah, lots of tears for that one.

Honesty was a weapon. It could be used to stab and tear and spill blood upon the earth. Wallace knew that; he had his fair share of blood on his hands because of it. But it was different now. He was using it upon himself, and he was flayed open because of it, nerve endings exposed.

You’ll definitely find some Klune-esque humour, though not quite to the extremes he can often get, and some of his characters — Mei, Nelson — all but leap off the page in your face. As much as I enjoyed Wallace, and Hugo, they weren’t my favourites; and seeing as the story focuses the most of them, that might be why this isn’t a full five stars. Their parts were sometimes lovely, moving, and often sweet. But when I think back on this story, which I’m sure I will, they won’t be the first ones to come to mind.

We don’t murder people.
Maim, then.”
We don’t do that either.
Nothing’s stopping us. You told me that we should always try and achieve our dreams.
I didn’t have murder in mind when I told you that.”
That’s because you think too small.”

Full of thoughtful exploration and devastating observations, tea, and equal parts cozy and sad and strange, as long as you don’t go thinking this is another The House in the Cerulean Sea — though you may see a little blink and you miss it throwaway reference to it, and another of Klune series or two — I think you’ll really appreciate this story. But don’t forget to pack the tissues.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Bruised but full heart
Whimsical beauty within
For tea-lovers

I’m sitting staring at my screen trying to find the words, after reading all the beautiful words in Under the Whispering Door. This story of Wallace’s journey from life and to the beyond captured my mind and my heart completely; I did not want to let go.

This story is about loneliness, finding a famiy and purpose while also finding out about the secrets beyond life, at least a fantastical representation of that. I thought what Klune has created here was poignant, whimsical, emotional and incredibly funny at times. Considering the themes of death and grief, the wit balanced out all the things, as did the characters.

This world was a surprise around every corner, from Mei to the tea plants and the manager to the door. The story of the husks was especially gut wrenching. The connection between Wallace and Hugo was something special, hearts pounded, love abounded and that was just me…

I cried, I laughed and I treasured. Just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.

Thank you to Tor and Black Crow PR for the precious review copy.

DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Jordyn Taylor

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

1962:
There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out. 


Title : Don’t Breathe a Word
Author : Jordyn Taylor
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA mystery contemporary/historical
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : May 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This was an interesting dual-timeline story, that later connects, of an event in the past that is the catalyst for the creation of a secret society at a boarding school. It mashes up Cold War paranoia with present day priviledge and the new girl at said school who is brought into the society and uncovers the crime at the heart of the organization.

I found this an easy read and enjoyed it when I didn’t think too hard about the unlikeliness of the whole thing enduring through the decades. Also the fact that no one had uncovered anything in the decades since? Like with most stories, suspend some disbelief and you’ll have a good time.

At it’s heart, however, is a good message for teens — and those of us non-teens who sometimes forget — that people worth your time, be them friends or family or peers, won’t demand sacrifice or secrets or for you to bury your discomfort just to be in their presence. Friendship, love, respect.. these are not conditional.

While this wasn’t perhaps all that surprising or original, except for the circumstances taking place during the historical timeline, if you like secret societies, boarding school settings, and mysteries for YA protagonists to unravel, you should give this one a go.

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

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

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

FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

ONE OF THE GOOD ONES by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.


Title : One of the Good Ones
Author : Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite
Format : ARC
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I had glimpsed a mention of a “twist” on the back of this book but had no idea what to expect for said twist. In fact I thought it was supposed to be something we learned fairly early on in the story, but just revealed on a bigger scale to other characters, but.. wow. I was so so wrong. I was so unprepared.

Right off the bat I’m going to recommend you check out any #ownvoices reviews for this one before reading mine because those opinions should definitely be ampified over my own. But also I think you should absolutely make an effort to pick up this book.

While most of the plot of One of the Good Ones is painfully familiar to anyone who watches the news these days (an especially to those who have been living through it for years), the discussion surrounding what it means to be “one of the good ones” is equally heartbreaking. And brutally real. How the value of one’s loss is based on how they behaved or carried themselves or what they had overcome, what they might have been or gone on to do. How one has to be deemed worthy instead of just having the very basic right to exist; how not everyone is deserving of that much. This touches on all of that and more. It will anger you, frustrated you, and hurt you. As it should.

While I did enjoy (well.. you know what I mean..) so much of this, I’ll admit I did think maybe we had a POV or two too many. Some we only saw once, maybe twice, and ultimately they either didn’t add much to the story or were just a “real time” moment of an event or history we had already been somewhat aware of via the main characters. It seems an odd criticism but it did make the pacing a little strange as we had such a slowburn build and the end felt like a race to the finish line. But what made those added bits just felt really out of place was because of how strong and captivating the main three POVs were. And, having finished, and seeing where all the pieces fit, I don’t think they did much to add to the whole picture.

This was not an easy read but it’s definitely an important one. Filled with history, tragedy, twists, and a shock or two. That said, the reason I’ve not said much about any specifics about the plot is because half the journey is watching how it unfolds. I can only, again, encourage you to put this on your tbr and, more importantly, read it.

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

PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


Title : Piranesi
Author : Susanna Clarke
Format : ARC
Page Count : 272
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : September 15, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Spoiler alert : this is an unpopular opinion so you might as well just ignore it and find another to read because..

Well I can 100% say I don’t know what I just read. But it was a book, I think.

This is a strange story that is weird all the way through. Though you do sort’ve at least begin to settle into it as it goes. Eventually the weirdness makes way for explanation and context but it’s still weird and I don’t know how I feel about any of it.

Think HOUSE OF LEAVES with maybe a dash of THE STARLESS SEA mixed in with something strange. Not uncomfortable, though, as this felt almost wholesome despite some of the things we’ve learned have happened along the way but still. It’s kind of.. innocent? I don’t know how to describe it. Probably because I don’t know what I just went through.

This isn’t very long so if the premise sounds like your thing or you like strange things, give it a try! It might just work perfectly for you.

** I received an ARC from 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 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 NETGALLEY SHUFFLE

We all know the struggle. You log into NetGalley, particularly when you first get started, and go a little.. click-happy. Suddenly you’re drowning in ARCs, approvals coming every which way, and your feedback ratio drops and drops and you don’t know how you’ll ever reach that recommended 80% milestone. Heaven forbid you hit a slump and take a break from ARCs only to keep clicking, keep requesting, and thus the cycle repeats.

We don’t know how it happened but here’s our humblebrag : Micky & Hollis are both in the 90%+ margins. Micky has been approved, and read, almost double what Hollis has, but still. It does get easier to keep that percentage high, and have it stay that way, the more you get approved for, the more you read or keep pace with said approvals, but it can be equally easy to request, clicking on more — no matter your %.

Neither of us know the magical workings behind NetGalley, we don’t have any particular tricks, but we wanted to open the floor to you and see if there’s something you’ve learned, something you’ve struggled with, and help each other out. There’s lots we still probably don’t know and we always find it interesting when publishers post recommendations or suggestions to improve your profile (you can sometimes catch these threads on twitter).

It’s easier said than done to just say read what you click, keep an eye on publishing dates so you don’t overload yourself in back to back months, but part of the fun is stumbling through these trials and errors and learning from them. Or, like us, even with our high percent, crying over a month with sixteen ARCs and no end in sight. It happens to us all! That said..

Here are our Top Ten Tips for Netgalley :

  1. Take the time to write a strong profile. Have a photo of yourself — publicity assistants tell us it helps to see who you are. Add a bit of relevant stuff about yourself, how you enjoy sharing your love of books. We started ours with no blog/bookstagram presence, just reviewers, so don’t feel you don’t have enough to have a go. Add all your social media links that are relevant to books. There’s a section just for that.
  2. Go slow, it’s so tempting to click on everything you find even slightly interesting. Try and resist the urge to do that. Our rule of thumb is.. do I really want it, do I really need it?
  3. Try and read and review the arcs before release, ideally a week or two at least. What publishers are looking for is your views before release, to build up reviews and get the word out there! I (Micky) try and stay a month ahead with my reviews but I can be the week before, Hollis is much more organised than me at this.
  4. Keep a tally/list of how many arcs you have due and once you get to a number that is your threshold for enough that month DON’T LET YOURSELF REQUEST MORE. Micky keeps checklists for this, Hollis uses a dedicated Goodreads shelf to keep track; whatever works for you. We map our physical arcs into this too.

5. You don’t need the elusive 80% to get approved by publishers. It is definitely something to aim for but you will still get approvals without it.

6. Share your completed reviews on publication date with the outlets suggested by that publisher e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones. Publishers need you to do this and it is part of what you are signing up to do.

7. Be honest. You don’t need to bump up the rating to please the publisher, honest reviews are sought. We have not had a reduction in approvals from publishers who might have had a low rated review from us previously and neither of us shy away from those one-star ratings.

8. As you fall deeper into the reviewing rabbit-hole, maybe you do start a blog, or a bookstagram, so make sure to add those links in the relevant section. Cross-post your reviews to all your platforms, tag authors/publishers when you do (in positive reviews only, please!!), and update your Bio routinely with any change in stats (followers, subscribers, etc).

9. Don’t read only arcs, you will exhaust yourself with deadlines and potentially put yourself in a book slump. Make sure there’s room for reading the things your like, your owned tbr, maybe library books, a mood read or a re-read.

10. The same goes for blog and bookstagram tours connected to NetGalley arcs, don’t sign-up to everything, give yourself some space. In reality, you can be late with netgalley arc reviews but you can’t for a blog tour. Keep the pressure manageable.

We’d love to know your experiences, how you do the NetGalley shuffle! We are happy to answer any questions you have. Watch out for our Edelweiss blog feature coming soon where we expose this different creature of a platform and tell you our experiences with that.

TIME OF OUR LIVES by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives. 

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.


Title : Time of Our Lives
Author : Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I totally respect what this book is trying to do. And what, I imagine, it will successfully do for many readers. It just didn’t quite work for me.

This is such a great representation of the mixed emotions young people (I was young once!) feel going into the next stage (ie, post-high school) of their lives. The momentum that pushes them forward to escape their current situation (overbearing family, no room to be yourself, too much responsibility at too young an age, etc) and the reluctance to go too far afield (family obligations, health, anxiety, worry, etc). These characters were perfect representations of those, often conflicting though sometimes singular, feelings. I felt it.

I already know what the future holds. It’s right now that has the potential to be extraordinary.”

Where this book failed for me, I think, was I didn’t quite love the characters. I didn’t love what followed their initial meeting and connection, and how that all came about, and I was hard pressed to believe how quickly they just “got” each other. Thankfully this relationship wasn’t smooth sailing, I appreciated the arguments, the speed bumps, but overall it did kind of stretch my belief. Maybe if I had liked them more, I would’ve bought it? I don’t know. Part of me had hoped this had gone a different way, been a story that connected these characters but didn’t quite overlap.. she says, vaguely.

There’s a claustrophobia in comfort. The threads become a web, confining the person I want to be to the person I was.

There are definitely emotional elements to this story, with some suffocating but reassuring (for the character) familial roles (honestly, the first few chapters dealing with Juniper’s family made me want to break out in hives, but that’s just me) and some heartbreaking health issues when it comes to a parent. Again, like before, I could feel it. But..

But overall, no matter how great the writing, how stunning some of the turns of phrase, this was a story very character-focused, and I just couldn’t love them. The characters. Also, a certain cameo from IF I’M BEING HONEST made me so mad initially.. but that was redeemed. Had it not? I would’ve been devastated.

So this was a mixed bag, but also a strong read. These authors are definitely talented, and not writing the same story in each release (thank goodness for that), but this was also not what I got from IF I’M BEING HONEST and maybe, in part, that’s also contributing to some disappointment. Even though I said different things are great. And they are. If you’ve enjoyed this duo before, I think you’ll like this, too. Maybe not as much, maybe more. Who is to say. What I can say, though, is even though I didn’t love it, I’ll continue to read whatever they put out.

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