CHARLOTTE by Helen Moffett


Everybody thinks that Charlotte Lucas has no prospects. She is twenty-seven years old, unmarried, plain, and seemingly without ambition. When she stuns the neighbourhood by accepting the proposal of buffoonish clergyman Mr Collins, her best friend Lizzy Bennet is angry at her for undervaluing herself. Yet the decision is the only way Charlotte knows to provide for her future, and marriage will propel her into a new world, of duty, marriage, children, grief and ultimately illicit love, and a kind of freedom.

Jane Austen cared deeply about the constraints of women in Regency England. This powerful reimagining takes up where Austen left off, showing us a woman determined to carve a place for herself in the world. Charlotte offers a fresh, feminist addition to the post-Austen canon, beautifully imagined, and brimming with passion and intelligence.


Title : Charlotte
Author : Helen Moffett
Narrator : Isabella Inchbald
Format : ebook/audiobook
Page Count : 368/8 hours 17 minutes
Genre : Historical/Retelling
Publisher : Bonnier Books/Manilla Press
Release Date : September 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

This continuation story of Charlotte’s character in a full book was surprising, it was unexpected in terms of the story direction and wholly enjoyable overall. Charlotte is a character who has always had my attention every time I’ve read or watched Pride & Prejudice. I think we’ve all struggled to understand her decision over Mr Collins, at least initially. This book explored her as a person but also their relationship as a couple. However this book is all Charlotte as a women in all her facets.

The book joined Charlotte seven years into her marriage to Mr Collins with three children, but tragedy was around the corner. This book navigated Charlotte’s journey through life’s hurdles, difficulties and grief. How Charlotte got through her emotions, anger and desire sometimes made by eyebrows raise but it felt tangible and good storytelling.

The cast of characters in the background of this book were rich and familiar. Lizzy, Anne de Bourgh and Catherine de Bourgh brought some excellent reading and some surprising elements. I enjoyed the friendship and confidence between Anne and Charlotte and Charlotte had also won the respect of Anne’s mother.

“But what really has my admiration is that my mother considers this an excellent plan of action. This leads me to all but suspect witchcraft on your part, Mrs Collins. Did our gypsy friends weave a spell, perhaps?”

Some of Charlotte’s experiences were heart-aching and on the flip side, her passionate nature was surprising. I liked where the story ended up in terms of her passions and I will say no more.

I had both an ebook ARC and an advance audio copy. I listened mostly and read some by ebook. The narration was perfect for the book and really conveyed Charlotte as a character.

Thank you to Bonnier Books for the early review copies.

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
Narrator : Joe Jameson
Format : audiobook
Page Count : 13 hours 10 minutes
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Dreamscape Media
Release Date : July 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

This audio gave me all the feels, most of the time and there just isn’t anything better than a read that does that. Two guys, a few complications, lots of chemistry and a fake romance. Everything about this book worked for me, the story depth, the characterisation and the Bridget-Jones-ness of the whole feel.

Luc(ien) and Oliver were complete opposites and both a bit relationship-stunted. They both needed a relationship of convenience and their friends conspired to connect them for this purpose. There wasn’t a lot of common ground or like initally with these two but there was banter for days. I adored Oliver’s intelligence with ten slices of awkward and Luc’s foot in mouth tendencies and emotional ineptitude.

Their move to friendship was pretty gorgeous to witness. As they moved into feeling more connection, I had all sorts of swoon gifs running through my head. Behold…

There were some serious storylines running through. Luc’s dad and that story resonated very much with a personal experience and it felt wholly realistic to me. The friendship circle made me giggle with exasperation and fun but they were also there when it came to need.

The narration was simply perfection. The accents, dialogue and tonation raised this to exceptional and for me, this is the format for this book. Joe Jameson held the stage and I listened to every word. Alexis Hall has outdone himself with this story and I am off to purchase myself a physical copy as it’s become rather precious to me.

Hollis already read the eARC of this and we have a very chalky cheese experience! Her review is here.

Thank you to LibroFM for the ALC.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781662016738-boyfriend-material

THE FIXED STARS by Molly Wizenberg

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

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



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

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE VOTING BOOTH by Brandy Colbert


Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.Only problem? Duke can’t vote.When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right.And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.


Title : The Voting Booth
Author : Brandy Colbert
Narrators : Robin Eller & Cary Hite
Format : Audiobook
Length : 6 hours, 5 minutes
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Dreamscape Media
Release Date : July 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a shortish listen, told over one day’s events and yet it had such a full story to tell. The themes were so relevant to the now, to Black Lives Matters. Brandy Colbert told this story naturally in a Contemporary YA setting with passionate characters and a hopeful tone.

The story was all set around voting day and Marva just arrived in this book with such drive and determination for activism set in pragmatism as she helped people vote. Duke was on the end of Marva’s plan to help and their day to ensure his vote turned into a saga that was funny, frustrating and cute.

Marva and Duke were different and yet complimented each other well. The day brought some revelations for Marva in particular about the reality of some of her relationships. Duke was a more complex character with past hurts and memories that really gave this voting day some poignant context.

Despite the serious themes, there was time for light-heartedness in this story and the author balanced these elements well. There was a cute vibe developing between these two and I adored the storyline for Instagram sensation, Eartha Kitty.

This was a dual POV story with dual narration. Both narrators sounded age-appropriate and set the tone well for the story. Their narration whisked me into the centre of the tale and got me lost in there.

I highly recommend this story for all YA readers, especially those that like a political slice of pie and contemporary issues, like me.

Thank to Libro FM who gifted this advanced listening copy as part of their ALC programme.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781662003929-the-voting-booth

THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.


Title : The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Author : Becky Chambers
Narrator : Patricia Rodriguez
Series : Wayfarers #1
Format : Audiobook
Length : 15 hours, 41 minutes
Genre : Sci-fi
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : August 13, 2015

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Sadly I’m feeling rather underwhelmed by this series starter when I really expected to enjoy it. I’m a lover of sci-fi and the idea of a fun bunch of species romping the galaxy sounded right up my street and in some ways it was.

THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET was incredibly complex in terms of characterisation of species. I initially thought the whole book would be from Rosemary’s POV but as soon as she landed on the Wayfarer, it became multi-POV. I wasn’t always enamoured by some of the POVs, nor all of the ship’s crew as characters. I did like Rosemary, Ashby, Lovey, Dr Chef and Pei. Sissex and Ohan took some getting used to and I think that some of the early description of their species lacked the depth I needed to connect.

What I did like was the vibe of the crew on the ship; it was light hearted, warm and welcoming. They were a close crew, a family really. I also liked how relationships were depicted, gender, connections were of little importance and there was a natural tone to how romantic connections were made.

The plot was slow at times but it always picked up eventually with some event happening. I think I wanted a bit more space drama than there was. Maybe this was exaggerated by listening on audio, although the narrator was good.

My ultimate feeling on finishing is that there is enough here for me to carry on with the series. I have finally made some connections with the characters and there was a little action towards the end that I hope spells a better pacing ahead.

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.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS by Cara Black 🎧

In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc investigations reimagines history in her masterful, pulse-pounding spy thriller, Three Hours in Paris.

Kate Rees, a young American markswoman, has been recruited by British intelligence to drop into Paris with a dangerous assignment: assassinate the Führer. Wrecked by grief after a Luftwaffe bombing killed her husband and infant daughter, she is armed with a rifle, a vendetta, and a fierce resolve. But other than rushed and rudimentary instruction, she has no formal spy training. Thrust into the red-hot center of the war, a country girl from rural Oregon finds herself holding the fate of the world in her hands. When Kate misses her mark and the plan unravels, Kate is on the run for her life—all the time wrestling with the suspicion that the whole operation was a set-up.

Cara Black, doyenne of the Parisian crime novel, is at her best as she brings Occupation-era France to vivid life in this gripping story about one young woman with the temerity—and drive—to take on Hitler himself.


Title : Three Hours in Paris
Author : Cara Black
Narrator : Elizabeth Rodgers
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 21 minutes
Genre : Historical Thriller
Publisher : Recorded Books
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was a strong character-driven historical read set in WW2 France and Britain. Told from the POV of Kate, an American living on the Orkneys where she lived with her late husband, this was a tense and fast-paced suspense. Kate was recruited because of her marksmanship with a rifle and found herself on a high profile job.

What entailed was a story all about her survival in Paris during German occupation. She ricocheted from one situation to and her, not knowing who to trust. Kate was a woman in the full depths of grief over a significant loss and yet she was navigating this high stress situation. The story gave me Charlotte Gray vibes. It was a gripping listen and totally enjoyable.

The narration by Elisabeth Rodgers encapsulated Kate, her journey and her desperate circumstances so well. She transported me to the era and the story completed.

Thank you to LibroFM and Recorded Books for this ALC.

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo 🎧

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.


Title : With Fire On High
Author/Narrator : Elizabeth Acevedo
Format : Audio ARC
Length : 7 hours 26 mins
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : September 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH was the kind of contemporary YA to get swept up in very quickly. I always find that I love food-centric fiction and the protagonist Emoni, was a born-chef. She had talent but she also had a natural magic with food that made those who sampled her food feel when eating.

This was a story that depicted a tough but also blessed life of this teen, mom to a toddler, living with her grandmother and trying to successfully finish school. There was hardship but there was gratitude for the good things in her life. I appreciated that this wasn’t an overly dramatic story but still, it was gritty and real.

Emoni was not looking for a new friend but Malachi the latest student transfer into her school wanted her friendship. Malachi was the kind of young man out to prove that not every guy was a jerk. He was such a cute character but again, he was real.

The narration was rich with wonderful tonation and Elizabeth Acevado narrated her own story with heart. I would love to hear her narrate again. From a writing perspective, I enjoyed the short chapter approach and the timeline of story.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the audio review copy.

DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor 🎧

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.


Title : Days of Blood and Starlight
Author : Laini Taylor
Narrator : Khristine Hvam
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
Format : Audio
Length : 16 hours
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : November 8, 2012

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This is going to be a shorter review than normal because I’ve been ill and I’m writing this much later than I normally would. However, it means I’ve had time to reflect and really think about this instalment.

This was a book steeped in sadness and regret. The way that DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE ended was a blow and so I picked up the next book desperate to know things but also feeling Karou’s sadness as my own. I felt her grief both from the loss of loved ones but also the betrayal and rift between her and Akiva.

Most of this book was told from the separate sides of Karou and Akiva, I missed them together BUT there were bright spots. Karou got to know and live in her heritage and I loved finding out about all of that. Zuzana and Mik were the brightest spots and their place in this story was everything to me. Ziri was a newer character and he really grew on me.

There are a few bad guys in this series but the one that had my focus was Thiago, I hated him. He was vile and never had me fooled but equally he was a great character to hate and fear. Ten, his sidekick was something of a tool too. What a pair.

There was a fair bit of world building in this book as new layers were added mostly in form of life in Eretz. It wasn’t too complicated and brought a richness to the story. The narration continued in excellence from Khristine Hvam.

I can feel it in my bones that this series is going to be beloved by me and I’m straight into book three.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor 🎧

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


Title : Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Format : Audiobook
Narrator : Khristine Hvam
Time : 12 hours 32 minutes
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Audible Studios
Release Date : September 29, 2011

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

Starting this much-loved series that has been on my tbr forever was my main reading aim for the beginning of the year. You do know that Hollis and I are of the ‘no-blurbers’ club, don’t you? What this means is that we read a synopsis when we first put something on our tbr, then we don’t go back to it before we read it. What this also means is that you fall foul sometimes of not knowing what a book is about and for DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE this was nearly a derailment. I will explain…

I do not like angel stories, I avoid them at all costs. There’s only one thing worse than this and that’s angel and demon stories. An hour into this listen and it was beginning to become apparent that there were creatures and then there were angels. Fast forward to a hilarous ‘there there, Micky’ convo of encouragement from Hollis and what I found was that this wasn’t a Christian depiction of those beings but otherworldy, yet set in our world. I was able to get into this aspect.

I loved lots about this book but primarily, I loved Karou. She was a character of quirks and giftings that was fascinating. She was also a character full of heart and passion and that was catching. There was an amazing friendship between her and Zuzana that was funny, loyal and heartbreaking too. I was unsure about Brimstone, he creeped me out whilst I found him endearing in moments.

Akiva was a late entry to the proceedings, certainly in the background for much of the first half of the book but when he came face to face with Karou, oh boy, I just sat back and listened. There was something deep and mesmerising when these two were together and they convinced me of their pull pretty quickly. They made me think of Romeo and Juliet, in fact their whole tale did. When all was said and done, the story of Madrigle gave that perspective that slotted everything into place, but it was not a comfortable tale within a tale.

The narration was exceptional for this book. Khristine Hvam narrates with emotion and a wide range of impressive accents. She helped me truly sink into the story.

So, am I fan? Yes I am. Can I deal with these angels and creatures? In this situation, yes I can. There’s maybe a lesson to be learnt for me not to toss certain tropes and contexts out of hand immediately. The proof of this story is really in the fact that I’ve already started book two, mere hours after finishing book one. Thank you to everyone who’s ever recommended this book to me over the years, I got there in the end.