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MAD HONEY by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan

Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.

Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?

Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind ­­- and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do.


Title : Mad Honey
Author : Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan
Format : Physical
Page Count : 454
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : November 15, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Do you know your nearest and dearest?
Nature or nurture
Bees, honey, sad with a little sweet

First, there are a bunch of content warnings for this book that may make this a tricky read for some folks, please check those out online.

Mad Honey had a lot to tell the reader, sometimes in a blast of shockwaves and other times it teased out an issue with great poignancy and focus. This was a tough read but utterly engaging, it was educational without being preachy and it made you question up from down, black through to a rainbow of grey.

At the heart of this story were three characters, Olivia (mother), Asher (son) and Lily (girlfriend). This story took a journey of various stages of past and present through the eyes of these three characters. I liked each of these three with differing warmth and an ebb and flow of trust and distrust for some. This was a tragically sad read but hopeful too.

The tension in this read was pretty high, things unravelled quite early, so the whole read had you on the edge of what…w h a t…WHAT! Various reveals came, most I guessed but they were no less impactful for the suggestions that were laid through the story. I couldn’t guess the ending however.

These authors have written a read that impacts and teaches while whisking you on a most satisfying and thrilling read.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to educate everyone about your right to exist in the world.

Thank you to Hodder Books and Tandem Collective for the review copy.

4.5 stars, rounded up.

FLYING SOLO by Linda Holmes

Smarting from her recently cancelled wedding and about to turn forty, Laurie Sassalyn returns to her Maine hometown of Calcasset to handle the estate of her great-aunt Dot, a spirited adventurer who lived to be ninety. Along with boxes of Polaroids and pottery, a mysterious wooden duck shows up at the bottom of a cedar chest. Laurie’s curiosity is piqued, especially after she finds a love letter to the never-married Dot that ends with the line, “And anyway, if you’re ever desperate, there are always ducks, darling.”

Laurie is told that the duck has no financial value. But after it disappears under suspicious circumstances, she feels compelled to figure out why anyone would steal a wooden duck–and why Dot kept it hidden away in the first place. Suddenly Laurie finds herself swept up in a righteous caper that has her negotiating with antiques dealers and con artists, going on after-hours dates at the local library, and reconnecting with her oldest friend and first love. Desperate to uncover her great-aunt’s secrets, Laurie must reckon with her past, her future, and ultimately embrace her own vision of flying solo.

A woman returns to her small Maine hometown, uncovering family secrets that take her on a journey of self-discovery and new love, in this warm and charming novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Evvie Drake Starts Over.


Title : Flying Solo
Author : Linda Holmes
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Coronet Books
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Quirkily romantic
Eclectic plot
Easy reading, low drama

Flying Solo reminded me what it was I loved so much about this author’s first book…the ordinary igniting interest and endearing characters, all written in a relatable way. This is a story of second chances, working through the feelings of a fresh grief and a really funny mystery in amongst this.

At first, the story of the duck had me puzzled as to why it was a focus, but honestly it kept my attention and eventually became the cause of such hilarity. I really enjoyed where that light mystery ended up. This was a low drama stakes story and appreciated the gentle undulations of the story.

The couple had me rooting for them quickly, a second chance situation with Laurie, the protagonist being a complete commitment-phobe. I liked how her stance on romance, attachments and how not wanting to be a parent was written.

This read was all ease and distraction for a day.

CARRIE SOTO IS BACK by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In this powerful novel about the cost of greatness, a legendary athlete attempts a comeback when the world considers her past her prime – from the ‘New York Times’ best-selling author of ‘Malibu Rising’, ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’, and ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’.

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed 20 Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father as her coach. Javier – a former champion himself – has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At 37 years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked the “Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all: Carrie Soto is back for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet. 


Title : Carrie Soto Is Back
Author : Taylor Jenkins Reid
Narrator : Full Cast
Format : Audio
Page Count : 10 hours, 18 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Random House Audio
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
This is a sports autobiography (or you would think)
Strangely compelling
Non-tennis lovers invited

Carrie Soto is Back was an odd read for me but I did enjoy it in some ways. I started the book with high hopes and TJR has a way of bringing you into a character’s world whole-heartedly. Carrie Soto and her father were 100% interesting and their world of obsession and drive was compelling.

About 25% into this listen, I was starting to think…is this going to be the tone of the whole book? I accepted that it was the case when at halfway I was still finding the same experience. This book was less contemporary fiction and it read exactly like a sporting autobiography, a gripping one but still…not what I would have expected from this author.

Carrie Soto herself was a generally unlikeable character but again, compelling to observe and listen to. She had that obsessive personality that elite athletes often have, the personality of a rock to outsiders and really there was only herself, her father and tennis in her world. In a much later part of the story, her world opened out a bit more to other friendships and relationships but you have to wait a long time to get to this.

The narration was a full cast but to be honest because this story is so Carrie-centric, the full cast isn’t featured that much. Nevertheless, the narration was very good.

Overall, I wasn’t wowed by this book but I was also puzzled why I still kept reading avidly. I can only surmise that TJR can write very well, so that she made me enjoy a tennis autobiography!

Thank you to LibroFM for the audio review copy.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780593614167-carrie-soto-is-back

MAD ABOUT YOU by Mhairi McFarlane 🎧

Two strangers.
One big coincidence.
Driving each other crazy is just the beginning…

Harriet Hatley is running away from everything.

Getting married.
Her boyfriend’s family.
Her past.

A dream house-share seems like the perfect place to hide, but her unlikely housemate Cal is no stranger to running away himself. And he’s also hiding secrets of his own . . .

Can these two take a crazy risk, face the past and finally find a reason to stay?


Title : Mad About You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Narrator : Chloe Massey
Format : audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 15 minutes
Page Count : 422
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Harper Collins
Release Date : April 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Sarcastic wit
Chips are down
Coercive control

This story from McFarlane was equal parts sarcastic wit and life handing out crap one piece at a time. It started in one place and ended up in completely different location by the end. It took time for the themes of the story to emerge but they were valuable. Romance was very much on the backburner in this book.

The story centered around weddings, the endings of them, the photographing of them and a really impressive finale. Harriet was a likeable heroine, a hardy Yorkshire lass with the best Huddersfield accent on audio (I live 15 minutes away from that location and appreciated that so much). This tale took you on a mainly contemporary but sometimes retrospective journey of the past men in Harriet’s life and it wasn’t pretty.

Emotional abuse in the form of coercive control was a important part of this story and it’s a theme I welcome more about as it is so insidious in it’s form and difficult for victims to speak about and break free from. Bravo, Mhairi for this.

Overall, I wouldn’t say this was a fun read but it was absorbing and enjoyable. Excellent narration.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the audio review copy.

WHAT TIME IS LOVE? by Holly Williams

1947. 1967. 1987.
When Violet and Albert first meet, they are always twenty.

Three decades.

Over the years, Violet and Albert’s lives collide again and again: beneath Oxford’s spires, on the rolling hills around Abergavenny, in stately homes and in feminist squats. And as each decade ends, a new love story begins…

Two people.
Together, they are electric and the world is glittering with possibility. But against the shifting times of each era, Violet and Albert must overcome differences in class, gender, privilege and ambition. Each time their lives entwine, it will change everything.

One moment is all it takes…

As their eyes first meet, for a split-second it’s as if the clocks have stopped. Nothing else matters. Yet whichever decade brings them together, Violet and Albert are soon forced to question: what if they met the right person at the wrong time?


Title : What Time Is Love?
Author : Holly Williams
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Historical-Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Orion Books
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Contemporary with magical realism
Time jumps
Complex couples

What Time is Love was a rather unusual read and concept that lulled you into the story you thought was the story, then pulled the rug out from under you. This is a book where I really think it helps if you read the synopsis before entering to prempt any confusion.

It was a story told in thirds, three couples or the same couple in different times, you decide. The first story was in one breath my favourite but it was incredibly tragic. The second, explored the makings and breakings of an open relationship. The third, brought Violet and Albert into the most contemporary times and gave them a different start, different challenges and a different end.

I think this was a clever concept and there was much I enjoyed about it. I did have times of frustration over unfinished ends, especially over story one which I was very partial to. I’m not sure what I thought about how these storys did or didn’t weave together, I need to think on it.

This was an absorbing read, it felt like nothing I’d quite read before and I definitely became invested in some of the couples.

Thank you to Orion Books for the review copy.

IMPOSSIBLE by Sarah Lotz

This is not a love story. This is IMPOSSIBLE.

‘Sometimes love doesn’t come in the form you think it will.’

Nick: Failed writer. Failed husband. Dog owner.

Bee: Serial dater. Dress maker. Pringles enthusiast.

When fate brings them together over a misdirected email, the connection is instant. They feel like they’ve known each other all their lives . . .

It should have been the perfect love story.
Instead it was IMPOSSIBLE.


Title : Impossible
Author : Sarah Lotz
Format : Physical
Page Count : 448
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Harper Fiction
Release Date : March 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Stay for that early, important twist
Odd coupling that works
Fresh feels

Impossible had me really wondering at it’s direction for the inital section but it wowed me as we turned an early twist corner. This is one of the most unconvential romance stories I think I’ve read and yet I do some parallels with other films/stories I won’t mention so as to keep that twist spoiler-free.

Bee was an endearing character, I liked her vibe, her job and her willingness to go with the curve balls the universe sent her way. Nick was more of a slow grower and I imagine many will feel this way. They weren’t a couple you would conventionally put together in a romantic sense but the writing and how the story evolves does make it work and get the reader on board. There were some pretty big roadblocks in the way that I was grateful were resolved early on. One roadblock however, stayed.

There was an alternative pov format to this story alongside an email epistolary approach and I lived for the email sections, that’s where the connections happened.

This story kept you on edge right to the end. There was a building tension and so many what ifs and what the… A clever read for sure.

Thank you to Harper Fiction for the early review copy.

3.75 stars rounded up.

VLADIMIR by Julie May Jonas🎧

A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students—a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own…

“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”

And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.

With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.


Title : Vladimir
Author : Julie May Jonas
Narrator : Rebecca Lowman
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 40 min
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date : Feb 1, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Contemporary fiction in academia
Narcissists
A spiral of events

This was a strange listen and one that I don’t think was well represented by the cover, which I initially took to be historical romance. In reality, this is a story not centering on Vladimir but an academic, an English professor and the narrator of the story who becomes obsessed with Vladimir. She was in her late 50s, we never knew her name and she was feeling ‘past it’. Every single person in this book had an ego the size of a high rise building.

The narrator of the story was a narcissist but then so were her husband John, Vladimir and pretty much all the other characters presented. Not one of them was likeable but there was something incredibly compelling about this eventual spiral of wild events that kept you listening. The side story of her husband being investigated for long-term sexual infractions with students was an interesting storyline but more so, was the narrators non-plussed reaction to the situation.

There wasn’t a lot of relatable relationships in this book but plenty of self-gratification, obsession and self-serving behaviours. The culmination of the story was not really what I expected but still interesting.

I didn’t love this book, I’m not sure I even liked it because the characters are so unlikeable. However, I did want to listen and get back to the book, it was like waiting for the accident to happen. Good narration supporting the listening experience.

Thank you to Libro FM and Simon & Schuster Audio for the review copy.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781797137032-vladimir

RUN ROSE RUN by Dolly Parton and James Patterson 🎧

Find a future. Lose a past.

She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her.

She’s also on the run.

Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny.

It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her….

Run Rose Run: a story glittering with danger and desire.

Also available: an album of 12 original Dolly Parton songs made for the novel!


Title : Run Rose Run
Author : Dolly Parton & James Patterson
Narrator : Full cast including Dolly Parton
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : March 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Singing for escape
Secrets and lies
Full cast audio

Run, Rose, Run was incredibly easy to listen to with a full cast dramatisation that really floated my boat and brought the different characters alive. You even get some Dolly Parton as Ruthanna, the MC’s mentor. Annie-Lee, the main character was a young woman, clearly on the run, definitely on hard times, living rough but with the voice and talent that made her exceptional.

This Nashville-centric story reminded me completely of the TV series of the same name in terms of vibe, but not necessarily story-wise. While this wasn’t a unique story, it had such a great suspense plot with a bit of thiller towards the end. I completely bought into the ups and downs of Annie-Lee’s determined trip to the stage and writing her own music.

The cast of characters around Annie-Lee were brilliant. I loved Ethan, such a humble and in the background kind of guy, but he was instrumental to Annie-Lee’s story. Equally, Ruthanna was such a colourful ‘Dolly’ kind of character, she was hard not to love.

If you’re looking for an all-absorbing listen, then Run, Rose, Run has all the ingredients for a great contemporary fiction listen, with comforting predictability, a solid plot and fantastic all cast narration.

Thank you to Penguin Audio for the ALC.