Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh is published in ebook by Penguin, priced £7.99 (hardback available August). Available now

In Sophie Mackintosh's second novel, a paper slip allocated in a compulsory lottery determines the fate of hundreds of girls every day. White means you will become a mother; a blue ticket deals you the illusion of freedom. Dare to muddy the waters between these trajectories and you will be banished like Calla, granted a 12-hour head-start before the eerie emissaries begin their hunt. Illicitly pregnant, having gouged out her enforced birth control, she lurches north with the vague hope of crossing the border to safety, forging alliances with other women along the way. Told with ragged prose that catches the breath, Calla's journey articulates the irrepressible desires and wounds that can lie deep within, and is marked by a claustrophobia that never stops pressing in from the margins. This unsettling reimagining of the anxieties and pressures around motherhood lays bare the alienation that comes when your body is not truly yours.

Review by Jemma Crew

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth is published in hardback by Headline Review, priced £16.99 (ebook £7.99). Available May 28

A teenage girl goes missing in Hazel Barkworth's fascinating if sometimes flawed first novel. It is not missing 15-year-old Lily who is the centre of the story though, which is largely a journey into the frustrated and obsessive mind of teacher Rachel whose daughter Mia is one of Lily's friends. Rachel's relationship with her daughter is becoming increasingly strained during a heatwave, as Mia develops into a young woman with a mind of her own. Mia's father Tim is working away and Rachel misses her husband, envies her daughter, and longs for something she lost which was never a good fit anyway. Barkworth's characters aren't always developed enough for the reader to care about them fully - although they're never two-dimensional - and the location is unusually, but perhaps deliberately, vague. It's an interesting character study though and seems like a novel that would be worth another read.

Review by Beverley Rouse


Strong Like Her: A Celebration of Rule Breakers, History Makers, and Unstoppable Athletes by Haley Shapley is published in hardback by Gallery Books, priced £24 (ebook £15.99).

Inspiring people to think, 'I want to be strong, like her', is Hayley Shapley's ultimate aim in this compilation of female strength success stories, through the ages. From the original Olympic Games in 776 BCE to modern-day CrossFit Games, Strong Like Her is a journey through the history of strong women - both in the physical sense, as well as the cultural, social and personal strength that broke gender barriers, succeeded in achieving body autonomy, and redefined social norms. Shapley illuminates the women and events that paved the way for female freedoms today, something she believes isn't just inspirational, but instructive. 24 contemporary female athletes across a range of disciplines are also showcased as "a new kind of female beauty" - one that's rooted in capability and accomplishments. In exploring the 'femininity is frailty' and 'masculinity is muscularity' dichotomy, this book proves the boundless ability of who, and what, a woman can be.

Review by Rebecca Wilcock

Children's book of the week

Do You Love Bugs? illustrated and written by Matt Robinson is published in paperback by Bloomsbury Children's Books, priced £6.99 (ebook £5.39).

From the cover, you might suspect Do You Love Bugs? to be a fictional tale of a lovable bug, but instead, it's actually a packed-out non-fiction ode to why we should appreciate, and be careful around, crawlies (don't call them creepy!). Author Matt Robinson's illustrations are very sweet and silly (look out for the house fly sat on a toilet, and an ant wearing a snorkel), and the pages are busy and colourful, meaning even one page before bed should be enough to keep little brains buzzing with information. In fact, you're likely to miss facts and drawings first time around because so much is scrawled down, but it does mean you'll get multiple reads out of it, and kids can dip in and out, rather than reading it straight through, cover to cover. Sometimes you'll all want a bit more detail (why do stick insects dance side-to-side? Which jungle butterflies smell like cake?), but the whole family's interest will definitely be piqued.

Review by Ella Walker




1. Ramble Book by Adam Buxton

2. Right Behind You by Rachel Abbott

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

4. Normal People by Sally Rooney

5. A Perfect Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley

6. The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

7. Mythos by Stephen Fry

8. Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

9. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

10. Albion: The Legend Of Arthur by Robert Valentine

(Compiled by Audible)