BLADE OF SECRETS by Tricia Levenseller

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

A teenage blacksmith with social anxiety accepts a commission from the wrong person and is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she’s ever made.


Title : Blade of Secrets
Author : Tricia Levenseller
Format : Audio
Narrator : Emily Ellet
Duration : 8 hours, 53 minutes
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unusual protagonist
Anxiety representation

I knew absolutely nothing about Blade of Secrets before I started it and so I was happy to be drawn into an unusual tale with an unusual protagonist for fantasy. Ziva was a smithy with powers, unpredictable ones but she also had anxiety with a range of symptoms. I was all woah to seeing that in fantasy and in a good way. I really appreciated Ziva being a strong female but not diminished by her anxiety, she was still a strong and gifted character.

The story centred on two sisters with virtually no other family but this tale brought a bit of a found-family trope which I liked. This troop of Temra, Kellyn (hellooo), Patrick and the Secret Eater were pretty interesting to read about. They went from smithy to on the run and I was here for the story developments.

There was plenty of banter, fun capers and peril. I am 100% invested in these weapons and I want all the Secret Eater info. There was definitely a slow burn element to budgeoning relationships and the end left me wanting more. I am looking forward to book two.

The narration was great, the different gendered dialogue worked well and felt convincing. The characterisation captured the colourful crew well.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for the review copy.

THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris



The multimillion-copy New York Times best-selling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist – a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive….

As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem….


Title : The Therapist
Author : BA Paris
Narrator : Olivia Dowd & Thomas Judd
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 23 minutes
Genre : Domestic Thriller
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : April 15, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Creepy storyline
Trust
Lies

I definitely enjoyed this listen of BA Paris’ latest domestic thriller and I couldn’t guess whodunnit, no matter how I tried to speculate, so there are ticks in those boxes. The conclusion was slightly disappointing and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I leave the book behind glad that I’d read it.

Alice and Leo move in together, doing so in an exclusive development called ‘The Circle’. Immediately, I thought, those people are weird (chuckles). There’s a definite underlying premise to where the main character Alice finds herself and that is…don’t move in with someone too quickly (this is not a spoiler) but a general life lesson.

The story of The Therapist was intricate with little details that came back to prod you later. It was all about who to trust and the lies that people tell but ultimately, this was a whodunnit. Alice seemed to be a really niave character, damaged by her own traumas but easily led by others. Leo lacked some character development, I felt as I didn’t know him much by the end. The plot was a little far fetched at times but it remained pretty gripping.

As with any thriller on audio, the temperature and mood of the listen is particularly important and the narration was able to conjure some sinister feelings and sense of foreboding. This was a multiple POV with dual narrators that worked well.

Overall, a good story with a bit of fading towards the end. The format was definitely a winner.

Thank you to MacMillan Audio for the early review copy.

PAUSE by Kylie Scott

An unpauseable new romance from New York Times bestselling, Audie Award winning author Kylie Scott!

When Anna wakes up from a coma after a car crash, she discovers life has gone on without her. Her husband has been unfaithful—with her best friend—and she’s been long since replaced at work. While her old life is a distant memory, her new life feels like an empty shell. Then she meets the stranger who saved her life during the crash, and he changes everything.

Leif Larsen—tattooist, joker, and player—has his own scars thanks to the crash that put Anna in a coma. Helping her move on from her failed marriage, and create a new life, sounds like a perfect distraction. So when he needs a new roommate, he invites Anna to begin her new life with him.

Although their lives may have been put on pause, together they just might find a way to heal.


Title : Pause
Author : Kylie Scott
Narrator : Andi Arndt
Format : Audible Audio
Length : 6 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Audible
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Accidents
Betrayal
Quick fulfilment

I feel like I’m the champion of Repeat by Kylie Scott, I loved that audio and I’ve since re-listened and re-read. So Pause had big shoes to fill and alongside that Leif wasn’t the easiest character like in Repeat having fouled up in his relationship choices bringing consequences.

Pause started with an accident and hospitals which felt reminiscent of Repeat but I didn’t mind that to be honest, as Anna’s story was different enough to feel new. The circumstances she found herself in however, were pretty vile.

I liked hearing about how Anna’s life unraveled and came back together, I perhaps wanted a bit more narrative about her recovery. Anna and Leif had chemistry but it felt pretty fast moving. I enjoyed the story but I wasn’t wowed by it.

This was a quick listen, I would say this is a perfect for a day or a weekend, with great narration. Andi Arndt excels at male dialogue, so while this is a single POV story, when Leif speaks, it feels so credible on the audio.

Thank you to Audible for the early review copy.

A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT by Sylvain Neuvel

Brought to you by Penguin.

Imagine everything you thought you knew about human progress was wrong. What would you do?

Mia is not sure what she is, but she isn’t human. Smarter, stronger than her peers, all she knows are the rules: there can never be three for too long; always run, never fight.

When she finds herself in Germany 1945, she must turn the Nazis’ most trusted scientist with an offer: abandon the crumbling Nazi party, escape Germany with your life, come to work for the Americans building rockets.

But someone is watching her work. An enemy who’s smarter, stronger, decidedly not human and prepared to do anything to retrieve something ancient that was long lost.

If only she had any idea what it was….


Title : A History Of What Comes Next
Author : Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator : Multi-cast narration
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 23 minutes
Genre : Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : March 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unusual
Feminist scientists
Legacy

Take them to the stars, before evil comes and kills them all.

Honestly, it’s rather hard to describe this story but it was a rather brilliant series starter taking my love of sci-fi and combining it with a thriller. It was mostly set in the period of 1940’s with Mia and her mother but it had a retrospective view over the 99 previous generations of women and their daugthers with the sole purpose of getting the human civilisation to the stars. These women weren’t exactly human.

This was a sometimes gory, banter-ish story that gripped me to my headphones mostly over one weekend. At first, I had to go with the flow but I found my nerd-feet rather quickly and began to understand the facets of these women. They were excellent mathematicians and they were obsessed with rockets. Men were an important part of their lives but only to a point.

I loved how feminist this story felt but at the same time, I’m not saying that how the men were sometimes treated was okay but it was an interesting upside down perspective for that historical era. There were ecological undertones to the story too which didn’t quite get explained in this installment but I’m hoping for more embelishment on the next book.

This curious tale bought my allegiance to the series before half way through and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series. I can’t recommend the audio enough. It was a multi-cast narration with multiple POVs (but not too many). You even get some Slyvain Neuvel at the end with background research should your nerd-dom need that.

Thank you to Penguin Audio for the review copy #gifted/AD

ALL THE TIDES OF FATE by Adalyn Grace

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.


Title : All The Tides Of Fate
Author : Adalyn Grace
Series : All The Stars & Teeth #2
Format : ebook/audio
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books/MacMillan Audio
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


3.5 stars

Headlines:
New roles
All at sea
Who needs a man?

This was ultimately a satisfying finale in this exciting duology from Adalyn Grace. I was fortunate to do both audio and the ebook, having review copies of both formats and I enjoyed both experiences. While this installment didn’t hit the heights of book one, I was still happy with the completion.

Amora seemed to have taken a few steps back initially in this book but she was in a new role and grieving. Expectations were heavy on her shoulders and she seemed to falter in decision-making, direction and leadership. Those early and mid-way wobbles made her believable but perhaps not as likeable. The whole, ‘search for a husband cover’ made me sigh heavily but the direction this went was a good outcome.

I felt happiest reading this book when the crew were back together on Keel Haul. I loved the voyages, the team, the banter and togetherness. One of the story directions killed me and I’m still not okay with that event.

This was a fast paced read/listen and pretty exciting with a great wrap up. The last 20% of the read was probably my favourite section. The narration was good with single pov narration that captured Amora, her age and her character well.

Thank you to Titan Books and Macmillan Audio for the early review copies.

FIRST COMES LIKE by Alisha Rai

The author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral returns with a story about finding love in all the wrong inboxes…

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life? 


Title : First Comes Like
Author : Alisha Rai
Series : Modern Love #3
Narrator : Priya Ayyar & Neil Shah
Format : Audiobook
Length : 6 hours, 30 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Harper Audio
Release Date : February 16, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

First Comes Like was the clashing of two people, two cultures, two faiths, all in a romantic context. It was ambitious plan that worked. Added to this was a faux-mance storyline, catfishing, fame and fortune. I thought it was a clever plot.

I don’t think I’ve read a Hindu/Muslim romance before (probably shame on me for not searching this out) but it was nice to see and interesting to read this level of heat in that context. Alisha Rai executed this with careful handling and sensitivity to the protagonist Jia’s beliefs (I think, but I can’t currently see any own voice reviews and I’m interested in their take on this). I’ve been waiting for Jia’s story for rather a long time, since she was introduced in a previous series by the author.

There was a lot less of the three friends living together in this instalment which I missed. I essentially liked both the characters but I didn’t always feel their chemistry. The plot line was predictable but still good.

The narration was enjoyable in the main, I liked both narrators but didn’t enjoy when Dev’s character did Jia’s dialogue, his female intonation really didn’t work for me. I also wanted to feel a bit more from Dev’s character but in some ways, he was a little emotionally rusty and that facet was part of his development in the story.

This series has been generally enjoyable for me and while this one didn’t blow me away, I still appreciated the journey and especially the cross of cultures and faiths.

Please check out some own voice review on this book.

Thank you to LibroFM and Harper Audio for the early audio copy.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins – double review!

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


Title : The Wife Upstairs
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Narrators : Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgant
Format : Audiobook / eBook (overdrive)
Length : 8 hours 39 minutes / 277 pages
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : MacMillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Morally grey characters in every direction
Unreliable narrators
Twists in unexpected ways
A side order of Big Little Lies feeling

I heard the words Jane Eyre re-telling and I ran pretty fast to this audiobook. The Wife Upstairs mostly had the atmosphere I was seeking and I totally enjoyed seeing a contemporary envisoning of the familiar characters of Jane Eyre, especially Eddie, Jane, Blanche and B. Adele was a treat too.

As you would imagine, the focus started on Jane and I liked that Jane was not the angel she was in the original book, this made me feel more invested because I knew this was going to be different. Jane was a plotter, a climber and she had goals, so much so that I thought I knew where this would lead; I was wrong.

Blanche and B ‘Bertha’ were like the ugly sisters or mean girls all rolled into one. Blanche being a more fleshed out character was a very welcome element to the story. Eddie was never really likeable and that crushed my Rochester-loving heart a little but then this wasn’t a romance.

The storyline was pretty clever and this audiobook kept me guessing and invested. I did sometimes get confused with Bee (or B) and Blanche and the two female narrators didn’t sound that different to me, even with their different accents, so I had to really concentrate at times.

The culmination was good, if quick wrap up. The Wife Upstairs was an addictive and enjoyable listen. I would love to see some more classic re-envisioning as thrillers. Such a great idea.

Thank you to LibroFM and MacMillan Audio for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Rachel Hawkins has released (notably mostly YA stuff but hey!) so this was on my radar even before I knew it was a Jane Eyre-inspired retelling; and not only that but a thriller/mystery to boot. Lots of boxes were being checked here.

I’ll admit this was kind of a slowburn for me that never really built the blazing inferno I might’ve expected.. or at least wanted. But at the same time it dragged me away from other distractions throughout the day and I chewed through it pretty quick. So maybe it was less of a build and more just a steady solitary flame?

Either way, if you’re a fan of the original classic or just know the bare bones this’ll definitely appeal to both kind of reader. There’s enough that sticks true to the story but so much, too, that differs; and I was particularly interested in which characters Hawkins decided to flesh out, and how.

If you’re looking for a Southern Gothic vibe kind of mystery, with twists and homages, you should give this one a try.

WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING by Alyssa Cole

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?


Title : When No One Is Watching
Author : Alyssa Cole
Narrators : Susan Dalian & Jay Aaseng
Format : Audiobook
Length : 8 hours, 29 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Harper Audio
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Context of gentrification
Diverse characters
Highly unusual storyline
A little odd

I have mixed feelings about this story. It was unusual and that was definitely a strength but overall and as the height of the plot peaked, it felt pretty unrealistic. This isn’t fantasy or fairytale, so I need some realism in a thriller.

The context of gentrification of white people into a black community to the point of pushing others out was a superb central plot and I did like the chaotic main character of Sydney. Her situation was desperate, her stress levels were through the roof and I was feeling paranoid at every noise myself. I wasn’t as keen on Theo or their friendship to more.

The plot behind what was actually going on in the neighbourhood was the thing that brought this rating down. I felt disappointed at it, I didn’t get the trigger-happiness and there was some sweeping under the carpet.

The narration was excellent. It was dual POV and both narrators really captured their characters and Sydney’s narrator in particular, caught the atmosphere well.

Thank you to LibroFM and Harper Audio for the review copy.

SECRETS OF THE STARCROSSED by Clara O’Connor

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Panem meets the Grishaverse in this explosive new YA trilogy perfect for readers of Marie Lu, Bella Forrest, and Cassandra Clare. 


Title : Secrets of the Starcrossed
Author : Clara O’Connor
Series : The Once and Future Queen #1
Format : Paperback/Audio
Page Count : 448
Genre : YA/NA Dystopian/Fantasy
Publisher : One More Chapter
Release Date : January 21, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review

I’ve rounded up my rating to 3 stars and I both read and listened to this story. The world created in Secrets of the Starcrossed was one of an elite alternate futuristic/contemporary society but also one with people less fortunate. I didn’t find the world building immediately easy to understand but over time it did get clearer.

There was a lot going on in this story. A number of characters vying for prominence and essentially, I didn’t particularly connect to Cassandra. That lack of connection with the MC played out further into a lack of feeling of chemistry between the characters. This was a pretty fast-paced read with a good tempo, however.

I do have mixed feelings about this book. It has something of an identity crisis; is it fantasy or dystopia, is the underpinning culture Roman or Celtic? It’s a mix of all of the above and I remain unsure how I feel about those elements. Added to this, the gorgeous cover definitely says Celtic fantasy to me but the reading of it doesn’t leave me with this.

With regards to the narration, I did struggle with the choice of narrator who sounded into her 50s or 60s by voice. The main characters whose POV this was told from, was a teenager. That disconnect isn’t ideal, however I did like being able to experience both formats in tandem.

So overall, I’ve ended this book a little unsure of how I felt about it and what I think about future installments. I do think the synopsis comparisons to other famous worlds are a little ambitious and often not that helpful to readers, I don’t want to make those comparisons and feel left short. This is a book that is definitely worth giving a try to see if you gel with the culture and world, especially if you like Celtic and British cultures and history colliding.

Thank you to One More Chapter for the early review copies.

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.