SPELLS FOR FORGETTING by Adrienne Young

‘There were tales that only the island knew. Ones that had never been told. I knew, because I was one of them.’

Emery Blackwood’s life was forever changed on the eve of her high school graduation, when the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily. She’d once dreamt of running away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and chase new dreams together. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among this tight-knit community steeped in folklore and tradition, ruled by the seasons and ancient superstitions.

But when August returns after fourteen years to bury his mother’s ashes, Emery must confront her first love and the reason he left so abruptly. But the town wants August gone again. And as the island begins to show signs of strange happenings, the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.


Title : Spells For Forgetting
Author : Adrienne Young
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 364
Genre : Fantasy Horror
Publisher : Quercus Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Atmospheric and lamenting
Mysterious
Nature’s grumblings

This book blew me away with it’s haunting vibes, mystery and return to historical events on the Island of Saorise. The whole story just bled atmosphere and gave a sinister chill as you read. Told in present and some past narrative (not overused), the lives of four high school graduates on this small island was brought into the now of over a decade later. Murder, fire and conspiracy were afoot in this tale and the incredible prose kept me devouring the pages.

At the centre of this book were Emery and August with their two best friends in their orbit. That was back then…now there were three. Saorise was a place that was a lore rather than law to itself. The island spoke through the land, the trees, the weather and wildlife and the residents listened.

Sometimes the signs were subtle, like a fleeting shadow or an echo in the trees. Other times, the island wasn’t gentle with her words.

The mystery surrounding Lily, the orchard and August’s departure and return were completely compelling but so was the young romance between August and Emery. I was so invested in how that would end, even though it was often in the background. There’s so much to keep reader’s invested in this story.

Adrienne Young’s storytelling was quite beautiful. I highlighted a lot and her writing captivated my imagination. This is the perfect autumnal read but really I’d recommend it anytime.

We’d had no beginning, I realized. We just always were.

Thank you to Quercus Books for the review copy.

THE KING IS DEAD by Benjamin Dean

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets The Inheritance Games in this Black LGBTQ+ royal romp full of heart-swooning romance, scandalous secrets and one hell of a mystery.

James has been a prince all of his life, and since he was born, he’s been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father unexpectedly dies, James is crowned king at seventeen. Now, the secrets he could keep as a prince with no real responsibility – namely, his sexuality and hidden relationship – are rocked as his life irrevocably changes.

When his boyfriend suddenly goes missing, the royal secrets and scandals that only he knows start to leak online. And when it becomes clear that whoever is behind the messages isn’t going to stop anytime soon, James begins to question everyone around him 


Title : The King is Dead
Authors : Benjamin Dean
Format : eARC
Page Count : 367
Genre : YA Contemporary LGBTQ+
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Release Date : July 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Queer black protagonist
Mystery suspense
Lots of drama

The King is Dead is an unusual choice of read because I am the opposite of a monarchist but in the same breath, a queer, black young King was a bit too interesting a characterisation to ignore. I did like the LGBTQ+ focus, the parentage twists, the recognition of the inherent racism in the UK and the complicated family and friendships.

There’s a lot of drama in this read and I had to remind myself that James was only 17 and his flitting between attraction, allegiances and risky outings was due to his immaturity. I had to fully suspend realism to get behind this story. I could really see some mirroring in some of the current royal family and racism they’ve experienced and how Jame’s position was viewed by the public and press.

The mystery was a bit far fetched but this was a quick thrilling read which kept a good momentum. I definitely see the Gossip Girl analogy in relation to this book and I think it will appeal to many.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the eARC. 

A DARKNESS AT THE DOOR by Intisar Khanani

I’ve been cursed, betrayed, and sold into slavery – but the truth I carry can’t be allowed to die.

Only Rae knows the extent of the corruption at the heart of the kingdom of Menaiya, from the noble lord who betrayed her, to the Circle of Mages whose wards protect the slavers from discovery. Injured and imprisoned on a slave ship, Rae’s options are quickly running out. When a desperate escape attempt goes terribly wrong, she finds herself indebted to a terrifying Fae sorceress.

Now Rae will not rest until she has rescued her fellow prisoners and freed her land from the darkness that has taken hold. To succeed, she’ll need every ally she can find-including Bren, the thief who may have stolen her heart. But Bren is hiding his own bloody secrets, and the curses that encircle Rae have sunk their claws into her mind. With her debts coming due and time running short, all the truths in the world may not be enough to save her kingdom, or herself.


Title : A Darkness At The Door
Author : Intisar Khanani
Series : The Dauntless Path #3
Format : Physical
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : HotKey Books
Release Date : July 21, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Heroine with disabilities
Breaking the mold
Fighting, thieving and integrity

Intisar Khanani left us at the end of book two in pain with that ending but A Darkness At The Door did not disappoint. This was a story of tension, tragedy, gore and the fight for justice for those children being trafficked. This was a very full story with twists and turns that was ultimately hugely satisfying.

Rae is the kind of heroine I loved to admire. She broke through people’s expectations of how she should be and behave and that cover came into perspective. Rae’s fight for escape, revenge and justice kept me hooked from page one to the end. Rae’s disabiliy was written well with ability realistically conveyed along with the pain, problems and attitudes that were faced on a daily basis. The magic was a light-ish touch but remained authentic to the dauntless path world.

Bren as a character and Bren with Rae really grew on me more in this book. I liked that neither character changed for one another. The side characters were wonderful, especially Bren’s crew and then Rae’s family. There was only a little of Alyrra which a lapped up but could have managed more.

This series definitely sits in my pile of favourites for world building, consistency and characterisation; Initisar Khanani is an equal favourite.

Thank you to HotKey Books for the review copy.

MINDWALKER by Kate Dylan

DO NOT SURRENDER CONTROL.

‘Mindwalker is a cinematic gut punch of action and espionage. Sharp-edged, tense and thrilling, you’ll be holding your breath until the last page’ Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne

Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. But with only twelve months left before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, Sil’s time is quickly running out.

In the ten years she’s been rescuing field agents for the Syntex corporation – by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety – Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home.

Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan: to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good she’s ever done.

With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation – and maybe even herself.


Title : Mindwalker
Author : Kate Dylan
Format : Physical ARC/Audio
Page Count : 315
Genre : YA Sci-fi
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : September 1, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Strong women in sci-fi
Adrenaline was a-pumping
Fast-paced thriller that felt light-hearted

This book was a whirl of a read, it developed and progressed quickly and that pace didn’t let up right until the culmination. The protagonist Sil had all the knee-jerked decisions of an eighteen year old alongside the heavy responsibility her transplanted tech and job brought to her world. Talking of her world and job, they turned on their heads and this story was Sil’s journey to unveil the truth and salute with her middle finger to her previous bosses.

There were a lot of themes to unpick in this book beneath the fast-pace of the storytelling. Ethics in a futuristic age were at the forefront, the thought of ‘even if we can, should we’ prevailed. Sil uncovered some nasty stuff and her enslavement in the organisation and overall purpose was brought into question.

Sil was brave and stupid in equal measure. I liked her and wanted her to slow down and consider things more. The light-hearted feel to her dialogue didn’t always sit with the overall tone of the piece for me but I was able to rub along with it.

Overall, this standalone was worth the read and it was a pleasant sci-fi distraction without heavy world-building. The audio narration was great.

Thank you to Hodderscape for the review copy.

WHEN GRACIE MET THE GRUMP by Mariana Zapata

Of all the things that could have landed in her yard… it had to be him.

For most people, finding a half-naked superbeing in their yard might be a dream come true.

Unfortunately for Gracie Castro, it’s the exact opposite.

Especially when he’s grouchy, rude, and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.

But when a hero of mankind needs you, you do what you have to.

Even if it compromises everything you know.

And totally changes your life. 


Title : When Gracie Met The Grump
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : eBook
Page Count : 638
Genre : Contemporary Romance/Sci-Fi elements
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : September 15, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Superhero grumpster
Banter and biccering
Slow-burn (shocked, I know)

Utter glee was my main emotion reading this book. It was certainly a surprising blurb but honestly, Zapata wrote the socks out of this strange set up. The injured superhero appearing in Gracie’s already secretive and strange life prompted a complete explosion of circumstances. What went from a strange meet-grump, moved into a high stakes scenario. I was here for it all.

Because my gut said this man wasn’t a ball of sunshine. I had a feeling he wasn’t even a night-light.

The plot was greatly crafted, strangely belieavable with a sense of The Incredibles to it. The characters of both Gracie and Grump (you’ll have to read to find out more of this illusive character) were a complete double act. They were so similar in some ways and yet so polarised in others. Their chemistry developed slowly and boy, did it build. The eventual connection between these two was one of my favourites, up there with Kulti, Winnipeg, Lukov and Rhodes for me.

The family in this book was intriguing and Zapata writes brilliant families and funny characters; this book was no exception. Unusually, unless I’ve missed some easter eggs, this book had no relation to any of her previous standalones.

I’m on board with Zapata going off-piste from her usual kinds of concepts, because I loved this creation hard.

HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU by Sarah Everett

In this heart-wrenching coming-of-age story about family, grief, and second chances, seventeen-year-old Emmy returns home for the summer to uncover the truth behind her sister Rose’s disappearance—only to learn that Rose had many secrets, ones that have Emmy questioning herself and the sister Emmy thought she knew.

When her sister Rose disappeared, seventeen-year-old Emmy lost a part of herself. Everyone else seems convinced she ran away and will reappear when she’s ready, but Emmy isn’t so sure. That doesn’t make sense for the Rose she knew: effervescent, caring, and strong-willed. So Emmy returns to their Ohio hometown for a summer, determined to uncover clues that can lead her back to Rose once and for all.

But what Emmy finds is a string of secrets and lies that she never thought possible, casting the person she thought she knew best in a whole new light. Reeling with confusion, Emmy decides to step into Rose’s life. She reconnects with their childhood best friend and follows in Rose’s last known footsteps with heart-wrenching consequences.

An honest and intimate look at sisterhood and the dark side of growing up, Sarah Everett’s latest novel is a stunning portrayal of how you can never truly know the ones you love.


Title : How To Live Without You
Author : Sarah Everett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 392
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Clarion Books
Release Date : May 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Coming of age with a punch
Sisters
Emotive, challenging and rich
Mental illness

I know from reading and loving Sarah Everett’s previous release to expect my heart in my mouth, difficult subject matter and beautiful writing; I got all those things. This contemporary YA was a tough read for sure but it dealt with issues in depth and with authenticity and respect. I do advise checking out the content warnings for this book which I’ve put at the end of this review, but please be aware they have some spoiler elements. Also do make sure you go all the way to the author’s note at the end.

This book was about sisters, broken families, mental illness and lies. It dealt with trust issues, friendships, first experiences and betrayal. There was much to this read but not too much. Get ready to hand over your heart to Emmie and Rose, Levi and their dad. Those were my favourite characters. I was left rather conflicted by Chris in all the ways but especially after the later reveals.

How To Live Without You is the kind of read that builds and builds, so that when at about 3/4 of the way through, some reveals started coming, I was half expecting some of it but other parts shocked the heck out of me. I literally didn’t put this book down much over the 24 hours it consumed me.

I am becoming a staunch fan of the authentic writing that Sarah Everett delivers on and the themes she frames around her characters.

Thank you Clarion Books for the eARC.

**Content Warnings** depression, suicidal ideation.

SORRY I MISSED YOU by Lorraine Brown

Sometimes love is just around the corner…

Rebecca isn’t looking for love. She’s perfectly happy with her high-flying city job, gorgeous flat overlooking Hampstead Heath and fortnightly fling with the hot CEO. She’s certainly not interested in the hot actor neighbour who’s just moved in opposite…

Jack is still looking for his big break. It turns out being the star talent at drama school doesn’t give you a golden ticket to Hollywood, after all. The last thing he needs is any distractions right now – especially not the uptight, power-suit wearing girl next door.

They might live only a few metres away from each other but their worlds couldn’t be further apart, plus opposites don’t really attract, do they…?


Title : Sorry I Missed You
Author : Lorraine Brown
Format : Physical
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Orion Books
Release Date : September 1, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Stuck in a rut
Frienship to more
Finding purpose

Sorry I Missed You was a gentle romantic read that got you involved in the lives of two very normal people in their thirties. In that sense, it felt relatable and real. Rebecca was living a bit of a non-life, still reeling from a year-old break-up and a huge bereavement in her childhood. Jack was drifting in his desire to be an actor, trying to find direction and guidance. A missed parcel brought them in each other’s path.

Much of this story tracked Rebecca and Jack’s lives seperately, their work, their friendships and relationships. Over time a tangible friendship grew and it was pleasant and satisfying reading. I got pretty invested in their seperate work lives and the struggles they were both facing there. The road to more with these two was a slow burn and not rushed; I appreciated that.

This story was a quick read, I read it in 24 hours and enjoyed giving it my sole attention. I’d definitely read this author again.

Thank you Orion Books for the early review copy.

3.75 stars, rounded up.

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

NAKED IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

THE FIRST NOVEL IN THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING IN DEATH SERIES

It is 2058, New York City. Technology now completely rules the world, but for New York Detective Eve Dallas, one irresistible impulse still rules the heart: passion…

Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she’s seen it all – and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she’s going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire – and a suspect in Eve’s murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it’s up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about – except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.


Title : Naked In Death
Author : J.D. Robb
Narrator : Susan Ericksen
Series : In Death #1
Format : Audio
Page Count : 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Thriller/Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Brilliance Audio
Release Date : 1995

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I thought it was about time I gave this series a go as I’ve been meaning to dip my toe in for years and I was reasonably content with the experience.

This is a futuristic world (circa 2050 I think) but it still shows it’s age in terms of tech because this book was originally published in 1995. I did like the world depicted, it made it a bit more interesting in terms of a romantic suspense/thriller vibe. The main selling point of this book and I believe of the series as a whole, is the couple – Eve and Rourke. Their whole developing romance was more interesting to me than the murders. As to the crime/murders, they were pretty gritty and vile. Please see my content warnings at the bottom.

I do want to make a huge note of kudos to the author regarding her mention a few times of the importance of trans rights, especially considering the date of publication. Nicely done Robb/Roberts.

I’ll definitely be carrying on with the series.

**Content warnings: rape, sexual crime, incest. There were a few later graphic depictions of incestual rape that I found hard to read and I would have preferred less detail.**

TOGETHER WE BURN by Isabel Ibanez

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.


Title : Together We Burn
Author : Isabel Ibanez
Format : Physical
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : July 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star mini-review

There’s a lot to sell this book:

*dragons
*captivity, victimisation, freedom
*pushing past gender role expectation
*a budding romance

…and all those things made this a decent read but for some reason I didn’t connect to the characters hardly at all and I felt like I was reading this at a distance. I didn’t feel bored, nor did I feel the need to DNF but I finished the book feeling it was okay but mainly with feelings of ambivalence.

I can imagine the themes in this book will work for many readers and if they’re able to connect with the characters, they’ll probably really enjoy this.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

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