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CROWN OF MIDNIGHT by Sarah J Maas

Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is bold, daring and beautiful – the perfect seductress and the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But though she won the king’s contest and became his champion, Celaena has been granted neither her liberty nor the freedom to follow her heart. Celaena faces a choice that is tearing her to pieces: kill in cold blood for a man she hates or risk sentencing those she loves to death. Celaena must decide what she will fight for: survival, love or the future of a kingdom. Because an assassin cannot have it all…. And trying to may just destroy her.


Title : Crown of Midnight
Author : Sarah J Maas
Series : Throne of Glass #2
Format : eBook
Page Count : 425
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury
Release Date : August 15, 2013

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Colour me surprised I wasn’t spoiled for the massive twist
Unexpected love from me to this book
Truly invested in the characters

Here’s the backlist review no-one asked for.

So a little recap…I read Throne of Glass 3-4 years ago and it left me with a meh feeling and lack of impetus to carry on. Then ACOTAR happened, followed by CC and well, I like this woman’s stories. I decided ages ago to give this series a second chance but it took some prodding from book buddy Amy to make it happen. Clearly she only had my best interest in mind.

I read a recap of book one, launched in and honestly, it was easy to get into it from the off. I call TOG one long world build, whereas this book was more juice in the story, better characterisation. I really liked Celaena as I got to know her and her motivations better. The unfolding magic kept me interested throughout. I totally shipped Celaena and Chaol and I grew to like Dorian more.

I had very mixed feelings about Nehemia, Asher and obviously the king. Mort was fun and the Elena too. Baba Yellowlegs reminded me how good Maas is at writing the creepy, chilling villains.

I cannot believe I haven’t been spoiled for that massive twist we got and I’m so pleased about that, even though I did have a brief thought in the right direction. I’m truly excited to read on.

DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING by Tricia Levenseller

A page-turning, seafaring adventure from YA fantasy sensation Tricia Levenseller – the first book in the Daughter of the Pirate King trilogy.

‘Kidnapped my interest from the first chapter and never let it go’ Anna Banks, author of Of Triton

Seventeen-year-old Alosa, daughter of the feared Pirate King, is on a mission. She must retrieve an ancient hidden map, the key to a legendary treasure trove. The catch? Alosa needs to conceal her considerable combat skills and allow herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But luckily, she has a few tricks up her sleeve – and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.


Title : Daughter of the Pirate King
Author : Tricia Levenseller
Series : Daughter of the Pirate King #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Pushkin Press
Release Date : September 29, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Swashbuckling fun
Parent problems
Frenemies

This book was just a fun romp from start to finish. It was light, adventurous but with solid plot and characterisation. Alosa was like disney Merida but at sea and older. I enjoyed her feisty behaviour, her leadership and her risk-taking.

There were two brothers in this debacle, one good and one bad. I liked the good one…
It was a pretty bloodthirsty read and any killing was just brushed by but it fit the tone of the piece and the fast-paced narrative.

I didn’t like the Pirate King and I’m wanting more about this from book two; he made me sneer when he was on and off the page. I want to know more about Alosa’s mother, so as I say, parent problems.

Daughter of the Pirate King is the kind of read that sweeps you up for a day or so and you don’t think of other books because it occupies your time and mind.

Thank you Pushkin Press for the review copy.

NOTHING MORE TO TELL by Karen McManus

True crime can leave a false trail.

Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.

When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.

Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth . . .

Title : Nothing More To Tell
Author : Karen McManus
Format : Physical
Page Count : 354
Genre : YA Thriller
Publisher : Penguin Books
Release Date : September 1, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3-3.5 star review

Headlines:
Old friendships
Parents and teachers
Twisty turny

A mostly engaging read with a more normal protagonist than I’ve read in some of McManus’ plots before. Byrnn was a returner to a fancy prep school she left four years ago and while she had a cool, sarcastic streak she was over-enthusatic and gung-ho about investigating that death of her favourite teacher. This was a cold case brought to life Brynn stepped on some rather delicate eggshells of issues and relationships.

The whole plotline of Tripp’s family was the most interesting to me, warts and all. That said, the shady side of the teacher’s family was gripping too. I liked how both those elements played out.

McManus always walks a delicate line between a raft of unlikeable characters and a couple who are investable enough to keep you reading with some love rather than hate. Nothing More To Tell really did test my mettle with so many shady or generally awful personalities but it sure makes things interesting.

I’m not rounding up on this one but it was an easy and entertaining read.

A DOWRY OF BLOOD by ST Gibson

This is my last love letter to you, though some would call it a confession. . .

S.T. Gibson’s sensational novel is the darkly seductive tale of Dracula’s first bride, Constanta.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things.

Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

This beautiful hardback edition will include a bonus short story featuring characters from A Dowry of Blood, titled ‘An Encore of Roses’.

Title : A Dowry of Blood
Author : ST Gibson
Format : Physical
Page Count : 304
Genre : Fantasy Horror
Publisher : Orbit Books
Release Date : October 6, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis reviewed an earlier edition here

Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Suffocating control
Unconventional relationships
Co-dependent vampires

This was a lush read of decadence mixed with something rather hideous underneath the trappings of ‘love’. I found this book totally captivating and uncomfortable but I couldn’t look away. I devoured it over 24 hours. I really enjoyed the first person narrative, it worked so well for this tale.

Told over centuries that felt like decades, the story unfolded from Constanta’s point of view but it centered on him, her sire, her lord, he who had to be obeyed. This was an utterly complex relationship between these two main characters, initally built on being saved, through to a besotted and an unreal kind of love, then into something deeper but kind of icky.

The story moved into having more key characters and more to the relationships. The sire’s truer colours came to light and this tale was one of darkness, dependency and blood.

It was so good to have the bonus short story and I’m wholly excited for more from this series and the characters.

We are children of the same rotten family, survivors of the same intimate war.

A COSMIC KIND OF LOVE by Samantha Young

Space is the last thing an event planner and an astronaut need in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young.

When event planner Hallie Goodman receives party-inspiration material from the bride of her latest wedding project, the last thing she expects to find in the files are digital videos from Darcy’s ex-boyfriend. Hallie knows it’s wrong to keep watching these personal videos, but this guy is cute, funny, and an astronaut on the International Space Station to boot. She’s only human. And it’s not long until she starts sending e-mails and video diaries to his discontinued NASA address. Since they’re bouncing back, there’s no way anyone will ever be able to see them…right?

Christopher Ortiz is readjusting to life on earth and being constantly in the shadow of his deceased older brother. When a friend from NASA’s IT department forwards him the e-mails and video messages Hallie has sent, he can’t help but notice how much her sense of humor and pink hair make his heart race.

Separated by screens, Hallie and Chris are falling in love with each other, one transmission at a time. But can they make their star-crossed romance work when they each learn the other’s baggage?


Title : A Cosmic Kind of Love
Author : Samantha Young
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : October 20, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Mr Nice Guy
Cutest meet
Parents and exes

This read was such a fantastic package of a contemporary romance and it featured the lesser heralded ‘good guy’ trope; a trope I happen to love. Chris (Mr Nice Guy) seemed all things authentic. He was a little lost, a bit of a hero, he had true partner potential but some complicated family and work background. Hallie was a small bombshell in heels, warm and lacking in self esteem.

I really appreciated the crappy parents storyline in this book. I think we read much more of that in YA and NA fiction but not when there’s older MCs. And yet…having a complex and difficult parent situation myself I know that this issue can run through adulthood, so this felt so real to me to read. Hallie and Chris bonded over this but it also brought complications.

I loved their initial non-meet, followed by their meet cute and their friendship but boy did they have bucket loads of tension and connection. I bought into their attraction and feelings while appreciating the time things took. I side eyed Darcy from front to back.

It seemed we were drawn to each other like binary stars. It was addictive and disorientating.

This was a gorgeous escapist read, with great characterisation, solid and fresh plot that kept me in full enjoyment mode. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Berkley and the author for the early review copy.

THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES by Naomi Novik – double review!

Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the Sunday Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out – not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way.

But that impossible dream has somehow come true for El and her classmates. And what’s more, she didn’t even have to become the monstrous dark witch she’s prophesised to become to make it happen. Instead of killing enclavers, she saved them, and now the world is safe for all wizards. Peace and harmony have enveloped all the enclaves of the world.

Just kidding.

Instead, someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in El’s stead, and everyone she saved is at risk again with a full-scale enclave war on the horizon. And so, the first thing El needs to do after miraculously escaping the Scholomance, is to turn straight around and find a way back in.


Title : The Golden Enclaves
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance #3
Format : Hardback / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK / Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
It hurts
The reveals are huge
Clever, clever world; clever, clever author

What an utterly rich series and concept of a world The Scholomance has been. I did not expect to reset my perceptions of this world so much through the final lens of this book, but I did. The reveals Novik brought through The Golden Enclaves were pretty huge and reconceptualised the foundations for the good and bad constructs of this magical world. I was not unhappy about this, simply impressed.

The way things at the end of The Last Graduate had El in depths of despair and I was there with her. I thought the grief was well written the actions that ensued understandable (I have a spoiler tag for more info on this in my GR review). That early part of the book was captivating but a more gentle pace, then we got a blast of speed and the book took off.

I appreciated seeing life in the world outside The Scholomance. How the enclaves worked but more than that, the often priviledged people inside the enclaves with no thought to those less priviledged. That said, the story did have short periods of lull for me where I pushed through a bit and things picked up in a satisfying way. I was a little un satisfied by the wrap up on the New York mother (being vague here).

Overall, this was a great conclusion to the series and it’ll hold a happy place in my reading heart.

Thank you to DelReyUK for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

When I closed the chapter on this book, I was admittedly flying a little high. I thought I’d be smacking this with a four and calling it a day. But the longer it took me to sit down and write this.. the more I doubted, the more I remembered the few bits I struggled with, and so here we are.

First of all, full disclosure, I cried at two different parts. So are there emotions and do they hit? Yes and yes.

Second of all, are there some good character and plot choices along the way that make this a bit less straight forward than we’ve been told to expect (even if we doubted it would be that straight forward)? Also yes and yes.

And did the romance satisfy? Wellll.

Due to s p o i l e r s there are complications with my answer to that last one. But I’m both satisfied and not. Because Novik had El interact with another character in a way I didn’t expect but.. initially, I was fine with it. When it happened again, when circumstances had changed, though? I was not fine with it. I have a feeling, if I filter some low-rated reviews, this might be the number one complaint; outside of people being real tired and bored by the non-dialogue monologues, which, fair! It does get a lot. But honestly you have to sorta be expecting that after two whole books.. (yes, I am a hypocrite because I make the same complaints in series I don’t like but keep reading, so, pfft, it is what it is).

Obviously I can’t talk about anything else, or anything plot-related, so, was this a satisfying end? Yes and no. I was emotional, I was delighted, I was a little sad, I was surprised and also maybe disappointed, I was a lot of things. And ultimately I’m not quite sure I loved this ending enough to put this series on a favourites list — but I do think I would be up for recommending it.. and I definitely want to reread it at some point. Do with that what you will!

BEAUTIFUL GRAVES by LJ Shen

From USA Today bestselling author L.J. Shen comes a passion- and angst-charged story about a woman caught between a secure relationship and a once-in-a-lifetime spark with her muse.

They say first loves are oftentimes the end of one’s innocence.

Those words couldn’t ring truer for Everlynne Lawson, whose first brush with romance came with a heartbreak…and the thing that seems to follow her everywhere she goes. Death.

After a great tragedy, Everlynne loses all she cares about—her dreams, her family, and her soulmate, Joe.

Guilt-ridden, Everlynne decides to isolate herself in Salem, Massachusetts. A shell of the woman she once was, she takes her days one at a time, careful not to allow herself the joy she believes others in her life were robbed of. But when the mysterious, handsome Dominic storms into her life, it becomes more difficult to stay in solitude. Dominic is different: adventurous, joyous, with lust for life and a passion to make her his.

Everlynne is on the cusp of reinventing herself once again when the old wounds of her past are resurrected, rawer than ever. There is nothing worse than being in love with two men.

Especially when one of them hates you.


Title : Beautiful Graves
Author : LJ Shen
Format : Physical
Page Count : 373
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : October 4, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Dramatic triangular shaped romance
Death and grief
Easy reading

I just fancied an easy read and a trip down memory lane with this author. I got the easy reading but I definitely got a suitcase full of drama with it. I’m not always a fan of LJ Shen’s work, I don’t like bully romances and this wasn’t that. It was a tale of three people, friendships, death and grief. It was pretty rich and somewhat immature.

The protagonist was a stuck in a hole of grief and self-blame. She’d ostracised herself from her family and friends. I didn’t really buy into her relationship with Dom, I found Dom to be a bit fake and while I didn’t see what happened, coming…I knew there was something. Joe was the lingering thought in my mind.

There were a few elements that felt disconnected in the story, the grave designing, the family issues and mother issues but I was glad when I got to the parts that connected the dots.

If you like the dramatic easy romance read type of plot, this one is for you. For me, I enjoyed the ease of it more than the plot but it was fun for the weekend.

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.