Spells for Forgetting – by Adrienne Young (Review)

Standalone

Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural

Delacorte Press; September 27, 2022

352 pages (ebook)

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10 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Ballantine Books, Delacorte Press, and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

A mist-cloaked isle steeped in folklore and tradition, no one goes to Saiorse island to stay. Everyone who’s local already lives there, and the island doesn’t take well to outsiders. Despite this, hordes of tourists flock to the islet in fall to see the trees, to visit the Salt Orchard in all its autumn finery.

August Salt isn’t headed to Saiorse as a tourist, and he isn’t going there to stay. But it still feels like he’s headed home.

Decades before, August left Saiorse in the dead of night with his mother, never to return. The Orchard Fire—and the death of Lily Morgan—precipitated their departure, while another death results in August’s return. That of his mother, Eloise. No, August hasn’t come home to stay; he knows he isn’t welcome here, not after the night that provoked his departure. He’s come to bury his mother.

Emery Blackwood once dreamt of leaving the island, running away with August and exploring the world. But after the Orchard Fire, everything changed. Now Emery lives among the ashes of her former life. She runs a teahouse—as her mother did before her—and lives in her childhood home. It’s not the life she thought she wanted, but it is hers.

Now, fourteen years after that fateful day, Emery’s reality threatens to shatter once more. As August Salt once again walks Saiorse’s shores. She can’t look at him: his departure stole everything from her—her heart, her future, her best friend, almost her own father. But neither can she stay away: August is the only man she’s ever loved, and she’s dreamt of him ever since he left—his smell, his taste, his scent, his touch.

But August’s return affects more than just Emery, more than just the town—the island itself notices his arrival. And secrets that have remained buried for the last fourteen years will finally come to life.

There are spells for breaking and spells for mending. But there are no spells for forgetting.

I often mention how I’ll get so immersed in a book that literal hours pass without me noticing. I mean, it doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it’s both an amazing and surreal feeling—of belonging in a world that isn’t my own, but is one I can picture so vividly that I’m transported there.

I think you probably know where I’m going with this.

Spells for Forgetting is a story of true love—and, at the same time, a story of love unrequited. It is a book full of secrets and lies, of the possible and the impossible, of the supernatural and the unknown, of love and envy.

It is also an amazing read.

Saiorse Island is a fictional islet hidden in the shadow of Seattle, in Puget Sound. But it legitimately feels like an entire world on its own, instead of an enclave on the world’s edge. Sometimes a setting like this feels cramped, claustrophobic—but I never noticed that with this. Instead, Saiorse feels cozy, comfortable, and—although I’ve never lived within 500 miles of the ocean—it feels like home.

But for all its comfort, the mystery at the heart of Saiorse burns bright. The past, hidden in lies and steeped in the supernatural, has yet to come out, though one can feel that it desperately wants to. All it needs is a little push.

One thing that bothered me was the tale of true love—and in particular the side-plot of love unrequited. Because I’ve been in that spot before, and so it was so hard to read about it. Yet at the same time… Adrienne Young nailed it. That feeling: that some things are just predetermined, fated, and while they were meant to be for some others will just never have them. Something you cannot fight, though you will anyway.

The way that this bothered me… did not ruin the story. In fact, I think it made it better. It made the story feel more real, more tangible—in a way that it truly did not need. From the setting to the mystery to its characters to true love—it was a tale that hit close to home. Parts of it might have been difficult to read, but all of it was incredible.

TL;DR

I’m honestly having trouble expressing just how much I loved this novel. From the story, the setting, the characters—everything seems so much more than I can put into words. I even loved the romance, even though sometimes the thought of it hurt worse than heartbreak ever has the right to. I can’t recommend Spells for Forgetting enough, not just for creating a world you can get lost in, but for giving you a reason to return once you do.

Our Crooked Hearts – by Melissa Albert (Review)

Standalone

Fantasy, Paranormal, Witches

Flatiron Books; June 28, 2022

345 pages (ebook)

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9.25 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.

The Suburbs – RIGHT NOW:

Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a grounding, and a break-up. But there’s also a mystery to it all. The mystery of what happened that night; who that girl in the middle of the road was; why she was naked; and how she knew Ivy’s name. To find the answers, Ivy must pick apart everything that she thinks she knows about herself, her life—and her mother.

The City – BACK THEN:

Dana has always been perceptive, if not creative. But then she had to grow up quick. Didn’t have time for what-ifs, childhood, or fantasies of monsters and magic. Well… maybe there was time for a little magic.

Because Dana has always known she’s had a little bit of magic within her. She knew it from the time she was born, but really only came into it with the help of her best friend, Fiona. The two were inseparable from the moment they first met, from what their mutual gifts awakened in one another. When Dana meets Marion, for a moment she thinks she’s found another kindred soul, another piece of herself. But that moment does not last long. And while she discovers that the magic she’s always known she had can be so much more when she’s among other practitioners, witches, friends—she also learns the cost of betrayal and greed. It is a price she may have to pay in blood.

Or rabbits.

It might’ve begun with Dana, but this story is years in the telling. By the time Ivy comes into the picture the story has lulled, but soon it flares strongly to life once more. Both will just have to hope that the secrets at the heart of this shared story won’t tear their family apart, or their lives along with it.

So. Magic. It is the loneliest thing in the world.

It’s going to be hard for me to put into words just how much I enjoyed Our Crooked Hearts. I pretty much devoured this one, cover to cover, sleep be damned. The creepy, tense thriller that comes from next to nothing. The dark undercurrent of the story to start that grows and grows until the darkness begins to bleed into every part of the tale. The mystery of both mother and daughter—one told in the past, one in the present; one trying to solve this riddle, the other very much attempting to keep it hidden; a naked girl, a coven of witches, a dark secret. The shared story, told in two parts, each one teasing their own secrets out one piece at a time.

It was… oh so satisfying!

While the story itself is no slouch—nothing that’s been overdone or is too long or confusing or convoluted—the characters of Dana and Ivy are definitely the reason to read this. Or, I guess, their shared story is. It’s this link between the past and the present—that so many stories try, to only marginal success—that makes Our Crooked Hearts the amazing tale that it is. Mostly alternating chapters—one in the past, one in the present—up until everything starts going a bit pear-shaped. Both stories are exciting, mysterious and tense, highly interesting and entertaining, but it’s the way they play on each other that makes it so much better. The way the characters interact between timelines, where their problems and personalities conflict or overlap. The way they play off one another—something you can only really find in stories with two main protagonists (not that this only has the TWO, necessarily).

So, you see, it is the strength of the story after all!

Well, that and its characters.

The world is one very much like our own—I mean, it could well be our own. But there’s a darkness to it, something like a shadow creeping on its edges. Very much like what you’d find in the Hinterlands, which a lot of sense given the author. A delightfully dark tale, one fans of Schwab or Kingfisher will enjoy.

The romance, however. It’s not great. It… never really felt real to me. More like a childish crush that we just continued because we felt like it was the thing to do. Because we didn’t have any other prospects. It’s very much a love borne out of convenience, if history. And while it may not have made a ton of sense at any time in the story, it made even less sense in the end. Fortunately, the romance is a bit of an afterthought—it’s not vital to the plot. Less of a plot point, more of an addendum.

TL;DR

While I didn’t come to Our Crooked Hearts for the romance, I wasn’t asked to stay for it either. Instead, author Melissa Albert presents a world very much like our own, albeit with an ever-so-dark twist—one you may not even notice until it starts creeping around the edges of your vision. What unfolds is a story of a daughter and her mother. One of shared meaning and love. One of darkness and regret. One of mystery and secrets. One that is sure to thrill, but also make you think. One with blood, and rabbits—and often both at the same time. To be honest, I’m not sure what made me stay with Our Crooked Hearts. Maybe it was the delightful darkness. The amazing story. The equally amazing characters. The mystery. The magic. The tension. The secrets, and where they led. There were so many reasons to stay and only the briefest of disappointments when it came to the romance—not something I really read books for anyway. So try Our Crooked Hearts for basically every reason, as it’s an incredible read. Just maybe not the romance.