Spells For Forgetting

Book Review

Spells For Forgetting By Adrienne Woods

Magical Realism, Suspense Thriller

5 Stars

A rural island community steeped in the mystical superstitions of its founders and haunted by an unsolved murder is upended by the return of the suspected killer in this deeply atmospheric novel.

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. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among the community that fractured her world in two. She’d once longed to run away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saiorse Island and chase new dreams; now, she maintains her late mother’s tea shop and cares for her ailing father. But just as the island, rooted in folklore and tradition, begins to show signs of strange happenings, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that no one wants to remember.

August Salt knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night that changed everything. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from the past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises that span generations threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.

Evocative and compelling, Spells for Forgetting is a vivid exploration of lost love and the unraveling of a small town and its many secrets.

I think if I’d read the blurb instead of just leaping in on a whim, I wouldn’t have even started this book. I’m so glad I did (or, didn’t read the blurb and just read the book).

This book embraced me from the very first pages. I felt Saoirse; smelled and tasted it through every page. Then, I just needed to know. I couldn’t stop until I found out. Page after page turned with this physical need to get to the end, my heart breaking with every new reveal, my mind skipping ahead trying to put the pieces together, curious whether I should root for August or not. Wanting to. Because weaved in this tale of mystery and murder is a story of soul mates torn apart. This is the feeling I want when I slip into the world of stories.

I feel a book hangover that might last for days…

Happy Reading 🙂



Book Review

Book 1 of the Dune Saga

by Frank Herbert

Science Fiction/Space Opera

5 stars

Post 2 in my Favorite Books series

Dune is ofttimes described as having weak character development, and since characters are what make people love books, I know a lot of people who never even get through twenty percent of this epic classic. I can’t even argue. When I recommend Dune to someone, and they tell me weeks later they just couldn’t get into it, I just shrug and say I understand. It’s a lot. It’s dense. There are a lot of characters adding their opinion to a convoluted story that takes it time.

I never had a problem getting into Paul’s head. He’s one of my favorite characters of all time, next to John Conner and Anakin Skywalker. Not necessarily because of their actions on page and screen but because of how much we can discuss the possible inner workings of their thoughts and actions. We can dive deep into the psychology of the human mind using these three as a focus. To know the future, as Paul and John do, to see the necessity of horrific circumstances because the alternatives are worse and have to decide on that path…I’m not sure I would ever get out of bed. Sure, this pair isn’t exactly parallel, but I feel their trauma is very similar.

Throw in a unique, complex, but logical system of politicking with family vendetta and rich history, and I’m hooked. I especially love the pointed use of religion and education to lead persons into specific roles, namely seen through Jessica’s education of Paul. Her Bene Gessirit roots show us the power of this all-female group I still find fascinating. Their behind-the-scenes work makes them more powerful than the petty lords of government. It is this that makes me sad when I hear contemporary readers speak of how patriarchal the book is. Besides that it was written in the 60s (so yes, but…), there are nuances here that speak to a richer world that goes beyond a capitalistic engineered scale of equality. Not to mention, if speaking on the book as a parallel to current culture, we might think of how the figures behind the curtain pulling the strings of public figures are of more import than the faces we see. I would much rather be the powerful rather than play at power given to me through the sufferance of others. By this argument, who’s really the most powerful group in Dune’s Empire?

Dune is not my most re-read book, but it is up there. With every read, I pick up something I missed or took in a different way than last time. It is this, I think, more than anything else, that makes Dune a book that will forever remain at the top of my favorites list.

Share your favorite books with me in the comments!

Read the first post in this series here.

Happy Reading!


Empire of Silence

Book Review

Book 1 of The Sun Eater Series

By Christopher Ruocchio

Science Fiction/Space Opera

5 Stars

Post one in my Favorite Books Series

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

We all know by now that Dune is my most favorite book–still, after all these years and after reading so many other almost-as-good stories. When Empire of Silence crossed my path, I didn’t know how serendipitous it was until I sat down to listen. I thank the library app for its intuitiveness in offering this as a book I might like. Nailed it!

There are serious Dune vibes in Ruoccio’s Empire. Many call it derivative, but I thought it the perfect blend of a brilliant world mixed with its own elements to create its own thing. Calling Ruocchio’s work derivative, I think, is like calling anything with elves derivative of Lord of the Rings. Mixed with the prose of The Name of the Wind (another favorite of mine), with future-god vibes like Hyperion (a book I didn’t read until others compared this to that and loved), it is the greatest parts of so many great things. There was no other path than for Empire of Silence to become a new favorite of mine, rivaling the long top-ranked Dune (don’t go check my list. I have to update it *shhh* Just trust me).

Ruocchio creates (borrows and blends) a well-wrapped political system and stringently controlled machine and computer use over a multi-thousand world landscape that sets the perfect stage for this opera. With Hadrien an idealistic dreamer set against the backdrop of war and a no-nonsense father, there can only be hardships for him. His melodramatic flair, something I don’t typically appreciate, makes for the perfect center of this tale. First, in rebellion, next, in pushing his nose where it doesn’t belong sets him on a path not even he can anticipate. It makes me wonder just where the line is between forcing ones personal will on the world, versus towing the line because that’s what makes successful civilizations function. I feel like we all like to think we need to assert control over the things that happen to us, but is it our place most of the time? Is that assertion merely an oppression of someone else’s will and/or a combative stance against systems created to allow communities to sustain? I can’t answer this. I don’t even want to, but for Hadrien, I feel like this is the theme of his life. He happens to be correct much of the time, but I wonder, in the following books, if this hubris doesn’t finally catch up to him. If the first page is anything to judge this by, it definitely does.

Recently, I re-read the book and was caught by the perfect sculpting of sentences; each word formed perfectly with those surrounding it to create this story. Great prose is not mutually exclusive with great stories, but in Empire of Silence, it brings an extraordinary tale to another level. The quotables that come from the pages can fill a journal (I have an extensive notes category on my phone dedicated to quotes from this book. I’m on my fourth re-read in 2 years). Gibson should get his own book on philosophy, though I understand he is simply spouting wisdom from figures long past.

Gibson brings up another point about why I adore this book. It makes you think. It speaks of deep social and psychological issues always relevant to individuals and societies. Some passages will make me pause and consider. Certain characters juxtaposing the other will allow a look into multiple perspectives on social commentary not always allowed in our typically defensive natures.

The final book of this series is out, and I have put off reading it because I don’t like the idea of this story ending. I am re-reading the series to come into that final book full and fresh of Hadrian’s perspective Ruocchio created.

Read the next post in this series here.

Happy Reading 🙂


Reflections on Reviewing Novels

Buried within this reflection on my reviewing practice is a review for the novella: The Curse of the Owl by Qatarina Wanders.

There’s this in-between where I often struggle with reviews. It’s important to me to maintain a steady level of integrity. I’ve lost a few fellow indie authors’ support by offering 3 stars instead of the 4-5 stars they seek. I think there’s some kind of unspoken agreement about that, but I just can’t abide it. Especially when giving 3 stars is already a reach. I want you to come here, see what I had to say about a book, decide to read it based on that saying, and trust I was honest. If you go into a book and find I over or under-stated, you won’t come back and see what I had to say.

I don’t know if readers don’t consider books rated under 4 stars. I will. Three stars to me means: good book, worth it. 4 stars is great, and 5 is couldn’t put it down, stuck in my head, changed my life kind of story. Sometimes I’m a little looser with the last, but all of this means 3 stars is still a good book. All that said, I understand that’s not a view everyone holds, so sometimes I go 4 if I’m hovering at 3+.

This is something that happened with my recent read. The Curse of the Owl starts with pages of info dumping. Paragraphs of explanation between single lines of dialogue. I recognize it because it’s a thing I’ve just learned not to do (in that, I have done it, and now recognize to not do it). It’s also a point I find with many indie authors doing it on their own (of which I am one. I don’t have the budget for legit editors, so I make do with reader feedback and numerous go-overs). My point: indie books are often published sans the final few edits. This doesn’t make them bad books. It definitely does not mean the stories aren’t good. It just means the ratings are always there, which doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading.

For The Curse of the Owl, I left this review:

This fast read is fun and interesting, with a unique take on the supernatural world I am curious to learn more about. With a pair of kick-butt protagonists, I found the stakes real and relatable. There is definitely enough here to turn into a full-length novel. While I found the front 40% a great heap of info dumping, the action sequences through the back half were exciting and page-turning. This novella seems a great set-up for the main series I have added to my TBR.

I understated and over-stated, just a little, all the things I said I wouldn’t to maintain a level of integrity. If I wasn’t reviewing this for a service, I would have put it down in the first few pages. That thought alone should warrant this short book unworthy of 4 stars, yet that is what I gave it. The ending did pick up. It was exciting. There were multiple cool action sequences. It’s a prequel to a series about the daughter and niece of the characters told here. Like so many indie books, I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted everything to get developed and told, not just washed over.

Happy Reading 🙂