The Darkness Within by Lisa Stone 

“It was always worse when he’d had a beer or two. That Feeling. Hot, urgent and raw, tearing through him. Making him restless, argumentative. Angry. It was as though something or someone took control of him, forcing him to act badly, to be nasty and cruel.”

This is a story about a transplant patient, who starts to exhibit different characteristics than his normal ones. Is it his donors organ changing him, or did he always have a propensity to do that which he now does?

Jacob receives a new heart, even as he is coming round his character has changed, he swears, thinks little of women. Once home his family are grateful for his reprieve and do not immediately take in his changes.
Meanwhile his donor’s girlfriend has moved on and is living a happier life as a singleton, while keeping her job in a local bank. She hasn’t told anyone about how her previous relationship was and is taking life one day at a time.

As the story moves forward Jacob’s character changes ever more profoundly and his mother starts to feel concern. She starts to seek help for her son, always wondering whether it is the new heart or the way Jacob was brought up.

The ending is tense and fast paced, I was speed reading to see what the outcome would be for the individual characters. Would any of them be brave enough to solve the matter?

This was a cracking story, different than many others. It explores the idea of memory within donated organs being assimilated by the host bodies. Totally fascinating!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A gripping new thriller debut that asks the question, how deep in our hearts does evil lie?

When critically ill Jacob Wilson is given a life-saving heart transplant, his parents are relieved that their loving son has been saved.

However, before long, his family are forced to accept that something has changed in Jacob. Their once loving son is slowly being replaced by a violent man whose mood swings leave them terrified – but is it their fault?

Jacob’s girlfriend, Rosie, is convinced the man she loves is suffering from stress. But when his moods turn on her, she begins to doubt herself – and she can only hide the bruises for so long.

When a terrible crime is committed, Jacob’s family are forced to confront their darkest fears. Has the boy they raised become a monster? Or is someone else to blame?

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How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

“‘Sweetheart, where is Marion?’ I asked. She stared at me a long time. I readied myself for some terrible news. ‘She fled . . .’ ‘What?’ ‘She was like you.’ It took a moment to sink in. ‘She stopped growing old?’”

A story about life as an immortal, among mayfly (humans!).

Written in the first person, Tom Hazard is 439 years old and his tale is full of sadness, death and hope!

He was rescued by a group called ‘The Albatross Society.’ The society is run by one Hendrich Pietersen, who gives those who are members, a fine lifestyle. But every 8 years he requires those members to change their lives, and also to carry out a small task for him.

But Tom has also asked that Hendrich do something for him, find his daughter. Hendrich keeps saying that the society is getting closer, but hasn’t found her, yet!

Meanwhile, Tom tries to live a life that he chooses, for a change. And change is what he gets.

I enjoyed this book, it reminded me of something, but I can’t think what! I would certainly recommend it to my friends, and you of course.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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 ‘I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.’

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

“Since Borne never displayed any kind of threatening behavior, I never thought to take him as a threat.”

This is a book that took me a long time to read, but only because my work/life balance was tipped over.

I enjoyed the story of Rachel and how she found and ‘brought up’, Borne. Also of Rachel’s relationship with Wick, both of them have secrets, both of them are stealing access to each others private space in search of answers.

They live in a world of scavengers, in a world of destruction and wreckage. Rachel makes her ‘living’ scavenging what she can, to enable her and Wick to continue living in their sanctuary apartment block. Wick contributes by manufacturing biotechnology goods to sell – basically the equivalent of a modern day drug dealer (a it of a weird choice of expression I know!).

“I believe in Borne.” I truly do. It struck me as I was reading that I do believe in Borne.

Obviously life is not easy in this post-catastrophic world and things change for Rachel, Wick and Borne – sometimes exponentially. Ultimately things change and life is never the same again. But don’t be despondent life goes on.

This book is extremely well written, with great character construction without being overly descriptive. And did I mention how Borne captivated me. I’d love a Borne to communicate with, as long as it treated me the same as Borne treated Rachel, of course.

I’m sure that a number of my friends will be reading this book very soon (once I tell them about it of course).

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A novel that is simultaneously harrowing, dark, dangerous, funny and uplifting from the author of the Southern Reach trilogy
“Am I a person?” Borne asks Rachel, in extremis.
“Yes, you are a person,” Rachel tells him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”
In a ruined, nameless city of the future, Rachel makes her living as a scavenger. She finds a creature she names Borne entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic despotic bear that once prowled the corridors of a biotech firm, the Company, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly, and broke free. Made insane by the company’s torture of him, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers.
At first, Borne looks like nothing at all―just a green lump that might be a discard from the Company, which, although severely damaged, is rumored to still make creatures and send them to far-distant places that have not yet suffered collapse.
Borne reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment that she resents: attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick―a special kind of dealer―not to render down Borne as raw genetic material for the drugs he sells.
But nothing is quite the way it seems: not the past, not the present, not the future. If Wick is hiding secrets, so is Rachel―and Borne most of all. What Rachel finds hidden deep within the Company will change everything and everyone. There, lost and forgotten things have lingered and grown. What they have grown into is mighty indeed.

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Assassin’s Fate (Book III of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy) by Robin Hobb

“Beware! Wolf-Father warned me. Spring away! But I was a cub and I did not see the danger.”

Robin Hobb writes detailed stories with characters that are realistic and full of history. She then places them in a world that is complete, that contains danger and delight.

This particular story focuses on Bee and her father FitzChivalry Farseer who hail from Buck in the Six Duchies. Bee has been taken and is being dragged across countryside and ocean as a prize for a group of cruel rulers.

FitzChivalry believes Bee dead at the hands of those who attacked them. He is intent on vengeance, recruiting others to his cause as he travels to Clerres with the Fool (also known as Beloved).

This book takes some reading, it is not a short tale. And, it is book three of a complete set (the first two being Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest), so if you read it first, you really are missing out!

I have enjoyed continuing the stories of the Fool and FitzChivalry and have found it hard, waiting to read them. Now this book is published, it is a signal to all to start immersing in this tale.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The much-anticipated final conclusion to the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. 

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. 

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protege Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles. Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. 

Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected? But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices. 

ASSASSIN’S FATE is a magnificent tour de force and with it Robin Hobb demonstrates yet again that she is the reigning queen of epic fantasy.

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Samhain Heartsong by Doranna Durgin

““I had not intended to intrude. Your song—” “Yes, let’s talk about that,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since forever. No one ever emerged from elsewhere into my arroyo before.””

Doranna Durgin wrote this short story as part of a featured read on a publisher website and she very kindly sent me a link to advance read it.

I read it straight away way back in March and didn’t get round to writing a review, so I have just re-read it to make sure I remember it true. I think I pretty much did, except for the names.

The outline of the story is that of Arlie, who likes to sit by a tree-lined gully on her land and create music with her voice. It is as she does so that a pair of fighters cross into her gully from nowhere.

The scenario repeats over time, with one of the individuals against other opponents. Arlie starts to look forward to the occurrences with anticipation and is badly affected when they stop.

The rest of the story takes an even more paranormal turn and builds what I think would be a really good basis for a series; if Durgin ever considers it. I would like to read more of this and whatever happens next.

On my first read I originally gave a 5/5 stars, however, on re-reading I have reduced that – in order to comply with my own rules of ‘5-stars applied’.

I received a preview of this short story from the author  in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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http://changespell.com/index.html

Official introduction from the Author:
While I was finishing work on my final Sentinels book, I was invited to write this daily Featured Read for the Harlequin site–a paranormal stand-alone, relationship-oriented as all the Nocturnes are. It had to be under a certain number of words, divided into equal chapters, and complete unto itself. Also, because it ran the entire month of October, culminating on Halloween, it needed to touch on the season. In the end (to maintain my own sanity) I wrote the story to the targeted word count, divided it, and created transitions as necessary. The story itself was as magical in the writing as I could have hoped for–it had its own character and epic fantasy tone, and flowed readily from my brain. It’s one of my favorites now, and I won’t be surprised if it always is. ~Doranna

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The Reckoners by Doranna Durgin

“Once upon a time, Rhonda Rose had opened the door to her power… and taken away her innocence, all in one fell swoop. Once upon a time.”

This book is about ghost hunters and aliens; and that is not a spoiler really. I don’t intend to spoil the story for anyone.

Garrie is bored of her job and is looking for something else for a change of routine. Then a stranger turns up at one of her jobs (with a cat) and not only messes things up, that she has to go back to finish next day, but books her and her team for a job in San Jose.

That job is not defined and, really, Garrie has no idea what she and her team are employed for.

Her client [Trevarr] has a companion; it looks like a cat, but it isn’t. Trevarr and Sklayne are from another world and have a job to do that specifically needs the help of Garrie to complete. They just aren’t telling her what.

Durgin tells the story from the point of view of Nevahn (Trevarr’s foster father), alongside Garrie’s point of view, Trevarr’s and even Sklayne’s.

Sklayne’s way of thinking and communicating is completely different than that of this world and Durgin manages to put this across very well with the use of :: double colon marks either side of Sklayne’s comments, to indicate his non-verbal communications.

Once the reader gets used to this, it is a fun read. I really liked Sklayne, even though he wasn’t one of the two main characters, and hope he continues to appear in subsequent books. He is very self centred and yet still would like to be able to look out for Trevarr.

If you like paranormal, ghost hunter, alien planet -style books, then I’m sure that you will find this book engaging.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
The Reckoners (Author’s Cut): A powerful ghostbuster raised by a spirit, her brilliantly eccentric backup team, a cat who isn’t a cat at all…and a fiercely driven bounty hunter from a different dimension who brings them together when worlds collide.

Skilled ghosthunter Lisa “Garrie” McGarrity not only sees dead people, she wrangles them into submission. But her beloved ghostly mentor moved on years ago, and the Southwest has gone quiet under Garrie’s hand. Garrie and her team have grown restless and…well, face it. Maybe willing to take a risk or two.

So when the relentlessly mysterious and fiercely driven Trevarr (and his not-cat!) shows up asking for help, Garrie is inclined to listen. And when he describes big trouble at the San Jose Winchester Mystery House, she’s inclined to go with him, even if it splits her team along the way.

But she doesn’t expect a mansion crammed with spirits on the brink of madness, and she doesn’t expect to face off against the powerful and unfamiliar energies of semi-ethereal beings from another dimension. She definitely doesn’t expect the fabric of her own world to unravel around her–with no one but her to stop it.

And truly, she has no idea how deep Trevarr’s secrets run.

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Defective by Autumn Kalquist

“As she fixed her cuff, she touched her wrist where her Protected ID tag was embedded. The slim silicone disc shifted back and forth beneath her light brown skin, a dead giveaway that she was genetically modified.”

I have read this story before, but it has been reworked since i first read the initial draft, and is better for it. But don’t think that it wasn’t a good story to start with, it was superb.
Selene is special and so is her brother Eli. They live with their Nan, off-grid, so that no-one can find them. They scratch out an existence, growing their own food and keeping to themselves.
Then Selene decides to sell some spare food at the road-side, the buyers take her entire offering and pay with (unknown to Selene) marked bits. That means that when Selene tries to spend the bits, they are flagged in the store. She gets away and runs on home with Eli.
Meanwhile, the resistance against the mega corporations are fighting a tough battle in the quarantine zone, not knowing if they will survive the conflict.
Anders is conflicted with his father and sneaks off to his uncle’s when he can. But no-one seems to want to treat him like an adult. All he wants to do is make life difficult for the corporations who control everything. 

I really like Autumn’s creation. It seems a likely world and there are all the human conflicts that you would expect in a realistic construct. I have read some of her other books and found them to be equally enjoyable. A thoroughly recommended series to read.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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What if you could be immune to any disease?
Genetic modification. Global warming. Pandemics. Famine. Economic collapse. In the early twenty-first century, governments failed worldwide, and humanity entered a dark age. From the wreckage, the Corporate Coalition rose with new hope for humanity and lofty promises to create a better world for all. 

One of their first experiments: Protecteds. Genetically modified children, immune to the diseases that wiped out billions. But something went wrong, and the defective Protecteds have been hunted and imprisoned for eight long years.

Bas is a Protected fighting the Coalition in an underground rebellion. When their top agent goes missing in a mysterious quarantine zone in Georgia, Bas and his team must rescue him… or ensure his secrets die with him.

Selene and her little brother Eli are Protecteds hiding out in Telmont, Georgia, and the quarantine has brought soldiers to their doorstep. Selene will do anything necessary to protect her family… but she’d rather die than give up her freedom. 

Anders hates the Coalition more than anyone else in Telmont, and he’s willing to break the law to fight back. One problem: his dad’s the local Coalition sheriff.

Katherine Raines runs the Coalition and knows what’s really in the quarantine zone… and she’s willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to ensure it never gets out.

Defective is book one of the Fractured Era series.

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The Hand in Shadow by JD Lovil

“”I see that you are the Hand in Shadow in this world. Know that what you must do is necessary, lest the Night-Wolf and the World Serpent descend upon your world, and bring about the Twilight, which is Ragnarok.”

This book is a bit sci-fi, a bit mythology; there are snippets from many different theologies introduced in some of the minor characters, but I don’t think it would detract from the story if you were bothered by that.
Essentially, John lost his wife and child to a demon and since then has learned to meditate to help him through the pain. As a consequence of his meditation he has opened himself to releasing his innate skills as a shadow walker and has been recruited by the resistance to help save humanity.
His companion throughout the tale is Barney, who is only one of two who are able to enter John’s Mind Palace, a safe place in his imagination. The other is ‘Monk’, a blind guy, who doesn’t give John his real name, so John calls him Monk in deference to his appearance and style of clothing..
Monk is John’s contact with the resistance and gives him the ‘contracts’ or tasks that the resistance need John to undertake.
The resistance is up scaling it’s efforts against the enemy and John is one of the key players in their plans. As one of the godlike beings tells John, he is the ‘hand in shadow’ and essential in protecting our world and restoring safety to humanity.
The story is generally well written, with only the occasion repetitive or oddly worded section, but these are minor and do not detract from the story. It is not a short read, so you will get your money’s worth with this book. You should hopefully also find it as engaging as I did. I enjoyed this book, it helped me as I was working through a different time in my life, by giving me an escape from the real world.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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What are you, after everything you ever loved is taken away?

John Nomad once was a normal man, with a good job, loving wife, and beautiful daughter. A demonic creature took their lives, and destroyed everything that John cared about.

In the depths of his depression, a blind monk introduced him to a hidden world of power, of men and gods who use exotic powers to change the world around them. He showed John that a powerful group was behind his family’s death, and were the real power behind every government and political power on earth.

John’s depression turned to rage, and a determination to oppose the Unseen Masters, and to avenge his family. He became a part of the Resistance, and he discovered an ability to manipulate Shadow within himself. He became an important and versatile part of the Resistance, called by gods and men The Hand of the World.

Now John must stay ahead of the assassins sent to kill him, and avoid both physical and psychic attacks, and the darker things that lurk in the darkness. He strikes back at the enemy wherever he can. Each time he kills an enemy operative, he gets closer to the Anunnaki Slavers, and Humanity’s ultimate survival.

The enemy has been hiding behind the Kings of the world for thousands of years. We all sense this, and we feel powerless to stop them. Now they are preparing to come into the light, and enslave humanity until the end of time.

Will John and his fellow Resistance members be able to stop the Unseen Masters? Find out. Buy a copy of The Hand in Shadow.

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Dragonsong by Michael Forester

“Hail, Oberon –defend me now! For thou art my dear chosen one this evil must thou not allow! Thy silence doth thy father now amaze!”

A tale of dragons and ancient times, with elves and humans in strife.

Oberon, Captain-King of Elves, covets a maiden in Albion, but she (is protected and ) only wants to take up and fulfil her inherited duties. In his rage at his rejection Oberon determines to revenge himself on her and Albion.

Later in the book, on taking up her duties Rebekah finds her true love, which is when Oberon unleashes his revenge, twisting her against her father Merlin, in the process.

It then falls to Merlin to try and help redeem his daughter and save all of Albion from dragonsong in the process.

This book is not written in prose, it is all rhyming couplets. It takes some getting used to. The first time I started to read, I put it aside in frustration. However, on re-starting the tale I persevered and found it engaging to read. In fact I managed to get three quarters of the way through in one sitting.

Those who like ancient style tales will enjoy this book. But like many bardish tales, you could expect tears!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
A bardic epic fantasy in rhyming Old English, an allegorical masque of good and evil in an Authurian tradition. Rebekah, daughter of Merlin and noblewoman of Albion has been driven to madness by the murder of her lover Vidar. In her torment she bargains with the Prince of Demons to turn her into a dragon. Once transformed, she seeks to take revenge upon her father, Merlin, whom she is fooled into believing is responsible for Vidar’s death.

Behind the subterfuge stands Oberon, Captain-King of Elves, who cannot foresee the devastation his jealousy and unrequited love for Rebekah will unleash upon the world of Gaia. Its salvation depends upon Merlin travelling back in time to find a pure hearted warrior, Lady Attie, who, together with Michael, seer of Albion, must take the Sleep Stone from the gates of Hell to persuade the dragon to sleep. But if they are unable to return the Stone to the mouth of Hell in time, the demon army will awaken and ransack Gaia in a war that will destroy its existence. Time is the solution to Gaia’s destiny – but only if the gods of Asgard can find a way to stop it.

Dragonsong is a unique epic fantasy that explores fundamental themes of good and evil, jealously and revenge. Woven together with a gripping and powerful plot, the pattern of the language, the musicality of the form and the profound emotions invoked carry the reader to extremes of human experience and capability at both its best and worst.

A Note From the Publisher
Michael Forester was born with a pen in his hand. His first published creative work, If It Wasn’t For That Dog, about his first year with his beloved hearing dog Matt was published in 2005. He is an Oxford University graduate, a Winchester Writer’s Festival prize winner and has been long/shortlisted three time in the Fish Writing Contest. His first novel Vicious was showcased by The Literary Consultancy.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

“I am going to do my best to be normal, all day. That is my challenge to myself. I do not want anybody to guess the truth about me. I look down at my left hand. I have written BE NORMAL on it. I see Agi looking at it too. ‘I should also remind myself of this sometimes,’ she says, with a nod.”

I thought this book would be a bit childish seeing as the main character has been kept at the age of 10, despite her being 17 physically.

However, Flora is not what I expected her to be. She is not afraid to explore her world, despite her memory being restricted to what she has written down (on her hand, her arm or in her notebook & sometimes on one of many post-it’s)!

Flora kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend. Drake then leaves to the Arctic to embark on a new course, which is being taught in English.

When Flora’s parents leave on a trip, Flora decides to go in search of Drake to find out what else she can remember.

The adventure starts before she leaves, when her parents go on their trip, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you. It continues in the Arctic up until she ends up back at home.

This is an engaging tale, written as Flora sees it. It isn’t boring, though you might think it would be, seeing as Flora cannot remember anything. I think that hearing the story from Flora’s viewpoint adds depth to the storytelling and I found it very engaging. I read most of it in one sitting, then finished the small remaining portion of the book in a second sitting a couple of days later. I would probably have read it in one go if I hadn’t started reading it so late in the day! I heartily recommend this book to you.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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You always remember your first kiss.
Flora remembers nothing else…
“I look at my hands. One of them says ‘Flora, be brave’. I am Flora.”
Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have kissed – and the next day she remembers it. The first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone.

Desperate to hold onto the memory, she sets off to the Arctic to find him.

Why can she remember Drake? Could he be the key to everything else she’s forgotten?

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