Ink & Sigil | Kevin Hearne

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

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How was it? Having read all of The Iron Druid Chronicles books, this one that takes place in the same world should have been an immediate read but I sat on it. Now that I’ve read it I’m a little underwhelmed.

This story sets up a few mysteries, one of which – the investigation of Al MacBharrais’ latest apprentice’s death – spans the whole book. That mystery could have had a lot of potential but it ends up being quite boring. At no point I got pulled into that mystery, there were no hints or clues that got my mind working. As for the other mystery, meaning who cursed him, there’s little here for me to speculate.

The characters in this book are pretty good, in fact Al and Buck’s relationship have shades of Atticus and Oberon but in all the worse ways. The attempt at humor here is sometimes so dump that it would either work with pre-teens or not at all. It’s not as sly or funny, I down for quirky humor but half the time it doesn’t work in this book. It’s a little too heavy handed.

However, I think this book has some potential – or that’s what I told myself because I pre-ordered and got the second book Paper & Blood before even starting this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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The Eye of the World | Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

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How was it?

I don’t know how this book got on my list but the upcoming Amazon Prime Video adaptation hastened my reading it. I’ve never read the Lord of ring or the Shannara Chronicles but I’ve respectively seen the movies and TV show. The Eye of the World very much falls into the same category as these stories, it’s an epic high fantasy with a dark twist to it.

The story’s influence is quite clear – it’s Tolkien – but I didn’t see Eye of the World as a rip-off. It’s more in the same vein with similar plot points and more women involved. The story does takes a while to get going but once it does it’s interesting. However the déjà-vu, cliché aspects of the plot often make it seem slow, because you’ve got a clear idea of where the story’s going – at the very least when it’s regarding the hero.

I also kind of got fed up with pretending we didn’t know who from the Two Rivers crew was the “chosen one.” So by the end when we’re supposed to be surprised by the reveal I rolled my eyes a bit.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed more some of what happened to the others in the group, in particular who turned out to be a Wolfbrother. But even with them it was easy to figure out who was going to be a problem (i.e. The who took the jeweled dagger).

Overall the story is interesting if a bit cliché. If you read a lot of fantasy, or summarize the main plot points, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s also and overly detailed but it has enough charm to overlook some of that.

The only made me curious to see how the screen adaptation turns out. The trailers look good and the casting seems on point.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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October readings | Dragons, Mysteries and Dead Things

Title: Dead Until Dark
Series: Sookie Stackhouse book 1
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Supernatural, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery
Page count: 292 pages
Published: 1 May 2001

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Title: One Of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Genre(s): Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Fiction
Page count: 360 pages
Published: 30 May 2017

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Title: Origin
Series: Scales’N’Spells 1
Author: A.J. Sherwood, Jocelynn Drake
Genre(s): Contemporary, Fantasy
Page count: 392 pages
Published: 1 October 2020

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Title: Silk & Steel
Series: Silk & Steel #1
Author: Ariana Nash, Pippa DaCosta
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, MM
Page count: 380 pages
Published: 18 January 2019

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One Of Us Is Lying | Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

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How was it?

I’ve had this book, and its sequel, since they came out with the intention of reading them at some point. However I was rushed to get to it when I found out that the television adaptation was days away from premiering. I don’t know how I didn’t catch that but the fact is that the book shot to the top of my TBR. I dove in hoping that I didn’t waste my money in 2017 because I bought this book and then its sequel without having read a review, or due to a friend’s recommendation. The title and the sense that there was a crime that had been committed were the deciding factors. And I’m glad to say that it was money well spent.

The story has clear nods to The Breakfast Club (1985) and Gossip Girl but it’s a full on crime mystery novel, and as mystery novels go this one is pretty good, despite being somewhat predictable. I can’t say that I figured out who did it because I didn’t, not until it was close to be revealed. Maybe that’s due to me rushing to read it, or I’m not as smart as I think I am. However at some point, maybe almost halfway through, it became clear to me who didn’t do it. I was so sure about the innocents that if it had turned out to be any of them, I would called bullsh!t. I still had one suspect for a long time, because I saw their secret coming from a mile away, I think I figured it out when they were first introduced. I suspected them for one reason, because I expected the author to choose that character to be the vilain and I would have criticized the heck out of this book if that was the case.

So if the book is kind of predictable, what makes it worth while? The characters. They are grounded and relatable, even the one whose ramblings annoyed me to no end at the beginning because by the end that character’s growth was astounding. They’re all like that by the way, a representation of their stereotypes at first but as we go along they quickly become more fleshed out and well rounded. They became more interesting than the mystery itself. At many points I was more entertain by the effect the tragedy had on them and their lives than figuring out who was behind it.

I’m not going to say much more about this book because it’s better to go in with the least information possible but I’m open to discuss spoilers in the comments. I also can’t wait to see how the show will turn out because there are some sensitive subjects in this book that I’d like to see how they’re tackling them for the screen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

One of Us Is Lying is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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The Taking of Jake Livingston | Ryan Douglass

Published 13 July 2021

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

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How was it?

I meant to read a couple of chapters to decide if I was starting this book or another but just a few paragraphs in I was pulled in. This book has a solid plot but it’s emotionally charged and can be quite heavy. Yes there are gruesome murders in it that makes it spooky, but it’s the way it depicts these little cuts that hurt more in the long run that I gravitated toward.

This book dives into trauma and micro agressions but does it in a clever way. Because it’s not just Jake, the black queer kid, that is the target of this kind of death by a thousand cuts, Sawyer, our now powerful and vengeful ghost, was also a target. Both in their own way are somewhat victims of circumstances. In Sawyer’s case it’s not used as an excuse for what he did but showcases what lead him to it. As for Jake the author does a great job at telling what it’s like to surfer race based micro agressions on top of being gay in an unwelcoming environment.

The story is dark and has a lot of paranormal elements in it but it depicts the bullying, violence, and abuse well. I also enjoyed how the story showcased how some parents are more concerned about how bad a child with mental health problems make them look rather than helping the child get better. It’s a hard situating to see, it’s disgusting but feels all too real. In facts, the quotes “She checked on me at  heptfill only to harass my crisis counselor about when I could leave. Threw a fit when Tom said I’d have to decide that For myself.”, or “The trouble with my mother is that she’s too busy pretending problems don’t exist to ever really fixed them.” really got to me.

All the heavy stuff aside the story is visually interesting and I could see a live action version of this. The budding romance was also nice; I could see myself checking out another story about this black queer teen who sees dead people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Taking of Jake Livingstone is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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September readings | Classics, Space Operas, Magic & Erotica

Title: Dune
Series: Dune #1
Author: Frank Herbert
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Space Opera, Adventure
Page count: 688 pages
Published: First published June 1965

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Title: The End Zone
Series: Atlanta Lightening #2
Author: Riley Hart
Genre(s): Contemporary, Sports, Romance, MM
Page count: 306 pages
Published: 16 July 2021

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Title: Black Moon
Series: Wolf Moon Rising #1
Author: Sam Burn
Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Werewolves
Page count: 330 pages
Published: 22 April 2021

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Title: A Veilled & Hallowed Eve
Series: Soulbound VII
Author: Hailey Turner
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, MM
Page count: 485 pages
Published: 01 October 2021

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Title: Homecoming
Author: Keegan Kennedy
Genre(s): Erotica, MM, Contemporary, BDSM
Page count: 188 pages
Published: 12 April 2013

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Title: Foundation
Series: Foundation #1
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Space Opera, Fantasy, Classics
Page count: 255 pages
Published: August 1951

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Title: Ashfall Legacy
Author: Pittacus Lore
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult, Fantasy
Page count: 432 pages
Published: 17 August 2021

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Title: Ink & Sigil
Series: Ink & Sigil #1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Genre(s):
Page count:
Published:

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Ashfall Legacy | Pittacus Lore

Pittacus Lore finished telling the story of the Lorien Nine. Now, he’s back to recount an all-new adventure rooted in the real mysteries surrounding Roswell, New Mexico, that will enthrall fans of Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, and Brandon Sanderson.

We have waited generations for you…

Syd Chambers knows that there’s life on other planets because he’s descended from it. His father was from a distant world called Denza, and has been missing—presumed dead—for years.

When Syd discovers a device his father left behind that shows not only that he’s alive, but where he is, Syd must set out on a mission of his own. But along the way, he discovers a deadly, unbearable secret that could destroy Denza, Earth, and the universe. 

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How was it?

I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed this but when this book was announced, it was marketed as a spin-off or continuation of the Lorien Legacies. I read all of the Lorien books and really enjoyed them, so I very much expected this book to be linked to the previous series by Pittacus Lore, but it’s not, not really.

By the end of part one, I felt betrayed, like I had been duped. There was no way this book is related to the Lorien Legacies and there was a shroud over this book that had some effect on my enjoyment. However, *minor spoiler/* There’s a blink and you miss it mention of Mogadorians, well more like a suggestion of them, just enough of a description for fan to make that assumption. 😒 *\minor spoiler*

Beside that the story was interesting enough for me to go through it with ease, but I wasn’t very engrossed. In other words it was good enough to keep reading but just as easy to put down. This could have been a book that I’d forget to pick back up if another book had caught my eyes at the time.

The premise is a mash-up of many intellectual properties, you can tell where the inspiration was pulled from. There’s a bit of star wars, a kind of reverse superman – with no heat vision or flight so far, and a famous mythology mixed in toward the end. The mix kind of works for me but the execution is choppy.

However there are clever bits, like in the beginning when my expectations were subverted, or the thing that makes the lost people venerable – it’s a great commentary on that particular race. The characters are almost great but for some of them I barely remembered what they were, between the half-human half-alien ones, and humans born on Denza I got my wired crossed.  As for the different species of aliens featured here they were cool and interesting looking.

Ashfall Legacy is a nice set up for a series that has some potential, the world building and the reveals makes the bulk of what’s interesting about it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Ashfall Legacy is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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