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.

The sequel

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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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Foundation | Isaac Asimov

Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov first published 1951

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future — to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire — both scientists and scholars — and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun — or fight them and be destroyed. 

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How was it?

If you read this book, it might not be immediately apparent that it was first published in the 1950s. 70 years ago! that little fact blows my mind because except maybe for two things, one of which is the style the story is told, this book could have been written in recent years.

There are many interesting elements in this book, it’s a great story, clearly a space opera but the things that I gravitated toward are the political maneuverings, the clever back and forth between characters, and the use of religion as a tool of mass control. However the monotone way the story is written comes through the page even when you’re not using the audiobook. It’s kind of dry, like reading from a dictionary for the most parts. The characters have names and job titles but little else besides that, they are not very memorable. The most engaging aspect of the story are the themes and concepts that it’s about (Politics, religion, psychohistory, etc.). You pretty much have to read between the lines to draw something out of it.

It’s a broad, imaginative, and innovative book that must have blown people’s minds – and angered some others – in the 50s as I’m sure it still does today. Like Dune, which was published almost 15 years later, Foundation has lot of social and political commentary in it. In fact, the most obvious one is the creation and use of a religion as a mean to control people. This might anger some religious people but the dry tone of the book helps in presenting that idea as a possible powerful tool for control of the masses without really depicting religion itself as a complete fraud but kind of.

As mentioned earlier the other thing that might date this book in the 1950s – maybe it’s my prejudice of the era – but it’s a bit of a sausage fest. I only realized it when a lone female character appeared out of nowhere toward the end and she does nothing for the plot. Not saying that Asimov was misogynistic but it was startling once I realized it.

Foundation is far more interesting than the way it’s written would suggest, it’s one of these books that are worth trudging through for the ideas alone.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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

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August readings | Night Frights

Title: Nightbooks
Author: J. A. White
Genre(s): Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction
Page count: 320 pages
Published: 24 July 2018

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Title: Role Model
Series: Game Changers #5
Author: Rachel Reid
Genre(s): Sports, Romance, MM
Page count: 323 pages
Published: 10 August 2021

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These books are also available on The Book Depository, or you can get them from the links above at no extra cost to you