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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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 (Season) | Boy They Really Dumb This Down Didn’t They?

This American young adult mystery drama television series developed by Erica Saleh (Instinct) with Darío Madrona (Elite) serving as showrunner. The series is based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Karen M. McManus and stars Mark McKenna (Sing Street) as Simon, the deceased student, and Annalisa Cochrane (Cobra Kai), Chibuikem Uche (The Tomorrow War), Marianly Tejada (OITNB), and Cooper van Grootel (Mystery Road) as the main suspects, with Barrett Carnahan (Cruel Summer), Jessica McLeod (You Me Her, Death Note), and Melissa Collazo (Freaky) in supporting roles.

Premise: At Bayview High, five students—Simon, Addy, Cooper, Bronwyn, and Nate – are given detention. Simon, known for starting an online gossip group with his friend Janae to snitch on his classmates, suffers a sudden and fatal allergic reaction. The other four students had individual motives and reasons to kill Simon, and after it is determined his death was not an accident, an investigation ensues.

Review: Some of the changes that I noticed in the pilot seemed promising, but as the episodes came they either didn’t work or were outright useless. My guess is these changes were done to keep the book readers guessing, yet part of me thinks that the writers just wanted to make the source material their own and were angling for a second season.

Why give Brodwyn a boyfriend and cut Addy’s sister, Ashton, who was far more important for Addy’s growth? Because the drama involving Brodwyn’s boyfriend was useless he added nothing to the story. And Addy, the character that went from one being someone I didn’t care about to one that I appreciated in the book, just got a haircut. She had no personal growth. The tiny hint of growth we saw for that character was completely erased in the end. The same goes for Cooper, I thought race bending him would’ve brought more commentaries but they did nothing with it. They’ve even cut the relevant commentaries surrounding him and the sport world.

However, the biggest mistake they made was fundamentally changing Simon. He’s a gullible idiot in the show. It almost seemed like none of the writers read the source material, they just took the footnotes and blurb and ran with that. There’s a missed opportunity to talk about mental health, not even a commentary on the rich white straight son of the mayor is exposing other peoples’ secrets because he’s tired of their hypocrisy and entitlement. Are the writers not seeing the problem with that? Or just don’t know how to address it?

The series got steadily worse, halfway through it even became a chore. I won’t even comment on the acting because in my eyes the writing is the biggest problem, it’s dated and a bit lazy compared to what’s done nowadays. Anyway, I’ll admit that they’ve done a decent enough job with Nate and Brodwyn, enough to fool those who won’t notice anything besides that.

In this case I’ll say put down the remote and pick up the book, which is not perfect but much better than this.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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One of Us Is Lying (Premiere) | I hope they keep this up

Review: I had no idea this was in the works but when I found out I went ahead and read the book – that was sitting on a virtual shelf for four years. So going in I didn’t know anything about the casting or the production, so I’m not going to wine about actors not looking like fictional characters unless they’re sh!t at their job.

What I immediately liked in the first minutes of the show was the preview of Simon’s next four posts as we were first introduced to the main suspects, I mean characters. The “subtle” John Hughes reference was also appreciated, and the way they streamlined some storylines – I’m not going to go into specifics but it the makes show a little more exciting.

As for the cast they are pretty spot on with the stereotypes that their characters represent. I’m pleasantly surprised by the premiere and I hope the show will keep it up it’ll continue.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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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.

The sequel

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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.

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July readings | Baseball, Roommates, FWBs, and Magic

Title: Bat Boy
Series: Easton U Pirates #1
Author: Christina Lee
Genre(s): Contemporary, MM, Sports, Romance
Page count: 218 pages
Published: 20 November 2020

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Title: First Impressions
Series: Auckland Med. #1
Author: Jay Hogan
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Mystery, Crime, MM
Page count: 351 pages
Published: 15 December 2019

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Title: Carry On
Series: Simon Snow #1
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBT, Romance
Page count: 522 Pages
Published: 9 May 2017

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Title: True Mate
Series: Prosper Woods Chronicles #1
Author: Patricia Logan
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBT, Romance
Page count: 202 pages
Published: 30 April 2021

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Title: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Genre(s): Poetry, Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology, Historical
Page count: 208 pages

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Title: Enthralled
Series: The Knight and the Necromancer
Author: A.H. Lee
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, MM, Fiction, Short stories
Page count: 78 pages
Published: 12 January 2021

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Title: Roommate
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre(s): Contemporary, Queer, Romance, Fiction
Page count: 304 pages
Published: 12 January 2021

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Title: THE taking of Jake Livingston
Author: Ryan Douglass
Genre(s): Young Adult, Paranormal, Queer, Fiction
Page count: 308 pages
Published: 13 July 2021

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Title: Lux
Series: The Reckoners
Author: Brandon Sanderson, Steven Michael Bohls
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy,
Runtime: 13h55min
Published: 22 July 2021

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Title: Home Plate
Series: Eastern U Pirates #2
Author: Christina Lee
Genre(s): Contemporary, MM, Sports, Romance
Page count: 257 pages
Published: 29 January 2021

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