Book Review | Paper and Blood by Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne returns to the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles in book two of a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.

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How was it?

It seems like the banter is the main driving force of this story; it works at times, there’s even a few memorable quotes and pearls of wisdom in there but that’s about it. The adventure we go on this time around seemed mysterious and exciting but kind of fell flat in the end. If it weren’t for the innuendos behind some of these jokes, I’d swear this was a so-so middle grade book.

As much as I love re-entering the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles, I don’t remember it being so…underwhelming is not the right word, I guess I’m whelmed. It almost makes me doubt my fond memories of the main series. It’s the same lavish, mystical world building with Al MacBharrais having his own interesting way of using magic – through ink sigils on paper – and yet I’m hardly captivated or excited by what I’m reading. I wasn’t bored at least the book has that going for it but I’m frustrated because the way the inks and sigils work are great, the little backstories on how they’re made is interesting, and Al’s group of friends/employees are awesome – Nadia in particular. There’s also a strong supporting appearances of three, well four characters from the Iron Druid and it didn’t help as much as I thought it would. I still feel like these characters’ potential is not fully realized but I still have hope.

I may have preordered this book before reading Ink & Sigil but I’d still give a shot to the following book in the series, in hopes that the first two were intro and filler episode before a grand finale or a thrilling new entry.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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Book Review | The Scars That Bind Us by Michele Notaro

The Magi Accounts 1 – The Scars That Binds Us by Michele Notaro

Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you can’t see.

World War III broke out 130 years ago when humans found out that my people—magi—and shifters were real. They’ve been imprisoning and enslaving our two species since. But now humans need our help protecting the world from the strange monsters they let cross the veil between realms. 

Eighteen years ago, my world changed. Suddenly I was allowed freedoms I’d never had before, but I was still at the Non-Human Specialties Operations’ beck and call. Which is how I found myself on a team with my best friend, five shifters, and a human.

Now, I have to figure out a way to work with others—with shifters. I’ve never been one to trust easily, and I don’t see that changing, but this shifter pride has a way of getting past my walls. Unfortunately, all that means is now I have even more people I need to protect against the evils of this world, and I really don’t know how I’m gonna do it.

All three species have been at odds for more than a century, but maybe Cosmo—a lion shifter—and I can put aside our differences to work together and keep everyone safe. And if I’m secretly crushing on the guy, well, I think I’ll keep that to myself.

The Scars That Bind Us is a 115K word novel and the first book in the MM urban fantasy series, The Magi Accounts

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How was it?

The first entry of The Magi Accounts is both heavy and sweet. The history that introduces this world of Magi and shifters is brief but the effect of that gruesome past is very much felt throughout the book. So the weight of that 130 years history permeates the book, meaning speciesism – to use a word from the book – established discriminations of all sorts, and microaggressions. On top of that there are – brief – mentions of past abuse, and yet it never takes away anything away from the core story. It doesn’t overtake it, it just grounds the story in a chilling realistic way. Because humans can be trash – it’s just my opinion.

I very much like the pace of the story, it’s well-balanced. A lot of it establishes the world, its magic and paranormal and interdimensional species. It also has an interesting dynamic when it comes to the main characters, because the bonded friends, Madeo and Jude, take as much space in the overall story – if not more – than Madeo’s romantic pairing. I loved that. It show a deep, non-sexual friendship between two queer men. Some might call it fantasy but they do exist, and if Jude hadn’t been giving his dues he totally would’ve seem like Madeo’s servent.
While establishing Mad and Jude’s relationship Notaro manages to build a new one between these two with Logan creating a small family unit for them. On the other side of that the close-knit relationship between Cosmo and the members of his shifter pride is very much felt if not as heavily detailed. So when both families start to merge it’s very endearing, in particular taking into account the Magi’s past.

Romance-wise the relationship between Cosmo and Madeo is only at its beginning, a good one with a solidifying base as we go along. Because the story is told through Madeo’s perspective, Cosmo doesn’t seem to have as much depth but again it’s the beginning of their relationships and this book is the start of a series.

In terms of the class system systems between races, with Magi on the lowest rung, it’s good to see the wrong assumptions shifters and Magi have of each other’s lives. I also love how well the microaggressions were depicted but it would have been better if they weren’t always pointed out. Speaking from personal experience, when you’re the target of microaggressions they don’t all always get a response (internal or otherwise), because sadly you get used to them. It would have been more interesting to see how many people would have picked on them if they weren’t made obvious by Madeo’s emotional responses.

I got so reluctant to finish this book toward the end, it was crazy. I sat on that last chapter and epilogue for way too long. This book is immersive, and I’m excited for the future because I suspected more even exciting things are coming.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scars That Binds Us will be available on Amazon and other book retailers near you.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by GRR for a fair, unbiased review.

The Magi Account book 1 was released on February 22, 2022.

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Book Review: Fluke and the Faithless Father | Sam Burns

After escaping a murderer and resurrecting his boyfriend, Sage figures he deserves a little time to recover.

Unfortunately, life is rarely fair.

So instead of a break, he gets to deal with a magical law enforcement rookie asking uncomfortable questions about his brush with death. The quaesitor is acting downright suspicious. Or is it suspiciously?

Things go from awkward to dangerous when the man who murdered Sage’s mother is released from prison, and soon after there’s a break-in at the bookstore. The situation escalates so fast that Sage is afraid he’s going to end up with whiplash. Or worse, end up dead. He wanted a break, but not a permanent one.

Fluke and the Faithless Father is a direct sequel to The Fantastic Fluke, and should not be read first. It is an ~85k word novel that follows the continuing adventures of Sage, Fluke, Gideon, and their whole family, found and otherwise.

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How was it?

Going back into The Fantastic Fluke‘s world for this second entry, I had forgotten how Sage could be so hard on himself, which is probably why I didn’t rush to this book even though I enjoyed the first.

The story picks right after the events of book one – so if you read both back to back you’re set – so Sage survived an attack from low-level mage killer, and one from a cultist he first taught came to his rescue. You’d rightly think, how unlucky one can get? Being in the crosshairs of two killers with very different agendas? That’s insane. Well turns out Sage never really had a lot of luck. In this entry we get a little more background on the people in his past, the first entry might have given us all the relevant information about it but the focus was on the effects Sage’s past has on him. Here the focused shifts a bit to the people, past and present, who shaped him. In The Fantastic Fluke I was annoyed with Sage belittling himself every chance he got, in this one I was more horrified by the people who raised him and glad to see that he’s developed a bit of backbone and stands up for himself more, even though he avoids and procrastinates a bit too much still – which is rich coming for me.

All I’m saying with this mini “rant” is that the main characters – well mostly Sage – are written in such a way that you can’t help but feel something. The characters have an emotional weight that resonates, whether you want to throw hands, cussed them out – because some of them need it – or hug them. Having Sage’s P.O.V. makes the story personal but his emotional damage means they are ramblings, yet didn’t bother as much as book one.

When it comes to his relationship with Gideon there’s not much happening but I didn’t miss it. I loved addition of Freddy even though I don’t trust him. I love a badass grandma so Iris is the best, also I can’t wait to see what will happen with Roger – and it better be good.  And finally another thing that I particularly enjoy is the commentaries on the Quaesitors, the magic enforcement.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Fantastic Fluke 2 is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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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

My review | Book | Audiobook

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

My review | Book | Audiobook

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

My review | Book | Audiobook

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

My review | Book | Audiobook

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

Book Review: A Veiled & Hallowed Eve (Soulbound VII) by Hailey Turner

Releasing: October 1, 2021
Cover Designer: AngstyG, LLC

Available now:

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Death is the last lover you will ever know.

SOA Special Agent Patrick Collins has lived a life full of lies, and it has finally caught up with him. There’s no denying his past any longer, not after giving up the truth to save himself from a murder charge. But truth alone can’t set Patrick free, and time is running out to stop the Dominion Sect from turning his father into a god.

Jonothon de Vere knows survival isn’t a guarantee, but he’s desperate to keep Patrick safe, even as hope slips through his fingers. With the future unknown, Jono will follow Patrick wherever he goes, even to Salem, where a family reunion reveals a bitter secret that was never going to stay buried.

With New York City under control of their god pack, Patrick and Jono must fall back on every alliance they’ve brokered to fill the front lines of a war coming directly to the city streets. The veil is always thinnest on Samhain, and what awaits them on the other side is the stuff of nightmares. For when it tears, all hell will break loose, and the gods will be summoned to face a reckoning the world isn’t ready for.

The stakes have never been higher, failure has never been so deadly, and the Fates have never been kind to heroes. Patrick knows that better than anyone–because everything has a price, every debt always comes due, and it’s finally time for Patrick to pay his. 

How was it?

I dreaded the final installment of the Soulbound series. As much as I wanted to read it, the idea that it’s the last one did not sit well with me. But Hailey Turner managed to get me to a place – after playing way too much with my emotions – where the possibility of not having another book or spin-off, which I still want, might be ok. It might be the denial talking.

Soulbound VII put me through a vast array of emotions from start to finish, there were many gut punches, surprises, and thrills throughout. Some of these emotional gut punches hit harder than I would have expected, this book has more surprises than the seventh book of a series that I’ve re-read several times should have. The action in this last entry is also astounding and very cinematic. The mythology and lore is here in full forces, and once again they are very well used, the avengers have assembled and they’re kicking ass. But as thrilling as the book is, there’s a healthy amount of fear that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

The series as a whole is well-crafted, the details that went into it is inspiring. Not only the use of myths and lores from around the world is impressive but the growth of the characters from installment to installment is also amazing.

As for the audiobook, Garry Furlong once again does an amazing job but I couldn’t enjoy it as much, because it’s harder for me now to pretend the story hasn’t ended. For some reason there’s a finality in his performance throughout that I don’t like to hear. I want at least a spin-off, another story set in this world. At this point I’d settle for one that doesn’t even have to feature any of the characters in Soulbound. Anyway I guess now that my collection is complete, I have all the ebooks and audiobooks, and I’ll try to refrain on getting the physical copies until I can get them signed.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Soulbound VII is available on Amazon, Audible, and Kindle Unlimited.

Previous book in the series

Book Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by 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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Nightbooks | J.A. White

Nightbooks by J.A. White published 24 July 2018

A boy is imprisoned by a witch and must tell her a new scary story each night to stay alive. This thrilling contemporary fantasy from J. A. White, the acclaimed author of the Thickety series, brings to life the magic and craft of storytelling.

Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping the witch Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending—and a way out of this twisted place.

This modern spin on the Scheherazade story is perfect for fans of Coraline and A Tale Dark and Grimm. With interwoven tips on writing with suspense, adding in plot twists, hooks, interior logic, and dealing with writer’s block, this is the ideal book for budding writers and all readers of delightfully just-dark-enough tales.

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How was it?

I’m not the target audience for this book, it’s for a middle grade audience, so I didn’t expect to be as into the story as I was. It has a lot of elements that I like in my stories, a smart and adaptable main character, magic, and a bit of a mystery.

I was right there with Alex trying to figure out how to get out of that apartment. Picking the possible clues with him, hatching a plan like I was also trapped with him. I was rooting for him.
I generally don’t like horror but this book is just creepy, whether it’s Alex’s stories to the witch or the plot itself.

The book is also a bit inceptiony in the sense that there are stories within stories, with the main one reminiscent of or connected to a famous classic story. The young writer aspect in Alex’s character is also a big draw for me it seemed very realistic to me. I loved that about him.

The characters are great, they seems and act like their age, and they make sense giving the situation they’re in. The book is a quick read but not as memorable as I would have liked. It distracts and entertain while reading it but a day later I couldn’t remember one of Alex’s stories, and I thought they were great.

Nightbooks is a bit scary like the show Grimm was and a perfect read for creative middle graders.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

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