Review: Magic for Liars

41555947★★★★★

Magic for Liars isn’t what I expected it to be. I had impressions from other early readers that it would be along the lines of a murder-mystery in Hogwarts, which turned out to be less-than-accurate. Instead, Magic for Liars is about the lies we tell ourselves, and each other. It is about the disastrous things that result from these lies, no matter how well-meaning they were, or how innocent they seemed.

It begins with the gruesome death of a staff member at The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. After an investigation by the authorities concludes the death a suicide, the heads of the Academy are unsatisfied. Enter Ivy Gamble, PI. Ivy isn’t like her sister- she isn’t magic like Tabitha and she doesn’t want to be. Though she spends most of her days following cheating spouses or investigating insurance fraud, she is reluctantly convinced (namely, by a large sum of cash) to re-investigate the death at Osthorne.

Ivy Gamble is a hot mess and an absolutely fascinating character. She is morally grey from head to toe and maybe a little bit out of her depth, but at her core intelligent and trying her best. The story unfolds entirely from her perspective as she sleuths around Osthorne, allowing herself to slip in to Tabitha’s world. There is some time given to the magic in this world as Ivy peaks into classroom and gets to know staff,  but there isn’t a deep dive into its limits and intricacies. This seemed to be a sticking point for some readers, but I never found myself bothered by it. The narrator of this story is non-magical, so it felt right that we only had topical glances at the various subjects via Ivy’s encounters with them.  Their relationships and interactions drive this plot forward without losing any of the atmospheric tension you’d hope for in a good mystery. It beckons you forward page after page and doesn’t let go until the very end. I found myself hanging on as I came approached to the conclusion thinking there was no way it was possible, skimming through previous pages making sure I hadn’t misread the the final discoveries because I couldn’t fathom how it could be. This book doesn’t give you that feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of a typical mystery novel: the evil-doer unmasked, justice is served, our grizzled protagonist reflects with contentment on another case solved. No, the end of Magic for Liars is fucking devastating. It is devastating and brilliant.

While this book sits firmly in both the realms of mystery and fantasy, it subverts both. The evil in this book does not manifest in the form of a sadistic killer, nor is it a dragon to be slain. Ivy Gamble is not our hero, nor is this the story of her redemption. She arrives at Osthorne Academy as a deeply flawed person, and eventually departs in similar form. We don’t get to see her redemption. The choices she makes throughout her investigation are not always good, sometimes even amoral, and some of them will even make you uncomfortable. You might even see a little of yourself in their choices. Continue reading “Review: Magic for Liars”

Semi-Hiatus Announcement & Changes Coming

You may (or may not) have noticed little coming from this blog recently in terms of content, this is because I’ve been focused on changing up the site. In all this restructuring, I’ve decided that I’m going to just dive in headfirst and get all the things done in one go. For this reason, it’s going to remain a little quite here for the rest of the month. Scheduled reviews will go up as planned, but there won’t be anything else. So, what’s changing?

  • Blog content. As of September 1, I will only be posting reviews of books by authors of color, queer authors, disabled authors, neurodiverse authors, and indie authors (small press or self-published). To put it simply, all marginalized humans welcome. This isn’t a horribly drastic change, but one I’m pleased with making.
  • Content warnings. All forthcoming reviews will include content warnings. This change is going to eat up most of the month, as I update all previous reviews (on here and Goodreads) to include CWs.
  • Review policy. This will be overhauled for clarity, and to reflect the changes mentioned above. Any ARCs sent to me directly will be required to include a list of content warnings from now on.
  • Review request form. This will be updated for clarity and to include fields for CWs and authors to include their preferred pronouns.
  • And probably even more. 

I’ll still be keeping up on everyone else’s reviews and lurking in the void of twitter dot com so don’t miss me too much!

Bee

 

Review: Oracle of Philadelphia

17304890★★★★☆

Oracle of Philadelphia is the first book in Elizabeth Corrigan’s ongoing Earthbound Angels series. In this first installment, we are introduced to the owner of an unassuming Philadelphia diner who just happens to be a centuries-old Oracle. Carrie has borne witness to power struggles between Heaven and Hell for millennia, but she is drawn back in to their conflict in an attempt to save a man who has sold his soul to protect his sister’s life.

As someone who is mostly unfamiliar with mainstream Christian lore, I was pleased with  how the intricacies of the Earthbound Angels  world were revealed without feeling burdensome. Characters and their histories are revealed as the story weaves through time, shifting between present Philadelphia and scenes in Ancient Egypt or Paris in the midst of the industrial revolution. This look at their shared histories enhances what was  one of the greatest strength of this book: the bonds between characters. In such a large cast of angels and demons each has a distinct voice, goal, and purpose within the story. They exist independently, not as mere obstacles or aides for the protagonist. This extends to one of the most notable of Carrie’s companions, the fallen angel Bedlam. The duo’s rapport lends story humor and hope when in bleak times.

Though this is the first book in the Earthbound Angels series, it also serves well as a standalone story. I tend to stay away from series because the endings are often unsatisfying, leaving too many unanswered questions or relying on the next book to wrap up loose ends. Instead, Oracle of Philadelphia strikes the perfect balance. It is satisfying as a standalone read, but leaves ample room to expand on the questions left hanging in the books that follow. Whether you’re seeking a quick, well-developed urban fantasy novel or a new series to dive in to, I highly recommend checking this out.

Continue reading “Review: Oracle of Philadelphia”

Review: Conscious Bias

46008700. sy475 ★★☆☆☆

Conscious Bias is billed as a legal thriller with f/f romance. I felt primed to read this after coming off Grace Mead’s Defense of an Other and was eager to start, but things go awry very quickly.

Calling this a thriller is just plain wrong. There is little to no tension in this story. I was propelled forward as I struggled to figure out what was going on instead of being compelled by the plot. The main character is a gifted lawyer, but she takes a backseat in the case central to the book. In the trial that is the focus of Conscious Bias, Monica Spade is not the prosecutor or even a member of the prosecutor’s team. She prepares two witnesses to testify and sits back to watch the trial. It’s interesting enough, but left Monica feeling more like a supporting character than our protagonist.

The crime that sets off the divisive trial in Apple Grove revolves around the death of Abdul Seif, an exchange student studying at the local university. There isn’t a lot of ambiguity with the crime, the reader knows that the defendant is guilty, it’s just a matter of waiting to see which side can get the system to rule in their favor. This is where Venice’s law career comes in handy, but it is hardly the saving grace of this book. The trial central to this book doesn’t start until past the halfway mark, mostly because this book is a blow-by-blow account of Monica’s every waking moment from start to finish. Silly subplots (a monkey loose in a hospital?) only add to the painful pacing.

Outside of the trial, Monica spends lots of time at the gym, where she meets Shelby. Their insta-love connection isn’t something I was in to, but that’s just a personal preference. What really killed it for me was the cringe-worthy dialogue. Shelby’s eyes were “firebombs” and her butt cheeks were “orbs.” It’s pervasive throughout the book, but peaks during the scenes in which Monica is at the gym, fantasizing about Shelby. And, that’s mostly it. For a book that’s billed as a f/f romance, there isn’t a lot going on besides fantasizing, some flirting, and getting together right at the end of the book. The sticking point for me was, again, that even though this book only spans a few weeks, they’re emphatically in love by the time they get together.

The story is further burdened by two-dimensional bad guys (sexist bosses, sleazy defense attorneys, corrupt businessmen) that fail to add and tension to the story because it is very apparent early on that the main character is always going to land on her feet because the author wants her to. I gave this book the benefit of the doubt until the very end, but there was no redemption with the rushed, senseless wrap-up. Clearly I’m in the minority here, but pick this book up at your own risk.

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Mid-Month Update: July 2019

Hello, I’m stepping out of the void of impromptu hiatus to bring you a mid-July update! Work has me so tired that I’m basically non-functional as soon as I get home at the end of every day and then I just nap all through Saturday. It’s rough, but I’m hoping things will be better soon. In the meantime, I totally forgot to share the lovely stack of books I was gifted for my birthday (which was nearly a month ago), so I’ll be sticking to that today.

Currently Reading

42377825. sy475

The Stonewall Reader: Edited by The New York Public Library

June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library’s archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after.

GoodreadsAmazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound

 

Continue reading “Mid-Month Update: July 2019”

Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

36516585★★★★★

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone have united to bring one of the most stunning works of speculative fiction I’ve ever read. This epistolary novella chronicles the exchanges between two spies on opposite sides of a war that permeates time and space. What began as elaborate taunts between enemies on the battlefield turns into something more.

I have only one word for this whirlwind tale: breathtaking. I finished This is How You Lose the Time War in a single sitting- not because I wanted to as much as I needed to finish it. The lyrical prose combined with the masterful storytelling results in a story that dares you to put it down, and I did not dare. In just over 200 pages this book will steal your heart, shatter it, and then stitch it back together as you watch.

Continue reading “Review: This is How You Lose the Time War”