Safiyya: For February’s buddy read, Hailey and I read Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey, an urban fantasy/mystery set in modern-day America.

 

Private investigator Ivy Gamble is called in to investigate the mysterious death of a teacher at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Although Ivy claims to hate everything to do with magic, she secretly longs to be a magician like her talented sister. She decides to take the case, live out her inner fantasy of belonging to the magical community, and reconnect with her estranged sister. In the course of her investigation, she comes across snotty teenagers, prophecies, secret relationships, and impossible magic.

 

I will get straight to the point – I did not particularly enjoy this book. It had an engaging mystery plot, side characters whom I found interesting, and fascinating world-building with regard to the magic. Nonetheless, I almost DNF’ed Magic for Liars because I was so utterly exasperated with the main character Ivy. Since everything after the prologue was written in first-person POV from Ivy’s perspective, there was really no way to escape her. As such, I mostly spent the book quietly seething at this annoying brat and her increasingly poor decision-making.

 

Just to be clear, Ivy is a fully adult woman in her mid-thirties, with a fairly good life:

 

  • She is a white, American, heteronormative, upper-middle-class woman. As far as we know, she has never experienced abuse, oppression, or discrimination or any kind.
  •  She has never been deprived of anything for her basic needs. She didn’t have any worries about food or shelter through her childhood, and her parents apparently paid for her college education.
  • Speaking of which, she has a loving family, and if she was ever in need support, or a home, or really anything, she could always go to her father or sister for help.
  • She has no physical or mental health conditions that would potentially restrict her abilities or life choices.
  • She seems to like her work as an investigator, and it seems to pay well enough that she still doesn’t have any concerns about money.

 

Ivy has more than most people will ever have, and yet she spends twenty-seven chapters of a twenty-seven-chapter book complaining that her life is ruined forever because she doesn’t have magical powers.

 

(Incidentally, Ivy doesn’t actually need magical powers. Most of the people around her don’t even believe in magic. She just wants to have magic powers, because her sister Tabitha got to have magic powers, and it’s not fair that Ivy can’t also be gifted, and she deserves to have magic powers too. Basically, this book felt like it was all about Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter series.)

 

Aside from Ivy’s constant obsession about not having magic powers, she pursues a relationship by constantly lying to her romantic interest, tries to reconnect with her sister by accusing the latter of de facto killing their mother, and just generally spends a lot of time complaining about how teenagers are so ungrateful for all of the things they have. Blegh.

 

Protagonists are not always likeable, and I don’t need a protagonist to be likeable in order to appreciate a book. But a protagonist should at least be compelling enough to draw the reader through the story. I think the author meant to portray Ivy as a compelling and somewhat sympathetic character, and I think the reader is meant to root for her success. Unfortunately, I was not able to do so, and that is why I would struggle to recommend this book.

 

In spite of my overall feelings about Magic for Liars, there were some positive points:

  • Sarah Gailey has a good writing style and sense of pacing
  • She sets up the murder mystery and revelation of suspects quite well. She also plays with some classical fantasy tropes in an interesting way.
  • I liked several of the side characters, including Ivy’s sister Tabitha, the school nurse Mrs. Webb, and the practical magic teacher Rahul. I rather wished the book had been told from Tabitha’s POV, in fact.

As such, I would certainly be interested in reading some of Sarah Gailey’s other novels.

 

It is also worth noting, Magic for Liars has a pretty high Goodreads score, so a lot of people were able to connect with the story and the main character. If you aren’t sure where you stand after reading this review (which is fair, the ambivalence vibes are strong), I would suggest that you try the first three or four chapters, and see how you feel about the rest from there.

 

For my part, if you want to read a fantasy/mystery story featuring a compelling female protagonist who is determined to solve a mysterious murder, I would recommend Olivia Atwater’s Longshadow.

Title page of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time was going to be different. This time was going to be better. This time, I was going to be enough.

Sarah Gailey

 

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Alex Michaelides’ writing, so I knew I had to read The Maidens. It did not disappoint! This was such a gripping thriller and I loved the inclusion of themes from Greek tragedy and mythology.

Mariana is awash with grief after the sudden death of her husband Sebastian. Struggling just to make it through the days, Mariana’s cocoon of solitude and loss is disrupted when she receives a frantic call from her niece Zoe at Oxford. Zoe’s friend Tara has gone missing and she fears for the worst. When Tara’s body is discovered, brutally murdered, Mariana quickly becomes embroiled in a sweeping conspiracy involving enigmatic professor Edward Fosca and his unnerving group of acolytes, known as the “Maidens”.

Filled with loads of twists, red herrings and astonishing revelations, The Maidens was a wonderfully written tale of love, loss and betrayal. The ending was absolutely astounding – I’m honestly still reeling and trying to wrap my head around it. If you want to be shocked and awed, this is the book for you!

 ‘It was written’ is the Greek expression. Meaning, quite simply, from that moment on, their destinies were sealed. 

– Alex Michaelides

On a whim I decided to take a chance on the audiobook, however, I now wish that I had chosen a print copy instead. As much as I admire Louise Brealey as an actress, (her voice-work was objectively excellent), I just don’t feel like audiobooks are the right format for me. I enjoy ambient noise and regularly go about my day with headphones in, but I tend to tune out the specifics of the music/sounds etc. and I simply could not break that habit when listening to an audiobook. I would actively try to listen but soon enough I’d filter out the words and end up having to rewind entire chapters. I also missed the actual act of reading a book and seeing the words set down on paper (or screen in the case of ebooks). I’m sure that people who regularly enjoy audiobooks will love this recording, I just think I’ll try to stick to print in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of this audiobook for review. It was certainly a wild ride!

– Hailey

 

Wow! This book was fantastic! I’m

 honestly a bit of a book snob when it comes to mysteries so I tend to stick with Agatha Christie and I don’t stray from that much, but Girl, 11 sounded intriguing. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance. I was a bit unsure at the beginning because I’m not overly fond of the whole transcript/oral history style of writing, however this book is mainly prose and the podcast transcripts interspersed throughout are actually a great stylistic choice to help advance the story.

The story centres around Elle, the host of a true crime podcast investigating cold cases in Minnesota. The new season of her show is focused on TCK, 

 

The Countdown Killer, who had terrorized the Twin Cities in the late 90s but has been inactive for over 20 years. When an open police investigation begins to align a bit too closely with TCK’s methodology, Elle must try to convince colleagues, friends and family that she’s not merely projecting her podcast research onto a new case.

The book is very gripping and the tension that builds as Elle delves deeper and deeper into the mystery keeps the reader hooked and not wanting to set the book down. I read the book in one sitting (staying awake into the wee hours), because I simply had to know what would happen. There was a really fantastic twist, that I didn’t see coming until halfway through the book. I highly recommend Girl, 11 to any mystery fans especially those like me who often find themselves frustrated by the predicability of many mystery stories. I really hope that  Amy Suiter Clarke will write more novels in the future, I’m very eager to see what else she can come up with.

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing this eARC for review.

– Hailey

 

I am absolutely in love with this book. I expected it would be a fun read but I was blown away by how incredible it was. While it is marketed as a Middle-Grade book, the story is so well-written and nuanced that it will appeal to children and adults alike.

Discovering hidden worlds is a well explored trope in children’s stories and YA novels, from the Narnia series, to Inkheart to The Magicians for older readers, there are books a-plenty that follow plucky young adventurers through fantasy realms after they mysteriously vanish from our reality. There is a comforting familiarity to these stories that draws us back again and again, even if they are, in essence, just variations on the same theme. Then comes David Levithan, ready to flip the whole paradigm on its head.

The realm of Aveinieu and Aidan’s journey there, is not in fact, central to the tale. Rather, Levithan focuses on the emotional toll that is experienced by those left behind and the general upheaval that accompanies Aidan’s reintegration into his life when he reappears just as suddenly as he had left. The story is told from the perspective of Aidan’s younger brother Lucas, who keenly observes the reactions of everyone around him as he struggles with his own complex feelings. While others pressure Aidan for details about his disappearance, Lucas approaches his brother with a touching level of compassion, choosing to suspend disbelief so that he can offer support.

The book features excellent explorations of trust, betrayal, family, public scrutiny, and the fine distinction between what is true and what is real. I definitely recommend this book to readers of all ages! Fantastic read!

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing this ARC.

– Hailey

 

 

True or not, every story has something it wants you to remember.


True or not, every story has something it wants you to believe.

David Levithan

 

Turning Point was a fast-paced crime

 

novella, with a decent twist at the end. A small town and its police department of is plagued by a serial killer given the moniker Russian Doll Killer due to the nesting dolls left at each crime scene.
What is the significance of the killer’s calling card? Will the police, inexperienced with such violent crimes, be able to capture the first serial killer in the town’s history?

Unfortunately, the concept was more interesting than the actual novella. Most of the characters felt flat and underdeveloped, with the exception of Michael who was obnoxiously unlikeable (it’s intentional but it becomes grating

very quickly and made it hard to keep reading at points). As a “thriller”, it wasn’t particularly thrilling. Even the twist ending didn’t feel altogether shocking, rather mildly diverting.

 

It was a decent read, quick read. Rather standard police procedural/crime fare, but not bad way to spend an afternoon.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Original Stories for providing this ARC.

 

– Hailey