May 18, 2024

Matteo L. Cerilli: "Lockjaw" (ARC Review)

Title: Lockjaw [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Matteo L. Cerilli [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Alas, nothing to see here, since revealing the genre(s) would ruin your reading experience...If you want to go into the book without knowing anything vital about it, I recommend that you not read the Labels at the end of my review either. No need to worry though - the review itself will be spoiler-free...
Year: 2024
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: A captivating look at friendship, sisterhood, marginalised identities on one hand, power abuse and lack of empathy/conspiracy of silence in a suburban setting on the other. Includes a brilliant twist that puts all the previous events in perspective.
Cons: Slow start. Some metaphor iterations.
WARNING! Blood and gore, violence, near-drowning, animal deaths. Toxic/neglecting adults, domestic violence (off-page), bulling, racism, transphobia (also internalised).
Will appeal to: Those who like books that straddle the line between the ordinary and the supernatural. Those who enjoy stories about a (diverse) band of misfits.

Blurb: Chuck Warren died tragically at the old abandoned mill, but Paz Espino knows it was no accident - there's a monster under the town, and she's determined to kill it before anyone else gets hurt. She'll need the help of her crew- inseparable friends, bound by a childhood pact stronger than diamonds, distance or death - to hunt it down. But she's up against a greater force of evil than she ever could have imagined. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Penguin Random House/Tundra Books for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

PULLING THE RUG

To me, this book has a "before" and an "after". At first I was baffled, because while it was marketed as YA, the protagonists seemed to be on the MG spectrum (11 going on 12), and the writing was very descriptive - two things that I don't fare well with; not to mention I hadn't signed for the first one, and I didn't understand how the very characters who were supposed to be the protagonists according to the synopsis could be younger than the synopsis itself promised (see the "trans YA horror" label). Then a few different, older perspectives started to appear (YA, NA), and the style partly changed as the action took over, so I began to enjoy the story more...but things definitely shifted for me midway through, when a mind-blowing twist changed my whole perspective about the previous (and present) events, and left me both in awe and desperate to unravel the mystery. Mind you, the twist didn't come out of the blue - Cerilli left enough bread crumbs on the way to it that all the pieces fell into place once the reveal happened, all while being able to cover his tracks. Before the twist, a couple, maybe three incidents made my brain tingle for a moment, but then I proceeded to rationalise them and promptly forget about that "something is off" feeling...also because the truth was too outrageous to figure out. All I can say is, said twist put the story firmly into the "weird and wonderful" territory that I favour in literature, and made all the difference for me in terms of REALLY enjoying this novel. [...]

May 13, 2024

Seanan McGuire: "Tidal Creatures" (ARC Review)

Title: Tidal Creatures [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Alchemical Journeys (3rd of 5 books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural
Year: 2024
Age: 16+ (the book is geared towards adults, but can be read by mature teens)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Fascinating concept. Rich mythology. Characters who transcend the page.
Cons: Complex. On the other hand, the murder-mystery part isn't hard to figure out, once you have the necessary information.
WARNING! Some gruesome deaths/imagery (people melting included).
Will appeal to: Those who loved Book 1 in the series and were less keen on Book 2. Those who need more Roger and Dodger. Those who enjoy a creative, exciting twist on gods incarnate and the heart of creation. 

Blurb: All across the world, people look up at the moon and dream of gods. Gods of knowledge and wisdom, gods of tides and longevity. Over time, some of these moon gods incarnated into the human world alongside the other manifest natural concepts. Their job is to cross the sky above the Impossible City - the heart of all creation - to keep it connected to reality. And someone is killing them. There are so many of them that it's easy for a few disappearances to slip through the cracks. But they aren't limitless. In the name of the moon, the lunar divinities must uncover the roots of the plot and thwart the true goal of those behind these attacks - control of the Impossible City itself. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Tor/Forge for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

NEW HEIGHTS

Let's get it out of the way: if you adored Middlegame but felt that Seasonal Fears was a bit of a letdown, you only need to read Tidal Creatures to fall in love with the series all over again. And no, not only because this time Roger and Dodger play a huge part in it (though it does help 😉 😍). For one, the amount of exposition is just right - there's a lot to take in, that's for sure, and some of the concepts are tackled more than once, but you never feel like you're hammered over the head with them when it happens. Every time the god-incarnate situation, the alchemical procedures or the Impossible City (a.k.a. the center of creation) are discussed, the reader is given a new piece of information, or sees a familiar event from a new angle (or from a new character's eyes), so that in the end everything is an essential tassel to the book's mosaic, the same way as the Lunar gods need to come together to become the Moon that shines over the City itself. But this is just one of the reasons why this book restored my faith in the series... [...]

May 08, 2024

Kelly Link: "The Book of Love" (ARC Review)

Title: The Book of Love [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kelly Link [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Mystery
Year: 2024
Age: 16+ (the protagonists are 18 and 17, and on the whole it's more of a NA book than a YA one...The dealbreaker here are the pretty graphic sex scenes, definitely more appropriate for an older audience, but I'm hesitant to call this an "adult" book because of the characters' age)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Imaginative, inclusive, delightfully quirky. Populated by flawed, yet endearing characters who feel very real. Written in an apparently effortless, yet magical (and sometimes funny) prose.
Cons: Long (though never boring) - if you prefer your books to be on the shorter side. Contains brief but frequent bouts of (graphic) sex - if you'd rather read clean books.
WARNING! Some horror/gore. Death of a parent. Grief. Racism. Sexual content.
Will appeal to: Those who like a dark yet magical, cheeky yet tender small-town fantasy with coming-of-age themes.

Blurb: Laura, Daniel and Mo disappeared without trace a year ago. They have long been presumed dead. Which they were. But now they are not. And it is up to the resurrected teenagers to discover what happened to them. Revived by Mr Anabin - the man they knew as their high school music teacher - they are offered a chance to return to the mortal realm. But first they must solve the mystery of their death and learn to use the magic they now possess. And only two of them may stay. What they do not realise is their return has upset a delicate balance that has held - just - for centuries. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Head of Zeus for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

I CONTAIN MULTITUDES

Every book whose synopsis promises dead/undead protagonists is guaranteed to have my attention - though I don't necessarily read all of them. But The Book of Love turned out to be much more than the story of three deceased teens who come back to life. For one, it encompasses a number of genres - building on its afterlife premise, it soon turns into a mystery, a supernatural fantasy with a magical-realism feel, and a strong coming-of-age narrative, while even incorporating a tongue-in-cheek, yet fond homage to romance novels. It's both dreamy and brutal, tender and acerbic, with messy characters you can't help but love and who feel like flesh and blood even when they're...something else. It's a love letter to music and writing. It touches upon/explores all kinds to familial bonds/relationships, even the strained ones (divorced/absent parents, sibling rivalries, your friends' friends whom you don't necessarily like). It's got queer and POC rep done right (also, "trans women are women" 👍), and it addresses racism in different forms (I particularly appreciated the discourse about publishing as a Black author in the typically white romance panorama. The book is set in 2014, but I'm afraid part of that still stands). At the end of the day, if this novel does incorporate a few familiar tropes (some of them slightly Buffy-adjacent), it spins them into an imaginative story that's much bigger than the sum of its parts. [...]

May 03, 2024

Offbeat Offline: April 2024 (Back in Session)


Welcome to Offbeat Offline, where I bring you up-to-date with what went on in my life during the month just gone, give you a sneak peek of my next shenanigans, and share my favourite posts of late!

What happened last month to yours truly? The hubs finally got his pension; I had a blood check-up done (other exams are on the way) and was too tired to make much progress on the review front. The house is still a dumpster fire, BTW. I had to run more errands than usual, and when I got home I didn't have any spare time and/or energy to write reviews...let alone clean. Everything's been slipping from my grasp ever since my husband became bedridden - one year and eight months ago now. And his progress on the walking front is laughable (so to speak, because there's nothing amusing about it). Every time I go on hiatus I hope to fix part of this at least, and every time I fail. I mean...I know it's not on me, because I'm in the middle of an ongoing mess, and there's nothing I can do to make it better. Then again, whatever the reasons, it's disheartening. With this off my chest, here goes my recap of April's most notable moments...