January 16, 2017

E.S. Wesley: The Outs (ARC Review)

Title: The Outs  [on Amazon: from Jan 24th | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: E.S. Wesley [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2017
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Fresh premise. Strong blend of sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal. Imaginative, hectic story without a dull moment. Tridimensional (and diverse) characters. Focus on friendship and loyalty.
Cons: Might seem a bit frenzied and confusing to some. Concise writing with short sentences might not appeal to everyone.
WARNING! Gory and scary in parts, with gruesome deaths and suicide.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a breathtaking story with a strong accent on friendship and an unusual heroine.

Blurb: Caleb’s been changing ever since the memory-stealing blackouts - the Outs - started. He used to be a good, dependable, honor-student, but now his parents have vanished, and something inside tells him their disappearance is his fault. That something has a voice - a voice that's pushed him to kidnap a little girl. Caleb believes he did it to protect her, but now he’s starting to wonder if he’s the one she needs protection from. Then there’s his friend, Kitzi. Kitzi knows a secret she can’t share, locked in her head behind layers of brain damage. Kitzi wants to help Caleb, but she suspects a connection between this little girl and the Outs. If she can survive Caleb’s mistakes and the strange girl’s reality-bending fits long enough to put the pieces together, her secret might save them. Or it could mean the end of everything. (Goodreads)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. To date, a couple of their books have been under the 4 star mark for me. But seriously, CQP has some of the best sci-fi/fantasy titles around. It's not my fault πŸ˜‰.


As a reader of all things weird, I sometimes muse about the rise and fall of certain genres. Maybe good old dystopian is riding a failing curve, I don't know. What I know is, sci-fantasy is on a roll, at least judging from the books I've been reading in the latest twelve months or so (which are not many, I'll admit, but still). Mind you, some of them do have dystopian elements, or ARE indeed shamelessly dystopian more than anything else...but the thing they all have in common is the happy marriage of sci-fi with fantasy. This allows authors more freedom, helps them break the boundaries and come up with fresher and bolder ideas. In The Outs, a sci-fi premise blends with a paranormal scenario, and throws in a comic/superhero theme for good measure. I'll admit that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, this might be a recipe for disaster. But E.S. Wesley rides this monster magnificently, and without a flinch. Add in a couple of damaged, flesh-and-blood teens, a disability turned into a diverse superpower, and a creepy, powerful, but still vulnerable little girl, and you'll get one of the most entertaining-slash-moving stories you'll ever read. [...]

January 02, 2017

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #3 Patrick Ness, Robin Wasserman, E.S.Wesley


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I had never though I'd done minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted with some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps :). Just to be clear,  I'm NOT taking a break from writing long review - no such luck LOL. But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, or in case I want to draw attention to some old ones I've already reviewed, I might as well give you the short version ;). Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random! So, here goes...

December 22, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up: I Did Little with My Blog, Except I Didn't

Hello my beauties!
Welcome to my last post of the year, where I will wrap my 2016 up (though it would be better to pretend it never happened to begin with LOL). I failed at a lot of things this year, but a selected few did manage to put a smile on my face notwithstanding...

Pt. 1: This Year in Blogging

As of today, I've been blogging for 4 years and a couple of months. With various grades of success LOL.

This is what happened on Offbeat YA during the year, broken down by number of posts, events I took part in, books I reviewed, authors I interacted with and discussion posts I wrote...

December 14, 2016

Fifty Shades of Life

My dear friends, my occasional readers,

there's no way to break the news gently, so I'll just drop the bomb and run: I'm turning 50 today.

Okay...most of you were already aware of my age, with more or less accuracy. The thing is, every time the first number of said age changes, it feels like a big deal - even when the second was a 9 already. Also, 50 is, well, kind of imponent. I'm not saying "scary" on purpose, because well...I'm not scared, to tell you the truth. I don't even look 50 - except maybe when I'm really tired (regardless of having my make up on). I'm beginning to have eyesight trouble when reading small print, and I have a few minor health problems, AND I tire easily - but all that comes with the package. I'm just...well, sad that I've come so far and still I have accomplished nothing in life (maybe one day I'll explain to you how and why, but for now rest assured I'm not whining...just telling it like it is). BUT I made this blog...and as small as it is, I'm proud of it. And I met a few great people through it, both authors and blogging friends. Some of them are 30 years younger than me, but they get me on so many counts - or gladly put up with me at least πŸ˜‰. Not to mention, they keep me young...they're like my hyaluronic acid, at least for the inside 😜. Yes, YOU. I mean YOU.

So, I had plans for celebrating my big fifty on the blog with some cute and/or funny event, except I failed at it...like I failed at everything this year, blog-wise. Now, with "everything" I mean writing an acceptable number of posts and engaging more with the blog community - I have been talking with the same old friends, which is great, don't get me wrong, but I meant to broaden my horizons a little, and instead...gosh. Time. Issues that kept gnawing at it. And fatigue. This is only my 35th post this year, and how many of them were reviews? I'm afraid to look. So...I don't know. I want to keep blogging. I want to blog more and better. I just need to find a way to do that. I hope my life will revert to normality next year (and "normality" still was stressing enough), but even if it doesn't...I'm not quitting. I just need to find a balance. For now...please put up with me, you wonderful people 😘.

November 29, 2016

Edward Aubry: "Prelude to Mayhem" (Blog Tour Review)

For the blog tour calendar click here. (Note: the one above is an alternate cover featuring Glimmer the pixie :))

Title: Prelude to Mayhem [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mayhem Wave (1st of 4 books...with plans for a fifth)
Author: Edward Aubry [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Year: 2016
Age: 14+ (note: it's marketed as a YA/NA crossover. But to me it covers all the spectrum from teen to adult)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Quirky and audacious blend of post-apocalypse, technology and magic. Characters who are easy to empathise with.
Cons: The blend I mentioned might not work for everyone.
WARNING! A couple of strong scenes, where blood flows freely and monsters creep over dead people. A character making an inappropriate joke about male physiology to a teen girl, who properly scolds him and leaves him ashamed. Some F bombs.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a fresh approach to post-apocalypse.

Blurb: In the ruins of his world, Harrison Cody follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have been talking to the author on a few occasions since reviewing his previous title, Unhappenings - which I also rated 4 stars. Moreover, I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased.
As I stated in my disclaimer, Edward Aubry already published a book called Unhappenings. But that wasn't his first book - an earlier version of this one, called Static Mayhem, was. If you are curious about the whole story (which is also inspiring for every struggling writer out there who despairs of ever being published), you can read my interview with the author.


At present, post-apocalyptic stories are all the rage - and of course, the more they saturate the market, the harder it gets to spin an original tale. But though the core of this particular story dates back a couple of decades, it managed to stay fresh. The bold mashup of subgenres/elements (from time shuffles to supernatural occurrences, from magic to technology) is, I think, quite unique - I only encountered something similar (minus the time issue) in The Bad Rescue of Devon Streeter (now renamed Riven) by B.C. Johnson. I have to admit a few moves are bolder than others (like talking dynosaurs with a German accent and a polite attitude πŸ˜†) and some readers might find them a bit over-the-top. But Harrison - the character who manages to experiment the vaster array of strange encounters - either relates to them in a sympathetic manner, or comes to accept this new reality in a way that pretty much normalizes it for us too...well, to a point at least πŸ˜‰. I'll go as far as to say that Harrison might be a symbol of the best America, the one that I hope will rear its head again - the one that learns to trust and welcome the stranger, no matter how alien they look at a first glance. If you look past the face value, Harrison's bond with Glimmer - an opinionated, wise-cracking pixie with a heart of gold - can be read that way. [...]

November 13, 2016

James Wymore et al.: "Windows into Hell"

Title: Windows into Hell [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Authors: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads] et al.
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2016
Age: I think it's marketed at an adult audience, but to me, it can be read from 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Imaginative and thought-provoking. Most of the stories are cleverly connected via the general setting, and/or by common themes or characters.
Cons: Because of the above, most of the stories don't have a real ending either - you need to look at the whole picture. Also, one of them is told in epic poem form (and a shorter poem is included in another story), so you need to have a specific taste for it.
WARNING! A few stories deal with violence/gore or mention rape and suicide.
Will appeal to: Those who love to speculate on what's next. Those who think of life as a long lesson. Those who are in for a bunch of tales that will haunt them.

Blurb: What happens after we die? Mankind has speculated through the ages that a few righteous or lucky people go straight to heaven. Or so we've come to believe. Good or bad, our journey doesn't end at death. For most of us, the afterlife begins in an office where an overworked and underappreciated demon decides our long term fate. Life is messy, it’s easy to miss one of the crucial lessons. In order to accommodate our unique shortcomings, a myriad of custom fitted Hells wait with open arms to teach us. No clichΓ© fire and brimstone here, except as decorations. Besides, that would be the easy way out. Yes, there is a way out. All you have to do is learn one simple lesson. That shouldn't be too hard, right? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this anthology from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. Here goes...
If you're familiar with my blog, there's no way you didn't noticed I'm addicted to afterlife stories. What you may not know is that I rarely enjoy short stories. I'm not sure if it's because I don't get enough time to become invested in the characters, of because I'm only completely satisfied when I spend a few hours in a book world, or because I'm not impressed by the ending of something that has barely started, so it usually fails to deliver a punch in my case. But I got a very strong vibe from this anthology. So I jumped aboard, and...well, if you're usually wary of short stories too, don't let it deter you from giving this book a chance. Some of these stories will haunt you for life. You must have the patience of connecting the dots and not asking for easy answers, but it will repay.


This collection is explicitly inspired (and partly modeled after) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, which in turn pays homage to The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. The main concepts are that 1) Zoroastrianism is the true religion, so that anyone who dies out of that faith automatically goes to hell, no matter what they accomplished in life; 2) hell is not at all what it's cracked up to be - better (or worse?) yet, there are a number of them, and the demon bureaucracy will steer you toward the most appropriate one. Not to mention that there's always a way out if you're willing to learn your lesson and try hard enough...or is there? Of course, the choice of Zoroastrianism is not casual, since it's the less popular among the old religions nowadays, so it makes for an ironic starting point - good and evil doers are paired together, and those who were sure they would be saved are not. Also, fire and brimstone are just for show, but there are worse hells than burning for all eternity. By the way, I've never really felt the weight this word "eternity" bears before I read this book. *shudders* [...]

October 30, 2016

The Witch Is Back - Just in Time for Halloween!

Hi my dearests!

A quick post because I need to regroup a little ("regroup" became one of my favourite words lately. Maybe because it's fun that you can "regroup" even when being all alone ;D).

So, I've been on a nice, refreshing hiatus all month long. Slacking off, really. And not even ashamed (much).


October 01, 2016

October Plans (or Lack Thereof)

Hi my sweeties!

I, um, have a confession to make...I might go on a small hiatus this month.

I was congratulating myself for being so brave this summer - posting once a week even without a weekly meme forcing me to do so (like the Summer Blogger Promo Tour in 2015). And I did mean to keep on course...I even wanted to do my own Spooky October this year. But the thing is - no, the things are...
  1. I have a few books to read and review, but since they are in PDF and I don't have a portable reading device, I can't do the most of my time. One of them I requested from the author (Crash Alive by Christopher Kerns), so I feel even worse at the thought of delaying the read any longer (well, I've read half the book, but still), not to mention my promised review - but I just can't keep up with everything right now...Yes, I know, I need to invest in a notebook, so that I can read and write everywhere and everywhen - but it just isn't possible for now :( ;
  2. I agreed to beta-read the latest baby of Troy H. Gardner - which, if you don't know him, is Erin Callahan's writing partner for the Mad World series, and (among other things) the author of a funny and diverse contemporary on Wattpad that you all should totally read;
  3. I also agreed to write a guest post for (in strict alphabetical order) Ruzaika and Veronika at The Regal Critiques (to be featured in their own Spooky October), and I want it to be special, just as they deserve it to be...;
  4. Family/work reasons. Nothing major, but I'm finding it difficult to stay afloat, especially because...
  5. I'm tired. My body is tired. My mind is tired. Right now, the latter just wants to post funny (?) comebacks on Twitter, and play silly escape games on the net during working hours (without finishing a single one ever).
So, I basically need quiet reading time before I try and find more writing time. I need to recharge. I need to have no string attached for a little while. I need time (and a clear mind) to comment on my friends' and blogging buddies' posts. I need to feel the spark. Just a little rest, and I'll be good as new...

(One of my favourite Freddie offstage moments! ♥)