September 28, 2018

Patrick Ness: "More Than This"

Title: More Than This [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Patrick Ness [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Dystopian? Sci-Fi? Afterlife? None of that? It depends on how you understand it...
Year: 2014
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5
Pros: Fascinating, heartfelt story that makes you care for the characters. Unapologetic, yet sweet representation of a gay relationship. Prose that manages to feel deep and rich despite its simplicity.
Cons: You peel layer after layer and you're left with virtually nothing under them, except the very message the title already conveyed.
Will appeal to: Those who like mindfucking books where getting the message is more important than actually believing in the story.

Blurb: Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife? (Amazon)

Review: This is one of the rare books I managed to get not long after it came out - just a few months. And all this time I have struggled with writing a proper review for it...I did a mini that I probably should leave alone, because I'm not sure I can articulate my thoughts better in a long review, even now - but writing detailed reviews is a compulsion for me 😂. So here goes...


The first section is GREAT, and while reading this book for the first time, I was sure it would be a 5-star one by the end. I understand that the aforementioned first section is not for everyone, because it's all about Seth waking up from...whatever his alleged death was, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sense of his situation, tending to his basic needs, exploring the place, asking himself questions, meeting (or not meeting) a few animals, feeling alone, dreaming painfully vivid and detailed snippets of his past. But I would have happily read a whole book about that - the whole darned 472 pages of it. The mystery was compelling and fascinating - while I loved the feeling of slowly peeling its layers along with Seth, I was also excited to live in that world for as long as it took to get real answers. Personal hell (as Seth himself believes)? Post-apocalyptic world? Coma dream? Or something else entirely? Plus, I loved his dreams/recollections/whatever they were, and not just as means to unlock the mystery. There's a solid, engrossing yet quiet YA contemporary wrapped into the mystery of Seth's awakening - and when I say "quiet" I mean "unglamorous", not "uneventful". There's a love story, and a friendship story, and a betrayal story, and a family story - and raw, real pain. There's a unapologetic, yet not graphic at all, sex scene between two boys, which is first and foremost a LOVE scene. And finally, the writing is solid, engrossing yet quiet as well. But...this was when the book shifted. [...]

September 21, 2018

Christopher Pike: "Thirst No.1"

Title: Thirst No.1 [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Thirst (previously: The Last Vampire) (1st of ?? books | omnibus, reissued 2009 | contains the original TLV short novels: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Year: 1994-1995
Age: 14+ (please note: for years it's been considered YA lit, but the human age of the protagonist would place it in the NA category nowadays, and the series gets more mature - and darker - by the book)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Original take on vampires. Plenty of kickass action and entertaining (if often bloody) moments. Blends urban fantasy with thriller, history, and more than anything, Eastern spirituality.
Cons: Sort-of instalove (though redeemed by its peculiar premise). Insta-friendship too (though with a lovely, nerdy character). Multi-talented heroine who may annoy some readers.
WARNING! Abundance of blood, gore and violence.
Will appeal to: Those looking for a fresh approach to vampires, in what was probably the very first YA/NA series about them.

Blurb: Alisa has been in control of her urges for the five thousand years she has been a vampire. She feeds but does not kill, and she lives her life on the fringe to maintain her secret. But when her creator returns to hunt her, she must break her own rules in order to survive. Her quest leads her to Ray. He is the only person who can help her; he also has every reason to fear her. Alisa must get closer to him to ensure her immortality. But as she begins to fall in love with Ray, suddenly there is more at stake than her own life... (Goodreads)
[Please note: "Alisa" is the main character's alias in the first installment, but her real name - the one she'll go by for the rest of the series, when she's not undercover for some reason - is Sita. Also, the blurb just scratches the surface of what the first three books in the series - now repackaged as one - are be precise, it only refers to Book 1]

Review: This series is not perfect. And I won't shun its faults in this review. But for some reason, I can't bear myself to rate it less than 5 stars. It's not author bias - there are a bunch of Pike books I rated 3 stars and even less. But if TLV/Thirst stills works its magic on me almost 20 years after I first read Book 1, and if I'm still peeling its layers after all this time, that should count for something...


Sita is not your usual vampire in many ways - which gives her a different agenda than your average fanged creature. She can tolerate the sun, though it slows her a little; she can go months without feeding, though she needs blood in a bad way if she's injured; she doesn't need to kill her victims, since she can make them forget their encounters with her - though kill she does when someone pisses her out big time; and she's got lots of other quirks, big and small. Most of all, though, she hasn't created one of her kind for centuries, because of a vow she made to Krishna when she was a very young vampire. Now, you can wonder how Krishna factors into the vampire equation - but it would be a long and spoilery answer if I told you. Just rest assured that he does, and the inclusion of elements of Easter spirituality into a vampire story is not as far-fetched as you may think. Disclaimer: I'm not Indian. I'm in no way an expert when it comes to Hinduism. It's not my place to say if this is a case of cultural appropriation - though I know for sure that Pike has always been earnestly fascinated by Eastern spirituality and has studied it closely for years (as he explained in many of his Facebook posts). What I can say is, the inclusion of these aspects and the way they shape Sita's story is one of the most interesting and fascinating facets of this series. [...]

September 16, 2018

A Reader's Quirks #6: The Peter Pan Syndrome

I'm back with a new installment of my random feature about the who, what, where, when and why of reading, where I talk about my own relationship with books/genres/authors, and ask my visitors to do the same if they feel so inclined. This could have been easily turned into a meme, but there's a reason why it didn't...I still don't see myself as an established enough blogger to host yet another meme. Even those with an impressive number of followers aren't necessarily overwhelmed with participation, so I'm not going there just yet. This doesn't mean "A Reader's Quirks" won't be promoted to meme status one day, should it be the case. It's all up to you, really 🙂.

ARQ logo by digital artist Lissa

A quick reminder...everyone can comment on my blog, spam or not spam. It matters to me that anyone can join the conversation. As for CAPTCHA...everyone hates you won't find it here. Relax and breathe 😉.
This time I'm going to talk about...


The title above is meant to be humorous...of course. I'm an adult who reads YA, so I don't believe in the Peter Pan Syndrome. And yes, that's an oxymoron - thank you very much, Certified Proper Adult who have stumbled upon this piece. I know you're probably itching to put me in a box and label it "hopeless case". Or "charity case" maybe?
I'm an adult who reads YA. Among lots of adults who read YA. Every one of us has got a valid reason for that, and several - often excellent - posts have already been written about the subject. So that's not what I'm going to do here.
But I have been musing lately. Coincidentally to being an adult who reads YA, I'm also an adult who hardly reads the fiction that is meant for her anymore. Unless it's a quirky book about time travel or paranormalcy or futuristic technology and the like. And while I'm a die-hard fan of adult mysteries, I only love the classic ones (Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Rex Stout), so it's not like I'm buying new books in the genre.
So, I've been basically asking myself, not why I read YA book, but why I hardly read adult fiction anymore. And this is what I came up with...

September 09, 2018

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #10 Ilsa J. Bick, Han Nolan, J.R. Rain et al.


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted 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 reviews - no such luck LOL. But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random! So, here goes...

September 02, 2018

Seanan McGuire: "Down Among the Sticks and Bones"

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (2nd of ?? books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural (technically it would be Portal Fantasy, but since I don't have a Fantasy Room on the blog, I decided to shelf this one as Supernatural - that's the closest I could get)
Year: 2017
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Explores themes of gender issues and roles, and validates all the different shades in which femininity comes.
Cons: It's difficult to accept that kids would feel at home in such a harsh, unforgiving world.
WARNING! A vampire who sounds like a sexual predator; a murder; some gore.
Will appeal to: Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happier world than the one they live in...

Blurb: Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter - polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter - adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you [for] a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I have already detailed, while reviewing Book 1, my love/hate relationship with this series...if you need to brush it up, it's in the last paragraph of my EHAD review, "BOOK OF (SELF) RULES". So take my ratings with a grain of salt - there's a lot to love in these stories, and they ARE unique, which is a great achievement in itself. With that out of the way, let's get to the actual review...


Some reviewers have lamented the heavy-handed approach to Jack and Jill's home life description in the first quarter of the book - all the telling-not-showing and whatnot. I have to confess I didn't particularly notice it, though I do understand where they're coming from. As a (dark) fable - and a short one at that - I think the omniscient narrator style suited the book...and I say "the book" because it doesn't really stop once the sisters find their door. Also, Chester and Serena (while of course an EXTREME example of bad parenting) are the epitome of all the wrong assumptions, the nonsensical expectations, the rigid roles that society - and, yes, family too, sometimes - tries to force upon us from a very young age. I also found interesting how, even if the twins would switch roles if they could (which they will do once in the Moors), those roles would come with nuances their parents (or society) can't even begin to comprehend. Like, Jill would still like sports and spaceships and superheroes, only in a fancy dress (Part II, Ch.7). To be honest, the first section of the book is my favourite, with all its social commentary and validation of all things female, whichever form they take. And if it's hammered upon us a little, it's just because we STILL. DON'T. LISTEN. ENOUGH. [...]