December 22, 2018

2018 Wrap-Up: In Which I Congratulate Myself

Hello my beauties!
Welcome to my last post of the year, where I will wrap my 2018 up. This was my first whole year since I started blogging when I scheduled all my posts and all my reading. worked like a charm! I won't lie to you - it wasn't always easy. Some hard work was involved. Planning ahead was the easy part - it's what I'm best at. I ADORE filling Excel spreadsheets with all the things I mean to do. I REVEL in breaking books into page numbers and assign them to each day. I'm the best time manager I know (when housekeeping is not involved, that is). And I took great care not to overload, though most of the times, I realised that setting small goals meant that I not only was able to meet them, but even to double them. Like, I set my sight on reading 40 pages on a day, and I ended up reading 80, so that I ultimately found myself moving my daily goals up and up in my schedule. That's how, in July, I had FOURTEEN posts scheduled all through October, what with having planned ahead for Halloween (and I only lacked 3 of them to cover ALL the time slot in the middle).

Still, as I said, it was hard work. All through the year, all through the hottest summer in ages (a.k.a. the season when I was used to call it quits, blog-wise), I strove for productivity and consistency. I had set up a goal of one post a week, and even that was able to stimulate me to do the extent that I managed to end the year with a total of FIFTY-NINE posts - which, in my situation, is a MASSIVE achievement. Now, I can't promise I will be able to replicate my success next year. You never know what kind of lemons life's going to give you. It's not always possible to make lemonade out of them. But I've proved something to myself, and now I know that, in normal conditions, it CAN be done. So, I'm ending this year on a proud and happy note, and I hope I can sustain it for the longest time.

Pt. 1: This Year in Blogging

As of today, I've been blogging for 6 years and a couple of months 😃.

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 17, 2018

Adrienne Maria Vrettos: "Burnout"

Title: Burnout [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Honest depiction of an imbalanced friendship. Realistic main character.
Cons: Lacks a strong emotional punch. Some events are a bit far-fetched.
WARNING! Alcohol abuse, rape intent, self-image problems.
Will appeal to: Those who have had at least a toxic friend in their life, or one who didn't love them as much as they did.

Blurb: On the day after Halloween, Nan wakes up in a subway car. She’s missing a whole day from her life. And she’s wearing skeleton makeup and a too-small Halloween costume that she doesn’t remember putting on. Nan is not supposed to wake up in places like this anymore. She’s different now, so far from that dangerously drunk girl who hit bottom in the Nanapocalypse. She needs to find out what happened to her, and fast. As she tries to put together the pieces of the last twenty-four hours, she flashes back to memories of her previous life. But she would never go back to her old friends and her old ways. Would she? The deeper Nan digs, the more disturbing things get. This time, she may have gone one step too far. This time, she may be a walking ghost. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Before I bought this one, going by the last line of the blurb above and the two-line prologue on Amazon, I inferred it told the story of a dead character recalling/investigating her demise, so I was excited. It turned out that it wasn't the case, so I don't really get what the whole "ghost" reference was about (OK, I sort of understand the metaphor, but it sounded much more like a literal description to me). Then again, I don't regret reading this book, even if under false pretenses. I just meant to tell you - don't get fooled like I this for the right reasons.


I shelved this book as Mystery/Thriller, and a mystery it is - with the main lead Nan desperate to uncover what she did the previous night, and more than anything, what happened to her best friend Seemy. But at its core, Burnout is a contemporary of the dark variety (albeit not at all as dark as it might have been) - a story of bad choices and the places they take you, and even more than that, a story about the length we go for a friend even when they don't love us as much as we do (or precisely because they don't). This was the aspect that resonated with me the most: while I've never been in a toxic friendship of the "bad influence" variety (and I wouldn't, because I'm one of the less influenceable people I know), I have been in a sort of unrequited friendship for a long while - until the friend in question set to size me down once and for all, and since I couldn't cope with that, we ultimately split. If you've ever loved a friend more than they did, and you've ever been aware of it (and hurt because of it), Vrettos captures this feeling perfectly. Then again, in a short book like this (less than 200 pages), emotions gets somehow constricted and lose some of the impact they could make...more of this in the next paragraphs. [...]

December 10, 2018

B.C. Johnson: "Daphne" (ARC Review)

Title: Daphne [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Deadgirl (book 2.5 of 5, though best read after book 3 if you want to avoid a spoiler about its ending) 
[Please note: I edited this part, since originally the first book book was a standalone with sequel possibility; then it morphed into a 4-book series, and ultimately a 5-book one]
B.C. Johnson [Site | Goodreads]
 Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary
 Strong, unique twist on classic mythology. Compelling writing.
 Fast romance. It's not always easy to get one's bearings at the beginning of a chapter.
 Blood, gore and monsters.
Will appeal to:
 Those who wanted more of Daphne. Those who like unusual creatures. Those who like their human (but resilient) side even more.

Blurb: Daphne is one of the Keres, an ancient line of women from Greek myth. Part Fate, part battlefield Valkyrie, she can sense violence and death wherever she goes. After Daphne transforms into a monster and is taken away by her family at the end of "Deadgirl: Ghostlight," she finds herself on a journey of fear, flight, and self-discovery. Hounded by monster hunters and her own inner demons, Daphne must find a way to cope with who and what she is, or lose her mind and soul forever to the Beast within. Who's more dangerous: the hunters, or the monster? (Amazon excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. And the author being B.C. Johnson, you all know I've been campaigning for his first Deadgirl book with all my might since 2012, when the original version came out. Also, B.C. Johnson and me have stayed in touch, if sporadically, for the whole time. I'm not what you would call a friend of his though, only a fan of his work. And an unbiased one. As usual, this review is the love child of my penchant for quirky, uniquely worded books and B.C. Johnson's ability to deliver them.


For a character whom we didn't see much of in the Deadgirl series (except in Book 2), Daphne sure is a pivotal one - and, Lucy aside, the most unique of the bunch. The blurb mentions her being "part Fate, part battlefield Valkyrie", but she also calls herself a Harpy at some point. Either way, she's a welcome detour from your usual supernatural creatures. But more than anything, it's her monster/human duality that fascinates the reader. A literal duality in this case, with the two entities (for lack of a better word) fighting for control. Like Lucy in Deadgirl: Ghostlight, Daphne will have an epiphany about herself that is, hands down, the best part of the story - heartbreaking and epic at the same time. Johnson is never afraid to have his characters suffer, yet fight (and sometimes win, if at a high cost) even in the face of despair, and each and every time, what comes out of it is a work of art, and of - sometimes funny, often tragic, always epic - beauty. [...]

December 06, 2018

Todd Mitchell: "Backwards"

Title: Backwards [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Todd Mitchell [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2013
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Fresh, well-executed premise. Great guessing game.
Cons: Lacks a strong emotional punch - though the very structure of the story accounts for that.
WARNING! Graphic depiction of suicide. Rape in the background.
Will appeal to: Those who like unusual premises, bookish puzzles, and stories about second chances - of the time-travel (but not sci-fi) variety.

Blurb: At the moment Dan's life ends, the Rider's begins. Unwillingly tied to Dan, the Rider finds himself moving backwards in time, each day revealing more of the series of events that led to Dan's suicide. As the Rider struggles to figure out what he's meant to do, he revels in the life Dan ignores. Beyond the simple pleasures of a hot shower and the sun on his face, the Rider also notices the people around Dan: his little sister, always disappointed by her big brother's rejection, his overwhelmed mom, who can never rely on Dan for help, and Cat - with her purple hair, artistic talent, and misfit beauty. But Cat doesn't want anything to do with Dan. While the days move in reverse and Halloween looms, it's up to the Rider to find out why Cat is so angry, and what he must do to make things right. (Amazon)

Review: As I already stated in the introductory section, this is NOT a sci-fi book, despite time travel being at its core. So you may probably enjoy it even if sci-fi is not your jam.


I'm fairly sure that you've never read anything like Backwards. Going back in time may be a pretty common book device, except I can't name another novel where not only the thing happens on a day-by-day basis - that is, every new day the narrator (the Rider) lives is, in fact, the day before, from start to finish - but the real protagonist (again, the Rider) is also unsubstantial and just a spectator at first; and later, when he tries to retroactively change what's to come, the flesh-and-blood character he's tied to (Dan) is oblivious of it - or even gets in the way. I know, this sounds like a mind-fuck...except it's easier to actually follow the story than to explain its logistics. Also, while the narrator tries to prevent a tragedy (that may not be the one we think it is in the first place) by slowly peeling layers of truth away and figuring how to influence things, we have our own mystery to solve - just WHO is the Rider, and how did he come to be? and are there any other entities like him? This makes for a fascinating read, even if Dan's everyday life is pretty average on the whole, and the Rider's interactions with...well, anyone are fairly limited at first. [...]

December 02, 2018

Christopher Pike: "Thirst No.2"

Title: Thirst No.2 [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Thirst (previously: The Last Vampire) (2nd of ?? books | omnibus, reissued 2010 | contains the original TLV short novels: Phantom, Evil Thirst, Creatures of Forever)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Year: 1996
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: Requires more suspension of disbelief than Book 1. The blend of UF and sci-fi may not work for everyone.
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: What Alisa has desired for five thousand years has finally come true: she is once again human. But now she is defenseless, vulnerable, and, for the first time in centuries, emotional. As she attempts to reconcile her actions as a vampire with her new connection to humanity, she begins to understand the weight of life-and-death decisions. Can Alisa resolve her past and build a new identity, or is she doomed to repeat her fatal mistakes? (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 second three books in the series - now repackaged as one - are be precise, it only refers to Book 4]

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...


There's a fil rouge to all the Thirst series, and the French metaphor comes in especially handy, since the common denominator is all kinds of enemies (human or not) going after Sita's blood. And there's a corollary to this - Sita having to defend humanity from the havoc her blood could wreak on them. But the 4th and 5th original installments break this pattern (that will resurface in Book 6), focusing on two special births and the need to defend one of the infants from malevolent forces. Plus, for a while, Sita is human again, and for the very first time we see her bonding with another woman (like her apparent insta-love with Ray in Book 1, this could have a huge insta-friendship vibe, if there wasn't a century-old backstory to it). Since from the original separate book blurbs I knew she would go back to being a vampire, I enjoyed my ride with human Sita. In a way, it was even more interesting for me to have that version of her to explore and compare to the one we had known so far. Some things change, some are oh so much alike. It's SO hard to review this part of the story without spoilers, but what I can say is, your enjoyment of Phantom may depend on to what extent you're capable to suspend disbelief, unless the illusion that the title openly references has, indeed, a life of sorts (which I suspect is the case, given the multiple references to "the abyss" as if it were a place that could generate something more solid than a simple hallucination). It still poses a few practical problems, but like Sita with her predicament, we probably aren't to examine the story that closely, or it will blow in our face 😉. Still, even before I formulated my crazy (ingenious?) theory about what goes on in Phantom, I was invested in the story, and a certain part before the very end broke my heart. [...]