December 24, 2020

2020 Wrap-Up: In Which I Outdo Myself

Hello my beauties!
Welcome to my last post of the year, where I will wrap my 2020 up. This was, of course, another year of scheduling, both my reads and my posts. I set up my usual goal of one post a week, though I secretly hoped to replicate my 2019 record of 64 posts. Lo and behold, due to a series of circumstances (and to my stubbornness), I was able to surpass my own record and to reach numbers I could only dream of before. That's very unlikely to happen again, and I don't want to push myself further and risk blogging burnout, but heck, it was nice to get there for once. And the best thing is, I'm proud of all the posts I've brought forth. No filler or lukewarm stuff in sight. So hear the story of my most productive blogging year ever (...and no, I'm not bragging, especially since there are bloggers who write the same amount of posts I did this year in three months...I'm just happy).

Pt. 1: This Year in Blogging

As of today, I've been blogging for 8 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...plus an off-blog, real-life section!

December 22, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: What's Your Blogging Routine?


Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

WHAT'S YOUR BLOGGING ROUTINE?

Before tackling my actual blogging routine, I'm going to talk about some blogging-adjacent activities, because well, we all know that this thing we do involves a lot more than reading books, brainstorming ideas and producing posts...

Since I work the afternoons Monday to Friday, my blogging activity takes place in the couple of hours between dinner and bedtime and in the weekends. But the first thing I do after breakfast is have a look at my emails, Blogger comments, reading list (that is, new posts from friends), Goodreads, Twitter, NetGalley and Edelweiss accounts. (Plus, eh, the news headlines). If I see something that I need to interact with, I bookmark it for later (but I try to respond to my comments right away). This may take from 30 to 45 minutes, and it's not good for my chores, but I can't start my day unless I know what's going on everywhere LOL 🤷‍♀️. I check on Twitter from work too (because it's quick), but rarely on the other sites - unless my boss is away (I've written whole blog posts at work, but only when he was on vacation or absent for the day).

December 19, 2020

Seanan McGuire: "Juice Like Wounds"

Title: Juice Like Wounds [on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (Note: This is a short story set in the same world as In an Absent Dream - more precisely, a "side-quest" that is only mentioned in the eponymous book - and you can read it for free here. Chronologically book 4.5 in the series)
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: 2020
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Fills in a blank from In an Absent Dream. Gives the reader a different perspective on the Market and its rules.
Cons: Introduces a character we already know we'll lose, and too briefly for her death to have a huge impact.
WARNING! Graphic deaths/gore with children as perpetrators and victims.
Will appeal to: Fans of the Wayward Children series...past and future 😉.

Blurb: In the course of every great adventure there are multiple side-quests. All too often these go unreported, but occasionally we get another window into our heroes' world. In Juice Like Wounds we once again get to meet Lundy, and some of her companions. Lundy's main adventure is detailed in In an Absent Dream, and you should definitely read that. Before or after this tale is up to you. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: You may ask - what's the point in reviewing a short story that also happens to be a free read? It's not like one has to decide if it's worth one's money or not. But since I'm reviewing the whole series, it just didn't seem right to leave this one out. Also, sorry for going all McGuire on you...again. But at least now I've caught up with reviewing all her book I've read so far bar one!

December 15, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: What Are Your Favourite Posts to Write?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE POSTS TO WRITE?

My yearly wrap-ups for sure. I get to recap all the most poignant moments of the year and...I don't know...that makes me feel like I did accomplish something? I like to draw a balance? I'm not sure what it is, but I love them! Reviews, instead, are my favourite posts to have written LOL. Sometimes I procrastinate writing them because they feel like a burden for some reason (even if, of course, I opened my blog EXACTLY with the intent of shoving books down people's throats by means of reviews 😂). Sometimes I can't find the right words to start. But when I HAVE written a review, I usually love it to pieces, because I worked hard to make it the best thing I could come up with, and because I poured my heart and soul into recommending a good book (if it was such).

December 11, 2020

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #20 Danielle Stinson, Kate A. Boorman, Seanan McGuire


Intro


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 ðŸ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

December 08, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: How Do You Organise Your Goodreads Shelves?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE YOUR GOODREADS SHELVES?

Nothing fancy here. Apart from your usual Read, Currently Reading and Want to Read main categories, I set up a Not Sure one for books that I need more info about before I commit to buying them. As for the tags proper, I use the same ones as I do on my blog. I see them as a way for other readers to get info about the books, not a way for me to keep track of them. So, they vary from those age-related, to those genre-related, to those about the type of POV or MC (that is, if the lead is female, male, etc.), to those about the hobbies/activities depicted in the story, and more. These are my GR tags/labels if you're curious (in alphabetical order)...

November 30, 2020

Amelinda Bérubé: "The Dark Beneath the Ice"

Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Amelinda Bérubé [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2018
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5
Pros: Frantic, creepy ride, with a twist you won't see coming. Sensitive handling of the coming-into-one's-sexuality theme. Provides an all-too-real social commentary about girls/women. 
Cons: Most of the supernatural incidents give off a déjà-vu vibe. The family drama is a bit over the top. A character gets accidentally outed.
WARNING! Mental illness; drowning.
Will appeal to: Fans of classic spooks with an unexpected edge. Unlikely-friends/allies-to-lovers enthusiasts.

Blurb: Something is wrong with Marianne. It's not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn't been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital. She's losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic. But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing's rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has - everything it's convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it's owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side. (Amazon)

Review: I actually enjoyed this book a tad more when reading it for the second time, hence the added half star. I found that knowing what it was doing actually enhanced my reading experience. That's one of the reasons why I try to read my books at least twice until I write a full review...first impressions are important, but since I'm a strong advocate for rereading, I do my best in order to give a book a second chance at getting the best rating/review I can give it 🙂. 

UNCONVENTIONAL BEAUTY

The best thing about TDBTI is that, classic spooks notwithstanding, it ultimately goes in a completely unexpected direction when it comes to both the entity and the reason behind them, and it has something to say about what society (and even family) expects girls to be/act like - not to mention, the harm such expectations can cause. Marianne is trapped into a vicious circle, with an unhappy, mentally strained mother who - despite being unable to cope anymore with the role she's expected to play in her family - doesn't know how to let her daughter choose her own happiness. Add to that a workaholic father (who just left home for good) and a well-meaning but clueless aunt who both still see Marianne as a little girl, not a young woman, and her lack of a social life. So, one wonders, why should the nameless entity who's after her be convinced that Marianne stole something from it and has to give it back? A few answers are on the table, but one by one they get discarded, until the (articulated) reveal that ties in the paranormal and the mundane and doubles as a cautionary tale/social commentary. [...]

November 24, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Gratitude. What Books/Authors/Narrators/Bloggers Are You Most Thankful for This Year?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

GRATITUDE. WHAT BOOKS/AUTHORS/NARRATORS/BLOGGERS ARE YOU MOST THANKFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

Of course, we don't do Thanksgiving in Italy, but I love this prompt, because we all don't say "thank you" nearly enough! I'll keep it short and sweet though...

  • I'm thankful for all the fellow bloggers who've been my friends in these 8+ years, and for the ones I only met/started interacting with in 2020! and for those who never failed to comment on my posts even when I was slack about reciprocating (you know who you are! and I swear I'll try to be better, because you deserve it 😘).
  • I'm thankful for all the authors who trusted me with their WIPs and valued my beta-reader abilities - this year my thanks go to Joshua Winning and Edward Aubry!
  • I'm thankful for Seanan McGuire, who never seems to rest, because she's writing multiple books a year and (as far as I can tell from the ones I've read) all amazing ones! Also, she's a champion of social justice, as you can see by looking at her Twitter (FYI - you'll also find cats and My Mini Ponies galore in it, in case you need something cute and uplifting. Don't we all?).
  • Speaking of authors, I'm also thankful for Ilsa J. Bick, who replies at once to our Goodreads questions and doesn't mind writing a whole essay when someone asks her about the real-life inspiration behind one of her books (that would be me). [And seriously, read her Dark Passages duology at least! 😉]

November 19, 2020

Jonathan Sims: "Thirteen Storeys" (ARC Review)

Title: Thirteen Storeys  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Jonathan Sims [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2020
Age: I shelved this one as Adult, but it can be read by a 16 y.o., and even by a mature, not overly impressionable 14 y.o.
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Engaging format. A few interesting/unexpected twists on classic haunting tropes.
Cons: Not all the characters are likeable (thought that's kind of the point). The ending, while vivid, is less impactful than the single stories and a bit too convenient.
WARNING! Haunting (ha!) imagery. Gore. Violence.
Will appeal to: Fans of supernatural/horror stories with a mystery edge and a social justice background.

Blurb: A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers - even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building. None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, they share only one thing in common - they've all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building's walls. By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests will say what happened. His death has remained one of the biggest unsolved mysteries - until now. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Gollancz/Orion Publishing Group for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way. Also, in case you don't know, the author is the writer and narrator for the Magnus Archives podcast.

PRETTY LITTLE TWISTS

Thirteen Storeys is, for all purposes, a novel comprised of a series of short stories, each one focusing on one of the tenants of a reclusive billionaire's building, with only the last chapter bringing the whole cast together. I have to admit that short stories can be hit or miss for me, but when there's a connection of sorts between them and they ultimately form a bigger picture, I'm hooked. In this case, I'm also pleased to say that most of the stories, while building on familiar haunting tropes, either put a spin on them or bring something new to the table. Granted, not all the characters are what I would call memorable, and very few of them are genuinely likeable (though most aren't supposed to be); but the crescendo of tension and the clever (if sometimes little) twists in their stories (not to mention, the interplay of associations between them - though most you only manage to catch on a second read) largely make up for that. Also, while all the stories end with a hook to the last chapter, they're remarkably self-contained - especially since the basic reason behind the hauntings becomes apparent early on (but the final chapter will still hold a few surprises in that department). [...]

November 14, 2020

Seanan McGuire: "The Girl in the Green Silk Gown"

Title: The Girl in the Silk Green Gown [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Ghost Roads (2nd of ?? books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2018
Age: 14+ (but I shelved it as Adult because the lead, though technically 16, has been around for decades as a ghost)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Engaging character voice. Creative spin(s) on a few classic urban legends/classic mythology. Humour, depth and heart.
Cons: If dead characters who hate to be back in flesh (all the relative bodily functions included) and do everything in their power to revert to ghost aren't your jam, chances are you won't like this. (Please note though: attempted suicide is NOT involved).
Will appeal to: Urban legend fans. Readers with a penchant for dead characters who know how to come alive on the page.

Blurb: For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right. The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Afterlife + Seanan McGuire...you all know nothing can go wrong here, don't you? 😉 This is the second installment in the Ghost Roads series, but the first actual novel (the previous book was a short-story collection), and there's already a new one in the making, and from the sound of it the story should be over by then, and I never want it to end.

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Rose Marshall's afterlife is a never-ending, more-deadly-than-deadly tug of war with Bobby Cross, the man who killed her but couldn't keep her. At first, Bobby only wanted to fabricate a new ghost to feed to his demonic car; but since Rose managed to escape, all he's ever thought about is revenge. Persephone's blessing (in tattoo form) should keep Rose safe...but something goes wrong, and now the Girl in the Green Silk Gown is alive again and doubly powerless - both as a supposed runaway teen in a world where no one can vouch for her and as a former ghost who doesn't have any protection from Bobby anymore. Except Rose is the girl who needs help but doesn't need saving (MY QUEEN), and leave it to her to find that help in the most unexpected place. This spans an adventure at the junction of the human world and the supernatural one, the kind of adventure that would be entertaining and exciting on its own merits, but that, thanks to the wit and wisdom and humour and heart McGuire infuses her characters with, becomes so much more[...]

November 09, 2020

Lauren Karcz: "The Gallery of Unfinished Girls"

Title: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Lauren Karcz [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2017
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Atmospheric, surprising, with a strong art commentary and a poignant coming-of-age message.
Cons: The side characters might use more depth. If you like spelled-out endings, you won't find one here.
Will appeal to: People who make art. People who don't, but want to peek into an artist's mind. People who like to read about a teen's family dynamics and personal growth. Most of all, people who crave for spellbinding books with a huge twist.

Blurb: Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year. Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings. Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate. At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality. (Amazon)

Review: This is a debut book, but you would never be able to tell. Also, this is a book with less than a thousand ratings on Goodreads, and that, my friends, is a crime. I hope that some of you will get inspired to pick it up and right a wrong after reading my review 😉.

MAGICAL LYRISM

Back when I started blogging, I didn't even know "what" magical realism was (which explains my "contemporary with a twist" label for certain books). Fast forward eight years, and it's become one of my favourite genres, second only to afterlife. What I'm trying to say is, though I wouldn't call myself a MR expert (whereas I claim the title for afterlife 😊), I've read a decent number of books in the category, and TGOUG is one of the most lyrical and exquisite I've ever encountered - plus one that pulled a huge twist on me (yep, this is a "contemporary with a twist" book after all, for more than one reason). I came for the magical mystery (which didn't disappoint - on the contrary, it was more exciting than I expected) and stayed for the art commentary and the teen experience with regard to family, love and life in general. [...]

November 03, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: What Do You Do for Fun When You Aren't Blogging?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN WHEN YOU AREN'T BLOGGING?

This is a question that I submitted, but only because I thought it would be a fun prompt, and because I was curious about your hobbies and/or interests outside of blogging. As for me, I, erm, don't have any 😳.

For one thing, I've always been the quiet kid/girl who spends her time reading, writing and listening to music (though lately I'm doing the latter less and less, because when you work as a radio host, it almost feels like bringing work home LOL). I've always hated physical activities. I've never harboured any desire to learn an instrument - I'm perfectly contented with hearing other people play. I can't stand "women's craft". I've never had any affinities with visual arts. (I know...I'm boring LOL).

Now, what I WOULD like to do is explore urban landscapes and castles/fortresses, but I have a complicated home situation that prevents me to do that, so...back to reading and blogging 🤷‍♀️.

November 01, 2020

Tooting Your Trumpet #16


Some people toot their own trumpet. I mean to toot yours. On the first Sunday of every month, I'm sharing your posts, your sites, anything interesting I stumble upon during my internet vagrancies. This month on TYT...
  • A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DISABLED TEENAGER (a personal/ispirational post on Simone's blog The Wheelchair Teen)
  •  HELPFUL BLOGGING HINTS FOR THE NEW BLOGGER INTERFACE (a series of tips for Blogger users on Mary's blog Dark Thoughts)
  • THINGS BLOGGERS SHOULD WORRY MORE (AND LESS) ABOUT (an advice post on Jen's blog Jen Ryland Reviews)
  • OCD AWARENESS WEEK: MY PROBLEMS WITH THE WORD "OBSESSION" (a think piece on Emily's blog Paperback Princess)
Please note: all the graphics featured in these posts are property of the blog/site owners, and are only used in association with their blog/site links.

    October 31, 2020

    Rin Chupeco: "The Girl from the Well"

    Title: The Girl from the Well [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
    Series: The Girl from the Well (1st of 2 books)
    Author: Rin Chupeco [Site | Goodreads]
    Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror
    Year: 2014
    Age: 14+
    Stars: 4/5
    Pros: Fresh take on a popular Japanese piece of lore. Pitch-perfect lead voice. Unconventional character dynamics.
    Cons: If you prefer more approachable leads and action over atmosphere, this might not be your cup of tea.
    WARNING! Graphic violence/gore. A drowning scene.
    Will appeal to: Those who enjoy an eerie quality in their horror.

    Blurb: A dead girl walks the streets. She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan. Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out. (Goodreads)

    Review: Sort-of disclaimer: I'm not familiar with Japanese folklore, and I've never read the book Bancho Sarayashiki/seen the movie Ringu (which, apparently, this book loosely bases its premise on), so I can't vouch for the originality of this story. But according to the reviews I've read, the Girl from the Well myth is just a starting point for the author to build on. As for me, I've never come across a ghost story like this one...and I've read my share 😉.

    GHOST TALK

    I don't go out of my way in order to read horror. I do, however, go out of my way in order to read books about dead/undead characters. Usually, those do come with a dose of horror, but their protagonists tend to be relatable and/or remarkably human for someone who either got their link to the living severed or turned into a creature of sort. TGFTW is a different kind of fish (well...ghost 😉), in that 1) Okiku is the one of oldest ghosts I've ever read about and 2) she's a vengeful one, which premises combined give birth to a totally different character than the ones I usually meet in my afterlife stories. Chupeco does a brilliant job in walking the line between innocent dead girl and centuries-old monster, never falling into the trap of humanising their lead too much, never letting us forget that she's a killer (though for a reason we can empathise with), but at the same time making her understandable and partly relatable. They mainly achieve such goal by giving Okiku a distinct, detached voice that sometimes blends so much into the narrative as to make us forget we're seeing the other characters through her eyes - until she resurfaces. It sounds disorienting on paper, but it's actually very effective. Add to it Okiku's sometimes fractured monologue and her obsession with counting (which ties in with the circumstances of her death), and you have a peculiar narrator who infuses this creepy story with an even creepier, strong flavour. [...]

    October 27, 2020

    Tell Me Something Tuesday: How Do You Like to Be Scared? Horror or Thriller?

    Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging (and some slightly more personal matters thrown in for good measure). While Heidi is on an extended hiatus, there are five of us who are hosting it and providing the questions. The current team is composed of Berls at Because Reading Is Better Than Real LifeJen at That's What I'm Talking AboutKaren at For What It's WorthLinda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Roberta at Offbeat YA. This week's question is...

    HOW DO YOU LIKE TO BE SCARED? HORROR OR THRILLER?

    First off, I want to say that my answer will only apply to books: movies are not my thing, and there aren't any "horror" or "thriller" series that I know of - more like "supernatural with a side of horror" (hello, Supernatural. Duh 😁) or "police procedurals with a side of thriller" (but when it comes to the latter, I only like good old police procedurals without any added ingredient, thank you 😉. Think the original L&O ðŸ’š or The Closer).

    So, I went on Goodreads and had a look at my labels. As of now, I have 97 books (some of them still on my TBR list) labeled "horror or gore", and 83 (same) labeled "thriller or mystery" (of course, you can have gore without real horror - like in a C.S.I. episode - and "mystery" isn't necessarily the same thing as "thriller", but I like to keep my labels simple 🙂). Almost a tie, all things considered. The funny thing is, I don't go out of my way in order to read horror (I can't even stomach a certain brand of body horror - think Stephen King) or thriller (I'd rather read...well, reread...a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie mystery novel)...those GR labels all apply to books that are, among other things, one or the other (or both). So my answers would be, horror and thriller, but hardly ever as the main ingredients of a book...

    ...and you know what? neither of them scare me. Horror/gore can impact me, but that's the extent of it - I don't get nightmares, and I don't sit upright in bed at the slightest sound because I've read/watched a story of a certain kind...with me, what happens in books/TV series stays in books/TV series 😂.

    I've gone an awfully long time without treating you to a David Tennant gif.
    Time to make amends 😂.

    October 24, 2020

    Seanan McGuire: "Sparrow Hill Road"

    Title: Sparrow Hill Road  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
    Series: Ghost Roads (1st of ?? books)
    Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
    Genres: Afterlife, Urban Fantasy
    Year: 2014 (reissued in 2018)
    Age: 14+ (but I shelved it as Adult because the lead, though technically 16, has been around for decades as a ghost)
    Stars: 5/5
    Pros: Engaging character voice. Creative spin(s) on a few classic urban legends. Humour, depth and heart.
    Cons: Not every story is tightly connected to the others, but they weren't written with a book in mind at first (and they do provide a sense of unity nevertheless).
    Will appeal to: Urban legend fans. Readers with a penchant for dead characters who know how to come alive on the page.

    Blurb: Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross - a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead. (Amazon)

    Review: Afterlife + Seanan McGuire...you all know nothing can go wrong here, don't you? 😉 I even upped my original 4.5-star rating (the one from my mini-review), because I can't very well punish a book for being a short-story collection instead of a novel, and anyhow, I enjoyed it even more the second time around!

    AFTERLIFE SPECIAL

    There's only one thing that I love more than an afterlife story: an afterlife story with a unique mythology (and a captivating main character, it goes without saying). The Ghost Roads series - born quite by accident from a series of short stories published all through 2010 on The Edge of Propinquity - reads familiar enough that you can nod at most of its urban fantasy references, and fresh enough that you never know where its endless routes will take you. The main character, Rose - innocent but fierce, poor but resourceful, handy with a wrench and very much in love - died in 1952 at the hands of Bobby Cross, one of the many souls he had been feeding (literally) to his dream of staying young and handsome forever. Except Rose's spirit, or whatever you want to call it, got away, and Bobby's sort-of-existence became an endless attempt at getting her back and making her pay. While trying to stay out of Bobby's reach, Rose also fulfills the role of a psychopomp to those who are destined to die on the road, and sometimes - when fate can still be manipulated - even manages to save their lives. This is, more or less, where the most familiar urban legends give way to a different (if still recognisable) mythology, that - coupled with a character to root for - kept me enthralled the whole time. [...]

    October 17, 2020

    Ilsa J. Bick: "Draw the Dark"

    Title: Draw the Dark  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
    Series: None
    Author: Ilsa J. Bick [Site | Goodreads]
    Genres: Supernatural, Contemporary with a Twist, Thriller or Mystery
    Year: 2010
    Age: 14+
    Stars: 4.5/5
    Pros: Original, well-crafted mix of paranormal/supernatural, mystery and modern history. Believable main character. Incorporates painting in a fascinating manner.
    Cons: Requires more suspension of disbelief for a couple of mundane events than for the supernatural ones. The open ending may not sit well with everyone.
    WARNING! Death and violence/gore.
    Will appeal to: Fans of books off the beaten path. Art and history lovers. Everyone who enjoys a dark but ultimately hopeful story.

    Blurb: There are things the people of Winter, Wisconsin, would rather forget. The year the Nazis came to town, for one. That fire, for another. But what they'd really like to forget is Christian Cage. Seventeen-year-old Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy. Ever since, he's drawn obsessively: his mother's face...her eyes...and what he calls "the sideways place", where he says his parents are trapped. Christian figures if he can just see through his mother's eyes, maybe he can get there somehow and save them. But Christian also draws other things. Ugly things. Evil things. Dark things. Things like other people's fears and nightmares. Their pasts. Their destiny. There's one more thing the people of Winter would like to forget: murder. But Winter won’t be able to forget the truth, no matter how hard it tries. Not as long as Christian draws the dark... (Amazon)

    Review: As I said above, this is a book that will appeal (among other people) to art and history lovers. Then again, I know very little about art, and I'm not a fan of stories set in the past (like part of this one is)...and I was hooked. I guess there's no better testament to the power of this particular narrative and its author's skills 😉.

    JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

    Let's get it out of the way: this is NOT the story of a boy who pines for his parents (or better, his mother, since his father disappeared when he was too young to remember him) and embarks on a supernatural journey in order to find them/get them back. Though the "sideways place" where Christian's parents allegedly vanished is indeed a recurring theme, and the protagonist's obsession with finding his mother will play a surprising part in the narrative, this is NOT the story that Bick wants to tell. So, while on a level I can sympathise with those readers who felt robbed of a thrilling reading experience, I'd say that there's enough to love in this book for what it is - not to mention, for once the blurb didn't lie 😉. DTD is, at its core, the story of a boy and his demons, his uncanny ability to tune in to other people (under special circumstances, that is, and at a price for both him and them), and his loneliness despite having someone in his life who loves him (if not necessarily understands him); at the same time, it's the story of a small town with a penchant for burying its secrets, especially those rooted in a shameful and painful past. Its unique blend of supernatural/paranormal, mystery and the "ordinary" life of a damaged teen, along with strong characterisation, provides enough entertainment (if dark) and generates enough emotion without the need for it to add a metaphysical quest to the list. [...]

    October 10, 2020

    Back to Black: Introducing the 2020 Halloween Backlist

    Pumpkin photo: free from Pixabay. Graphics: Offbeat YA

     Hello sweeties, and happy/scary October! 😱
     
    For the third year, I'm spotlighting a few old and/or old-ish books from the dark side this Halloween, one per week till October 31st itself (please note - not the usual 4, but only 3 this year, due to time constraints). This is a smart (???) way for me both to cross a handful of books from my to-be-reviewed list and to celebrate the most beloved festivity in the book-blogging world along with my book-blogging friends. I will admit this series didn't get much traction in the past years (at least in terms of comments), but I'm a stubborn old lady, so I'm at it again 😜. Here's the plan, with dates, titles, authors and genres for each book...

    October 06, 2020

    Tell Me Something Tuesday: What Is TMST? Old Meme, New (Temporary?) Team and a Small Tweak!

    Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings in order to discuss a wide range of topics from books to blogging. I've been participating in it on and off for three years now, but the last time I did, the meme's future was very much uncertain, what with Heidi being on an extended hiatus (the questions we were answering had been planned in advance) and not sure if she would reprise blogging altogether. Some of us decided to reach out to her and ask if she would be OK with us keeping TMST going, and she gave us her blessing. So, for the foreseeable future, the meme will continue, only with new caretakers - at least until Heidi decides to come back (or for the long run, should she ultimately call it quits).

    WHAT IS TMST? OLD MEME, NEW (TEMPORARY?) TEAM AND A SMALL TWEAK!

    As I said above (in case there's someone out there who's new to it), Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme aimed at discussing a number of topics, mainly book or blogging related, but sometimes more personal. For those who have been participating so far, or have simply been following any of the bloggers who were and commenting on their posts, the basic structure of the meme won't change. The questions will be provided by the five of us who teamed up and stepped in for Heidi. Meet the minds behind TMST (in strictly alphabetical order)!


    Now, here goes the "small tweak" I promised. Would you like to participate in the meme on a regular or semi-regular basis, and get emailed the prompt list? Just head over here and fill in Jen's form!
    (Of course, you can jump in anytime you like - you are under no obligation to actually do all the posts, or even most of them, just because you signed up, and you can remove yourself from the list at any time). This is something that has never been done before, though Heidi would email the prompts on a case-by-case basis to those who were interested (and always anticipate the next week's question at the end of each post). Anyhow, I will continue providing a list of the upcoming prompts for my readers who aren't interested in doing their own post but wish to read/comment on mine.
    P.S.: the girls will embed a linky in their posts, which I'm opting out of (at least for now) because I don't want to put too much pressure on myself in case we are suddenly overwhelmed by participations 😉. Also, if you want to do the meme but you haven't got a logo/don't know how to design one, you're welcome to use mine (very basic and colour-specific, I know, so it probably won't match your blogs...but still), or ask Berls if you can borrow/purchase the awesome thing her coblogger Michelle designed (or ask Michelle directly of course)! Unless you don't vibe with the all-female characters LOL.

    October 04, 2020

    Tooting Your Trumpet #15


    Some people toot their own trumpet. I mean to toot yours. On the first Sunday of every month, I'm sharing your posts, your sites, anything interesting I stumble upon during my internet vagrancies. This month on TYT...
    • BOOKISH MUSINGS: I WANT READING TO STOP BEING STRESSFUL AND START BEING FUN AGAIN (a think piece/discussion post on Kit's blog Metaphors and Moonlight)
    • GETTING WORDY: FRIENDSHIPS IN BOOKS (a discussion post on Veronika and Sabrina's blog Wordy and Whimsical)
    • THE #OWNVOICES LABEL HAS LOST ITS WAY (a think piece on Fadwa's blog Word Wonders)
    • EXPERIMENTING WITH BLOGGER (a tip for Blogger users on Charlotte's blog Uglemors)
    Please note: all the graphics featured in these posts are property of the blog/site owners, and are only used in association with their blog/site links.

      October 01, 2020

      Cover Reveal: "The Between" by Ryan Leslie

      Welcome to a special cover reveal...

      Teaser!

      You know, as a rule, I don't do reveals. Well, I don't do mass reveals, or reveals for books that I'm not interested in. So, when I do one, you know there's a solid reason behind that.
      This time, we're looking at the cover for Ryan Leslie's debut book. I jumped at the chance to reveal this particular cover...because the book in question is on my TBR list. Of course it is. I wouldn't have revealed its cover otherwise.
      So, here goes...

      September 29, 2020

      Taste the Books: Review Morsels #19 Kali Wallace, A.S. King, Fox Benwell


      Intro


      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!

      Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

      September 24, 2020

      Seanan McGuire: "Come Tumbling Down"

      Title: Come Tumbling Down [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
      Series: Wayward Children (5th of 10? 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: 2020
      Age: 14+
      Stars: 4/5
      Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Puts a neurodivergent queer character front and center. The POV switch is masterfully done.
      Cons: Quite dark. Some characters get less screen time than  others.
      WARNING! A pretty graphic corpse depiction.
      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: When Jack left Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister - whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice - back to their home on the Moors. But death in their adopted world isn't always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome. (Amazon excerpt)

      Review: Each installment of his series never fails to take a different turn, not even when we visit one of the same worlds as before. This time, Jack and Jill are joined by their former schoolmates (which makes for a change of style, since every one of them gets a POV), and we get to explore the Moors' mythology even further. Never a dull moment 😉.

      PASS THE TORCH

      You know how, usually, the first thing that strikes you about a book is either the plot or the characters or the world-building, or well, the writing, but from a purely aesthetic angle? If I have to pick the aspect of CTD that stands out the most for me, it's the constant, apparently effortless POV change. For the second time (since Beneath the Sugar Sky) a group of Wayward Children are on a quest in the world where one...well, technically, two of them belong, except that this time every one of them takes a turn in telling the story. And it's not a matter of chapters - it happens seamlessly every few paragraphs/lines. Though not all the kids get the same amount of screen time (it only makes sense that Jack is given the lion's share, but Sumi is a close second, probably because her apparently air-headed attitude and chipper demeanor help balancing out the dark narrative), we get a rotating glimpse of everyone's thoughts and feelings, and it never feels forced or scattered. Seriously, if you have ever read a book in third person where you felt disconnected from a single character in whose head you were the whole time, you know how rare and precious it is. [...]

      September 19, 2020

      Neal Shusterman: "Challenger Deep"

      Title: Challenger Deep  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
      Series: None
      Author: Neal Shusterman [Site | Goodreads]
      Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
      Year: 2015 (originally from HarperTeen, but it's been reissued on Aug. 6th 2020 by Walker Books)
      Age: 14+
      Stars: 5/5
      Pros: Perfect blend of raw and poetical, honest and hopeful. Comprises two smartly connected narratives.
      Cons: Not so much a "plot" story as a "situation" one (though at least one of the narratives is punctuated by some colourful events).
      WARNING! Lots of talk about mental illnesses of course. An attempted suicide (off-screen).
      Will appeal to: Those who can appreciate a quiet, yet powerful novel from the double perspective of a single character.

      Blurb: Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
      Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
      Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence to document the journey with images.
      Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
      Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
      Caden Bosch is torn. (Amazon)

      Review: I can't vouch for the accuracy of the schizophrenic rep in this book, but I guess the next best thing to having a person diagnosed with a mental disorder narrate his own story is reading his author father's take on it (and mind you, he got his son's input). Then again, art is about creating order out of chaos, and maybe making us understand it better...

      DOUBLE FANTASY

      Caden is a high-schooler with friends, hobbies, talents, and a family who loves him (including a younger sister he sounds very fond of). We meet him when he starts to spiral into a condition that isn't explicitly labeled (though it's obviously some form of schizophrenia - but then again, the book makes a point about labels not being necessarily accurate or helpful, because it's different for everyone, as the medical cocktails given to each patient are), and follow him all through his hospitalisation in a mental health facility; but at the same time Caden tells his story as a member of a mysterious crew on a ship sailing to the infamous Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the oceans - and that's where we get some action, if of the weird kind. Personally, I was captivated by the second narrative even before the connections with Caden's "ordinary" reality started to become apparent, but when they did (often in unexpected, but always smart and significant ways), I was in awe. This literary technique made me really understand Caden's plights and witness his struggle, and yet the story managed to stay entertaining (for all the right reasons). [...]