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 😉.


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...


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 💚 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!


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 😉.


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).


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...


    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...