December 20, 2021

2021 Wrap-Up: In Which I Keep My Pace (And Deal With Anything Under the Sun)

Hello my beauties!
Welcome to my last post of the year, where I will wrap my 2021 up. This was, it goes without saying, YET another year of scheduling, both my reads and my posts. In my previous yearly wrap-up, I set up my usual goal of one post a week for 2021, since I knew I wouldn't be able to replicate my 2020 success (72 posts!!!) without working for it, and I made a conscious decision not to push myself past my limits. Anyhow, I ultimately managed to squeeze in a few posts more than my goal dictated, and that made me happy (granted, I would have been happy with 52 posts all the same...but it's nice to have a small edge πŸ™‚). 2020 was an anomaly, if a pleasant one - this year I kept my "normal" pace, and to me, it was a great accomplishment.

Pt. 1: This Year in Blogging

As of today, I've been blogging for 9 years and a couple of months πŸ˜ƒ.

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 14, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: What’s the Hardest Part About Blogging for You?


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 throw 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 THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BLOGGING FOR YOU?

It may sound counterintuitive, but reviews often are - and here they're the very reason why I started blogging. You see, they are so much WORK. What can I say, I take my reviews seriously 🀷‍♀️. Also, I like them to be structured, which makes them even harder to write (unless I'm in a state of grace and breeze through the whole thing, which happens occasionally). And sometimes I spend more time coming up with headings than writing the review proper, especially since I usually go for puns or wordplays on song/movie/series/book titles. I once joked about reviews being my favourite posts...to have written πŸ˜‚ - and I stand by my word. Seriously, they feel like such an accomplishment afterwards, but before...

December 08, 2021

Seanan McGuire: "Across the Green Grass Fields"

Title: Across the Green Grass Fields [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (6th 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: 2021
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Puts a female intersex character front and center while telling us that "there's no right way to be a girl".
Cons: More didascalic than the previous installments, and with less memorable/rounded characters.
Will appeal to: Horse enthusiasts. Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happier world than the one they live in...

Blurb: Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late. When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines - a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes. But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem… (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I've read this one twice - I also wrote a mini review for it after my first read - and I stand by my word: ATGGF is the weakest installment in the Wayward Children series so far. Still enjoyable, but more forgettable than the previous ones.

SMALL WORLD

Regan is a new face for the Wayward Children series' readers - one we haven't meet at Eleanor West's school (yet?). This time, McGuire chooses to have an intersex heroine...or better, one with CAIS (complete androgen insensitive syndrome), though she does use the term "intersex" in the story (mind you, I don't know if the representation is done well, though I generally trust McGuire to do her homework...but Becca has something to say about that and the use of the word "intersex", and it surprised me). Contrary to most of the Wayward Children we've met so far, there are no parental issues or conflicts in Regan's life, but after confiding in the wrong person as a child and finding herself rejected and bullied for her condition, a door to a world of mythical equines (quite fitting, since Regan loves horses) opens for her. Now, I know that these are novellas, but there was so much potential here for McGuire to build a fascinating world (as she did in Beneath the Sugar Sky), maybe by stretching the page count a little (as it's the case with Come Tumbling Down, the longest book in the series so far with its 206 pages) - while, due to the amount of backstory and to Regan's predicament in the Hooflands, we only get glimpses of a larger universe. (Also...unicorns are stupid? 😧). [...]

December 02, 2021

Offbeat Offline: November 2021


Welcome to Offbeat Offline, where I bring you up-to-date with what went on in my life during the month just gone, give you a sneak peek of my next shenanigans, and share my favourite posts of late!

What happened last month to yours truly? More medical drama (can you see a theme to this year? πŸ˜’), and, um, that's it? Plus a car emergence (really, what's new again?), lots of post scheduling (see the previous item) and post-surgery blog-hopping failure. I read some books that I plan on reviewing later and started working on my end-of-the-year wrap-up. It was a boring month (except for the medical drama of course).

November 25, 2021

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #27 Krystal Sutherland, Rebecca Mahoney, April Genevieve Tucholke et al.


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 (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version πŸ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

November 16, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do Authors/Narrators' Actions, Political Beliefs, Etc. Impact Your View of Their Work?


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 throw 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...

DO AUTHORS/NARRATORS' ACTIONS, POLITICAL BELIEFS, ETC. IMPACT YOUR VIEW OF THEIR WORK?

Oh God, yes. So much yes. I can make allowances for small missteps and on-the-fence behaviours/opinions, and if someone genuinely tries to do better after realising they hurt someone else with their statements or actions. But I will only put my money where my mouth is, and support progressive (or at least non-harmful) creators, as opposed to others who aren't, whether or not their political/social views are reflected by their work. That's not to say I've never liked problematic content in my life (or been blind to it), and maybe I'll do it again to an extent, but I'm striving to make conscious and informed decisions when I consume books (or any media). 

November 11, 2021

Louis Greenberg: "Exposure" (ARC Review)

Title: Exposure [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Louis Greenberg [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Afterlife
Year: 2021
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the characters' age, but it can be read by teens)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original and haunting. Exquisitely written.
Cons: Instalove premise. The story takes a different turn than one anticipates, and albeit smart and poignant, it ultimately doesn't do the main character justice.
Will appeal to: Those who like mind games, spiritually wounded/doomed characters with a bit of a saviour complex, and an eerie quality in their books.

Blurb: In a Britain akin to this one, Vincent Rice falls off a ladder, literally at Petra Orff’s feet. They introduce themselves, and immigrant Petra senses a kindred spirit in Vincent’s complex sense of home. He offers to take her to Metamuse, an alternative theatre experience like no other that he won tickets to in a competition he doesn’t remember entering. The first show leaves them besotted with each other; the second is far more disturbing. Inexplicable occurrences pile on top of one another, all connected to the mysterious Metamuse. Only Petra can see the web of sinister coincidences surrounding them both and, with injustices both past and present weighing on her mind, she begins to wonder if Metamuse is more than just a show… (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Titan Books for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

LOVE, DEATH AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

While deciding to request/buy a book - any book - is always a shot in the dark, even when there are reviews or excerpts available (which was not the case here), I have to admit I took a wilder chance than my average when picking this one. The blurb was pretty straightforward in hinting at an instant connection between the main character and a mysterious "falling man", and I usually try to stay away from books where the romantic plot is a main ingredient, especially when instalove is involved...but this one sounded really up my alley, especially since the Goodreads blurb (slightly different from the NetGalley/Amazon one) had a line about "Unquiet dead [who] seem to be reaching into the world to protest injustices both past and present". Now THAT got my attention - along with the ominous Metamuse of course.
Now I'm really glad I decided to request Exposure, because I ultimately got a spooky, disquieting, overall unique story where the romance - if integral to it - went hand in hand with themes such as family, social identity (Petra is a half South-African, half English immigrant; Vincent - while UK born and bred - is of Malawian descent), one-of-a-kind psychological manipulation, and of course death (and/or un-death). I wasn't familiar with immersive theatre or "autoteatro", but I loved how it was incorporated into the plot (both via Petra's experiences and journalist Rose's first-hand reports), and I enjoyed the spine-chilling twist Greenberg managed to put on it. I also found the writing exquisite without being flowery, and the characterisation and sense of place pretty strong. [...]

November 06, 2021

Offbeat Offline: October 2021


Welcome to Offbeat Offline, where I bring you up-to-date with what went on in my life during the month just gone, give you a sneak peek of my next shenanigans, and share my favourite posts of late!

What happened last month to yours truly? Annoying things, mostly LOL. A seasonal illness wrecking my plans (though on the positive side, it gave me more reading/blogging time), finger surgery delay, plus I finally got around to watching the last season of Supernatural and I was...not impressed, to say the least. I read some good books though (except for a DNF, but it was definitely one of those "it's not you, it's me" cases), so there's that. I also managed to schedule (mind you, not actually FINALISE - some posts haven't been written yet!) my blogging for the rest of the year, yay! (I'm even tentatively planning for 2022...yep, that's how I roll πŸ˜…).

November 02, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Sci-Fi Stories: Do You Read Them? Futuristic? Machine? Space Opera? Sci-Fi Romance?


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 throw 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...

SCI-FI STORIES: DO YOU READ THEM? FUTURISTIC? MACHINE? SPACE OPERA? SCI-FI ROMANCE?

πŸ‘½ πŸͺ Happy sci-fi month! 🧬 πŸ€–

Sci-fi is one of my favourite genres, along with others that seem at odds with it, like Afterlife and Supernatural (yeah, I'm a multifaceted person 😁). I've never read a space opera yet (not sure it's my thing), and of course I try to stay away from sci-fi romance, because that's how I'm wired - no smoochies in my books LOL. On the other end of the spectrum, almost anything goes (though I can't recall having read any hard sci-fi. I guess soft sci-fi is much more fun πŸ˜‰).

October 26, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: What's Your Real-Life Superpower?


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 throw 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 REAL-LIFE SUPERPOWER?

I used to be good at multitasking, but now I'm lucky if I manage to get one thing done at a time. My old bones tire easily, and so does my brain 😫. But - unsurprisingly, if you know me - I'm an excellent planner/scheduler! (with an actual worksheet at hand, of course πŸ˜‰). Not a very useful skill, because completing one task today beats planning a dozen to be performed sometime during the next month LOL. But at least I always know where I stand and which chores/activities (blogging included) I'll be able to tend to/complete/fit around my work commitments every day - even if it's just something along the lines of "oh, yeah, it's Tuesday, which means I have to cook the meat sauce"...

October 21, 2021

Dan Hanks: "Swashbucklers" (ARC Review)

Title: Swashbucklers [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Dan Hanks [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Multiverse
Year: 2021
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the characters' age, but it can be read by teens)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Funny and fresh take on the "band of accidental heroes saves the world" trope. Strong focus on friendship and lost childhood.
Cons: Amidst the action, there are patches of telling-not-showing. Not all the characters are equally developed. The open ending might not sit well with everyone.
Will appeal to: Those who are in for a fantasy quest steeped in '80s nostalgia, featuring a bunch of unlikely saviours...and a talking fox.

Blurb: When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn't like it was in the movies. Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits – even the friends who once fought alongside him. Struggling with single parenting and treated as bit of a joke, Cisco isn't really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that's made worse by the tendrils of the pirate's powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways. With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don't have schools runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes... (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley and Edelweiss, and got approved for it on both sites. Thanks to Angry Robot for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

RUSTED HEROES

Swashbucklers does for adult fiction what the Wayward Children series does for YA: it looks at the aftermath of a "typical" kid/teen character experience (in this case, saving our world - and possibly other ones - from monsters). Except, in Hanks' standalone, thirty years have gone by since our Goonies-meet-Ghostbusters gang defeated evil, and these former child heroes (all but one) have forgotten everything about it...or better, have managed to convince themselves that their saving the world wasn't real to begin with (it doesn't help that the rest of their hometown has resolutely fallen into we-just-hallucinated-because-of-a-gas-leak camp ever since). Until shit hits the fan again, and as adults on the wrong side of forty, they find themselves unfit to fulfill their old saviour roles, yet they can't seem to have a choice (or, in Cisco's case, they ultimately welcome the new adventure with open, if a bit shaking, arms). It's a brilliant, subversive concept, and to the best of my knowledge, a totally original one. It lends itself to nostalgia and humour, and provides an insight into the changes (or lack thereof) that childhood friendships undergo in a few decades - all juicy ingredients for a story. [...]

October 16, 2021

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #26 Malcolm Devlin, Jennifer Brozek et al., Elliot Arthur Cross & Joshua Winning


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 (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version πŸ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

October 11, 2021

Natalie D. Richards: "Seven Dirty Secrets" (ARC Review)

Title: Seven Dirty Secrets  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Natalie D. Richards [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2021
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Tight, evenly-paced story where the tension never lets up. Explores an abusive teen relationship. Features racial diversity among half-siblings.
Cons: Not terribly original if you've read a number of both teen and adult thrillers. Some characters feel a bit underdeveloped.
WARNING! Physical abuse. Drowning. Guilt feelings.
Will appeal to: Those who like a fast-paced, puzzle-ridden cat-and-mouse chase with a role reversal.

Blurb: On her eighteenth birthday, Cleo receives a mysterious invitation to a scavenger hunt. She's sure her best friend Hope or her brother Connor is behind it, but no one confesses. And as Cleo and Hope embark on the hunt, the seemingly random locations and clues begin to feel familiar. In fact, all of the clues seem to be about Cleo's dead boyfriend, Declan, who drowned on a group rafting trip exactly a year ago. And then the phone calls start, Declan's voice taunting Cleo with a cryptic question: You ready? As the clock on the scavenger hunt ticks down, it becomes clear that someone knows what really happened to Declan. And that person will stop at nothing to make sure Cleo and her friends pay. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way. Also, fun fact: as of today, the Goodreads synopsis identifies Cleo's boyfriend as "Cyrus" instead of "Declan". I assume that it was his name in a previous draft.

SAVORY STAPLES

In theory, I love mysteries, but I rarely request or buy one (whether YA or adult), because having been raised on a diet of Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and the like (not to mention, being a Christopher Pike fan) it's difficult for me to read a blurb and get the feeling that the book in question might tell me something new - or be a fresh take on an old trope. And even when I cave in and request/buy the book, it's difficult for me to be impressed. So, take my review with a grain of salt, because I'm a seasoned reader of classic and semi-classic mysteries, and I might be looking for a thrill that is difficult to replicate.
Seven Dirty Secrets isn't a bad book by any means, though I wish it had been MORE. There's a scavenger hunt (who doesn't love those?) with high stakes involved; a (racially diverse) sibling relationship that's central to the plot; and a protagonist with an interest in forensics and a history of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, still scarred (in more than a way) by her past, and now forced by an unknown stalker to confront it once and for all. The pacing is all right, steady without being too frantic, with lots of tense scenes, the right amount of flashbacks and a nice side of clues or supposed ones. I must admit that until the end I wasn't sure about the culprit, though some of the clues sounded too much like false flags, and some of the characters, despite the author's setting them up as suspects, didn't really have a motive that I could fathom. [...]

October 03, 2021

Offbeat Offline: August-September 2021


Welcome to Offbeat Offline, where I bring you up-to-date with what went on in my life during the month just gone, give you a sneak peek of my next shenanigans, and share my favourite posts of late!

For this first installment, I'm going to recap both my September and my August, because STUFF HAPPENED (mind you, when STUFF HAPPENS to me, is generally BAD/ANNOYING STUFF™). Sorry in advance for the long post...especially the hair part. Unfortunately, it couldn't be explained in less words (I'm writing this premise after completing my post). I promise it's a one-timer...

September 26, 2021

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #25 Anna Reith, Jonathan Friesen, M.R. Carey


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 (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version πŸ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

September 20, 2021

Walter Goodwater: "The Liar of Red Valley" (ARC Review)

Title: The Liar of Red Valley  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Walter Goodwater [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Fantasy, Contemporary with a Twist, Horror
Year: 2021
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the main character's age, but it can be read by teens)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original blend of classic fantasy and magical realism, with a small dose of social commentary. Plenty of action, twists and turns (often shocking ones). Brave, resourceful lead.
Cons: While being nice/relatable, the characters (and their relationships) could have used more depth.
WARNING! Blood, gore and monsters. An instance of police brutality.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a supernatural story with a classic feel, yet off the beaten path.

Blurb: In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But they won’t be enough to protect Sadie now that she’s become the Liar, the keeper of the town’s many secrets. Friendships are hard-won here, and it isn’t safe to make enemies. And though the Liar has power - power to remake the world, with just a little blood - what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Solaris/Rebellion Publishing for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

HER-STORY IN THE MAKING

The first thing I look for in my books is, go figure, an "offbeat" element - so I supposed that, with a story where the heroine can "remake the world, with just a little blood", I couldn't go wrong. But TLORV turned out to be even more peculiar - and decidedly more surprising - than I anticipated. I was ready for a healthy dose of reality warping, with outrageous but entertaining results...wow, I had no idea.
After her mother's sudden death, Sadie takes over her role as the Liar...too bad she doesn't have a clue how her power is supposed to work. Now, you might wonder why, if Sadie was destined to succeed her mother, she's been kept in the dark about the tricks of her trade - except there's an excellent reason, which also makes for the last and most stunning twist in a book that's got plenty of them. Tension escalates while Sadie uncovers to what extent her mother has been manipulating reality (there's actually a brilliant crescendo about her lies and the way they impact Sadie's present situation) and learns to use her power, plus tries to stay one step ahead of the monsters and humans who are after something her mother left her. That's where most of this book's strength lies for me - in the way the pace increases and the stakes get higher and higher, but even more in the way the twists/reveals gradually redesign our (and Sadie's) perception of what's real, until they pull the rug from under our feet[...]

September 14, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: When Does It Become Too Late to Comment on a Blog Post?


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 throw 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...

WHEN DOES IT BECOME TOO LATE TO COMMENT ON A BLOG POST?

My approach to commenting, in case I stumble upon an old post that interests me or elicits my response, has nothing to do with the post's age, and everything to do with the way the blogger in question deals with their comments. If they interact (or have interacted) with each and every comment they receive, I add my own; if they don't (or haven't replied to their comments past a certain date), I pass. I understand that some people haven't got the time to reply to (all the) comments, and ordinarily, I would still comment on their blogs (especially if we're mutuals already); but with older posts, I don't have any way to know if the silent blogger does read their comments or gets alerted about them anymore, so I might be talking to the wall and be none the wiser.

"WHO knows?"
Tom Baker a.k.a. the 4th Doctor in a very tongue-in-cheek scene
with Matt Smith a.k.a. the 11th Doctor

September 10, 2021

Michael James: "The Well at the Bottom of Everything"

Title: The Well at the Bottom of Everything [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Hotel (2nd of 3 books)
Author: Michael James [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural
Year: 2021
Age: 16+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Entertaining twist on the portal fantasy/multiverse genre and the accidental heroes + found family tropes. Humorous and adrenalinic. The Hotel setting steps up the game (and the fun) with respect to Book 1.
Cons: There's some woman vs. woman hostility about a man and a sort of love triangle (they aren't the same thing though). The humour might not be everyone's cup of tea.
WARNING! Gore and violence.
Will appeal to: Those who like a crazy story that never lets up about a bunch of improbable heroes.

Blurb: Vain thought destroying the Portal to the Hotel at the End of Time would mean freedom for her and Roman, but her happy ever after is coming to an end. A horrible mistake and a stray bullet force her to infiltrate the Hotel and contend with a new and terrible power: The Well at the Bottom of Everything. Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. The Hotel will have its revenge. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I specifically requested an ecopy from the author. This didn't influence my review in any way.
Also...gotta love a cover that fits my blog πŸ˜‚. Seriously though, this is an indie series and the covers are STUNNING. Not to mention, these books are so well edited. So much for prejudice.

SPECIAL GETAWAY

I went into this book expecting a riot, and I wasn't disappointed. If anything, The Well at the Bottom of Everything is even more entertaining and adrenalinic than its predecessor (no second book syndrome here!). After destroying the Portal to the Hotel, the gang has been trying to adjust to a "normal" life, with varying degrees of success (unsurprisingly, being "normal" isn't Vain's strong suit πŸ˜‚), until a matter of life or death forces them to do the very last thing they would want: find a way back to the Hotel in order to kidnap a healer. Seriously, no sweat. What ensues is an action, humour and surprise-packed romp (though not without some brutal and dramatic incidents) that reads like a videogame on acid and at the same time addresses (if often ironically) the pain of human relationships, both of the friendly and the romantic kind.
The thing I loved most, though, was the Hotel itself, ever-shifting and slowly deteriorating after the Portal destruction, nothing short of a character in its own right. Also, the purpose of the Well (where the Hotel's "guests" are forced to endlessly pour energy) is finally revealed, and it's an unexpected game-changer that forces us to sympathise with the villain (to an extent) and exponentially ups the stakes. The book ends with a cliffhanger (or two), and while I'm usually a bit critical of those, in this case it's the perfect hook to the next installment, which will focus on the infamous Elevator to Everywhere while still addressing (arguably, since I believe it will be the last book in the series) the can...or Well...of worms that's been opened at the Hotel itself. [...]

September 06, 2021

Growing Pains: It's Been Nine Years, And I Need a New Blogging Plan

Hello sweeties!

As some of you already heard via Twitter, I finally decided to make some small adjustments to my blog. You will probably have noticed by now that I'm a creature of order, a perfectionist, and my real superpower is to resist change. Which is fine until it makes you feel good and empowered and whatnot - but when you start to resent your own routine, it's time for you to try a different approach. Even if you have to fight yourself because darn, are you stubborn.


Back when this blog was born (it will be 9 years on October 14th!), I planned to only review my own (usually backlist) books. My typical procedure was to reread each and every one of those books (no matter how familiar I was with them) for review purposes. Reading with a review in mind is a different approach for me than reading for pleasure only (though with time I may have gotten better at doing the two things together). This method had worked well for me for years, until I joined NetGalley in 2019 (and Edelweiss in 2020) and started to get a small, but still significant (for me) number of ARCs from there. I slowly realised that I wouldn't always be able to read all those books TWICE prior to reviewing them - not if I wanted to deliver those reviews in time (even when the publisher doesn't request it, I make it my mission to post my ARC reviews before or around pub date) AND not to fall behind with my backlist books in the process. (Not to mention NG/EW ARCs have an expiration date, except for a few downloadable copies now and then). So I found myself reading some of those ARCs only once, being careful to keep a review mindset - and even so? I felt GUILTY, because to me, each and every book would have deserved the same treatment, not to mention, sometimes I like my books more the second time around. (Since then, I've gotten better at leaving that guilt feeling behind, but it was a bit rough at first, and I kept telling myself that my reading ARCs only once would be temporary. Ha!). Anyhow, for a year and a half, that was the only crack in my reviewer's armour.

August 17, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Ever Buy Physical Copies of Your NetGalley/Edelweiss Approvals?


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 throw 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...

DO YOU EVER BUY PHYSICAL COPIES OF YOUR NETGALLEY/EDELWEISS APPROVALS?

For the books I REALLY enjoyed - 4 to 5 stars - and the publisher didn't provide a download copy of (as opposed to a temporary reading file), absolutely. So far I've bought Reverie by Ryan LaSala and Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse, and I plan on buying Angel of the Overpass by Seanan McGuire and Dead Space by Kali Wallace. If it's a book that the publisher kindly provided with no strings attached (I've been blessed with a number of those), I don't necessarily buy a physical copy, because hey, I'm not that rich πŸ˜‰ - plus I wouldn't even have space enough. But I cherish the ecopy that I got and I keep it saved on a pendrive (two, actually. I'm taking no chances LOL). Anyhow, I have two reasons for buying...I plan on revisiting the book later and I want to support the author.  Win-win!

August 13, 2021

Seanan McGuire: "Dying with Her Cheer Pants On"

Title: Dying with Her Cheer Pants On  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None...so far
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2020
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Inventive twist on the cheerleader + teens-save-the-world tropes. Nice blend of humorous and poignant. Some excellent characterisation. 
Cons: Not all the leads are equally developed. Due to the stories being written in the span of a few years, there are some continuity errors/inconsistencies. The change in tone from story to story might not work for everyone.
WARNING! Blood and gore.
Will appeal to: Those who enjoy a humorous approach to horror. Those who like the Chosen One(s) trope. In short, those who dig a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of vibe.

Blurb: Cheerleaders are seriously injured and even killed at a higher rate than other high school sports. The Fighting Pumpkins take that injury rate as a challenge. Students of Johnson’s Crossing High School, they answer to a higher calling than the pyramid and the basket toss, pursuing the pep rally that is rising up against mysteries and monsters, kicking gods with the pointed toes of professional athletes chasing a collegiate career. Meet Jude, half-vampire squad leader; Laurie, who can compel anyone to do as she asks; Heather, occasionally recreationally dead; Marti, strong enough to provide a foundation for any stunt; Colleen, who knows the rule book so well she may as well have written it; and Steph, who may or may not be the goddess of the harvest. The rest of the squad is ready to support them, and braced for the chaos of the big game, which may have a big body count. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: This collection started off as as seven individual short stories published in different anthologies over the span of ten years, to which the author ultimately added three brand new ones when they became their own book in 2020. Please note: the physical release is out of stock (you can only buy ridiculously priced second-hand copies on Amazon), but of course the ebook version is still available. Please also note - I did my research and peppered my review with cheerleading-related puns πŸ˜‰. Finally, lo and behold...after 8 year and 10 months, I finally got to feature a book that matches my blog aestethic! πŸ’ƒ πŸ˜‚

SINGLE-BASED DOUBLE CUPIE [1]

It's no secret that I pretty much love (or, at worst, like) everything Seanan McGuire writes. This collection is a litte different from her usual production, in that the stories it incorporates are more humorous/over the top than average - though, as the author herself states in prefacing one of them,
The more time I spend with the Fighting Pumpkins, who are in some ways the comedy relief of my ongoing universes, the more I come to understand how tragic they really are, and how many terrible things are lurking in the corners of their lives.
In short, the Fighting Pumpkins are a cheerleader squad - or, it turns out, a whole legacy of them - tasked with battling monsters and restoring the world's balance both via some superpower-fueled kick-assing and the actual, fine art of cheerleading. It's true that - regardless of the consequences and the body count - these stories (except for Turn the Year Around, easily my favourite) have a somehow lighter, more absurdist feel than I usually dig in my books, but the fact is, McGuire can get away with anything. Her characters are solid and sympathetic (which doesn't necessarily mean likeable, but you never fail to understand what makes them tick and to feel for them nevertheless), her imaginations knows no bound but is disciplined enough to build worlds you can buy into, and her writing is masterful (because yeah, the patches of telling-not-showing in her Wayward Children series are intentional, and they fit that kind of stories). So it comes as no surprise that, even when tackling the cheerleader trope and placing it in a universe where they can have a pep rally context with their alien counterpart, McGuire would pull it off (though the moments when she gets more serious/deep/philosophical are still my favourite, and oh, there are a few, and they will break your heart a little). So, yeah - DWHCPO is, ultimately, a book with two souls from an author who's strong enough to support (and juggle) both of them. [...]

August 08, 2021

Cassandra Khaw: "The All-Consuming World" (ARC Review)

Title: The All-Consuming World [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Cassandra Khaw [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi
Year: 2021
Age: 18+
Stars: 2/5
Pros: I decided to DNF this one early on, so I can't give a whole list of pros, but from the little I've read, it sounds like an original twist on a few sci-fi tropes.
Cons: The writing is often convoluted/difficult to decipher and gets in the way of the plot too much.
WARNING! Again, I can't give a whole list, but it's heavy on gore and profanities (if that's something that turns you off).
Will appeal to: Readers who don't get a headache when the writing is a hard nut to crack and/or overshadows the plot.

Blurb: A diverse team of broken, diminished former criminals get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade... but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir. The highly-evolved AI of the universe have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humans from ever controlling the universe again. This band of dangerous women, half-clone and half-machine, must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all. (Goodreads)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley and Edelweiss, and got approved for it on both sites. Thanks to Erewhon Books for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

August 03, 2021

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Like to Read with Others (Buddy Reads, Readalongs, Bookclubs, etc.)?


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 throw 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...

DO YOU LIKE TO READ WITH OTHERS (BUDDY READS, READALONGS, BOOKCLUBS, ETC.)?

I've never been involved in bookclubs, and I'm not totally sure how a readalong is different from a buddy read. Maybe there are more than two people involved? Anyhow, my only real experience with buddy reads so far has been with the lovely Carrie @ Bright, Beautiful Things (she's on Tumblr - though she's in the process of building a Wordpress site - but do yourself a favour and follow/friend her on Goodreads: she reads most genres and writes awesome reviews!). To be precise, I also started a buddy read with Lindsi @ Do You Dog-Ear? once, but she wasn't feeling the book, so I told her she didn't need to suffer through it for my sake πŸ˜‰ - anyhow, the experience in itself was really nice. Back to Carrie, the thing with her is, not only she's pretty much the only bookish friend I have whose tastes overlap with mine a lot (not to mention, she's a fellow Christopher Pike fan 😁), but she's always willing to discuss books in detail and dissect them/guess where they're going, which isn't everyone's cup of tea. We've buddy-read a number of books to date, and it's always been a riot. Bottom line, buddy reads can be a lot of fun, and I'm open to do more of them with anyone who happens to have one of my TBR books on their list!

July 25, 2021

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #24 Andrea K. HΓΆst, Samantha Mabry, Rory Power


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

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

July 19, 2021

Sean McGinty: "Rainbow in the Dark" (ARC Review)

Title: Rainbow in the Dark [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Sean McGinty [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Dark Comedy
Year: 2021
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique story that balances dark humour and teen angst and delivers a powerful message.
Cons: The surrealistic style might not work for everyone.
WARNING! Themes of depression and suicide (the latter more on the page, though filtered through an absurdist lens). Some gore. A pet's death.
Will appeal to: Those who like a book that colours outside the lines.

Blurb: High school senior Rainbow is trapped with three other teens in a game-like world that may or may not be real. Together, they must complete quests and gain experience in order to access their own forgotten memories, decode what has happened to them, and find a portal home. As Rainbow’s memories slowly return, the story of a lonely teen facing senior year as the new kid in a small town emerges. Surreal, absurdist humor balances sensitively handled themes of suicide, depression, and the search for identity. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

COME TOGETHER

Rainbow in the Dark is the epitome of a double-souled book: (mostly) set in a game-like world but contemporary in nature, alternating 1st person to 2nd person narrative (not to mention, there are a few chapters in 3rd person, whose protagonist is a character Rainbow dreamed up and wrote stories about), humorous and absurdist but tackling serious themes as depression and suicide. In short: dark comedy meets teen angst. However, you needn't be afraid to pick this book up, because the opposites converge quite successfully, and give birth to one of the most unique stories you'll ever read. Their connection is made even stronger by the fact that lots of details or incidents in the game-like world, no matter how preposterous, mirror/are connected to other details or incidents from Rainbow's real life, and the protagonist's fantastic journey is, for all purposes, a quest that will (maybe) result in her putting her life back together. [...]