November 02, 2022

Offbeat Offline: October 2022 (+ Announcing Blog Reprise in December)


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? I've STILL been tending to my husband and working myself to the bone and basically going mad. But I did make a point of reading a bit every day or so, and that's how I finished 4 books (I also had a DNF though). Anyhow, I have news, so let's dive straight into my monthly recap...

October 01, 2022

Offbeat Offline: September 2022 (+ A Proper Hiatus Announced)


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? I've been tending to my husband and working myself to the bone and basically going mad. I only managed to finish 3 books and barely made a dent in my last ARC to date. My September posts were already scheduled, so I didn't disappear completely (also, I took the time to reply to comments at least), and I've been making the Twitter rounds daily, if briefly, but other than that...Here's a breakdown of this disastrous month.

September 27, 2022

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Follow Your Favourite Authors on Social Media? Do You Interact With Them?


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). After Heidi stopped blogging (apparently for good), five of us took over as hosts while providing new 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 FOLLOW YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU INTERACT WITH THEM?

Apart from the authors I have a more personal relationship with (which includes beta-reading for them), only two of my very favourite writers are active on Twitter (the only social media I use, if you don't count Goodreads...which you...well, don't count ๐Ÿ˜‚. I mean, is GR a social media? Hardly...). They are:

Nova Ren Suma (@novaren


She isn't very active (and mostly tweets writerly stuff), but I've had the chance to interact with her a handful of times, if briefly (I try not to impose myself). Once I mentioned really missing/looking forward to new books from her, and she quote-tweeted me saying something about tweets like mine being a morale booster when writers are alone with their WIP and struggling with the age-old "is there anyone out there who actually cares?" authorial question. It was heart-warming.

Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire)


Unlike Suma, she's VERY active, and doesn't shy away from sharing private slices of life when she sees a valid reason for it, but on the other hand, she doesn't usually engage in one-on-one conversations with fans - she doesn't even use the "like" button, though she retweets stuff all the time. I understand that, what with her level of popularity and social media being the pits at times, she needs to set some boundaries, and I respect it. (To be precise: she is available via her site contact form, though it might take a bit for her to reply. That's what she states on Twitter from time to time. I have no experience with it). I think she only retweeted one of my reviews of her books so far (and I'm sure it's because there's no way she can keep up with her notifications - she probably only retweets stuff that goes live while she's online, and probably only sees a fraction of it), and we only interacted a couple of times, very briefly (when I commented on one of her tweets and she replied, and when she answered a question I posed in a Twitter Q&A). Apart from her books, she tweets about disability issues, boosts other content creators/artists, shares pics of cats (hers but not only), amphibians, My Little Ponies, Magic cards and D&D dice sets (which she collects. The last three, I mean ๐Ÿ˜‰).

September 23, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #36 Rin Chupeco, Kate A. Boorman, Rob Hart


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

September 18, 2022

Seanan McGuire: "Where the Drowned Girls Go"

Title: Where the Drowned Girls Go [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (7th 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: 2022
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Packs a huge punch for so short a book. Has a few surprises in store. Lets all its characters shine.
Cons: Leaves you thirsty for all the worlds that are barely mentioned/touched upon...
WARNING! Bullying by way of fat-shaming. Mention of a suicide attempt by drowning.
Will appeal to: People who love flawed, complex teen heroes and coming of age stories of a peculiar kind. Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happier world than the one they live in...

Blurb: There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again. It isn't as friendly as Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. And it isn't as safe.
When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her "Home for Wayward Children", she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.
She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming... 
(Amazon excerpt)

Review: A few months ago, I decided I wouldn't write any more full reviews for certain types of books, including novellas. But since I've been reviewing this series in full from the start, I'm making an exception here, and I intend to go on doing so for all its future installments. So, I'll keep writing a mini review after my first read, and a full one after my second. Also...this is my first 5-star rating for a Wayward Children book!

MY MERMAID FRIEND

Something about Cora stole my heart since her first apparition in Beneath the Sugar Sky, and it's funny how we don't have anything in common (apart from being/having been bullies' targets in different ways), but I love her more than any other Wayward Child I've met so far. Or maybe it isn't funny, because what's not to love about a fat girl with a mermaid's heart, who gets bullied for her size and tries to disappear but finds her door instead, ultimately takes matters into her own hands, and becomes a hero? a flawed one, but one who recognises her flaws and does her best to overcome them? not to mention, one with blue-green hair and iridescent skin? Everything about Cora and her arc feels so true and real, that you could swear resourceful, brave, fat mermaids are a thing and you will meet one (or more) one day, and how come you haven't yet? [...]

September 13, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #35 Lamar Giles, Andrew J. Brandt, Scotto Moore


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

September 10, 2022

Unplanned Hiatus (But With Scheduled Posts)

Hi sweeties,

just a quick announcement...I'm having a home emergency at the moment, so I won't be able to post and interact with you for a while (barred the occasional tweet). My husband is fighting a nasty foot ulcer, and since he's an amputee in his other leg (as some of you may remember), he's not only home from work, but forced to stay in bed or sit until it heals. So, I'm not only acting as a caregiver more than usual, but also going on errands - though with some assistance from my dad, who, unlike me, (still) drives - and my days are extenuating. If I hadn't been laid off, I'd have had to ask for a leave of absence by now.

As for the blog, you'll still see my posts, since I have the whole month covered already. I'll do my best to reply to your comments, but I won't be able to return the favour for a few weeks, because there aren't enough hours in a day for that. Also, I have a digital ARC (my last one for now) to read and review by next month, and I'm still trying to find time for that Excel online course, and I'm unbelievably tired (plus it's still HOT, and you know how it drains me). I'll most definitely update you at the beginning of October, via my Offbeat Offline post. Please be patient with me for now, and may September treat you better than it's doing me ๐Ÿ˜ญ ๐Ÿงก.

September 08, 2022

Gemma Amor: "Full Immersion" (ARC Review)

Title: Full Immersion [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Gemma Amor [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Horror
Year: 2022
Age: 18+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unusual, imaginative blend of real-life issues and sci-fi/horror. The visuals jump off the page.
Cons: The dialogue feels a bit contrived at times. A couple of alleged reveals are easy to figure out in advance (though maybe not early on).
WARNING! (TW list provided by the author): Suicidal idealisation. Post-natal depression. Implied acts of violence towards a child. Birth scene. (More): Graphic gore. Bodily fluids.
Will appeal to: Readers who like speculative fiction rooted in real-life scenarios. Mothers who have struggled with post-natal depression and intrusive thoughts. Family members who have witnessed such situations.

Blurb: When Magpie discovers her own dead body one misty morning in Bristol, it prompts her to uncover the truth of her untimely demise. Her investigations take her on a terrifying journey through multiple realities, experimental treatments, technological innovations and half-memories in a race against time and sanity. Accompanied by a new friend who is both familiar and strange, and constantly on the run from the terrifying, relentless presence of the mysterious predator known only as Silhouette, Magpie must piece together the parts of her life previously hidden. In doing so, she will discover the truth about her past, her potential, and her future. (Goodreads)

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

VIRTUAL FEAST

Full Immersion is one of the most unique novels I've ever read. It takes an unflinching look at the still taboo issue of post-partum depression, and it does so through the lens of an imaginative (if far-out) virtual-reality setting where horror and beauty go hand in hand, and whose effects on the real world are...deliciously disturbing (what can I say, I like my stuff dark ๐Ÿ˜‚). After a few suicide attempts, the main character Magpie enrolls in an experimental VR program that should be able to get to the root of her suppressed trauma and - hopefully - force her to confront and overcome it. But the carefully curated scenario (which starts with the protagonist's discovery of her own dead body) soon gets a makeover, while Magpie and the mysterious friend she met at her death site take unaccounted-for routes (some of them in order to escape the ominous Silhouette) and the program begins to infiltrate reality...quite literally. [...]

September 02, 2022

Offbeat Offline: August 2022


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? A Seanan McGuire full immersion, a perm touch-up and...more heat. Also, I had to trash my TMST post for August 30th (Which Books Are You Looking Forward to Reading This Fall?) because in my customising frenzy I messed up with the code (or maybe more like, Blogger finally lost it on me ๐Ÿ˜‚), and I didn't feel like starting the post anew. Then again, later I noticed that some of my previous, similarly long (and heavily coded) posts have the same problem that the TMST one had - if I look at them in the HTML editor window, from halfway through all the text is in black, instead of showing the different part of the codes involved in different colours with only the actual post content in black (I don't know if I'm making sense...). I mean, the codes WORK - but I wonder if they're going to stand the test in case Blogger makes more changes in the future like the one where I almost lost all my reviews a few years ago ๐Ÿ˜ฑ. I save everything, but I could never go back and replace ALL my posts if the worst happened...Anyhow, it's clear that Blogger can't handle long posts without freaking out LOL. Maybe it's trying to tell me something...Anyhow, onto my August recap!

August 26, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #34 Seanan McGuire: "Velveteen vs." Series


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

Please note: these short stories (mind you, NOT graphic short stories) were first published on Seanan McGuire's LiveJournal from 2008 to 2017. The three volumes came out in 2012, 2013 and 2016 - so, apparently, the author had been sharing the ones collected in Velveteen vs. The Seasons after the very book came out...Then again, the hardcover was a limited edition, and the whole series something akin to a collector's item, so I suppose it makes sense. If you're interested in these stories but can't find the books on sale anywhere, you can read them on Seanan's site (the ones from the first installment only) and/or on her LiveJournal (all of them - starting from the last post on the page I linked and scrolling up from there, then clicking on "Next 50" at the top of the page, which will redirect you to a second page with the last batch of stories). Also, keep in mind that the last LiveJournal story, Velveteen vs. Recovery, wasn't included in the third and (for now?) last book - I assume that it should have been the opening story in a new collection, but there weren't enough readers/publishers interested in the project to keep it going, which is a shame...because Velveteen is great (even if you aren't a fan of superheroes), and because this way we'll never get the answers we need about a lot of things...

P.S.: for the sake of completeness - McGuire allowed author Marion G. Harmon to use Velveteen and her universe for an installment in her Wearing the Cape series called Team-Ups and Crossovers.

August 18, 2022

Seanan McGuire: "In Mercy, Rain"

Title: In Mercy, Rain [on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (Note: This is a short story set in the same world as Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Come Tumbling Down, situated three years after the events in the first book and a couple before those in the second, and you can read it for free here. Chronologically book 2.5 in the series, though on Goodreads it's listed as 7.5...)
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: 2022
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Fills us in about the scientist who took Jack under his wing, and her first encounter with her future girlfriend Alexis. Heartwarming despite the brutal setting and spooky circumstances.     
Cons: Leaves at least one question unanswered (what kind of deal did Alexis' parents do, exactly?).
WARNING! Death and gore as usual, but the latter is mostly implied.
Will appeal to: Fans of the Wayward Children series...past and future ๐Ÿ˜‰.

Blurb: Jack Wolcott was only twelve years old when she and her twin sister Jill descended the impossible staircase and found themselves in the Moors, a world of drowned gods and repugnant royals. After abandoning her sister to a vampire lord, and under the tutelage of a mad scientist who can do impossible things with flesh and living lightning, Jack quickly learns that in the Moors, death is merely a suggestion. (Goodreads)

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 and again and again (I have 3 mini reviews for one of her series coming later this month). But she writes SO MANY BOOKS, and I'm perpetually behind...

August 10, 2022

Ryan La Sala: "The Honeys" (ARC Review)

Title: The Honeys [on Amazon | on Goodreads | special book page]
Series: None
Author: Ryan La Sala [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery, Horror
Year: 2022
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Original, immersive, twisty. Debunks gender divide and socially assigned roles.
Cons: There's a lot of build-up, that, though never boring, might discourage those who'd rather have their stories more straightforward.
WARNING! Contains a number of gruesome/violent scenes and the (tame) prelude to an unconsummated sexual encounter.
Will appeal to: Lovers of magical-realism-meets-isolation-thriller-meets-gender-issues. Patient readers who can let a story tick and finally go BOOM.

Blurb: Mars has always been the shadow to his sister Caroline's radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who'd grown tragically distant. Mars's genderfluidity means he's often excluded from the traditions - and expectations - of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place. What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister's old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying - and Mars is certain they're connected to Caroline's death...(Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Scholastic for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

POWER UNIT

After loving La Sala's debut Reverie (and skipping his sophomore novel Be Dazzled only because contemporary + romance isn't my thing), I was looking forward to reading more from him - but for a while I was on the fence about The Honeys, because a few Goodreads reviewers had marked it as "dark academia" and I was afraid I'd be catapulted in the middle of a clique of competitive, catty girls or something. So, if you have the same concern, let's get it out of the way: though I understand, on a level, why some readers have used (or are still using) the "dark academia" label for this book, I think that it's not accurate, and more than a little misleading. The Honeys is a story about grief, siblinghood, self-actualisation, survival in a (most of the times subtly) toxic environment, pursuit of truth, and ultimately a tribute to the inner (sometimes terrifying) power of the female species. And the fact is, I thought Reverie's spectacular villain - drag queen sorceress Poesy - had prepared me for the Honeys, but La Sala pulled the rug from under my feet so well. Their only common denominator? Women - or folks who identify as female - are a force to be reckoned with, especially when they have one another's back. I wish I could say much more on this subject, but I can't very well spoil the story for you, can I? ๐Ÿ™‚ Only, forget (your average) dark academia. [...]

August 06, 2022

Offbeat Offline: July 2022


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 intolerable heat (see last month's recap), with a number of consequences. Not much more. Then again, in this heat, I don't even have the energy to care. No job in sight (except the ones I can't do). Four posts planned for the rest of the month. And I decided to simplify the Tooting Your Trumpet section of my recaps.
As I said, I'm tired. Sometimes I feel like taking a new, monster hiatus until the end of the year and reading without review obligations (so to speak), but here's the thing: I WANT to write reviews. I don't know how to read without reviewing anymore, and I don't want for a single book I read to fall between the cracks...so I'm trudging on. I'm sure I'll start feeling half-human again once the weather becomes crisp (OK, that's a long way to go, but still - something to hold on to). Here's the rundown of my past month...

August 01, 2022

Michael James: "The Elevator at the Brink of Infinity" (ARC review)

Title: The Elevator at the Brink of Infinity [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Hotel (3rd of 3 books)
Author: Michael James [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Multiverse
Year: 2022
Age: 16+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Entertaining twist on the portal fantasy/multiverse genre and the accidental heroes + found family tropes. Humorous and adrenalinic, but also poignant.
Cons: A few unexplained occurrences. The humour might not be everyone's cup of tea.
WARNING! Gore and violence. A (peculiar) sex encounter is implied, but not described.
Will appeal to: Those who like a crazy story that never lets up about a bunch of improbable heroes.

Blurb: Vain and her friends have been scattered across the universe.
A new threat has risen to take over the Hotel.
The Elevator opens its doors for the final adventure. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I specifically requested an ecopy from the author. This didn't influence my review in any way.

STEP UP

In Book 1 of The Hotel, Vain and Roman were on the run from the titular building's emissaries - a collective of clones called the Wyatts - after being kept prisoners there and exploited of their life energy to replenish the seemingly endless Well (but wait, there was more to it). While trying to dodge the Wyatts, they met Emma (who was just coming into her powers) and reconnected with a few old friends. In Book 2, an incident forced the gang back into the Hotel in search of a healer, and they found themselves thrust into a deadly battle centering around the same Well where their energy used to be channelled. Now our heroes (or those who made it) are scattered: some have landed in a parallel, but slightly twisted (and past) reality; some are stranded in a dangerous alternate universe; some are stuck at the Hotel, which is taking its revenge under a new, even crueler management. I enjoyed the first and the third narrative threads the most - the parallel reality offers a lot in terms of character development/backstory, while at the Hotel things get even more insane than usual and require for our heroes to use their heads along with their powers, with interesting results. Comic relief and high stakes/poignant moments are more balanced than in the previous installments, and especially toward the end, there's a previously unmatched level of intensity that hinges on our characters' feelings, growth and relationships more than it does on their powers and the peril they're in, which is a nice change from the action romp of Book 2 (despite its being highly entertaining). [...]

July 26, 2022

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Prefer Movies or TV Series?


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). After Heidi stopped blogging (apparently for good), five of us took over as hosts while providing new 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 PREFER MOVIES OR TV SERIES?

I don't like movies. I've seen a very small number of them in 55 years, most of which only because someone asked me to accompany them to the cinema and I obliged. As a rule, they leave me cold. I can't commit to a story that starts and ends in the space of a couple of hours at best (then again, if forced to watch something without a break for that length of time, I would fidget...unless it's a Law & Order marathon ๐Ÿ˜‚) And though I'm very much a sci-fi gal, so that one might think I would be willing to make an exception for movies in that genre, that's not the case - I don't even like the over-the-top special effects that come with some of them.

Now, TV series are my jam. I love to be able to explore a world and get attached to its characters. I love to be able to return to them and follow them for years. I love that the single episodes are short, but I can commit to them as a unit. I'd rather rewatch an installment in a series that I know by heart than watch a movie that I've never seen...๐Ÿคท‍♀️

July 21, 2022

Seanan McGuire: "Seasonal Fears"

Title: Seasonal Fears [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Alchemical Journeys (2nd of 4 books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural
Year: 2022
Age: 16+ (the characters are in the teen age range, but the series as a whole is geared to mature teens/adults for content and complexity)
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Fascinating concept (with a twist). Rich mythology. Characters you can root for.
Cons: Far too much exposition (counterintuitively though, the magic system takes a while to sink in). Some anticlimactic moments. A continuity error.
WARNING! Blood and gore. Violence. Suicide idealisation.
Will appeal to: Those who love a (bloody) twist on the soul-mates trope. 

Blurb: The king of winter and the queen of summer are dead. The fight for their crowns begins!
Melanie has a destiny, though it isn’t the one everyone assumes it to be. She’s delicate; she’s fragile; she’s dying. Now, truly, is the winter of her soul.
Harry doesn’t want to believe in destiny, because that means accepting the loss of the one person who gives his life meaning, who brings summer to his world. So, when a new road is laid out in front of them - a road that will lead through untold dangers toward a possible lifetime together - walking down it seems to be the only option.
But others are following behind, with violence in their hearts.
It looks like Destiny has a plan for them, after all… (Amazon)

Review: As much as I loved Middlegame, this sidequel (not a real sequel, just a story set in the same universe, though it follows the events recounted in the first book and brings us up to speed with its protagonists) missed the mark for me somehow. I would still have rated it 4 stars, if not for a continuity error - more of that below. Brace for the long-ass review...
(P.S.: don't you love it when a book cover finally matches your blog aesthetic? ๐Ÿ˜… OK, it's my second McGuire that does that, the first being Dying with Her Cheer Pants On...).

MELTING POT

Seasonal Fears apparently leaves the alchemical world of Middlegame behind in order to embrace a classic supernatural/urban fantasy premise: while in the first book entities like Language and Math got alchemically embodied in artificially assembled hosts (in order for the alchemist to attain world domination...but it turned out that the hosts had different plans), in this case the seasons - namely, Winter and Summer, the most powerful ones - become manifest as well, but naturally, and by inhabiting human vessels. The trick is, every time the Winter and Summer crowns get to change hands, there are multiple viable candidates, who have to engage in a deadly competition (to be precise, they're already dead at that point - only animated by the tendril of their season that lives inside every one of them - and if they fail to secure the crown, their connection to it is severed, causing them to wither and die for good). Now, you might ask, how does this book belong in a series called Alchemical Journeys? THAT I won't tell you, because it's one of the reveals (though it comes pretty early in the story), but rest assured, it does. Leave it to McGuire to build a world where (pseudo)science and magic meet and thrive, providing a twist on familiar tropes and ultimately spinning a (mainly) original tale. [...]

July 15, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #33 Alan White, S.A. Barnes, Nova Ren Suma


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

July 10, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #32 James Aquilone et al., Joshua Palmatier et al., Steven L. Peck


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

July 03, 2022

Offbeat Offline: June 2022 (Baby, I'm Back)


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 (either than a blog hiatus)? Intolerable heat, laser therapy conundrums, job search despair, hairdresser hunting. On the plus side, I rested...or tried to - you know I'm a caregiver and the house is on me, but at least I didn't scramble to produce posts (though I wrote a few mini reviews and drafted a full one) or comments (though I made notes of your posts for my Tooting Your Trumpet series and kept abreast of your tweets), and I read a lot...10 books to be precise (plus I started one but DNF it). Here's the rundown of my past month...

June 01, 2022

Offbeat Offline: May 2022 (+ Blog Hiatus)


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? Basically - unemployment benefits application, useless job searches, Covid, perm issues (again) ๐Ÿ˜ญ. I know, I'm such a drag. But I can't seem to take a breath - it's been an endless string of misadventures and annoyances (at best) since Dec. 31st 2020...I'm so tired and angry and frustrated and I feel like crying. The only good thing in my life is my blog and all the stuff that revolves around it. Which is nice and everything, but it's not enough to make a life worth living...

May 28, 2022

Max Gladstone: "Last Exit"

Title: Last Exit [on Amazon | on Amazon UK | on Goodreads] (Note: I got my copy from the UK-based Titan Books, so I'm using the UK cover and I'm linking to Amazon UK along with Amazon.com; but I decided to use the US blurb because it follows the story more accurately. The US version was published by Tor Books in March; the UK version came out this month)
Series: None
Author: Max Gladstone [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Multiverse, Urban Fantasy (more precisely, Portal Fantasy)
Year: 2022
Age: 16+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Engrossing, visionary yet painfully rooted in reality, with excellent characterisation and writing to boot.
Cons: There's a lot to absorb for a single story, both plot- and writing-wise: it takes a patient and disciplined reader not to get lost.
WARNING! Blood and gore. Bug horror. Suicidal thoughts.
Will appeal to: Those who want to get lost in a brutal, yet poetical work of fiction.

Blurb: Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group's heart. Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart. Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US. When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts. Zelda’s getting the band back together - plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before. As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before. But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone's hearts. (Amazon)

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

ABOVE AND BEYOND

When I first stumbled upon Last Exit, I thought it had all the marks of a book that I would love, but ultimately, it exceeded my expectations. I'm a sucker for alternate realities and a ragtag, apparently doomed band of adventurers trying to save the world against all odds. I did get the crazy worlds and their in-between, the dysfunctional found family, the road trip rife with danger and mystery (ha! the characters do have an exchange about the usage of the word "rife", and apparently, it stuck with me). But nothing, not even the excerpt I read before turning in my request, prepared me for the characters' being so much more than the literal driving force (because you know, road trip) of the story, the made-up worlds' allowing for a sharp social commentary, and the writing's being nothing short of evocative (poetical at times), despite the horrors our heroes endure. [...]

May 24, 2022

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Review Every Book You Read? Why or Why Not?


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). After Heidi stopped blogging (apparently for good), five of us took over as hosts while providing new 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 REVIEW EVERY BOOK YOU READ? WHY OR WHY NOT?

I feel guilty if I don't, so yes. Also, I can be a bit obsessive about doing things a certain way without allowing exceptions, unless the exceptions have a rhyme and reason to them as well. It took me 9 years to decide not to review each and every book in full (until then, my mini reviews were only temporary, while I was waiting to reread the book and catch up with what I might have missed the first time around), and I only caved because it couldn't be sustained anymore; but I immediately made a rule about writing mini reviews for short stories, novellas (unless they were part of a series I was already reviewing in full before), anthologies and 1-to-3-star books, while the rest would go on receiving the usual full-review treatment. So...whether mini or full reviews, I'm stuck with writing them ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿคท‍♀️.

May 17, 2022

Tell Me Something Tuesday: How Long Have You Been Blogging? And Has Your Blog Changed Over Time?


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). After Heidi stopped blogging (apparently for good), five of us took over as hosts while providing new 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 LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BLOGGING? AND HAS YOUR BLOG CHANGED OVER TIME?

My blog will be ten (!!!) on October 14th. Back when I started, I had a very clear-cut idea of what it would be like, which accounts for its having changed very little through the years. I wanted all the unsung, underhyped YA books that I kept finding, reading and loving to have a home. I wanted to shout out about them. I wanted people to hear about them and buy them. After ten years, my blog is still small for a number of reasons, but if I've managed to get an equally small number of readers to pick up some books that were falling through the cracks (and I know I have), I'll call it a win ๐Ÿ™‚.

In case you're wondering, I created my banner and my graphics myself using free PhotoFiltre (with the aid of a few pre-made icons that I tweaked, just like I tweaked my Face Your Manga avatar in order for it to look more like me). The cartoonish look wasn't intentional, but a consequence of my love of strong colours and my inability to actually design graphics ๐Ÿ˜‚. That being said, I like the way my blog stands out because of it, and it absolutely vibes with my personality...

The only changes that have happened to my blog since it was born are that:

  • 1) I made awesome friends and I do have an audience now ๐Ÿ˜‚ (with me being their audience in return of course);
  • 2) I started to post more about me and/or not necessarily post reviews;
  • 3) I've been incorporating more adult books into my blog in the last year and a half (speculative fiction/horror).

And frankly? I'm pleased with the way things are, and I don't plan to change course anytime soon ๐Ÿ˜‰ (though I would like for Blogger to be able to incorporate an accessibility menu, but I've only been able to find WordPress plugins for now. I realised too late that my palette can be hard on color-blind people...).

Here, have a gif taken from a song that was wildly popular in my pre-teen years...
That's the Way (I Like It) by K.C. & The Sunshine Band 

May 12, 2022

Kate A. Boorman: "What We Buried"

Title: What We Buried [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kate A. Boorman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2019
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Wild, unpredictable, spellbinding. Tackles human darkness, juvenile trauma and a damaged sibling relationship with honesty and depth.
Cons: Its non-linear timeline and complex (and partially open) ending may bug those who prefer a straightforward narrative.
WARNING! Violence, psychological abuse, ableism (countered), moderate gore, death by fire (offscreen).
Will appeal to: Those who can appreciate a book that messes with their heads. Those who aren't afraid to stare into the abyss.

Blurb: Siblings Liv and Jory Brewer have grown up resenting each another. Liv - former pageant queen and reality TV star - was groomed for a life in the spotlight, while her older brother, Jory, born with a partial facial paralysis, was left in the shadows. The only thing they have in common is contempt for their parents. Now Liv is suing her mom and dad for emancipation, and Jory views the whole thing as yet another attention-getting spectacle. But on the day of the hearing, their parents mysteriously vanish, and the siblings are forced to work together. Liv feels certain she knows where they are and suspects that Jory knows more than he’s telling…which is true. What starts as a simple overnight road trip soon takes a turn for the dangerous and surreal. And as the duo speeds through the deserts of Nevada, brother and sister will unearth deep family secrets that force them to relive their pasts as they try to retain a grip on the present. (Amazon)

Review: Christopher Pike meets Nova Ren Suma in what some reviewers have described as a "psychological thriller" - except I think we need a new label specifically for this book, because that one doesn't begin to convey what's at its core.

THE LONG AND WARPING ROAD

Honestly, kudos to whoever wrote the synopsis for this book, because it manages to give you an appetite for it (well, if you like twilight-zone narratives and damaged-sibling dynamics, that is ๐Ÿ˜…) without revealing its secrets. And both the actual plot and the writing deliver its promise.
I originally buddy-read this one with my friend Carrie (I reread it before writing this review), and oh, the amount of theories and speculations and nitpicking (in the best sense) we came up with. Liv and Jory's road trip in search of their parents (and of themselves, even if they don't realise that until much later) is spooky, unsettling, painfully real and yet warped in a way that makes them (and us) question everything just so. (Well, maybe we're questioning everything much harder/readily accepting that reality is broken, because we ARE here for the twilight-zone content, while they're trying to maintain a grip on their sanity ๐Ÿ˜‚). All the things they experience could have a (semi)logical explanation, until they don't. Is there a supernatural force at work? Are the siblings' minds playing tricks on them? Are they even (still) alive...or real? What about their memory loops? Did those things happen the way they think they did...or when they think they did?
To tell the truth, Boorman is quite honest in her deliver - the supposed false flags she plants end up being relevant, only not in the way we though they would be. And once we (and the siblings) figure out what's going (went? will go?) on, the payoff is absolutely satisfying. Though the ending will throw you for a loop (no pun intended...maybe ๐Ÿ˜‰) and leave you with...questions (thanks to Carrie above for helping me get my bearings with it, but...I still have at least one...). [...]

May 08, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #31 Jonathan Strahan et al., Seanan McGuire, A.S. King


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 ๐Ÿ˜Š. 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

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

May 04, 2022

Offbeat Offline: April 2022


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? The end of a 20-plus-years job, basically ๐Ÿ˜ญ. There's been other stuff of course, but nothing headlines-worthy like finding yourself jobless at 55 and badly needing the money and not having a clue what to do. I've had 3 months to prepare, and I'm still at square one. In other news, I've been declared thrombosis-free, my mum got Covid (bad cold and cough and everything tasted bitter, but she recovered nicely), and El0n Mu$k bought Twitter ๐Ÿคข (maybe I should request that my old account be reinstated, since it was suspended indefinitely because some bot used it to tweet about crypt0curr3ncy in his name. Oh the irony).

Also...last minute piece of news: I got my usual laryngitis (+ cold), because of course. At least I hope it is. I feel like I got hit by a truck, but I don't have a fever or other typical Covid symptoms. I'm getting a swab on Friday because I have a hair appointment for Saturday (THE PERM) and other errands to run, and I have to (hopefully) make sure I can go. I can't even begin to process the risk that my already small world could stop for an indefinite time. I feel like the universe's scapegoat at this point. Wasn't it enough what I've suffered since Dec. 31st 2020? Wasn't it enough that I lost my job and I've barely started my first month of unemployment? Wasn't my life as a whole shitty enough? I can't seem to catch a breath, and I'm so tired and angry. Even if it turns out not to be Covid, I feel like crap, and I'm facing my usual month-long suffering, because that's how my throat problems work. Anyhow...sorry for the rant, and sorry if mine sound like first-world problems to some of you, but there's only so much a person can endure. Please send healing vibes ๐Ÿ˜ฅ.

Note: it's Fri. 6th, I had my swab this morning, and OF COURSE IT'S COVID ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ. They booked me a second swab for next Friday. Let's hope to be in the clear by then AT LEAST ๐Ÿค’๐Ÿคฌ.

April 26, 2022

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Do You Still Own Any Books/Comics/Toys/Memorabilia From When You Were a Kid?


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). After Heidi stopped blogging (apparently for good), five of us took over as hosts while providing new 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 STILL OWN ANY BOOKS/COMICS/TOYS/MEMORABILIA FROM WHEN YOU WERE A KID?

First off...I meant to be back for the meme on April 19th, but you might have noticed that it didn't happen. And here it was one of my own questions haha.
OK, onto the new one...
Last year I told you the story of my first writing attempt at age 7, and that "book" is the only thing I made during my childhood that I still own, in all its messily-cut-and-glued-together-pages glory ๐Ÿ˜‚. But as for stuff that I was gifted in my pre-teen years, the only things that survive are, unsurprisingly, two real books. One is a novel by a local author recounting the adventures of a vegetarian cat, with some chapters set in my very town; the other is Momo by Michael Ende.

Everybody would buy me books when I was a kid (because I was an avid reader even then), so I used to have a bunch, but for some reason, if you don't count the one "starring" my town, Momo is the only book that has followed me into adulthood. I think it's because it speaks to grown-up me even more than it did to my child counterpart - plus, in time, magical realism has carved a place in my heart where this novel nests beautifully. Everyone knows about The NeverEnding Story by the same author (mainly because of the movie, I suspect), but Momo is an underrated gem - imaginative, poetical and still relevant after almost 50 years. Read the plot on Wikipedia if you don't mind getting spoiled. But in case you want the gist - an orphan must save her friends (and the whole world) from an organisation of grey men, who tricked humans into giving away their time and trapped them into stressful, meaningless lives. While this novel is mostly seen as a criticism of consumerism, to me it's the reminder of how time is the most precious thing we have, and how we should never forget to spend it on the things that really count and give us joy, regardless of our age. Also, a tortoise who communicates through writing on her shell and can see 30 minutes in the future? Best character ever ๐Ÿ˜€. 

This is the version I have (a hardcover, which helped with preservation).
The Italian title translates "Momo and the Time Thieves".
8-13 is the intended age range. Vallecchi is the publisher.