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 😂 🤷‍♀️.

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 🙂.

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 😂. 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 😂 (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 😉 (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 😅) 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 😂). 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 😉) 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 😊. 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 😉. 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 😭. 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 🤢 (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 😥.

Note: it's Fri. 6th, I had my swab this morning, and OF COURSE IT'S COVID 😭😭😭. They booked me a second swab for next Friday. Let's hope to be in the clear by then AT LEAST 🤒🤬.