August 26, 2022

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


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.

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 😉.

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.


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? 🙂 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 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.


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). [...]