July 28, 2023

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #43 Britney S. Lewis, Marie Hoy-Kenny, Seanan McGuire


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.

July 22, 2023

Rebekah Bergman: "The Museum of Human History" (ARC Review)

Title: The Museum of Human History [on Amazonon Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Rebekah Bergman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Contemporary
Year: 2023
Age: 18+ (but it can be read by mature teens)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original, poetical, compassionate.
Cons: As with most books with a large cast, it's hard to get attached to all its characters.
WARNING! Drowning (off-page). Death by cancer (off-page).
Will appeal to: Those who like a deep, yet accessible meditation on the meaning of time and memory.

Blurb: After nearly drowning, eight-year-old Maeve Wilhelm falls into a strange comatose state. As years pass, it becomes clear that Maeve is not physically aging. A wide cast of characters finds themselves pulled toward Maeve, each believing that her mysterious “sleep” holds the answers to their life’s most pressing questions. As Maeve remains asleep, the characters grapple with a mysterious new technology and medical advances that promise to ease anxiety and end pain, but instead cause devastating side effects. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to W.W. Norton/Tin House Books for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

ORGANIC PALETTE

I have to be honest: given the premise (the comatose little girl who doesn't age), I expected this book to be more on the magical-realism side, which...it really isn't. Anyhow, there's an element of fabulism in Bergman's storytelling that almost makes me vary of using the sci-fi label for this novel, though it incorporates futuristic technology and ultimately revolves around a certain scientific breakthrough (which, conversely, will end up causing devastating outcomes). I think the best way to describe TMOHH is speculative fiction, yet rendered with a poetical tone, and at the same time set against the realistic backdrop of very human feelings like pain, regret and fear - of losing our memories and the version of ourselves that we've gotten most attached to, and of departing this world without leaving a mark on it, or at least having someone who'll remember us when we're gone. [...]

July 15, 2023

Sara Flannery Murphy: "The Wonder State" (ARC Review)

Title: The Wonder State [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Sara Flannery Murphy [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2023
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the characters' age in the present, but it can be read by teens; also, the protagonists are teens in the flashbacks)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Engrossing, unique twist on the "estranged-friends-with-a-dark-secret-are-back-in-town-to-face-their-past" trope. Mostly fleshed-out characters with complex relationships.
Cons: Not much diversity. The one Black (and gay) character feels less developed than the others.
WARNING! Blood, gore, violence and some disturbing imagery. Adult abuse on kids (not of the sexual kind).
Will appeal to: Those who love a dark, yet poetical story steeped in magic. Those who enjoy adult-vs.-teen timelines.

Blurb: Five friends arrive back in Eternal Springs, the small town they all fled after high-school graduation. Each of them is drawn home by a cryptic, scrawled two-word letter: You promised. It has been fifteen years since that life-changing summer, and they're anxious to find out why Brandi called them back, especially when they vowed never to return. But Brandi is missing. She'd been acting erratically for months, in and out of rehab, railing at whoever might listen about magic all around them. About a power they can't see. And strange houses that appear only when you need them... (Amazon)

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

WONDERFUL RAINBOW

When I first read the synopsis of this book, it called to me...but after I placed my NG request, I realised that it was unclear if Brandi's mental health was damaged and she was hallucinating the houses, so by the time my acceptance email came, I was praying that TWS wasn't one of THOSE novels - you know, the ones where mental health issues are treated like plot devices. I'm pleased to say this wasn't the case, and actually, this book delivered even more than I expected it to. Also, if you've read Stephen King's It or Dan Hanks' Swashbucklers (which I enjoyed and reviewed last year), and you're wondering how much novelty a story about a group of estranged friends reuniting in the wake of a tragedy can hold, the answer is: a great deal. TWS is part mystery, part adult drama, part coming-of-age story (thanks to the dual timeline), flirting with portal fantasy by way of magical realism and a touch of horror. I know it sounds a bit too much, but the way Murphy weaves it all together, it works like a charm.

July 09, 2023

Sam Beckbessinger & Dale Halvorsen: "Girls of Little Hope" (ARC Review)

Title: Girls of Little Hope [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Sam Beckbessinger & Dale Halvorsen [Sam's site | Sam on Goodreads | Dale's site | Dale on Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Sci-Fi, Contemporary, Horror
Year: 2023
Age: 14+ (please note: this is dark YA - you may want to take a look at the WARNING! section)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Realistic teen characters/relationships. Bold twist on a classic horror trope.
Cons: Requires suspension of disbelief both about the twist and the way a pivotal problem gets fixed.
WARNING! Death (animal death too...sort of). Blood, gore and violence. Body horror. Bug horror. Burns. Self-harm. Domestic abuse. Trans-generational trauma. Underage sex. Pregnancy scare.
Will appeal to: Those who like Nova Ren Suma's brand of female teen protagonists, Stephen King's brand of horror and Christopher Pike's brand of weirdness.

Blurb: Being fifteen is tough, tougher when you live in a boring-ass small town like Little Hope, California (population 8,302) in 1996. Donna, Rae and Kat keep each other sane with the fervour of teen girl friendships, zine-making and some amateur sleuthing into the town’s most enduring mysteries: a lost gold mine, and why little Ronnie Gaskins burned his parents alive a decade ago. Their hunt will lead them to a hidden cave from which only two of them return alive. Donna the troublemaker can’t remember anything. Rae seems to be trying to escape her memories of what happened, while her close-minded religious family presses her for answers. And Kat? Sweet, wannabe writer Kat who rebelled against her mom’s beauty pageant dreams by getting fat? She’s missing. Dead. Or terribly traumatised, out there in the woods, alone. As the police circle and Kat’s frantic mother Marybeth starts doing some investigating of her own, Rae and Donna will have to return to the cave where they discover a secret so shattering that no-one who encounters it will ever be the same. (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.

PUSHING THE LIMITS

Here's a fact for you: teen horror is on a roll, and has been for a while now. I think the main reason is that YA horror authors have taken to use the genre (and in this particular case, its tropes) to frame and enhance coming-of-age stories with tridimensional and compelling protagonists - an art that (most) YA thriller writers haven't mastered yet, at least in my experience. Girls of Little Hope is an excellent example of this genre-blending attitude: it starts off like a mystery, then adds a strong layer of teen characterisation, and ultimately punches you in the face with a familiar, but nonetheless unsettling horror trope, only to twist it into something that ties in with the characters' arc (call it a rite of passage if you will, though of a brutal and decidedly peculiar sort). [...]

July 03, 2023

Offbeat Offline: June 2023 (Back, but Nowhere Near OK)


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? Nothing major, but the heat kicked in and I'm even more tired and achey than ever. A month-and-a-half hiatus didn't do much for me, also because I ended up reading and scheduling reviews for two ARCs, so yeah...return of the review woes LOL. But one of the books was a June release that I got approved for at the last minute, and the other was the second-to-last of my August books (I have a handful) and its sitting there unread so close to pub date was making me stabby. Anyhow, I decided to come back for a couple of months, fulfill all my review obligations, touch base with everybody (what did I miss?), and hopefully go on a REAL hiatus in September, because if I have one to look forward to, I function better...