June 26, 2024

Brandon Jones: "Whirly World"

Title: Whirly World [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Brandon Jones [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2023
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the characters' age, and it's indeed marketed to that demographic, but it can be read by teens)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Inventive, entertaining, humorous and emotional.
Cons: Due to the large number of characters, not all of them feel fully realised. The ending doesn't give all the answers.
WARNING! Drowning, fires, claustrophobic settings. We see a character collapse to death in a flashback.
Will appeal to: Those who love creative afterlife settings, carnival rides and accidental heroes.

Blurb: Theme-park blogger Jason Green is dead and his spirit is stuck inside Whirly World, his favorite place to be. What should be a dream come true turns into an abstract nightmare as Jason confronts malevolent forces trapping him there. Desperate to escape, he has to befriend the other ten ghosts inhabiting this afterlife, from a disgruntled hostess crushed under a revolving stage, to a bereft security guard that still thinks it's 1983, and combine their strange powers to dig up the park's mysterious past. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: this title was up for grabs on NetGalley (in the Read Now section). Thanks to Emet Studios (Brandon Jones) for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


Afterlife meets theme park with a side of superpowers and time loops, all wrapped in a mystery: a recipe for fun, though peppered with some emotional moments (what with the characters being, you know, dead). For one, the premise is creative and intriguing: eleven employees or patrons of a famous amusement park who died on its grounds find themselves trapped in a ghostly version of the same park. Among them is Jason, a theme-park blogger who in life was probably the biggest Whirly World fan, but isn't necessarily thrilled not to be able to leave the place for mysterious reasons - not to mention, he can't even remember how he died. He sets on exploring the surroundings (which leads to a series of frustrating discoveries - frustrating for him, but again, making for lots of fun on the reader's part), and one by one he runs into his fellow resident ghosts, which creates some amusing dynamics (since Jason has written about their deaths in his blog, and coming face to face with some of them brings out the fanboy in him, if for a moment. [...]

June 20, 2024

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #51 Steven Dos Santos, Leon Kemp, Holly Rae Garcia


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.

June 14, 2024

Nadi Reed Perez: "The Afterlife of Mal Caldera" (ARC Review)

Title: The Afterlife of Mal Caldera [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Nadi Reed Perez [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2024
Age: 18+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Creative, riotous yet soulful spin on a series of classic afterlife/rock lifestyle tropes. A love letter to hope and life from the other side of the veil.
Cons: Too focused on the ghostly sex and partying (though it comes with the worldbuilding, to an extent).
WARNING! Suicide/attempted suicide, drug use, alcoholism. Familial abuse, depression, hospital internment, infidelity/promiscuity, grief.
Will appeal to: Those who like life-affirming stories, coming-of-age narratives (even after death) and found families.

Blurb: Mal Caldera - former rockstar, retired wild-child and excommunicated black sheep of her Catholic family - is dead. Not that she cares. She only feels bad that her younger sister, Cris, has been left to pick up the pieces Mal left behind. While her fellow ghosts party their afterlives away at an abandoned mansion they call the Haunt, Mal is determined to make contact with Cris from beyond the grave. She enlists the help of a reluctant local medium, Ren, and together, they concoct a plan to pass on a message to Cris. But the more time they spend together, the more they begin to wonder what might have been if they'd met before Mal died. Mal knows it’s wrong to hold on so tightly to her old life. Bad things happen to ghosts who interfere with the living, and Mal can't help wondering if she’s hurting the people she loves by hanging around, haunting their lives. But Mal has always been selfish, and letting go might just be the hardest thing she's ever had to do. (Amazon)

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


I have to be honest: the synopsis set my expectations for a different story than the one I got, up to an extent. I figured Mal's attempt to communicate with her sister (and maybe her success in doing so) would be the main focus, along with Mal and Ren's (the medium) doomed love story. It turns out that I was right about the second thing (again, up to an extent) and wrong about the first, because this book encompasses so many more themes and situations - though it mostly boils down to coming to terms with one's own death, forgiving oneself and becoming part of a found family, plus helping the living to change their existence for the better. This could have resulted in a sappy (and fairly typical) tale, except the author made some interesting choices that gave enough of a spin to a series of familiar tropes and managed to keep the narrative sharper and rawer than it could have been. For one, Mal Caldera hadn't reached stardom status yet before she met her untimely death, and she was as flawed and selfish as they come (still is, at the start of her afterlife - though the good thing is, she's self-aware about it). Likewise, if the rest of the cast projects a clichรฉ appearance at first, this soon enough makes room for surprises and unexpected twists (for all purposes, so does the story). The setting and worldbuilding (I'm talking about the afterlife-dimension-on-Earth here) are imaginative and well thought-out, and the ghosts' mythology is the right blend of familiar and fresh. [...]

June 08, 2024

Quinn Connor: "The Pecan Children" (ARC Review)

Title: The Pecan Children [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Quinn Connor [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2024
Age: 16+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the characters' age, and it's indeed marketed to that demographic, but it can be read by mature teens. There are far more graphic YA books out there)
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Atmospheric, engrossing, spellbinding, inventive, ultimately hopeful.
Cons: Slow first half (if you prefer stories with more than a modicum of action). While the scope of the main twist (and its implications) will take readers completely by surprise, the authors dropped enough clues to have them figure out the basic truth early on. Some questions remain unanswered. The ending may be too open for certain readers.
WARNING! Fires/burns, wounds, near-drownings, some gore. Death of a parent (off-page). A couple of (tame) sex scenes.
Will appeal to: Those who like sibling narratives. Those who enjoy a mixture of cozy and unsettling, beauty and horror. Those who are in for a unique kind of haunting.

Blurb: In a small southern pecan town, the annual harvest is a time of both celebration and heartbreak. Even as families are forced to sell their orchards and move away, Lil Clearwater, keeper of a secret covenant with her land, swears she never will. When her twin Sasha returns to the dwindling town in hopes of reconnecting with the girl her heart never forgot, the sisters struggle to bridge their differences and share the immense burden of protecting their home from hungry forces intent on uprooting everything they love. But there is rot hiding deep beneath the surface. Ghostly fires light up the night, and troubling local folklore is revealed to be all too true. Confronted with the phantoms of their pasts and the devastating threat to their future, the sisters come to the stark realization that in the kudzu-choked South, nothing is ever as it appears. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: this title was up for grabs on NetGalley (in the Read Now section). Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


The Pecan Children ended up going in a different direction than I had anticipated, and I mean it in the best possible sense. Based on the synopsis (which has all the reasons to be vague, since with books like this one, spoilers are just around the corner), I expected a contemporary story with a strong supernatural core - a troubled sibling relationship on the backdrop of a dilapidated town rife with secrets and malevolent forces. Now that I know what I know, I realise that the synopsis isn't meant to be misleading, and truth be told, it encapsulates the book fairly well...on a level. The fact is, The Pecan Children is SO. MUCH. MORE than its blurb lets on, and even if the authors start dropping a certain set of clues early in the story, I wasn't prepared for the scope and manner of the big reveal - and its implications. In hindsight, the twist is not only jaw-dropping and exciting, but it perfectly fits the claustrophobic, lethargic setting, and it's an equally perfect vehicle for the "allegory of decay in small-town America" the editorial notes promise. Also, in lieu of a supernatural mystery, this book turned out to be a strong specimen of the magical realism genre, though with elements that straddle the line between the two. Another pleasant surprise, since through the magical realism lens, the social commentary and sibling dynamic get to shine in a way that a mere supernatural context wouldn't have allowed. [...]

June 02, 2024

Offbeat Offline: May 2024

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, medical check-ups (with an unpleasant find) and perm difficulties (what's new?) for me, and a series of visits and consultations with regards to my husband's situation. This is still a work in progress, so to speak, so I'll be able to tell you more in my next Offbeat Offline installment. For now, here goes my recap of May's most notable moments...