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 clichΓ© 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. [...]


I have to admit that I was undecided about my rating for a while, because while I'm all for flawed characters (aren't we all flawed, after all?), infidelity and promiscuity are quite the turn-offs for me, and while I realised "physical" contact between the ghosts had a rhyme and reason and was an integral part of the worldbuilding (not to mention, commitment between creatures with a potentially infinite lifespan...sorry, deathspan...probably doesn't make a lot of sense), the endless revelries became a bit tedious for me (mind you - the sex was tame enough for an adult book, but I wished it was less prominent/casual at least, along with the touching and flirting. On the other hand, one of the side characters turned out to be asexual, which was an unexpected and thoughtful detail). But at some point the book shifted, along with its protagonist, so that I was finally able to see where the author meant to take all the build-up (dancing, partying and love-making included) - plus I managed to suspend disbelief about the resolution, which was both heartbreaking and heartwarming and addressed all the potential loose ends. Ultimately, I found myself caring for Mal and her whole found - and real - family, both dead and alive (...I mean, not so much for her mum, but surely for her sister...), and retroactively appreciating her whole emotional journey, as much as everyone else's. In conclusion, I can safely say that, whether you're a fan of narratives where the dead strive to touch the lives of their family and friends, or you lost a loved one and need a warm hug in the form of a book (with a side of fun), this is the one.

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For more Afterlife books click here.


  1. "Too focused on the ghostly sex and partying" lol now I HAVE to read this! This definitely sounds like a "me" book, despite the weird ghost sex, which is making me very curious. Awesome review!

    1. One man's trash is another man's treasure, right? πŸ˜‚
      Thank you!

  2. Glad the author was able to surprise you by defying the expected cliches.

    1. It's more like, they tweaked them a bit, and it made all the difference...

  3. I'm glad it turned out to be a good one.

  4. It’s interesting how this story explored themes like coming to terms with death and finding a new family, not easy to pull off. I get how the endless revelries could be a bit much, but it’s good to hear that the story and characters eventually won you over.

    1. The "philosophical" side actually felt effortless, to be honest. The revelry thing is one of my pet peeves LOL. But it made sense here...

  5. This is one that has been showing up a lot of some of my feeds so I think the universe, along with your review which has me REALLY interested, is telling me something. Need to see if I can locate it on Libby before I buy a copy though. Great review!

  6. Hey, it's the book with the cool cover! Ghostly sex, you say? πŸ˜„ I'm glad there were things you enjoyed, even if it wasn't what you were expecting.

    1. Haha, yes, that's the one. I hoped you might be interested in some ghostly sex...


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