June 20, 2024

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


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 ðŸ˜‰. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

Malicia by Steven Dos Santos (ARC Review)

★★★

Four friends, each one with their own agenda, visit an abandoned theme park thirteen years after the unsolved mass murder where one of them lost half his family - but a hurricane is just around the corner, and the supernatural horror that caused the massacre is more alive and hungry than ever...

***

Rated 3.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Page Street Publishing for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

I'm happy to report that, on the horror front, Malicia is a strong book. Coupling a raging hurricane with plenty of bloody scares in the form of monsters straight out of the Dominican folklore (but also providing twists on some more familiar horror tropes), and peppering the narrative with secrets and personal agendas, all on the backdrop of a dilapidated theme park, Dos Santos created a compulsive read whose visuals jump off the page (more often than not in the most gruesome manner 😅). Add to that a couple of twists that I didn't see coming (one of them particularly heartbreaking), and a well-orchestrated crescendo of terrors and action that lead up to a frantic finale. Character-wise, I found the book to be less compelling, and the protagonists' voices often tended to run together for me (though Sofia and Izzy have some moments of clarity about themselves that I appreciated). I also wish that the build-up to the revelation of Joaquin's secret had been subtler, and I found it hard to suspend my disbelief about the premise - the park has been abandoned after a tragedy that occurred on its grounds 13 years earlier, but it's only on the verge to be dismantled when our characters pay it a visit, and the local crew has kept it functional? all that time? plus Ray - the owner's son - who was only 4 when the tragedy occurred and hasn't set foot in the park ever since, knows how to operate the rides? Last but not least, while I found the epilogue to be fitting, I'm not sure that I bought it (I mean, magic has its limits, after all), and I can't help but wonder what cover story was fed to the general public for the events on Malicia Island (especially since Izzy's camera is missing, and the deaths on the island should technically be pinned on whoever survived, since they clearly have nothing to do with the hurricane - but the issue is never raised). Regardless, I had lots of (bloody) fun while reading this story, and I can see horror fans drinking it up - especially those in the target audience.

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later).

Trespass Against Us by Leon Kemp (ARC Review)

★★★

The three teen survivors of a ghost-hunting expedition where one of them disappeared (while the others got physically and psychologically scarred) accompany a TV crew to the place after two years to get closure; but answers come at a price when they find themselves battling the same malevolent presence that hurt them the first time.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Harper Teen (Harper Collins) for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

Building up more on atmosphere, tension, creepiness and trauma than it does on horror (but still providing a powerful, if familiar, climax), Trespass Against Us is a well-executed dual-timeline story offering lots of insight into its protagonists at 16 and at 18, and managing to make them feel tridimensional and real in both narratives - not to mention, to convey the changes they underwent due to growing up and surviving a tragedy. While I expected the synopsis to be more literal than it turned up to be ("Riley realizes he isn’t just revisiting the most terrifying night of his life - he’s reliving it" doesn't mean the group gets plunged into the past like I thought it would), and though as a seasoned Supernatural fan I recognised most of the tropes Kemp employed (plus I had to suspend disbelief for a couple of not-ghost-related points), I found the story to be captivating (gay romance included), and I appreciated the friendship rep in all its messy, ultimately heartwarming glory. Least but not last, I thought the ending was clever and more grounded than a similar one I've read recently [highlight for spoiler] (Malicia by Steven Dos Santos), plus open enough without leaving major loose threads. I've probably read too many afterlife/supernatural/horror books to get surprised anymore, but teens will be godsmack 🙂.

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later).

Parachute by Holly Rae Garcia

★★★

Six teens who just graduated (class of '97) break into an abandoned elementary school, find a parachute and decide to play with it, only to find themselves transported to a series of increasingly strange and scary worlds and pay a terrible price...but not everything is as it seems.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

Original, genuinely creepy, with believable teen rep...and a twist that I didn't get.
Seriously...there's a number of things that this novella does right, and a few minor hiccups, like the amount of details about the main character's house in the first chapter (they would probably have been out of place even in a longer book, or even if they had carried any weight at all in the long run, which they didn't. For more than one reason...😶). On the other hand, most of the alternate universe experiences were very brief, but the story didn't suffer because of that, since what mattered most was the impact they had on the protagonists. I found the '90s references to be a tad overdone for such a short book (also, what's with the favourite-band-t-shirts galore? because nearly every character wears one...), and I found a continuity error (I guess Angela's "very best friend" Haley was supposed to be Val...maybe Garcia changed the character's name at the last minute), but they were small annoyances. The twist, though...could have been clever if this were a meta-narrative, which doesn't seem the case - especially if you consider the age of a certain character mentioned in the epilogue - while if Parachute is a "simple" multiverse story, it doesn't compute on a few levels (on a side note, I wonder if "RPG" in the "RPG Junk Removal" business name from the epilogue means "Role-Playing Game" - but even then...?). That said, if you're a fan of unsettling stories where the horror creeps up and ultimately goes all-out, and you enjoy Twilight-Zone-like switching endings, you shouldn't miss this one.

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series).

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

10 comments:

  1. I'm intrigued by the premise of each of these, but they all sound just okay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All the premises are KILLER. I'd say that the first two work better for their target audience, while the third makes for a great adult read as well if you're able to make sense of the ending - which I'm not sure I did...

      Delete
  2. Oh these sound really good. Malicia and Parachute both sound really good to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The premises are indeed exciting, and I did enjoy how they played out, though as a whole, the stories fell short for me to some extent.

      Delete
  3. I cannot say I have ever read a book inspired by Dominican folklore. Sounds like an interesting element.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think there are many - it was my first, too. It's interesting how certain supernatural elements overlap, though in a different context.

      Delete
  4. Ok, you managed to interest me in all three, especially since you know I love horror. Just what I needed, more books to read! Great mini-reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, thanks!

      "Just what I needed, more books to read!"
      Don't we all? 😜

      Delete
  5. So overall a decent bunch of books. I've read a different book by Holly Rae Garcia and it was pretty good. Of all three, I'd probably grab Malicia, it sounds like fun😁

    ReplyDelete

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