December 12, 2017

Edward Aubry: "Mayhem's Children" (ARC Review)

Title: Mayhem's Children [on Amazon: from Dec. 19th | on Goodreads]
Series: Mayhem Wave (3rd of 5 books)
Author: Edward Aubry [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Year: 2017
Age: 14+ (note: Book 1 was marketed as a YA/NA crossover. The series is progressively becoming more mature, but I would say that Book 3 covers all the spectrum from teen to adult. NA will do - especially since one of the leads is 23)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: As in Book 1 and 2, quirky and audacious blend of post-apocalypse, technology and magic. Characters who are easy to empathise with. Never a dull moment.
Cons: The blend I mentioned might not work for everyone - and it's even more audacious here than before.
WARNING! Some gore and mature themes. There's talk of sex, but only some kissing on screen.
Will appeal to: Those who like imaginative worlds, lots of twists and turns, strong female characters and enemies-to-lovers F/F romances. Those who are looking for a fresh approach to post-apocalypse.

Blurb: Eight years have passed since the Mayhem Wave forever altered the world to a blend of science and magic, and since Harrison Cody rescued twenty-eight teenage girls from human traffickers. Now they are disappearing - but Harrison did not just rescue them from villains those many years ago, he also adopted them, and that relationship holds the key to the true nature of their present danger. Dorothy O’Neill, another of Harrison’s adopted daughters, though from very different circumstances, has taken five-year-old Melody, Harrison’s only child by blood, under her wing. As the missing persons crisis intensifies, Dorothy discovers she and Melody are targets as well. Separated by hundreds of miles, and with no means of communication, Harrison and Dorothy become entangled in the schemes of a monster who hopes to alter the world once again at the cost of all they hold dear. And as Dorothy finds an inner strength and new abilities she never dreamed of possessing, she comes to suspect Melody may be something more than she appears. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have been talking to the author on a few occasions since reviewing his previous titles, Unhappenings, Prelude to Mayhem and Static Mayhem - which I rated 4 stars. Moreover, I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased.
 
DOUBLE THE TROUBLE (AND THEN SOME)

Mayhem Wave is a complex series, what with interweaving futuristic technology and old-but-not-plain magic, plus constantly pulling the rug from under our feet with its unexpected twists and turns. All the same, the author rides the monster without a flinch. With this installment in particular, sometimes I felt like I was watching a Doctor Who episode, only with a side of magic (maybe a Twelfth Doctor one, in which you never know where things are going) - and if you know me, this is meant as a huge compliment πŸ˜€ (BTW, the Doctor is even mentioned in one of the very first chapters!). The stakes are very high here: on one hand we have the disappearance of Harrison's adopted daughters, on the other an impending danger that might annihilate the post-Mayhem Wave world. All the characters are tested, pushed to their limits, and sometimes even fooled. Humans and not (a pixie and a ghost among them) are always challenged, and must put to use every single gift they possess, in what is, for all purposes, a teamwork (though there are a few tense and/or funny moments among the team members along the way). I must admit that a bit of the science behind the Mayhemsphere went to my head, but nevertheless, the danger(s) and the twists felt very real and were a blast to read about. Not to mention, I was caught completely off-guard by the final twist on the villain's motive. [...]

December 08, 2017

Author Interview: C.W. Snyder ("Child of Nod")

Hello my darlings!
My guest today is C.W. Snyder, author of The Balance series (in progress). After reading his debut book Child of Nod, I reached out to him on Twitter with an interview proposal, which he graciously accepted. But before we get to know him (and his dreams πŸ˜‰) a little better, here's a spotlight on his first book...

Title: Child of Nod
Series: The Balance (3 books)
Author: C.W. Snyder
Genres: Afterlife, Fantasy, Mythology
Year: 2017
Age: 14+
Child of Nod on Amazon | on Goodreads

Blurb: Alice wakes one day to find herself on the other side of death, in the corrupted fairy tale land of Nod. Unable to remember much of the events leading to her demise, she sets out on a journey to discover her memory and the reason for her presence in Nod. Unknown to her, the man responsible for her death, Jack, is on a mission to find her spirit and end her second life.
Alice takes flight, only to find herself drawn into the lives of those around her and the mystery permeating that place. From the humble streets of Elysium to the mirrored spires of Memoria, her journey takes her on a path that leads to a decision that will affect the fate of Nod.
Along the way, she meets a cast of characters that include a madman with a dark secret, her faithful companion, Dog, and woman made of memory. Together, they help her on her journey as she uncovers the truth of Nod and the woman behind it all, the Red Queen. (Amazon)

Interview: So, first off, thank you Clayton for agreeing to a Q&A session on Offbeat YA! Would you like to introduce yourself?

In my day job, I'm the systems admin for a small business. After work, I write, because I'm not quite at the 'people are throwing money at me' stage of my career yet. I have two dogs, I'm married, live in North Dakota, and occasionally pick up a guitar and play it badly. In the meantime, I've published a few short stories, and I'm the author of The Balance series, the first of which is Child of Nod. [...]

November 26, 2017

Dawn Kurtagich: "The Creeper Man"

Title: The Creeper Man (UK edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
   And the Trees Crept In (US edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads*]
[*Friendly advice: beware the And the Trees Crept In pages on Amazon and Goodreads though. They will tell you THE WHOLE STORY, twist included...]
Series: None
Author: Dawn Kurtagich [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: SPOILER - click on the Spoiler button below if you want to know, since revealing the genre(s) would ruin your reading experience...If you want to go into the book without knowing anything vital about it, I recommend you not to read the Labels at the end of my review either. No need to worry though - the review itself will be spoiler-free...
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Baffling, deliciously disturbing (apart from the snake-in-the-toilet incident πŸ˜–), based on an interesting premise that it's only revealed at the end.
Cons: The story itself, the lack of answers (not to mention questions) and the romance are very frustrating at times, and only make sense when you get to the final reveal (well, the romance not so much).
WARNING! Horror and gore. Domestic abuse.
Will appeal to: Fans of unreliable narrators and claustrophobic, haunted setting.

Blurb: When Silla and her little sister, Nori, escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing; every day the surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house; a mysterious boy appears from the enclosing wood offering friendship, and Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest. A man with no eyes who creeps ever closer. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: This one will be a challenge for me. I have so many feelings about this book, and every one of them might trigger a spoiler. Then again, we don't want spoilers, do we? So I will employ all my best tricks in order to avoid them πŸ˜‰. Or better, I will use my magic spoiler button that you can hit in case you've read TCM already, or you don't plan on reading it. Because I need to take a few thing off my chest, and I would be a happy bunny if you felt like discussing this book with me (in that case, please be a darling and mark your comment as SPOILER - thank you!). And now, onto the actual review...

LAND OF CONFUSION

The Creeper Man is Dawn Kurtagich's second book, and you can easily see a pattern here: she's clearly a fan of creepy houses, stories told via multiple media (especially diaries) and unreliable narrators. But while those all worked for me in The Dead House, I found The Creeper Man frustrating in more than a way. Everything came together in the end, sort of - but though I'm a firm believer in rereading books in order to appreciate them more (and this causes me to up my first tentative ratings sometimes), they still have to make sense while I'm reading them...not only after the grand final reveal. For a while, I was filing all the weird occurrences or the things that didn't add up under "your average creepy stuff that will fall into place at some point"...until Aunt Cath locked herself in the attic. That was the novel's turning point, after which I started getting frustrated by the chapter, and even if I was still enjoying the horror aspect of the story and the mystery behind it, I couldn't believe how everyone was carrying on. [...]

November 19, 2017

Offbeat YA: Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Hi beautiful creatures!

Just a quick post to let you know what I'm up to these days, since it may look like I'm on a hiatus or something...but the truth is, I'm working backstage πŸ˜‰. So come into my lair and see what I'm plotting...

November 11, 2017

James Wymore: "The Last Key" (ARC Review)

Title: The Last Key [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (book 4 of 4)
Author: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2017
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens, though a bit heavy on horror/gore
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Creative premise. Breathless adventure, though there's a time for reflection as well. Poignant ending. Female characters finally get more screen time and weight.
Cons: As with the rest of the series, the premise is somehow better than the execution - there's more telling than showing, and the storyline is a bit too hectic sometimes. Some editing issues (among them, a character changing name midbook*).
(*Edit: after posting my review, I was told the issue would be fixed prior to pub date).
Will appeal to: Alternate realities enthusiasts. RPG fans. Readers who get bored easily.

Blurb: The Actuator, a machine capable of literally changing reality, was created to make a utopian paradise. Before it happened, a saboteur used it to transform the world into patches of every kind of genre fiction, scattering the keys necessary to put it back across the globe. Everyone alive found their lives radically altered, some living in fantasy realms with real magic and others in incomprehensible horrors. Thrown into chaos, people struggled against aliens, pirates, orcs, and vampires. Many died. Only a handful of people on the planet, called Machine Monks, even knew why it happened or how. Now they have to put it all back before humanity is destroyed. Even if they could get all the keys, the small group opposing the tyrant don’t know what to do when they get to the final one - a key they’ve never seen before. If they don’t find the answers fast, the world will be lost. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. And all the books I received from them were generously sent with no strings attached.

OUT WITH A BANG

It's kind of funny, you know. I went into this last installment expecting it to follow the same pattern of the previous ones, and in a way it did - lots of jumping around the world in a teleporter, epic fights, interior moral dilemmas. But I was pleasantly surprised by a few tweaks that made this book stand out - and not only because duh, it gives us closure. Here are the things I didn't expect:
  • The Actuator finally becomes its own character, what with everyone wondering if it might have turned into something more than a supercomputer that feeds on thoughts and ideas, and have developed a coscience of sorts - and if that's the case, is its conscience good or bad? does it have plans for the world? can it be reasoned with? and, last but not least...does it have a gender? Of course, the living computer is far from being a new concept, but Wymore puts a spin on it. I should probably have seen it coming...but I didn't.
  • Time travel is introduced! Though it has a few limits and can't ultimately save the day, but it would have been a cop out if it did, so I'm happy about that.
  • The female Machine Monks get more space and finally kick ass πŸ˜€. [...]

November 05, 2017

C.W. Snyder: "Child of Nod" (ARC Review)

Title: Child of Nod [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Balance (1st of 3 books)
Author: C.W. Snyder [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Fantasy, Mythology
Year: 2017
Age: 14+ (it's marketed as NA, but since I don't have a NA section on my blog, I shelved it as YA. However, it's a complex and dark fable that will appeal to adults as well)
Stars: 4.5
Pros: Imaginative, multilayered tale weaving lots of literary and mythologic references into a fresh story. Evocative prose.
Cons: All the different characters and their stories - and Nod's many facets - might not come together smoothly until a second read.
WARNING! Contains elements of horror and gore.
Will appeal to: Both the young and the adult reader seeking a strong, dark-but-poetic example of revisited and enhanced tropes.

Blurb: Alice wakes one day to find herself on the other side of death, in the corrupted fairy tale land of Nod. Unknown to her, the man responsible for her death, Jack, is on a mission to find her spirit and end her second life. Along the way, Alice meets a cast of characters that include a madman with a dark secret, her faithful companion, Dog, and woman made of memory. Together, they help her on her journey as she uncovers the truth of Nod and the woman behind it all, the Red Queen. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. All the books I've received from CQ so far have come with no strings attached, and it's always a pleasure for me to work with them and discover more (sometimes underrated) gems.

BLOOD SUGAR DEATH MAGIK

Afterlife books are my biggest weakness, as this post testifies. But CON is so much more than that. Building on a classic prompt - Lewis Carroll's Alice slipping into the alternate world of Wonderland - C.W. Snyder spins a dark, yet poetic tale about loss, pain, fear, courage, loyalty, violence and purity of heart. Alice - our Alice - travels in a rich, imaginative version of the afterlife, pursued by an unknown enemy and aided by a bunch of sometimes suspicious, sometimes charming, always quirky characters. This afterlife has lost its Balance and has been partly turned into a wasteland since the Red Queen was born; for reasons we are to uncover through the story, Alice is the only one who can fight the Queen and restore the Balance. It's a classic Chosen One story, except it's not, since Alice's peculiarity is rooted in facts, not in random gifts granted by a superior entity. And though, while traveling through Nod, she does pick up informations and abilities that will be needed for the final showdown, she still manages to retain her umanity and a sense of wonder. [...]

October 27, 2017

James Wymore et al.: "Chaos Chronicles"

Title: Chaos Chronicles [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (book 3 of 4)
Author: James Wymore et al. [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2016
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens, though a few stories are a bit heavy on horror
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Eclectic bunch of stories, covering a wide range of genres and (fictitious) eras. We get a glimpse of how the Change affected some people unaware of the Actuator's existence, but mostly, lots of behind-the-scenes about Machine Monks who weren't main characters in the previous books.
Cons: Not every genre tackled in here can be everybody's cup of tea.
Will appeal to: Those who like eclectic short-story collections. Those who want another (and more insightful) perspective about the Actuator.

Blurb: Scattered all across the world, the Machine Monks struggle to deal with the saboteur’s next big move. Isolated in a situation they’ve never experienced before, their mission to collect all the Actuator keys grows desperate. 
An elven ranger finds himself in the Old West. He accepts a quest from a strange lawman in exchange for help returning to the home he loves.
When the world’s most dangerous kaiju marches on manga-inspired Japan, can Isaac defeat it using only his wits and the power of anime?
A honeymoon safari goes horribly wrong. Without guns, how do you fight against ancient wildlife with a mind of its own?

Stranded in Camelot, Machine Monk Elizabeth Darling seeks a way home to Steampunk London - and finds an unexpected surprise in the medieval forest.
While Lennie is traveling to a safe haven with her little brother, disaster strikes and she is forced to rely on a woman with a dark secret.
Brian and his crew face the saboteur face to face in a high tech war that will alter the fate of the world. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. And all the books I received from them were generously sent with no strings attached.

TUTTI-FRUTTI

I usually don't read anthologies, unless they 1) contain stories by one of my favourite authors, 2) are part of a series I'm reading, or 3) have a unifying theme that calls to me like a siren song. Case #2 comes into play here, since the stories in Chaos Chronicles all give us a taste of the life after the Actuator (a reality-bending machine) has turned the whole world into a patchwork of different, often plain weird realities. To be more precise, all these stories are chronologically set right after the events in Return of the Saboteur, so that, unlike the previous collection Borderlands Anthology, they can hardly be read by someone who hasn't followed the series so far. But the good news is, even with all the set and character variety, this bunch is more close-knit, and actually makes the plot progress (this is why Chaos Chronicles is Book 3 in the series, while Borderlands Anthology was Book 1.5). Book 2 in the series, Return of the Saboteur, was a game changer. We know now who was responsible for turning what was a mere experiment (the Actuation) into a worldwide nightmare. We know why. But the real catch is, the same person caused the virtual borders between the different realities to fall, so that now different types of characters and/or monsters from different eras can cohexist in the same space, with crazy, but intriguing consequences. Well, wacky ones too, but I will admit that it's fun πŸ˜„. [...]

October 24, 2017

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Would You Rather Time-Travel or Teleport?


Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings, where the blog's owner Heidi discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.
Here is what is on deck this week:

WOULD YOU RATHER TIME-TRAVEL OR TELEPORT?

Seventeen years ago, I wasn't a sci-fi fan or fantasy fan yet (still not in love with fantasy overall, but now I do like a bit of it on certain occasions, and I absolutely ADORE sci-fi). I just was a die-hard mystery and police procedural enthusiast. I didn't know I would fall in love with time travel back in 2000, when I stumbled upon a Charmed episode called Morality Bites. (I didn't even know I would become a Charmed fan, but I digress). In it, the sisters travel ten years into their own future in order to prevent something horrible that Phoebe saw in a vision - herself burned to death. And they do that by actually inhabiting their future bodies (as opposed to what happened in That '70s Episode).
 
Morality Bites: Prue is a blondie now...

October 18, 2017

EXCLUSIVE Cover Reveal (+ Blurb): "The Art of Escaping" by Erin Callahan

Welcome to a very special cover + blurb reveal...

...Yes, I like to tease 😁

You know, as a rule, I don't do reveals. Well, I don't do mass reveals, or reveals for books that I'm not interested in. So, when I do one, you know there's a solid reason behind that. In this case, actually, three of them πŸ˜‰.
Reason #1: Erin Callahan is one of the first authors I talked to when I started blogging. I only know her virtually, but I think it's safe to say she's a great human being, and I can testify she's a talented (and blogger friendly) author πŸ‘.
Reason #2: I beta-read this book back when it didn't have a publishing house yet, and now that it's almost ready to go into the world, I'm so happy and proud of it as if I were its godmother (which, in a sense, I am. One of its godmothers/godfathers at least...).
Reason #3: it's a darn good book πŸ˜„.
So, here goes...

October 14, 2017

Gimme Five! or How I Survived a Half-Decade of Blogging

So, my dear friends and occasional readers...Offbeat YA turns five today! πŸ™Œ


I don't know if it's a big accomplishment or not. There are probably many blogs out there older than mine. For sure, there are SO many blogs out there that have been able to grow (much) bigger and better than my corner of the web in a (much) shorter span of time. There are so many dedicated bloggers who have worked hard and have grown an impressive reader base, while I was posting once a week in my best year (2014) and struggling to even do so. I can blame my hectic life and a whole set of issues that I have to battle every single day, plus work, plus age (because yes, I do tire more easily than I used to), plus the fact that I can't buy all the books most people can afford and I don't even want to, since I'm SO. DARN. PICKY. The fact is, after five years, I'm still one of the smallest fishes in an overwhelmingly vast sea of bloggers. Do I regret it?

October 01, 2017

James Wymore & Aiden James: "Return of the Saboteur"

Title: Return of the Saboteur [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (2nd of 4 books, but there's also a set of short stories which is Book 1.5)
Author: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads] & Aiden James
[Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2015
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens without any problem
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Creative premise. Breathless adventure (though there's a lot of internal monologue as well). Constant change of scenery. Sheds more light on the Actuator and the people who have been involved with it.
Cons: Essentially a "male" book, where the main female characters end up needing to be saved. Some of the worlds would be interesting to explore, but are barely skimmed. As in Book 1, a handful of (harmless) typos that apparently escaped revision.
Will appeal to: Alternate realities enthusiasts. RPG fans. Readers who get bored easily.

Blurb: The Machine Monks fight to keep control of the Actuator while enemies attack the base. As besiegers wear them down, the rest of the world struggles to adapt to the chaos left in the wake of the great change. Their only choice is to push forward and find the next key and shutdown the fantasy realm surrounding the base. When they do, Xenwyn will die. Haunted by the incalculable death toll all over the earth, Jon accepts the mission to recover the next key. Desperate to keep Xenwyn alive, Red determines to find a magical cure before Jon gets back with the key. Seeing all his friends in turmoil, Dragon Star sets out to find the saboteur. None of them ever imagined the Actuator could still make the world even worse. (Amazon excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. It's just that they have so many (sometimes underrated) gems under their belt.

A MAP OF THE UNKNOWN WORLDS

The sequel to Fractured Earth takes place three months after the events in Book 1, and follows a bunch of Machine Monks (one of them being introduced for the first time) on their quest to restore reality as it used to be...or to achieve more personal goals. Despite my rating mirroring the one for Fractured Earth, this installment is actually more enjoyable than its predecessor, world-wise. The reasons why the aforementioned rating stayed the same have been stated in the Cons, and will be explored further in my review - but let me make this clear: The Actuator is a great series for those who like alternate realities, also because we can see how the people (and their possessions/transportations) that travel across the virtual boundaries between worlds are affected by the change, sometimes even emotionally. I have to say that we get to see more fantasy/steampunk realms than anything else, while personally, I would have liked a touch more of sci-fi, or at least some kind of contemporary setting where the ordinary rules were turned upside down somehow. Then again, the device some of the Machine Monks use in order to travel from world to world is definitely sci-fi (though conveniently, it works in any realm), and following our heroes on their different paths provides a high dose of entertainment. [...]

September 26, 2017

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Favourite UF Books

This is my first foray into Tell Me Something Tuesday. Yes...Roberta is doing a meme.


Let me explain a couple of things before I dive into this week's topic. I think you all know by now that I'm not a meme gal, except when there's no huge pressure and the topics are good - that is, not necessarily book related, but covering a wider range instead. TMST was brought to my attention when I saw Karen @ For What It's Worth participating in it. She also was the one who sent me the question list (updated till January 16th). Among the book-related discussions, there are prompts dealing with blogging, or prompts that are indeed book-inspired but not limited to your usual book list. Also, there's no Linky, so it feels much more relaxed than your usual meme. I plan on visiting the other participants' blogs of course, but without a sign-up list, it feels less intimidating. Also, should I decide to skip a week at the very last moment because I couldn't make the time to write my post, I wouldn't need to opt out or feel guilty πŸ˜‰. (Mind you, I'm not saying I'm planning to participate every single week, but I'll butt in every time a topic strikes my fancy, unless I'm pressed for time). So here goes...

I even made a banner for this, so I'm committed!

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings, where the blog's owner Heidi discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.
Here is what is on deck this week:

FAVOURITE URBAN FANTASY BOOKS

According to Wikipedia,
Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy in which the narrative has an urban setting. Works of urban fantasy are set primarily in the real world and contain aspects of fantasy, such as the arrival of alien races, the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and other changes to city life. A contemporary setting is not strictly necessary for a work of urban fantasy: works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, real or imagined.
Now, I have to make a premise. Yes, ANOTHER one. I'm not a fan of straight-up fantasy (sorry everyone, I know most of you are reading it these days, also because fantasy and contemporary are all the rage lately and, like, 85% of the books that are being issued fit into those genres πŸ˜‰). Which might seem at odds with my penchant for old ruins medieval castles and fortresses, the kind where pretty much all that survived the centuries are bare walls, better if a little broken, and no princess ever lived πŸ˜‚. I'm not a huge UF gal either, in the sense that I'm not usually drawn to creatures (vampires, werewolves, werewhat), unless the book has some particular aspect that calls to me out loud. (You might wonder what I do read at this point. Short answer: afterlife, sci-fi, supernatural, some contemporary, anything weird that isn't historical, doesn't center on romance and isn't over-populated with the aforementioned creatures). But I do have a few UF books (or better, series) that I love despite my quirks - and I hope you will be able to get me interested in more. (Please note: I narrowed down my list to three examples, because this was becoming a monster post...wait, it IS a monster post already, and I haven't gotten to the list part yet...😨). So, here's my list (all in-progress series and a standalone), from YA to Adult...

September 20, 2017

Dawn Kurtagich: "The Dead House"

Title: The Dead House [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None (though there's a companion novella, The Dead House: Naida, that was only issued in digital version)
Author: Dawn Kurtagich [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Horror, Supernatural
Year: 2015
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: A lyrical mindfuck that steals your breath and plunges you into the heart of darkness. A lead (leads?) who pulls you in.
Cons: A tad too ambitious, weaving voodoo into an already complex enough story. A few occurrences are too convenient. An almost-love-triangle is included.
WARNING! Gore, insanity, self-harm and severed tongues. Not to mention, if you need a neat ending, you should probably stay away.
Will appeal to: Both those who love psychological horror and the classic brand.

Blurb: Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere." Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson. Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.  (Amazon)

Review: The first time I heard about TDH was when Christopher Pike mentioned it in a post of his on Facebook. Now, it's not like Mr. Pike recommends a book and I automatically buy it, but his comment got me curious enough to look TDH up on Goodreads. And since the blurb sounded insanely good (no pun intended), this book ended up on my TBR list. Not only, but I bought it shortly after it came out (well, only a few months after...which is a short amount of time for my standards). As to why I'm only reviewing it now, two years after it hit the market...it's a mystery whose clues no camera, no diary entry and no Post-It has recorded for the posterity to solve πŸ˜‰. (This refers to the many media used to tell the story, in case you haven't heard about it yet).

THE TRUTHS ARE OUT THERE

Unreliable narrators come in all shapes and sizes. And as intriguing as they may be, they're not guaranteed to keep things interesting per se. Now, I am not an expert of unreliable narrators by any means, but I think it's safe to say that this particular brand of UN is unheard of. (Almost) everyone in Carly's world thinks that Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and dismisses her as the product of a severe case of Dissociative Identity Disorder*, but if she isn't, WHAT is she? another soul trapped in the same body as Carly? a paranormal or supernatural entity? I love it how the book doesn't have an answer for that, though in the end it hints at one possible version of the truth, but here's the thing...One. Possible. Version. Now, if you're the type of reader who needs answers or spelled out endings, chances are this book won't work for you. But the journey into Kaitlyn's mind (and Carly's, up to a point) is fascinating, not to mention that I couldn't stop underlying quote after quote in her diary. What I can say is, for someone who supposedly doesn't exist, Kaitlyn sure sounds very real, and she will probably break your heart. I mean, if her little sister Jaime doesn't break it first.
*Note: Kurtagich mentions having a family member with DID in the author's note. Since Carly/Kaitlyn's therapist works under the assumption that DID is the reason why Kaitlyn exists, I have to trust the author to be able to correctly represent this particular (and, in Carly/Kaitlyn's case, supposed) disease. On the other hand, this is not a contemporary book, so I also assume there's been room for a few tweaks... [...]

September 07, 2017

James Wymore et al.: "Borderlands Anthology"

Title: Borderlands Anthology [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (book 1.5 of 4)
Author: James Wymore et al. [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2014
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens, though a few stories are a bit heavy on horror
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Eclectic bunch of stories, covering a wide range of genres and (fictitious) eras. We get a glimpse of how the Change affected some people unaware of the Actuator's existence. But one doesn't necessarily have to be familiar with the series in order to read this collection.
Cons: Not every genre tackled in here can be everybody's cup of tea. The quality (and most of all, originality) spectrum varies from high to less impressive.
Will appeal to: Those who like eclectic short-story collections. Those who want another perspective about the Actuator.

Blurb: When the Actuator breaks the earth into a patchwork of altered realities, the remaining Machine Monks begin looking for the Keys to put it back. In the meantime, everyone in the world has been transformed without knowing why. This collection tells about some of the people struggling to deal with the change. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. And all the books I received from them were generously sent with no strings attached.
Note: Apparently, an earlier version of this book featured a story called Cult of the Actuation instead of Cyber Cowboy (both by James Wymore). Judging from the blurb for the first story, it has been later incorporated into Book 1 of the series, Fractured Earth, providing its new ending. Cyber Cowboy was originally included in the Curiosity Quills anthology Primetime (2013).

WAR OF THE WORLDS

Sort-of-disclaimer: I usually don't read anthologies, unless they 1) contain stories by one of my favourite authors, 2) are part of a series I'm reading (like in this case), or 3) have a unifying theme that calls to me like a siren song (like the excellent Windows into Hell, also by Curiosity Quills Press). The reason why I'm wary of short-story collections is that, most of the time, I don't enjoy them as much as novels. They need to be as homogeneous as possible (which isn't an easy feat), or at least to have a strong common theme. The stories in Borderlands loosely fulfill my second condition in that they all give us a taste of the life right after (or simply after) the Change, that is, after the Actuator (a reality-bending machine) has turned the whole world into a patchwork of different, often plain weird realities. On the other hand, such a premise gives the authors ample freedom when it comes to creating a bunch of worlds at odds with one another, or playing with any genre or trope under the sun. This probably accounts for my having mixed reactions to these stories, since some of them are not my scene, but it's not the only reason. I'll come back to that in a minute, but first off, let me tell you that despite my overall rating, there are a few gems in here. [...]

August 26, 2017

Janet McNally: "Girls in the Moon"

Title: Girls in the Moon [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Janet McNally [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2016
Age: 12+
Stars: 2.5
Pros: Lyrical writing. A love letter to New York and music.
Cons: Relies on a bunch of stereotypes when it comes to characters - even those who are relatable sound too refined to ring true. Conflicts get resolved too easily, or are ultimately glossed over. Both the setting and the music scene are painted with rounded edges, which detracts from believability. Not much happens. 
Will appeal to: Those who like quiet stories with a coming-of-age angle and a cute romance.

Blurb: Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex-rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story - the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister Luna, indie rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the co-founder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago. But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits into this family of storytellers, and maybe even to continue her own tale - the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I thought this book would be the next Luna-C for me (WHICH YOU HAVE TO READ NOW, THANK ME LATER). Heck, both of them even have a main character named Phoebe (because, reasons) and a moon reference in the title/band name. Boy, was I wrong.

MEET CUTE

So, back in 2016, everyone and their dog was raving about this book. I meen, not literally EVERYONE, but those who had read an ARC were in rapture or something. The few who weren't mainly complained about the book being uneventful, which didn't sound like a big deal to me, since I can enjoy a quiet narrative, provided it's deep. And GITM seemed to qualify. This resulted in my 1) putting this book at the top of my TBR list and 2) ultimately purchasing a HARDCOVER copy, because I didn't want to wait till the paperback was released.
Now, I know part of my disappointment in GITM is due to great expectations gone sour. I can't honestly say it is a BAD book, and the writing is lyrical enough without getting purple - conversely, I would say that there's nothing overwritten or convoluted about it. But the thing is, I no longer have patience with books (or media in general) that perpetuate stereotypes or don't try to break ground in some way. For all its superficial pleasantness, GITM relies on characters and occurrences that we are very much familiar with, and doesn't seem to want to turn them upside down. So, what we ultimately get is a bland coming-of-age story, a too-cute-for-this-world romance, and a bunch of potentially dramatic (or wait, not really) situations/conflicts that either get resolved in a hour or two or are very much glossed over. [...]

August 20, 2017

James Wymore & Aiden James: "Fractured Earth"

Title: Fractured Earth [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (1st of 4 books, but there's also a set of short stories which is Book 1.5)
Author: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads] & Aiden James
[Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2013
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens without any problem
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Creative premise. Breathless adventure, though there's a time for reflection as well. Constant change of scenery.
Cons: Essentially a "male" book, though at least a female character plays a somewhat bigger role. Would have benefited from a little character backstory, or better, interaction, before chaos ensued. Some convenient occurrences. A handful of (harmless) typos that apparently escaped revision.
Will appeal to: Alternate realities enthusiasts. RPG fans. Readers who get bored easily.

Blurb: On a secret military base, a dangerous machine lies hidden from the American public. Known as “The Actuator”, this machine is capable of transforming entire communities into alternate realities. In theory, these often terrifying realities are reversible. The scientists in charge of this machine employ operatives called Machine Monks. Experiments progress to where they feed more than twenty different genre ideas simultaneously into the Actuator’s database. Meanwhile, an unknown saboteur dismantles the dampeners. The effect is catastrophic. The entire world is plunged into chaos, and familiar landscapes become a deadly patchwork of genre horrors. Can a few surviving Machine Monks band together to set things right again? It all depends on whether Red McLaren and the Monks can survive their journey through the various realms that separate them from the Actuator, where ever-present orcs, aliens, pirates, and vampires seek to destroy them. (Amazon excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. It's just that they have so many (sometimes underrated) gems under their belt.

CROSS-WORLD PUZZLE

The premise of this book (well, series) is fantastic, and I couldn't resist its pull. Although not a fantasy aficionado or a role-player, I always enjoy a story where reality as we know it gets upended and pretty much anything can happen, all while the characters have to navigate a suddenly unfamiliar landscape. In a sense, I got more than I bargained for with Fractured Earth. The characters embark on a journey to set things right that causes them to cross a number of different "realms", each one with its rules and dangers, where the very things they bring with them or travel on (not to mention their own physical appearance) can change drastically - sometimes with quite funny or downright weird results. For some reason, I didn't expect the straight-up fantasy/historical angle to be so prevalent, but the story as a whole was enthralling and kept me going, and I'm sure those readers who are more into fantasy and history than me will be delighted. [...]

August 15, 2017

A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill: "The Switch" (ARC Review)

Title: The Switch [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Multiverse
Year: 2017
Age: 12+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Rich, impassioned tale where science (real and potential) meets philosophy, adventure, danger, friendship and a touch of romance. Characters with authentic voices who get under your skin.
Cons: Might require a re-read in order to grasp all the concepts. Some of the alternate realities are not accounted for.
Will appeal to: Those who like to rack their brains. Those who are in for a great adventure with a number of twists (well...switches πŸ˜‰) and a lot of soul.

Blurb: Jacobus is a fifteen year-old who believes - as many fifteen year-olds do - that his life could use improvement. School is a numbing routine, and his parents’ marriage seems to be imploding before his eyes. Lured by his best friend into a strange little house containing nothing but empty rooms and an oversized circuit breaker, he’ll discover that reality comes in a plural form, and that our choices create a continuous web of branching worlds, any of which is as ‘real’ as another. A solo odyssey becomes a duo, a trio, and then a quartet, as Jacobus befriends other interdimensional travelers along the way. THE SWITCH is the story of their journey home. The question is: if they get there, will it be the same place they left behind? (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. It's just that they have so many (sometimes underrated) gems under their belt.

RARE FIND

As a reader, multiverse is one of the genres I'm most interested in. But it's so rare to find a book that - though still leaving you with questions - plays it right and at least tries to explain the gist of it, all while having you ride along with a great cast of characters. The Switch does just that. It relies on many theories - some of them I understand are scientific material - and they are great to read, if not all easy to grasp or always making total sense...but at its core, this book is a celebration of human curiousity and courage, genuine friendship, and a reminder that choices always bear a weight, no matter how many universes you visit. I would be tempted to say The Switch is also one of those books that close the gap between YA and MG - it's clean but not artfully so, some of its characters are slightly younger than your average YA, and it's the kind of adventure that plays like a videogame, with each "level" getting increasingly complicated. On the other hand, some of the concepts this story is built on and around are - as I said - not easy to grasp. I'll say that this one can be enjoyed by younger kids, but will be better savoured by teens and even adults...like me πŸ˜‰. [...]

August 11, 2017

Book Blitz: "I Stop Somewhere" by T.E. Carter (with Excerpt)


  Welcome to the I Stop Somewhere book blitz!
 
Today is my stop for the book blitz regarding I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter. This book blitz is organized by Chapter by Chapter, and it runs from 7 till 11 August. I Stop Somewhere will be released on 2/27/18 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US and on 5 April 2018 from Simon & Schuster in the UK. For those who need to get their bearings, this novel is described as "The Lovely Bones meets All the Rage". After the page break, you'll find all the book vitals, plus an excerpt and a giveaway! But first let me reiterate a small detail...I never do promo posts unless it's a book/author I'm familiar with, or a book I want to read. This one made my TBR list, so without further ado, and with thanks to Chapter by Chapter, here goes...

July 28, 2017

Author Interview: Fanni SΓΌtΕ‘

Londemonium mock cover
Hello my darlings! 
Today I'm sitting with short-story author and aspiring novelist  Fanni SΓΌtΕ‘, whom I've recently met on Twitter via a common passion for Doctor Who, and more specifically, David Tennant πŸ˜€ (you know me and David, right? But I digress....). During this interview, you'll see that the DW reference is actually integral to Fanni's approach to writing, since the worlds she creates are often (if loosely) inspired by the show, and populated by characters who slightly resemble a few Doctor Who cast members. And no, before you shake your head, I'm NOT talking about fan fiction here. I'm talking about inspiration and atmosphere. I will redirect you to some of Fanni's writing in a few paragraphs, but before I do that - and before the actual interview takes place - let's have a look at one of her works-in-progress...

Another mock cover
Novel vitals by the author: Londemonium is an urban fantasy, set in a world where Hell is a multicultural, global enterprise, sprawling in its own dimension like an infernal version of London.
Gregor is a German computer programmer whose girlfriend, Irene gets abducted by a young demon during their London trip. The ever calm and rational Gregor embarks on a fantastical journey to recover Irene from Hell. His story is a version of the Orpheus myth with a twist.
Molly, the other main protagonist, is a feisty Irish biologist whose research partner gets spirited away. She also finds a passage to underworld just to discover her secret heritage as one of the descendants of the Sidhe, the Irish fairy folk.
Aiko is an English-Japanese girl who comes to live with her drunkard father because it’s still a better option than staying under the same roof as her mother’s new boyfriend. She sees visions of a mysterious woman in white.
Raphael is an immigrant angel. He arrived from Heaven and works hard as a police intern to get accepted. His task is to round up a dangerous journalist who threatens to expose the secrets of Hell.
Londemonium is about how the lives of these four characters intermingle. Gregor and Molly end up in a flat share with Demi, the demon who got their friends. Aiko meets Rei, the majestic fox demon who helps her deal with her rage. The same Rei is Raphael’s superior who tries to help him get his naturalisation.
For the story’s aesthetic, feel free to check out my Pinterest board and Spotify playlist.


Fanni SΓΌto

Dream cast for Londemonium