Book Review – ‘Spineless’ by Susan Middleton and Sylvia A. Earle

Eye-popping photography of fauna not everyone gets to see up close – and this is definitely up close.

Spineless Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Non-Fiction, Photography, Nature, Biology

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

In Spineless, acclaimed photographer Susan Middleton explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life.

This collection of more than 250 remarkable images is the result of seven years of painstaking fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, using photographic techniques that Middleton developed to capture these extremely fragile creatures on camera. She also provides short essays that examine the place these invertebrates occupy on the tree of life, their vast array of forms, and their lives in the ocean. Scientist Bernadette Holthuis contributes profiles describing each species, many of them for the first time. Middleton’s book is a stunning new view of nature that harmoniously combines art and science.

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A break away from fantasy and contemporary books to escapism of a different kind, ‘Spineless’ tempted my imagination as much as any YA novel or artwork in a gallery. Comprised of jaw dropping photography with just enough detail to awe and inspire, igniting the inner observer and scientist in us all. Plus, touching on the artistic with hues of colour and iridescence expertly captured through the lens.

I loved the literary and pop culture quotes scattered through the narrative it provided an additional tidbit grounding this amazing work in the now for folk who don’t have a science degree.

This whole book is a great snapshot of the environmental and scientific landscapes. ‘Spineless’ gives you a great deal of technical oversight, as well as educating the reader about our environment and its threats. But on the whole it simply illustrates the beauty of nature and adaptation in the invertebrate world.

The writing style is both academic and flamboyant at the same time, drawing the reader along on an adventure both informative and inspiring. I was certainly ready to jump back into my marine biology studies after reading the book.

A great addition (and better than a glossary) were the inclusion of Species profiles towards the rear of the book. A photographic reference and brief zoological description.

We also get a bit of the behind the scenes mechanics of how this photography was executed in the final pages, which I feel not only adds credence, but is yet another aspect of inspiration for those thinking about producing their own accounts of nature through the lens.

Overall feeling: Inspiring (and a little fish in shock and awe)

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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I keep thinking I must get a start on reading this trilogy… I have no excuses *eep*

What I read in 2017

I can’t believe January is already over… so much for posting my 2017 reads early *awkward*

Last year proved to be a year of distractions and interruptions, and consequently I fell short of my goal of reading 100 novels by 18 books. And I overall I read more books that I ended up rating lower because I was extending my reading habits out of my preferred genres and giving many new authors a go.

So, what did I read…

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And I’d have to say that my favourite book read from 2017 is ‘Gemina’ by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman which was the second novel completed that year.

I’m hoping that I can read more novels, and even more diversely this year… and maybe I’ll even give at least one book a 5 star rating (as in 2017, sadly, I did not award one.)

 

How did your reading year shape up? What was your favourite book from last year? Let me know in the comments below – I might just find my next outstanding read 😉

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Clarity’ (#1 Clarity) by Kim Harrington

Psychic teen hunts down killer with cute boys at her side…

Clarity (#1 Clarity) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 246

From Goodreads:

When you can see things others can’t, where do you look for the truth?

This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.

Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift. 

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case–but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother–who has supernatural gifts of his own–becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

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I enjoyed all the elements of this novel. It hit the right tone of paranormal and mystery for me. I can also happily say that it was not so predictable – I had no idea who the killer was, even right up until the reveal… and I pride myself at being able to preconceive these things. So it is a joy when an author can stump me.

Clarity (#1 Clarity) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgClare ‘Clarity’ Fern was an interesting protagonist, but the freaky outsider trope is nothing new. Neither is the love triangle which looked like it was forming. For some reason Clare, and the storyline felt very ‘done.’ Nothing about ‘Clarity’ felt original. Don’t get me wrong. It is highly entertaining in an episodic after-school-special kind of way. But expect cliché and stereotypes. Clare is strong-willed, level headed and takes in the world with a sense of sarcasm and irony. She is definitely a fun character to read.

Both Justin and Gabriel – the ex and the new hot guy were also fun to read – though I never felt like we really get into their heads. Maybe it’s the sparse form of the narrative, or that I failed to get an emotional connection with them. My biggest connection came in the form of Perry (Periwinkle,) Clare’s man-whore brother. He was funny, oblivious, and so… well teen guy. I wonder if he will develop as a character in the sequel ‘Perception?

Clarity’ felt very much an average read. The writing style, though breezy and totally encapsulating the tone of a teenage psychic, did not embellish much outside the essential. I wanted more description of the landscape, of feelings, and of the visions. Some showmanship if you will. This felt like a bare-bones narrative. I guess because of this approach the pacing was maintained from one scene to the next, focusing on the clues and misdirection.

There are plenty of easter eggs planted for the follow-up, but there is also enough solved in ‘Clarity’ to make you feel satisfied at the end. I’m definitely intrigued to see what ‘Perception’ brings. But I hope Harrington’s writing style improves to paint a more colourful canvas to keep me engaged. The formation of a mystery story line is masterful, her characters delightful, I’m just wanting to be dragged more into Clare’s world.

I’d recommend this more for the younger end of the YA market as the language choice, content, and structure is geared more towards a tween reader. A great starter novel for those wanting to test the waters of paranormal mystery.

Overall feeling: Pretty good

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Clarity (#1 Clarity) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Castor’ by Shaun Young

An excellent premise, action packed, but lacked a little something.

Castor Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

James Fisher’s memories of Earth are distant, replaced by the harsh realities of life on the planet Castor. As a “Half-Adapt,” James is one of many who were biologically engineered to survive conditions on Castor—and to labor for the benefit of the ruling class. Indentured to servitude, James has no way to defy or escape the severe caste system… until he meets Vidal Centa, his master’s nephew. The draw they feel toward each other is instant, powerful, and maybe even enough to move beyond the unyielding regulations of their society.


But not everyone blindly accepts the absolute power of the oligarchy. The Independence Society fights for freedom and equality, and since James shares in their ideals, he joins their ranks. Soon he’s faced with an impossible decision: continue the fight against the oppressors or choose the love of the young man who embodies everything the Society loathes. With a looming conflict threatening to tear the planet apart, James fears he cannot continue to fight if he wants to keep his relationship with Vidal.

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The concept of ‘Castor’ stood out to me most of all – colonising a new planet, refugees terraforming a poisonous atmosphere; and a protagonist coming to grips with his past, a revolution, and his attraction to another man. It had all the elements to make ‘Castor’ a momentous read. But sadly it fell short of a few of these marks.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of the protagonist James, though found the backward politics of Castor to be counter-intuitive for an evolved society. But it worked in giving a population of mostly blue collar men, adapted or half adapted to the toxic atmosphere, where it was all male bravado and hard yakka. It also helped to establish a class system on the planet. So the world building was heavily supported, intricate and logical. I do think it was missing all those elements of science fiction though. Bits of technology, a more prominent role of the gene tampering that was going on, the terraform process, and colonising of the planet. It was there, but only in a small dose. This story was more focused on James and the revolution against the dominate powers in charge.

Castor Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleSo while I applaud the structure and tone of the novel, the writing style felt a bit dry. There didn’t feel like there was enough angst between James and his love interest Vidal. There romantic interaction were few and brief on the discussion of emotion. I felt a little cheated out of the romance part of this story. Especially given the odds these two were facing – so much potential tension wasted. The writing style was all very masculine – brief, to the point, and full of action.

A lot of action. Things getting blown up, chase scenes, murders, subterfuge. The mechanics of this part of the story line were brilliant, and in my opinion, the saving grace of ‘Castor.’ The cast were believable and felt realistic. Castor is a hard place to live. I think a more emotional aspect of James’ building relationship would have balanced out all of the difficulty the pair of boys was facing.

So too with the description of the landscape – while I could imagine it fairly well, I don’t think Young spent enough time painting a picture of the environment. His writing style would be perfect of a terrestrial modern day thriller or adventure story, but in science fiction, you need to spend a bit more time world building – because everything is new and unfamiliar to the reader. Especially in an off-planet environment.

I liked James as a protagonist. He didn’t fall into the usual tropes. He was moralistic without being a rebel leader. Strong and intelligent. But there was a sense of vulnerability that held him back – let him take the knocks that were dealt out. His faults humanised him.

These traits were similar in Vidal. Though I felt he needed more personality, the two of these boys were really just trying to survive. They weren’t there for a cause. They just wanted to find a safe place to live and be together. That’s the story I wanted to resonate with a stronger note in ‘Castor.’

I have to applaud the concept of this novel. It felt unique. It wasn’t contrived or over written, and you definitely get a sense of a great future to come for this writer. ‘Castor’ is his first published novel, and I can only imagine what he can produce with more experience under his belt. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Young.

I would not recommend this for sci-fi buffs, there was an element of something missing, so too if you enjoy reading M/M romance. It has moments of both, but either not fully realised. But I do recommend this for its overall concept and execution. If you go into it realising this is a young author’s first swing at the genre, than you will be able to marvel at his strengths and forgive the weaknesses.

A shorter novel that took me a day to read with enticing cover art. The editing is on point, no grammatical or spelling errors. The font and formatting give an ease to the story. It never felt a chore to read. Harmony Ink are delivering some great products and I’m eager to see what this writer and publisher collaborate on next.

Overall feeling: Adventurous and action-packed, but slightly apathetic

Castor Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Castor Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.