Book Review – ‘Girl of Nightmares’ by Kendare Blake

Move over Buffy – this slayer is giving you a serious run for your money…

Girl of Nightmares Book Review by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror , Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on. 

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.
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After thoroughly enjoying Anna Dressed in Blood, I could not wait to get my hands on Girl of Nightmares, and while it did not disappoint, this second novel wasn’t quite as excellent as its predecessor. I say this because we don’t get as much of Cas and Anna, or the dark comedy. There is still plenty of action and mystery, and Anna-angst to satisfy. I was also expecting a one-two punch with the climax – Anna Dressed in Blood had a double whammy towards its end, and Girl of Nightmares did not deliver this.

I wanted more of Anna. More of her interacting in the real world. It felt a lot like New Moon in the Twilight Saga, where Edward was a voice in Bella’s head for the majority of the novel. I loved how we left stereotypes behind in this installment, already deconstructed in Anna Dressed in Blood, we uncovered more about the cast of characters…

Cas was a workhorse, juggling school, relationships and the supernatural. Given the light tone of the book, and fast pace, Cas was always busy and preoccupied. I would have like to have seen him lose it a bit more over Anna, build the drama. But that’s my personal preference and not a judgement on the book.

This book felt more about the supporting cast (that I like to call the Scooby Gang). We get to see more of their strengths and weaknesses and how they are all connected. Where Anna Dressed in Blood was more ironic, Girl of Nightmares is more sympathetic.

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The story however was brilliantly woven and wrapped up nicely at the conclusion; but leaving it with the hint that another novel in the Anna/Cas universe a possibility.

Kendare Blake’s writing style captures a masculine narrative expertly, and is engaging enough to read this in one sitting/weekend if you choose to do so. I spread it out a bit longer, knowing this was an end to the duology. The pacing was better than the debut and built steadily, where I didn’t quite know what was going on in the first book (which ultimately meant more surprises). Again the storyline is fairly predictable, but so many unexpected twists thrown in resulting in a totally captivating novel.

Overall reaction: Oh glorious words written on the pages!

Girl of Nightmares Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Girl of Nightmares Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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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Book Review – ‘A Million Suns’ by Beth Revis

Action and religion – like mixing vegemite and chocolate… it’s an acquired taste.

A Million Suns Book Review by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, science fiction, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Godspeed was once fuelled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. 

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He’s finally free to act on his vision—no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success—or failure—will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

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The stakes are raised higher in this second installment of the Across the Universe series. Definitely a better read than its predecessor.

There wasn’t really anything surprisingly new with the plot of A Million Suns, and found that I’d either read or seen something with the same storyline. Although there were some shocking moments to add a bit of spice to the reading experience.

Revis’ writing style is pleasant and not bogged down with too much sci-fi language, even though she was able to build the world of Godspeed masterfully, so you are able to flit across the pages effortlessly. I managed to complete the book in one sitting – it has some great pacing and suspense woven into the story line, which, especially towards the end, had me glued to my seat.

Our protagonist, Amy, felt a little more mature in this installment – and rightly so. I appreciated the fact that she made up her own mind and dealt with her circumstances from her own experiences. Given her age and the environment, it would have been an enormous pressure to assimilate into the group, peer-pressure style. If not for a form of ‘racism,’ I think she may have well done that if her features weren’t that unusual. I was uncertain if the slow rate at which she cottoned on to Godspeed’s dilemma was frustrating or appropriate, given it was not really her place to get entwined with the political machinations. There was less emphasis on her family unit that I felt would have been more of a driving force for someone so young. Nonetheless, Amy (being a red head), is another strong female character that has made it onto my favorites list.

Amy’s love interest, and burgeoning leader, Elder, annoyed me the most. I really felt that Amy had more backbone than he did. However I loved their symbiotic relationship, not afraid to lean on each other in times of difficulty. Without the structure of school and society we have IRL, Elder had the opportunity to grow up faster and get a wider view of his world on Godspeed, so I felt he should have had more clout and a better grip on things than he did… but the story of his struggles made for compelling reading.

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I guess the difference from this being an okay read to one that knocks it out of the park would be the pacing with the mystery within the novel… while it was built nicely, it lacked a bit of punch. Also, the chemistry between Amy and Elder felt a little contrived. There also existed the faith/religious aspect which was a little jarring against the science fiction setting of the novel.

Happy to have read the second book, but not something I’ll re-read.

Overall reaction: meh!

A Million Suns Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

A Million Suns Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.

Scramble your brain – you may be surprised what comes out.

Scrable your brain Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleWhen I get stuck on my work in progress I don’t let it defeat me!

After jumping back and forward in the plot, editing, or working on some marketing material, if I’m just not feeling it, I jump into what I call – kamikaze writing mode

Basically I force my grey matter to start scratching for ideas.

I set up my day (or usually a few weeks) where I begin at my desk at 8am and spend an hour solid writing. Be it on another novel, blog post, or something new. I set a timer so there is no excuses, no interruptions and scribe away. You have to disconnect during this time: no checking email, surfing facebook, no phone, just you and the page!

When that hour is up, you have half an hour reprieve – but that must be something active. This usually entails housework of some kind, or gardening, running an errand, or dancing stupidly with the dogs. The point is to get the blood pumping and remove yourself from writing/creating completely.

And thus goes my day until 5-5:30pm when I can finally relax and tally up my word count.

The results usually yield anywhere between 6,000-10,000 words. Generally after a week of doing this method, I have enough material to edit and motivation to focus on a single project again. I guess it’s not overcoming writers block per se, more like giving your head a shake up to get out of a rut.

Sometimes reading a good book, or watching a fun movie helps. Visiting friends or simply sitting outside in nature away from all the noise and trappings revitalises the ol’ noggin’.

Scramble you brain thingsithinkarekindacooldotcomWhat techniques do you have for keeping your writing fresh? Do you get a feel for when your writing starts to go flat? I love sharing tips on feeding that inner muse and want to hear what you do… comment below!

In the meantime – happy writing.

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.


Excerpt from ‘Plain & Ordinary’ by Casey Carlisle

Plain and Ordinary title bannerUnable to focus on role call, I missed hearing my name. Also, neglecting to notice the teacher walking to where I sat, desperately trying to think of some way that Mum being diagnosed with M.S. was no big deal. As much as Mum played it down, tried to convince me it would be many years, if any, before any symptoms began to impact on our lives. It was cosmically unfair. Why her? Surely there was someone out there, someone who shot people in the back, kicked puppies and dumped toxic waste in waterways, someone who deserved such a debilitating sentence.

“Carl Grainger?” my riviere was broken by the teachers’ all-too-near voice.

The classroom sniggered.

“Yes?”

“Are you alright?”

“Sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Next door’s cat is on heat. It was yowling non-stop.”

“If you’re too tired for school, maybe you should get you parents to come and get you…”

“I’ll be okay.”

Someone behind the teacher meowed causing strangled laughter to wave through the room.

“Settle down everyone.” Mrs Berryman turned and walked back to her desk staring down certain students along the way. “There are just a few announcements this morning…”

I tuned her words back out, my gaze skipping across the floor until they settled on a pair of familiar sneakers. Following up to the face of their owner, Tom was glaring at someone across the classroom, no doubt the same person who had elicited the feline mewl at my behest. I was puzzled why he would do something like that. There was no need to rock the boat, it wasn’t like I was offended, or hurt. In fact I had to hide a smile when I first heard it. Plus, it was the first lie I could come up with under pressure. Blurting out that I’d stayed awake all night worrying that my Mum was slowly dying wouldn’t have bode well. I could just imagine the unwanted attention and phone calls home after uttering that sentence in class.

The muscle in the corner of his jaw rippled and flexed as Tom ground his teeth, and the hand on the top of the desk was scrunched into a fist. I admired how the tendons under his skin moved. He looked impressive, ready to strike a knockout blow at any given moment. If I commanded attention like that, I doubt my Father would treat me like such a disappointment. A warm flush spread across my skin just as Tom’s eyes suddenly turned to lock onto mine. I’d been staring for quite some time with goodness knows what moronic expression. Great, now he’s going to think I’m retarded as well.

Instead he winked.

I dropped my gaze instantly to my hands, face burning hot and itchy. What the hell was wrong with me? It’s not like he can read my mind. There’s no way he could know I wish I was more like him; if only to put my Dad in his place. And just maybe be more capable in finding some way to save Mum. Anything to be more than I was – plain and ordinary.

Book Review – ‘Fade’ by Lisa McMann

Falling asleep was the least of my worries…

Spring 09, Final

Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared….

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Fade surpassed Wake in bucket loads for me – more action, more mythology about Janie’s ability, and more Cabel yumminess!

The pretence of walking through other people’s dreams fascinated me, and the fact that Janie could use it in a way to read people’s minds was even better. Uncovering more about her ability and folklore behind it equally grabbed my attention, and was glad we got to explore Janie’s special talents further than in Wake.

Janie has really embraced her power in this sequel – both physically and supernaturally – combining to match her already established mental strength from Wake. It was excellent to see a character in a book give a big dose of proactive behaviour.

We see her embrace her situation –claim her power. Not only her gift, but train her body to its peak performance… even when faced with inevitable disability. It’s this kind of fighting spirit that kept me reading.

Cabel really is the James Dean of McMann’s world. He had undeniable swagger and maturity that leaps off the page. The way he is there foe Janie is amazing. Despite the failings (for me) with the language and writing style, the romance of these two characters outshines any of that to bring this book home.

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We deal with some more controversial topics in this instalment, like its predecessor, and at its heart Fade is like a detective novel.

Extremely fast read, colourful language (as in the first instalment) and each arc in the storyline is explored thoroughly. I may have rated Fade higher if it weren’t for Lisa McMann’s writing style – for personal preference, short abrupt sentences and throwing in slang and superlatives may give it a ‘young’ and edgy feel, but it kept dragging me from the story.

Overall reaction: Well, that was unexpected…

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.

Film vs Novel – Divergent

Sometimes you get to chose who you are – and sometimes you just ARE.

Film vs Novel Divergent by Casey Carlisle

After viewing the film, I decided it was about time to jump on board with just about every one of my friends, and everyone I knew – and dig into the Divergent series. Book to film adaptations have seriously lacked in translation in the past, but I felt this time, Divergent stood up to the test.

The biggest difference I got from the book to the movie was perspective… The novel explained more about the world and Tris’s actions, where in the movie I didn’t quite fully understand everything that happened. There was a distinct sense of humour coming through as well, and I would have loved to see Tris explore that more in the narrative – it could have increased the impact when leading into some of the more dramatic scenes. We  love wicked banter and irony…

While the film was superior with its pacing and kept the story moving forward, the novel tended to jump around a bit in location. Also the screen version left some scenes without explanation: such as the dream sequences – you get a full understanding of them in the novel, but did not translate as well to the screen.

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I remember when I first viewed the film in the cinema, I was like… what tha? Are they going to explain all that? *mentally shaking my fist at the screen*

Film vs Novel Divergent by Casey Carlisle pic 01The real hero of the movie is Four – the film adaptation let’s a lot of his character seep through, and he seems so much more accessible on screen (and drool-worthy), where we only get Tris’ perspective and assumptions with the book. I can’t say the same about Tris – the film failed to do her justice. Maybe because too much exposition was left out. Shailene Woodly does a superb job in the role, but because much of Divergent is cerebral (in Tris’ thoughts), I found myself wanting more from our heroine. That, and I wanted then to kick her up a notch of bad-ass-ness… only because I love rampant, temperamental, kung-fu chicks. That said, I’m sure we’ll get to see more of that in the following movies.

Additionally, where many of the main ensemble were somewhat stereotyped in the novel (with some exceptions) the film allowed us to view them in a more subjective and well-rounded perspective, which I felt lent more colour and depth – particularly with the antagonists. If I could mash the better elements of both film and novel into one ‘thing’ my brain would have melted from its awesomeness.

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You get a real sense of carnage and (graphic) death with the novel, where the film, bending to the rules of viewing classification sanitised these scenes (or brushed over them entirely). Where was the gag-worthy insanity we glimpsed in the novel… I want them too please!

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If I had to choose which was the better experience – I’d have to go with the novel, simply because it made more sense. Yes, I loved the special effects and cinemaphotography of the film, but it’s story-telling lacked in comparison… So the book for the win.

Let’s see how Insurgent stacks up.

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.