Book Review – Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Can K-pop be Graceful?

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

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I picked this up because I’ve had a good run of contemporaries lately – and I love k-pop… it should’ve been a winning formula for me, but unfortunately it was only so-so. Later, discovering that it had been compared to ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ was glad I hadn’t read that comment, because I would have been even more disappointed. Though, having no expectations, ‘Hello, I Love You’ was a pleasant easy read that left me with a smile on my face.

Starting off with a premise that grabbed my attention – country music virtuoso is sent to boarding school in a foreign country where she doesn’t even speak the language. Grace is a fish out of water with her big blonde hair and struggles with homesickness to find her place in this unfamiliar region. Sophie embodies much of the K-Wave phenomena: pop culture dominating for overseas export (fighting!) Then there’s Jason… who suffered much of the typical misunderstood bad boy trope so familiar in YA. He didn’t treat Grace particularly well either – all of those points had me disliking this character most of all and I lost much of my investment in his story arc.

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

With pop culture intimately wrapped up in the story, you had to expect an amount of superficial – which came in the form of Sophie – and she lost a bit of realism for me. As well did Grace when she succumbed to Sophie’s will; I wanted to see Grace take her own journey, rather than be lead about by Sophie so much.

Katie M. Stout has a soft writing style, like the understated manner of the Asian culture itself, but I was hoping to get some edge to it from the pop side of things, or maybe something more melodic and sophisticated nodding to Korean History… but it was fun to read nonetheless. I think there were a number of points that could have enriched this story because if fell a little flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is substance, and what is there packs a punch, but it wasn’t enough. ‘Hello, I Love You’ ultimately felt somewhat immature – perfect for a run of the mill YA Audience.

There was too much coincidence with the story line and it came off as corny rather than kismet. I think with characters that were fleshed out more and not so typical of this genre I’d have been convinced that the outcome was destiny rather than some after school special.

Overall, I did like the book, the clash of culture, the trappings of fame and plenty of angst. I’d only recommend to a younger audience and lovers of contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: bubble-gum pop cute

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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 – Untaken by J. E. Anckorn

Hang on to your socks – it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Untaken Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopian

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

It turns out that a real alien invasion is nothing like the Sci-fi shows 14-year-old Gracie loves. Not when it’s your own family who are swallowed whole by those big silver ships. Not if it could be you next.

In her search for her family, Gracie meets Brandon, a high school dropout who would never have been caught dead hanging out with a dork like Gracie before the world ended. Gracie isn’t too crazy about Brandon either, but he has one thing she doesn’t: A plan.

Brandon’s uncle has a cabin up in Maine, and If Gracie and Brandon can survive long enough to get there they can hide out until the Space Men pack up their ships and leave.
Until the army guys come to rescue them, says Brandon.
Brandon is big into army guys.

Gracie has to admit that Brandon’s Awesome Plan probably would have worked out great if wasn’t for Jake.
They found 5-year-old Jake, laying half-dead under the remains of someone’s ranch house. He’s a good kid, even if he won’t-or can’t- talk.

But Jake has a secret, and when Gracie finds out what it is, the fragile new life they’ve started to forge looks set to break apart.

When the people you’ve been counting on to put the world back together start hunting you down, alien invaders are the least of your worries.

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This book was unexpected. I assumed it was another alien invasion story… and it was, but with a few other twists.

Narrated in alternate P.O.V. from Gracie, Brandon and Jake, Untaken documents their journey of survival through alien and human combatants’ alike, searching for a safe place to call home (in the form of a cabin in Maine). I’m not usually a fan of alternate voices in the narrative, but this time it gave unique perspectives and added something to the story.

I found Brandon to be a little crass and obstinate, the curse words and his attitude fitted his age and how he assumed a leadership role. This juxtaposed with Gracie, more of a tween than a teenager, but with the common sense of someone much older. She was quietly observant and determined with a manner that worked around the boys and kept the group together. The group dynamic was very reminiscent of The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey.

Jake, the youngest, only has short and sparse contributions to the narrative, but it was always to show something important.

The mode of the alien attack was a little derivative, I would have like to read a more original aspect to their presence; however their motivations were pretty cool indeed.

Untaken Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Overall, I was really excited about this book – parts of the narrative felt awkward, but that was due to the fact of the cast’s such young age. And this is a quick and easy read full of action and mystery. I devoured the book in one sitting. I had difficulty in predicting what was going to happen, maybe about three quarters through I was pretty close, but there is certainly enough plot twists to keep you guessing.

I’d recommend this without hesitation, especially if you love sci-fi or dystopian.

Overall feeling: That was sumthin’

Untaken Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Untaken 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.

Book Review – Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Traipsing through the City of Lights with tenderness…

Anna and the French Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 401

From Goodreads:

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

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France, the City of Love for a contemporary romance: there’s not much you could do to balls that up right? And well, Stephanie Perkins did not disappoint with Anna and the French Kiss. It’s not my favourite contemporary by far, but this novel was cute, and undeniably heart-warming – like a sigh on a warm summer breeze.

I liked how clueless Anna was when she first arrives in Paris: no idea about the language or what is going on with her new friends. Perkins captures that disorientation we all get when being introduced to a group of people who have been friends for a while – they have their own body language, inside jokes and patterns which are so foreign (being from another country or not). At times Anna annoyed me; she was broody or flighty that screamed immature… but then I had to remember this was a teenager and told myself to settle the heck down. But it was fun walking in Anna’s shoes for a while, especially meeting Etienne.

Anna and the French Kiss Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleEtienne was equal parts dweeby and aloof – that frustrating combination that most boys have at that age which seem to infuriate girls… it’s that whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing, right?

There is so much misinterpretation and assumption, which makes for good storytelling, and I loved it for the most part. Although that was one of the aspects of Anna that urked me – if only she were a bit more direct.

Stephanie’s writing style is breezy, introspective and lightly comedic. Even though it is around 400 pages, it is something you could read in a day. I can’t say there were too many surprises – with romance novels it’s usually pretty clear the coupling will end up together – and that’s why we read them. We all want a bit of swooning and wooing and happily ever afters.

This is a novel I’d happily recommend to my friends, especially while chilling next to the pool 🙂  A great introduction to Perkins and her writing – am looking forward to picking up Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Overall feeling: magical and adorable

Anna and the French Kiss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Anna and the French Kiss Book Review Pic 05 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.

Writing habits to increase productivity

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Toss writing slumps out the window!

Weird Writing Habits Make it Real by Casey CarlisleWhen you get a brain fart or idea WRITE IT DOWN! After that, create a blurb, a character profile, design a plot or book cover. Start scrapbooking material for the idea to grow… the more material you have the greater chances you can pick up where you left off when it comes to do some serious writing. Feed your imagination, let it run free.

Talking over your ideas with a friend can also help stimulate the old noggin.

Weird Writing Habits Read by Casey CarlisleRead anything. It gets the brain box clunking and whizzing. You’ve heard the saying – the best ideas come when you’re doing something else? Well it’s true. Your grey matter is a muscle, if you don’t use it how do you expect it to run a marathon? Also, reading is like market research – especially critical reading. You see what works, what doesn’t, discover new words and ways to express yourself, and hey, you might actually have a bit of fun.

Weird Writing Habits Follow Blogs by Casey CarlisleYou can do this passively, reading bits and pieces of interest: it exposes you to the world of writing and publishing. Feeds relevant information you may never have heard of, and quite possibly offer important contacts to help you grow your career. I’ve found sources like WordPress and LinkedIn great.

Weird Writing Habits Word of the Day by Casey CarlisleI know it sounds really lame, but every now and then you learn something new, rediscover a great word… keep them is a folder and skim through just before you do a re-write or edit, you’ll be surprised at how much it can up your game.

Weird Writing Habits Set a Goal by Casey CarlisleWrite something every day – it creates habit, gets the juices flowing. It’s practice for making writing a career (or full time job if you are already writing). You’ll relate when I say, sometimes forcing out a few sentences (even if they are bad and you’ll delete them later) is like that first cup of coffee in the morning, it gives you the jolt you need to get going.

It’s best to have something to edit and improve on rather than continuing to stare at a blank page.

Weird Writing Habits Create an Environment by Casey CarlisleA space to help you write. This changes for me all the time. Sometimes it’s about sitting at a desk, like I’m in an office – other times it may be staying in bed, ultra-comfortable. Occasionally a trip outdoors, a coffee shop, the library, the airport or even public transport helps (change up your scenery). Lately, after moving from city to country, I no longer write late at night, but wake naturally around 5-6 am and get in a few productive hours (maybe it’s the fresh air or loud-ass birds, but either way I’ll take a good writing session wherever it comes).

Try different methods – typing, hand writing, voice recording… every little bit helps.

Weird Writing Habits Be Accountable by Casey CarlisleSet yourself goals. Talk about them with your friends, discuss your books – create an environment that makes it difficult for you to get away with crappy excuses for not writing. Plus if you hit a rough patch or suffer writers block, your friends may help you break through.

Set a date to have your next chapter completed. Even get a friend to keep you to it.

These are just some methods I use to help the momentum of writing. What things help you get into the flow? I’d love to learn new trick and tips.

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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.

Book Review – The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Bowel trembling fear and courage in the face of things with pointy teeth.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Horror

No. of pages: 419

From Goodreads:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself. 

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I revelled in this book. It felt a little long in parts, but enjoyed the world and Tana (our protagonist) battling her way through an infected continent to find her place within it. Nearly passing over this title because of the vampire element – there are so many books out there after the release of a certain sparkly vampire novel that glutted the market with second rate storytelling – but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown delivers a high calibre read.

Many of the characters surprised me, as in fact, did Tana herself. It was a personal story and narrative, and not one of those ‘chosen one here to save the world from some great apocalypse.’ Tana is raw and gritty from the get-go, following her gut instincts whether it put her at physical risk or not. You get to experience her journey as the goal posts keep moving and she gains more and more confidence over her choices. She possesses an understated beauty in her strength.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHalf of the cast were not all they seemed to be and deviated between light and dark, good and bad – you won’t find any two dimensional characters here… and that would be difficult anyway with the fascination Tana’s world has with vampires (true or contextual). And the whole novel jumps that line continuously, between actual and constructed images of the Children of the Night and Coldtowns. The true vampire mythology lurks somewhere in the shadows where you can only get glimpses when you get too close. Buy by then it’s too late. You’re someone’s dinner.

The tone is deliciously dark, without being bleak or horrific, you still get a young adult feel and irony throughout, which I have to praise Holy Black for – it was such a unique experience for me.

Although this was a little of a staggered read – I feel if the writing were tightened up to remove superfluous exposition, the pace and tension could’ve been elevated to make this a truly outstanding read. I would say the overall plot was predictable(ish), but there were many nuances that came out of nowhere. There are so many elements that make this a great novel, but it fell a little short for me with the pace and writing style.

It is something I’d recommend, but only to those who like a more morbid tone, a touch of horror and vampire enthusiasts alike.

Overall feeling: Fun/disturbing

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 04 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.

Book Review – The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

A face off of crackling magical babes that at times fizzled.

The Wicked Will Rise Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Adventure

No. of pages: 293

From Goodreads:

To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die….

But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?

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I really wanted to be swept away in the tornado of Amy’s world, but for the Sequel of Dorothy Must Die, I was even less impressed than with the debut novel. That’s not to say I did not enjoy The Wicked Will Rise, because I thought it a fun read – but that was about all.

My attention waned in many parts, and didn’t get that feeling that I must read on until the last quarter of the novel. I’ve rated this the same as Dorothy Must Die, but must admit I felt it did not match the quality on any count. I’m afraid I’m starting to lose faith in this franchise…

The action in this novel is fantastic, and I feel if the pacing was tightened up would have greatly improved the reading experience.

The mythology in regards to magic is fascinating, but there wasn’t enough explained in this book to give it some ‘pow’ and suffered the fate of many middle novels in that too many questions go unanswered.

I still think the story of Amy needing to assassinate Dorothy is a great one – and the events in The Wicked Will Rise around this are dealt with really well in this novel.

With so many good points, I don’t know why I’m not more excited for this read – I just felt like there was something missing. Or maybe I was expecting it to be bigger and better than its predecessor? Quite possibly there was too much going on with side stories and not enough ‘meat’ along the core storyline. I would have liked to have seen more pressure but on Amy too – with her environment and personal relationships.

Danielle Paige has a pleasant enough writing style and paints a vivid world, but I got lost at times when she darted off on tangents. Yes, they were interesting, but the pacing suffered.

The story is original enough (a quasi fairytale re-telling) but failed to draw me in completely. Maybe I’m just not a fan of this sub-genre. The only book to date I’ve enjoyed in the trend of new novels based on childhood stories has been the Lunar Chronicles… I will see if A Court of Thorns and Roses measures up in the coming month before I abandon acquiring any more titles in this area.

Overall feeling: Meh!

The Wicked Will Rise Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Wicked Will Rise 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.

Book Review – Sweep – Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan

Abracus Boringus!

Sweep Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Occult

No. of pages: 176

From Goodreads:

Something is happening to me that I don’t understand.

I see things, feel things in a new way. I can do things normal people can’t do. Powerful things. Magickal things. It scares me.

I never chose to learn witchcraft. But I’m starting to wonder if witchcraft is choosing me.

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Sweep isn’t the type of novel I’d usually pick up, but after enjoying Beautiful Creatures so much and a recommendation from a fellow book reviewer, I jumped in with little expectation…

I can’t really list anything that I felt redeemed this book, and consequently am abandoning the series. This felt more like a ‘How-to’ manual rather than a story. Hardly any character development, no tension, and I found it difficult to ascertain what the book was about other than a girl who willingly joins a cult – a morbid description, but that was the impression I got after reading.

There was little done to build a captivating world, and any mystery about the world of the occult omitted from the story. For all intents and purposed I really felt like I was reading a recipe book.

Its only godsend was that it was a short book, easy enough to read and I didn’t waste too much of my time in reader’s agony.

Overall feeling: What a load of…

Sweep Book Review Pic 02 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.