Book Review – 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Gravity meets Goosebumps.

172 Hours onthe Moon Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror

No. of pages: 355

From Goodreads:

It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA’s unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space–and change their lives forever. Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrained life in Japan. Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space… no one is coming to save them.
In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true. 

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I’d seen this title bouncing about on friends reviews and it has popped up on my recommendations, it’s sci-fi, horror and YA, so there was no reason not to add this to my reading list. With no prior knowledge, other than some teens getting the chance to visit the moon, I cracked the spine expecting a momentous space adventure fraught with peril. Well it was that, but just not in a way I expected.

‘172 Hours on the Moon’ is a much sinister read. Less on the science fiction, and more on the scare factor.

172 Hours onthe Moon Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThere is a lot of switching of perspective in this book, which was interesting in learning about the cast and their backgrounds and culture. But I wasn’t sure what that had to do with the actual plot…

Additionally some of the more interesting facts and parts of space travel and being on the moon were glossed over or intentionally omitted. I feel some more of the technical aspects of the setting would have added credence to what they faced on the lunar surface. It is a stark and dangerous landscape and just how vulnerable to the elements and death was right there, but the author missed so much of it. Although, what was included really helped set the tone of being alone and helpless in the vastness of space and the lunar landscape… but with an added threat. If the continual worry of something going wrong and suffocating by vacuum wasn’t enough.

There were several parts in the novel where the hairs on my arms stood up… and not many books do that. It wasn’t an outright fear response, but rather that creepy feeling that you know something is not quite right and should be used as a portent for real evil.

The characters were likable, although the insta-love between Etienne and Mia felt irrelevant to the story.

I read this on and off over a week while travelling… only near the end did I wish I had more time to indulge as the pacing was slow in the first half. The narrative is interesting though.

Love the desolate picture that this book portrays of the landscape – it could have been used to escalate the bleakness and justify some of the characters attitudes towards the conclusion.

On the whole, this felt like a fable – a story you tell children at bed time or around the campfire to give them a little scare. It story fell a little flat. I wanted more of that creep factor. Maybe some of the issues could have been put down to the fact it was translated from Norwegian, but the big thing that got to me was the amount of information we were given that did not drive the plot forward, and the amount of information which should have been included to add dimension to the story that was omitted.

Cool concept, great creep factor, a so-so read…

Overall feeling: If I don’t move maybe it won’t see me…

172 Hours onthe Moon Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

172 Hours onthe Moon Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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.

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Book Review – Dead to You by Lisa McMann

An echo from the past can haunt you in unimaginable ways.

 Dead to You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 243

From Goodreads:

Some memories are better left untouched.

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family.

It’s a miracle… at first.

Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together.

But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked.

Something unspeakable… 

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This is now officially my favourite Lisa McMann title to date. ‘Dead to You’ had a more mature voice and such a simple yet strong vibe throughout that it totally sucked me in.

Ethan’s narrative is authentic and completely drew me into his world. His family also exuded realism, dysfunction and all.

Dead to You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleEveryone escapes into a fantasy world, and when Ethan returns to his family after nine years of being abducted, foster care and living on the streets, at first that fantasy becomes real… before the struggles of memory, relationships and high school begin to weigh in.

This is very clever, in hindsight, clues to working out the mystery are glaringly obvious. But initially I hadn’t paid them much attention. Also there is a psychological element underlying this story. Lis McMann has always had some sort of challenge around metal illness in her books, but none done as well as this.

Although it’s kind of predictable in the sense that I knew what was coming, but not in how it was delivered. And I love surprises! ‘Dead to You’ has managed to redeem McMann for me, as my interest was starting to wane in her writing.

Apart from our protagonist, Ethan, the rest of the cast has much to offer: his little sister Gracie is adorable; the brother Blake is cautious and stubborn; and Mum and Dad are so gentle about Ethan’s re-introduction to the family it was heartbreaking. A love interest in Cami was amazing too. There was so much love and support around Ethan I was really cheering for him to resolve the tension and get his happily ever after.

Dead to You’ has an easy flow and distinctly adolescent male narrative that I flew through in a day. It gave me plenty of feels and was a refreshing reading experience. Recommended for lovers of McMann’s work or those looking for a quick mystery to while away the afternoon with.

Overall feeling: Like watching a car crash – you can’t help but stare

Dead to You Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Dead to You Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Turtle tagging – take two

…with a girl named Michele who laughed so hard she was choking when a turtle slapped me across the face.

Turtle Tagging Take Two Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI loved volunteering back when I lived in Townsville for Post Grad’s doing research, and I finally got my chance to do it again along the Sunshine Coast (with another girl named Michele) studying the migratory and feeding habits of sea turtle populations. She was also garnering information about how pollution is affecting their health. These trips not only feed the inner Marine Biologist in me, but also act as fodder for my imagination. The science fiction series I’m working on (LONERS) has one novel set on a water planet – lots of room to go wild with alien sea creatures! Not that there isn’t enough under our waves that doesn’t look alien enough 😉

The day started really early last weekend, I was up at 4am and met Michele at the dock for a 5am cast off. She had 10 beaches to visit. With the sun already reaching into the sky, it was warm – a sultry 25 degrees Celsius. Sea turtles usually nest between October and March each year with the peak of the season in Dec and Jan. So this is something I’m going to get to do a number of times in the coming months… I’ll update again on more turtle fun towards the end of Jan – hopefully with some pics this time – when I wrap up the entire experience.

My curse is alive and well. In typical form I ended up on my butt at least once on the trip. Slapped in the face by a sea turtle flipper when helping to attach a transmitter to a new subject. It left a bit of a mark, but luckily enough I can pass it off as sunburn. Michele, however thought it was the funniest thing she had seen and just about wretched over the side from laughter. Maybe I would have laughed too if my brain wasn’t still rattling.

We were also going to rendezvous with a couple of Flatbacks that also have satellite tracking devices – check their health and record data. Although we ended up only getting to 3 during the day, one of whom must have had a tangle with a shark sporting a scarred flipper.

I was happy to report that we didn’t come across any of our reptilian friends fouled with fishing line, netting or plastic pollution – although that is still a big problem. The sky remained clear the entire time, and the seas calm. Got to have a few short swims. But no time for playing about, even if the visibility was dive worthy!
For such a pale skinned ranga, I feel so at home on the ocean. My spleen for a permanent solution to sunburn!! I think I used an entire bottle of sunblock over the day and still ended up pink. Thankfully the next morning it had faded.

We got close to the HMAS Brisbane, a popular dive site in this area, reminding me that I should take a leisure dive and check it out some time. The pics I’ve seen of the site look amazing and supports a slew of marine life. Just think of all the marine flora and fauna! I was in geek girl heaven.

A large ray swam by and I had taken a few great shots… but technology ARGH! I was a little ticked off when I got home because my camera had some sort of glitch when I was recharging, and the footage I’d shot got deleted. At least I have memories J

The best bit was checking out some turtle clutch sizes. That means digging up some nests and counting eggs. I’m just about beside myself with excitement in hopes to be there when some hatch. Baby turtles are so cute!

Turtle Taggin take two Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There are a lot of groups that love volunteers along the coast for tagging and recording data, so if this article sparks some sort of interest, do an internet search and you are bound to find something…

Catch you on the flip flop…

Head Under Water 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.

Book Review – Luna by Julie Anne Peters

She dances to the beat of her own drum in the moonlight

Luna Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I loved the soul of ‘Luna’ and its message. There is valuable information in here. Attitudes to realise and live by.

On the whole this is such a cool story – shedding light on a family coping/not coping with Liam/Luna and the realisation she was born in the wrong body. The fact that it was in the setting of a family unit, even a dysfunctional one, shows that gender dysphoria, and relating to people starts at birth and it can be a long, awkward, and sometimes painful journey.

The cast of characters is what brought the rating down for me – they felt too much of a caricature. Additionally, flashbacks happened too often (a pet hate of mine). I know they were imparting vital knowledge to drive the plot forward, but towards the end of the novel I was getting tired of them. The content of these reminiscing’s also made me cringe – like events had been lifted out of a University study of typical gender dysphoric traits… it lost a personal edge, like it wasn’t connected to the characters at all.

With the story told completely from Regan’s POV, it helps shed light on the impact of a transgendered individual on family, and makes no apologies. I really enjoyed this aspect. At times Regan felt a little too politically correct, and others really hit the nail on the head. It is a difficult subject to wrap your feelings around.

Luna Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleLiam / Luna was the worst character in this book. She was written in a way to speak to a cause and left me not really connecting to her as a person. I love her message, but found myself rolling my eyes at her pretty much the entire time. In the famous words from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” – and that’s what I feel about Liam/Luna; she had the potential to be epic, but what I got was a cheesy afterschool special.

Chris felt like the most realistic of the cast, I would have loved to see him more involved in the main plot, I feel he could have balanced out all of the PC factoids and added a dash more authenticity.

With all of the issues I had with the characters, Luna illustrates a unique and important issue surrounding acceptance, how we treat others, love and gender identity.

I felt this was more a story of how far you can push someone before they snap, and that event causes a switch in perception allowing you to lose that baggage and become a better version of yourself. Like a cathartic cleansing of your personality.

Luna is ground-breaking, helps shed light on important causes and provides a story for anyone out there who identifies, or has someone in their life identifying as transgender. And I can’t praise this novel enough for tackling such a sensitive topic with aplomb (even if the characters fell short of the mark).

A fast-reading, light narrative easy enough to read in one sitting on over a weekend.

A quaint book with a universal message : don’t judge and be who you are.

Overall feeling: Amazing story

 Luna Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Luna Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Book Review – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The airport suddenly looks so much more appealing…

 The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 236

From Goodreads:

Four minutes changes everything. Hadley Sullivan 17 misses her flight at JFK airport, is late to her father’s second wedding in London with never-met stepmother. Hadley meets the perfect boy. Oliver is British, sits in her row. A long night on the plane passes in a blink, but the two lose track in arrival chaos. Can fate bring them together again? 

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A simple fun read, ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’ was a great afternoon escape.

Not only does our protagonist, Hadley step into the waters of first love, she also takes a first pace into independence and rebellion… finding out who she is.

Although short and not all that complex, ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’ poses many questions. It has the feeling of a true contemporary that leaves you pondering over the characters and their issues long after closing the book.

Hadley comes across as immature and broken, but starts testing every assumption about life and love in this novel set over 48 hours. It feels like an adventure – of places and of the heart. At times Hadley annoyed me, her blatant disregard to view things objectively, content to march on blinkered. Leaving things unsaid. Letting the pain and contempt fester inside. She had her moments of being that stroppy child you just want to throttle. But it’s a necessary evil we all go through in growing up.

The love interest, Oliver surprised me. As his story was revealed, and at his behaviour. I liked him a lot. He is polite and chivalrous and the epitome of English gentry (or good breeding – my Mother would call it being brought up with manners). With so many contemporary love interests being bookish, gangly and geeky, Mr Perfect, or Mr Hot – it was great to come across one whose main trait was that of manners and humility. He was also funny.

I related to Hadley and her story – I too am a child of divorce and estranged to my father. This book was like a romantic what if… I’d like a happy ending too.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’ is poetic. In its beautiful effortless narrative, and in its outlook. As much as Hadley hates on so many things, they still come across as splendid notions towards love. This books oozes the soul of romance in all its incarnations. I really enjoyed the escapism and the positive message it presents.

Overall feeling: A thumbs up from me

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Book Review – Gasp by Lisa McMann

I gasped – and not for good reasons…

 Gasp Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

After narrowly surviving two harrowing tragedies, Jules now fully understands the importance of the visions that she and people around her are experiencing. She’s convinced that if the visions passed from her to Sawyer after she saved him, then they must now have passed from Sawyer to one of the people he saved.

That means it’s up to Jules to figure out which of the school shooting survivors is now suffering from visions of another crisis. And once she realizes who it is, she has to convince that survivor that this isn’t all crazy—that the images are of something real. Something imminent.

As the danger escalates more than ever before in the conclusion to the Visions series, Jules wonders if she’ll finally find out why and how this is happening—before it’s too late to prevent disaster. 

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Although ‘Gasp,’ the third and final installment had all the same aspects I enjoyed from the first two novels, it fell flat for me. The whole story felt tired and contrived. I was so underwhelmed. Still, a cute story with a unique supernatural twist, and lucky enough to be a short brief read, managing to wrap up the oddball cast dealing with this ‘premonition virus.’

What had me feeling not so great about this after raving at the beginning of the series? Maybe it was because of Jules’ gun-ho attitude despite her morbid predicament, or the formation of a “Scooby Gang” to help solve the mystery. Mostly it was because the tension has somehow leaked out. Everyone got along too well, were too accepting. I was hoping this final book in the Vision series would really up the anty and go out with a bang (pun intended), but this fizzled out with little show…

It was great to see more diversity, adding a character of colour to the cast – and an adult into the secret circle… but little was done with that. There was so much potential for this finale…

Again, the social issues raised are commendable and dealt with sensitively.

The climax lost its realism – I wasn’t sold on the Scooby Gang pulling off what they did without taking into account realistic safety precautions and trained personnel present on the scene. It felt like the conclusion wasn’t thought out at all and written in a codine haze.

Fun. Not Lisa McMann’s best.

Overall feeling: Meh

Gasp Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Gasp 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.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout

Issues I face while trying to write a novel…

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout

It is easy to get distracted by goings on in social media, what’s just popped into your inbox and who’s just posted an interesting blog if you write on your computer… but if you are able to avoid those pitfalls and find yourself on a roll only to fizzle out days later with writer’s block; how are you ever supposed to get any work done?

I’m constantly hearing about these issues from friends, and not necessarily from other writers, and thought I’d share some of my practices to stop these creative killers.

Have a workspace that will allow you to immerse yourself in your story. I have a pin board above the computer with photos, notes, a rough outline for the larger projects (it’s literally like a scrapbook has thrown up on my wall) and a different workspace for blogging and other work (that is kept clear and clinical). I work on a computer that does not connect to the internet to erase any chance of getting sucked into the black hole of interweb temptations.

But I still need to check my email, and get some marketing activities done each day; as well as some entertainment time to connect with friends or watch a funny dog video on YouTube. For this I allot a time limit – even go so far as setting a timer – to do my thing and get back to the days duties. Usually it’s an hour first thing in the morning while I’m having breakfast. It also gives me a chance to quasi plan what I want to achieve that day.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 03The timer method also works when I’m starting to stumble in my writing – and you can do this in a number of ways:

Simply take a break for an hour and create something new.

Or maybe you have a few projects going at the moment – so spend an hour on each.

Sometimes, I’ll jump forward and write a key scene in the plot (there’s no rule saying you have to write in chronological order).

Spend an hour in a different location, or dictate instead of typing or writing.

All of this is just a different approach to the same thing, and maybe the fresh stimulus shakes something loose.

We don’t create in a bubble, imagination needs some sort of input, so don’t starve your brain of the food it needs to construct something fantastic. Then, even if the distractions are there – you won’t be interested.

I’ve used these methods on many creative endeavours – reading, sewing, building, graphic design… the list is endless. You just have to keep coming up with different angles to keep your project moving forward. But remember to cut yourself a break if it doesn’t happen, nothing worse than stressing yourself out: it only adds to the problem. Maybe you simply need to have a day off. Play with your dog, visit a zoo.

It’s not like I live my life to a series of alarms and scheduled days, though, when I need to knuckle down it certainly is. But these tips are just a guide that may help you along and eliminate any unnecessary time wasting.

And above all – keep a sense of humour in all that you do. It stops me from spiralling into having a conversation with the toaster and licking the walls.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 04As much as I have brandished the net as a big distraction, it can also stimulate. I’ve found pictures on Tumblr and Pinterest to add to my pinboard collection that have kicked off a writing frenzy. But everything in moderation.

Except writing.

Writing rules!

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 02

 

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.