Book Review – ‘The Taking’ by Dean Koontz

 An alien invasion that will blow your mind.

The Taking Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction, Paranormal

No. of pages: 391

From Goodreads:

On the morning that marks the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. A luminous silvery downpour is drenching their small California mountain town. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now, in the moody purple dawn, the young couple cannot shake the sense of something terribly wrong.
As the hours pass, Molly and Neil listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. By nightfall, their little town loses all contact with the outside world. A thick fog transforms the once-friendly village into a ghostly labyrinth. And soon the Sloans and their neighbors will be forced to draw on reserves of courage and humanity they never knew they had. For within the misty gloom they will encounter something that reveals in a shattering instant what is happening to their world–something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency.   

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It was good to get lost in a Dean Koontz novel again after so many years away. ‘The Taking’ left me unnerved throughout the first half. That cold shiver, glancing up at every little noise. It’s been a while since a book has managed to illicit that response from me.

I live in a rural area, surrounded by bush, and at night there is nothing but shadow outside, and reading ‘The Taking’ had me deliciously nervous about dark scary things looming just outside my window.

Our protagonist, Molly and her husband face an alien threat so unusual it can be perceived as magical or supernatural – but not the good kind. This was the gory, creepy, flay-your-skin-off kind. I loved it. It felt a little short, or possibly ended too quickly. I wanted a bit more story other than just a survival tale.

I think when I say I wanted more story, I meant that it felt like it was missing something in the guts of the novel. A purpose, a surety… and it’s the alienness, randomness and the bizarre which threw me for a loop. There is an underlying current of spirituality and human spirit, but without the surroundings of the familiar I thought I was missing something. I know that sounds a bit vague, but it’s the best was that I can articulate the sense I got after completing the book.

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There were times where the narrative got a little long winded and I sped read past. Other parts were so graphically and expressively described, I was just about slack jawed in awe. Koontz has such a special turn of phrase at times that it leaves me gob-smacked.

It does end on a note to leave the reader to form his/her own opinions about the events that take place, and I actually really enjoyed that element.

The big take home message to this novel is ‘question everything.’ And it took me a while to catch on, and when I did, the story felt even more brilliant.

A great creepy read I’d recommend to anyone who’s a fan of science fiction, horror, suspense and a good survival story. Dean Koontz had been a staple in my library since I was a tween, so I’ve never been disappointed with this writing.

Overall feeling: Had me sufficiently creeped out.

The Taking Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

 

Wrap up – The Teen Romance Series by Mark Zubro

Middle of the road, but addressed realistic issues.

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When I first saw these covers I dismissed this franchise – it looked like a cheap and badly written self-published affair. But I’m glad a small voice in the back of my head convinced me to take a second look. My main reason was hoping to expand the GLBT titles on my shelf. I really enjoy the aspects of identity, angst and the challenges usually faced in this genre – it makes for some compelling reading.

Unfortunately this genre is also glutted with steamy M/M erotica (or fortunately if that’s your thing), but I like a more contemporary title. ‘Safe’ and ‘Hope’ purported to be a YA mystery with a gay protagonist. Both these books are solid reads, entertaining and definitely tugged at my heart strings. My issues came from the a feeling that the story was too mature for the characters; and that many of the adult cast involved in the storylines had a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, blurting out facts and confiding in our protagonist. That left the plot feeling a little contrived and unrealistic.

That aside, the writing is pretty good and deals with many issues facing the gay community. It carried a message but managed it weave it into a pretty good detective style narrative.

This has been my first journey into this subgenre, and while I had some major issues with context, this series was thoroughly entertaining. I’d like to see it continued in a University setting, because I feel many of the problems I had with voice would be fixed in a more mature setting and lend the protagonist and his boyfriend (Roger and Steve) to really shine.

The heart of these books beats strong, (more soul, less angst) but not sure if I would give them a strong recommendation.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Safe’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/book-review-safe-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Hope’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/book-review-hope-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

#bookquotes

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A cute contemporary that left me with a verve for life. You can expect misunderstandings, crossed lines of communication, teen angst and some laugh out loud moments in ‘Confess‘ by Colleen Hoover.

We all want to be bad a times…

Book Review – ‘Slaying Shadows’ by Dan Rix

Each book in this series is better than the last – I’m totally hooked!

Slaying Shadows Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 263

From Goodreads:

The girl sobbing in 16-year-old Leona Hewitt’s bedroom has the same long dark hair as her, the same startled hazel eyes as her, the same stuck-up nose as her. She’s identical in every way . . . and she’s here to take Leona’s place.

By a twist of fate, Leona has until midnight on Halloween to outsmart her evil double and steal back her shattered life—and her soul—or forever become a ghost.

But all the clues point to a startling truth. To her horror, she’s learning the other Leona has more claim to her old life than she does—even to her boyfriend.

Could it be that after all this time, everything she knows about herself is a lie?  

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With a series that seems to be on an upward trend, I was eager to jump into ‘Slaying Shadows, but held off for a month, so I wouldn’t need to wait an incredibly long time until the next instalment is released. But thankfully, it’s not too far away, and with what went down in this novel, I was certainly lead on a thrilling ride.

Things are finally making sense. Consequences are finally being dealt with a heavier dose of reality than I’ve seen in the previous books giving it a darker tone. I loved it. The pacing is so much faster, so much more action takes place, and our protagonist Leona is really put through the ringer.

We see more character growth from Leona, not only from the challenges she has faced, but also in taking ownership for her actions – good and bad. I think that is the single most aspect of this series so far has really stood out.

I did have an issue with Leona popping in and out of dark matter – when had it become so plentiful and easy to come by? Previously it was such a scarce commodity, and now whenever she needed it, it was there.

There were many twist and turns I did not see coming – Megan, Emory, and with Leona herself. I am usually pretty clued on with my reading and can guess storylines and plot twists well in advance – but in ‘Slaying Shadows’ – either because I was so wrapped up in the action or drama; or because it’s just so out there, I had no idea what the eff was going on. Just brilliant.

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So we get a lot of answers in ‘Slaying Shadows,’ but we also get many more questions posed, and by the end I was chomping at the bit for ‘Black Sun…’ but I’m going to have to wait until the physical book is released.

I got so excited with all the new elements introduced in this novel. Though that was tarnished by the “happenstance” of the main cast being thrust together by the hand of fate – that part of the story felt a little Machiavellian from the author… the organic nature of the story dwindling. But that’s just me nit picking. ‘Slaying Shadows’ was still immensely entertaining and left me begging for more.

I must say the end scene was a stroke of genius – I loved how it was described and the build of tension… but argh – a cliff-hanger!! Dan Rix you ruin me!

4 books down, 2 to go. Bring it on Mr Rix.

Overall feeling: It just keeps getting better.

Slaying Shadows Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Slaying Shadows Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

The “AHH” Factor

The AHH Factor 01 by Casey Carlisle

It’s coming up on two years since I traded in my stilettoes for gum boots: and how am I fairing?

Walking into spider webs, getting attacked by mites and ants when gardening, dodging cane toads in the wet season after dark. Trying to keep bats, parrots, possums and rats off my vegetable garden. Keeping a keen eye out for snakes in spring – even stepping in between my dog and a small brown snake newly out of hibernation. Seeing spiders the size of my hand and cockroaches the size of matchbox cars… all the things that crawl, skitter, skuttle, slide and bite have me screaming ‘Ahh!’ and wishing for the paved streets of suburbia with a deep yearning. But I love the peace and quiet, the fresh air and the rainforest just outside the back door. A recent trip to the city helped me put my move to the country into perspective…

House-sitting a friends place for a week seemed like a welcome chance to fulfil my withdrawals from city life. I got to wear nice clothes and wasn’t covered in mud and dirt, and caught up with friends over café lunches. I went shopping and indulged in cell phone reception and fast internet speeds. It was all so wonderful. But the maddening traffic with idiot drivers having me in a state of panic with near misses every second day. The sound of the neighbours cooking, eating, chewing… I mean, I heard everything… from both sides! I did not get much sleep.

So I guess there are pros and cons for both locales, but I think for the sake of my nerves, and my writing, my mountain top home is for the win. While it is isolated and comes with all manner of wildlife to combat and shriek at, it feeds my imagination and keeps me calm. All those things I love about city life can be a distraction to my goals this year with writing, blogging and reading. Not to mention the added little expenses of spotting a bargain, some coffee and cake there, and petrol consumption. I save a lot of money living in the wilderness.

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So, I’m thinking with limiting my trips to the metropolis solely for a fix and catching up with friends is something I should have done long ago… but that was when I needed to be in the city for work and cancer treatment. Now I get to chase my dream of being an author and have the Zen of mountain top rainforest to keep me inspired as I release a relaxing breath… ‘ahhhh…’ How that word captures what I love and hate about this place, but I think this is the perfect place for me right now.

Plus, my friend’s just love hearing all the anecdotes about me combatting the denizens here – something about me in a state of panic amuses them to no end…

What is your ideal writing retreat?

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘Freelancer’ by Jake Lingwall

Great promise but poor structure and execution for a novel.

Freelancer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Kari is a freelance hacker, taking jobs from clients to design anything from art to security software. In a world where 3D printers, drones, and computers connect directly to the brain, Kari finds keeping her expert programing skills secret while trying to finish high school almost impossible. With the threat of the second Civil War looming, Kari must decide how far she will go to keep herself, her family, and her friends out of harm’s way, even when her choices might have consequences she’s not ready to face.

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I was really excited to read this – I conversed with the author and loved the premise of the novel. There was so much going for it… and then I started reading…

Freelancer’ is difficult to get into at the beginning – bogged down with technical details and simulations instead of getting on with (and setting up) the story. Lingwall missed a proper introduction to the novel and jumped right into the middle part.

The protagonist, Kari, is hard to relate to and her motives difficult to understand. The more I read, the less I cared about her. She was coming off like a paranoid prepper – which was weird mixed in with all the teen high school angst. There was little background given or inner monologue leaving her actions as mere plot devices directed obviously by the author. One thing I will applaud was that it was good to read about a diverse character, though, unfortunately, her heritage played absolutely no aspect in the narrative (or her identity) whatsoever. A prime opportunity to create conflict and tension missed. Sadly this trend of little or no character development is also prevalent in the remainder of the cast.

Maybe because of the major issues I had with the narrative style and basic novel writing tools, Kari’s skills felt unrealistic – I guess if there was better world building and character development I wouldn’t have felt this way. Additionally, because of this, the number of times Kari was put in jail felt more like she had been sent to her room for being a bad girl – it didn’t feel like she was being threatened, punished or even all that frightened about the turn of events.

It is obvious Lingwall knows what he is writing about when it comes to the science fiction aspect of the story – very cool concepts of technology. It can also be said that his action scenes are excellent.Though, it was like this book was written around a number of action scenes without any thought to the characters and how to structure a novel. Fun, but needs A LOT of development.

Elements of great political intrigue leading up to a civil war (I’m presuming – the writing wasn’t very precise). Only because of no world building for the political climate either – am I just meant to accept it what is going on? I was a little frustrated by the halfway point. If it weren’t for the personal attachment with David (Kari’s love interest), and his family I may have not even bothered.

Consequently, I could have skipped first half of the book. It did little to set up the characters, their motivations, what they stood to lose, and the climate/world. So many essential elements in writing a novel overlooked. The formatting with frequent italicised thoughts were distracting and not needed. One chapter actually started with “Insert chapter nine text here.” Inexcusable! Where was the proofreading! So many elements giving me a very bad impression. ‘Freelancer’ needs a heavy hand from a professional editor. So much promise but no delivery.

It’s a pity because this book has a great climactic ending, though the note after the dramatic scene felt lukewarm and as directionless as the start of the novel. Reactions from the adults in this scenario felt contrived and unrealistic. With phenomenal action scenes, amazing plot, I wish it was executed with precision.

I know that this is a debut for a series, but I won’t be continuing on, or recommending this to anyone. A few shining moments, but the rest just gave me a headache.

Overall feeling: oh no…

Freelancer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Freelancer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.