Book Review – ‘Fractured Innocence’ by Julia Crane

Hoped for more…  

Fractured Innocence Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 298

From Goodreads:

Kaitlyn and Erik are sent on a mission to track down Vance Dasvoik, a ruthless monster. His latest thrill—abducting and selling young women.

Vance’s current victim: Aaliyah, a seventeen-year-old who never imagined walking her brother home from school one evening would change her life forever.

The mission quickly turns personal for Kaitlyn when she finds Aaliyah beaten, her mind and soul fractured from abuse of the worst kind. Kaitlyn knows firsthand what it’s like to be haunted by the past and resolves to bring justice to the elusive Dasvoik. 

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I was hoping book two, ‘Fractured Innocence’ would redeem this series after my opinion on ‘Freak of Nature,’ the debut of this series, completely bombed. But unluckily, this was yet another lemon.

The beginning still had that annoying childish tone which did not gel well with Kaitlyn’s robotic nature, or the relationships and situations the novel started with. Not a good sign when I felt tense and squirmy with the first few pages…

Differing from the ‘Freak of Nature,’ this instalment followed the format of a dual P.O.V. between Kaitlyn and Aaliyah. The latter, a new character is the most realistic of all the cast, but still not someone I could readily identify with.

Fractured Innocence Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleKaitlyn is still hard to relate to, and her reactions/behavior is inconsistent with her cyborg condition, and frankly, annoying most of the time. Make up your mid Julia Crane, either she has emotions or she doesn’t, either she obeys commands or not – personality traits were all over the map and added to my confusion. Additionally, it was idiotic with Kaitlyn ignoring her superiors and risking another person’s fragile psyche – professionals are there for a reason, they know what works and what doesn’t. Her blatant disregard left me assuming Kaitlyn is a blunt instrument with little intelligence.

Interactions between Kaitlyn and Lucas (her love interest and overseeing technician) felt very one dimensional. He kept commenting on her looks as if that were the only important thing about her. His objectification, and her wondering if she is an object (being a company asset) left the story flat and superficial. Leading on from this, I did like the conundrum of whether Kaitlyn is alive, has rights, or is owned. But we never get any type of resolution, it’s only pondered.

Aaliyah’s narrative is the one saving grace, it was gritty, raw and heart-breaking. But as her story continued I became less interested. The choices she made, and some handling of the situation by the author left it feeling less and less authentic. But I highly commend the tackling of shocking and confronting material. A huge trigger warning for sensitive types – this book revolves around human trafficking, sexual abuse and rape. I personally found it to be vile and skipped over those parts. It’s not in my taste, but well written to have me feeling so disgusted.

Julia Crane should have done a little more research in maritime jargon to add authenticity as well, some of language was laughable. But ‘Fractured Innocence’ is another quick read, and not for everyone. I had so many problems with this it’s hard to give it a proper review without sounding like I’m completely flaming the book.

My copy had several typos and formatting errors, like it was not proofread properly. I feel embarrassed for Julia, issues like this are a red flag to me as far as quality goes.

Overall, a bit of an inconsistent, hot mess. Definitely great potential, and Julia Crane has the makings of a great writer, but ‘Fractured Innocence’ needs a few more drafts before I’d recommend it to anyone.

Overall feeling: Flatlined

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Fractured Innocence Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 – ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ by Holly Black

The double edged sword of having Fae folk as neighbours.. it can only be delicious and terrifying.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? 

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I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ – Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.

I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.

The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, dispatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.

Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.

Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.

Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.

A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.

Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?

Overall feeling: One word – Cute.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 – ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson

A quirky tale with an important message. Some fun, but don’t forget your tissues!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. 

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It has been quite a while since I’ve read a novel in the GLBT genre – so I thought it was about time to mix it up with ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ What it brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.

Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.

Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.

Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.

I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.

It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.

Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.

Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.

Overall feeling – Simple, impressive even if it was predictable

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The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 – Across the Universe Trilogy by Beth Revis

From ‘meh’ to marvellous.

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Honestly – it took me two years to finish this series. While I liked the premise of an arc of humanity journeying through the stars, off to colonise another planet, and issues raised on how different factions evolved over the journey, and their ultimate clash against each other, the first two books were lacking that special spark to keep my interest. (Which is why there is so much time in between reading each instalment – I needed to let my disappointment fade and get excited for the next book.)

But that gives a big disservice to this trilogy, for the last book is by far the best – better story line, better characters, better plot and execution. It is streaks above the previous two.

With alternating P.O.V’s between ship-born and leader Elder, and a newly awakened from her cryogenic stasis, Amy; I felt like the narrative kept getting interrupted, and it prevented me in truly losing myself in the book.

I had difficulty relating to Elder in the first novel, and some intensity was missing from the coupling of Amy and Elder to enable me to really care about them being together. The second book raised the stakes and had some great plot twists. We see some great character development and pacing, but I still had the same issues with Elder as I had in the debut, and it was hard for me to care about their story at all. Additionally, the way religion was brought into the narrative didn’t sit well with me either, I think It could have been executed in a much better fashion.

In the final novel though, without the influence of the familiar surrounds, Elder finally gets to step up and flex some muscle. The cast face some physical and political dangers all set on an alien planet. The elements that had previously urked me were gone.

Still uncertain if I would recommend this series to my friends – suffering through the first two books was uncomfortable – but luckily Beth Revis’ writing style lend itself to a quick read. Then you can enjoy the goodness of the last instalment. It’s so unusual for the difference in ratings across the series, but it is what it is. Targeted towards a younger market, but dealing with some heavy issues like racism, free will, rape, abuse, drugs, faith, and murder.

I’m interested to see how Beth’s latest release (‘A World Without You’) is in comparison to these, it will probably be the deciding factor as to whether I’ll pick up any more of her titles.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Across the Universe’ –

A Million Suns’ –

Shades of Earth’

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© 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 – ‘Don’t Look Back’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A great story, but left me on the fence…

Don't Look Back Book Reivew Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all – popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the truth about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory – someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

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This was a quick read. Mysterious. And the type of well written narrative I’ve come to expect from Jennifer L. Armentrout. A welcome change from the long, intimate and angsty titles she also writes.

I’ve been in the middle of three other books for a while, and though they are interesting and I’m enjoying them, my progress was sputtering and needed a novel that I could get through quickly, fast paced, and a story to keep me hooked – ‘Don’t Look Back’ was all that. And thank goodness, staved off the possibility of falling into a reading slump.

Don't Look Back Book Reivew Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifI liked the aspect with memory loss, how Sam, our protagonist, was a blank slate and able to re-invent herself, leaving the mean girl she was behind. Her love interest, Carson is also another great excuse to indulge in ‘Don’t Look Back,’ gorgeous, loyal, and a voice of reason.

I was frustrated for much of the book, though, as Sam struggled to fill in the gaps of her missing memories. I’m kind of over the whole I have amnesia plot line. It’s overdone. To compound my dissatisfaction, Sam was a little dumb. She dismissed clues too easily, didn’t push and ask questions, and ignored her instincts most of the time. It was infuriating. I was so close to screaming at the book for her to wake up and do something. So I guess Sam engaged me really well – even if it wasn’t in the best way possible. And to that effect, I did not relate to her all that easily, but I loved the mystery she was trying to puzzle out.

The other thing that irked me is that I had guessed the entire plot very early on in the book. It was like I’d already read a summary somewhere. I don’t know if I picked up on the clues without difficulty, or if the narrative did a poor job at setting up the story, but it was difficult to really immerse myself in the novel when the plot was so glaringly obvious.

But I have a soft spot for Jennifer L. Armentrout. I have fallen in love with so many of her other books. I love her writing style – it has an easy tenor, and she manages to round out the cast members, giving them fantastic back stories. She is an expert at building tension and angst and always has a hunky love interest.

Don’t Look Back’ had shades of the television series ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and ‘The Lying Game’ so if you enjoyed those – this will be right up your alley. I’m on the fence if I’d recommend it though. It’s written in a tone for younger audiences, so possibly tweens would get much more out of it than I did.

Overall feeling: pretty good.

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© 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 – ‘Why Not Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

Real life. Real empowerment. Said with a smile.

Why Not Me Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 240

From Goodreads:

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper. 

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While ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ was a collection of random stuff that was very much like taking a peek inside Mindy Kaling’s brain, ‘Why Not Me’ is like reading her journal. Though it in not as funny as the first book, it deals with topics of more substance. I still laughed out loud in parts, but appreciated her candor and insights – and really, truly, believe Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal. Without a doubt. Full stop.

Some parts of the narrative felt a bit waffly, and Mindy tends to wander off the topic many, many times. But that is her style. She is being genuine and true to her way of addressing the world. I actually appreciated it more than in the first book because it mirrors my own thought processes. My stream of consciousness doesn’t travel in a straight line, but jump all over the place before returning to the current topic. I’m like a dog whose attention is grabbed by a squirrel. SQUIRREL!

Why Not Me Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I liked her musings over weight and food (and it should never be an issue – but it seems as women, our bodies will always be attached to our achievements. Sad but true.) Snippets of dating and making friends. Every nerd, book lover, outlier, goes through motions of doing ridiculous things to make friends, impress people, or try to fit in. Mindy’s honesty is like casting a gaze back into my own history and recognising a kindred spirit that has done many an idiotic and incidental event in order to have someone like me. Or something inexplicably random – just because – no reason… and wondered what the hell they put in the water to make me do or say such a thing. Damn Commie Bastards!

I liked her views on confidence, bravery and fear towards the end, but the reading did not feel as compelling as it should, and left the ending feeling a little flat.

But another, quick, enjoyable read from Mindy that will help enlighten other girls, women, and gay men around the globe to stand up and go for your dreams without sham and doubt. Recommended. That is all.

Overall feeling: Mindy always makes me want to dance.

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© 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.