Book Review – ‘Down in the Darkness’ by Dean Koontz

An unexpected (but scary) surprise.

Down in the Darkness Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror

No. of pages: 109

From Goodreads:

 The strange highways of human experience – the adventures, terrors, failures, and triumphs encountered on the roads that are chosen, and on those detoured by fate. As profound as it is mesmerizing. 

Down in the Darkness deals with  discovering a magical door in his new house that appears when he needs it – that is when he need something to disappear. He’s been down there and felt the malevolent evil that lurks floors below. Evil that in the entrance to Hell itself. But the question is, if he used the door to solve his problems is he condemning himself to be locked down there himself someday, surrendering to his own darkness within? To be trapped in darkness below in eternal torture.

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This was a random pick from Dean Koontz’s back catalogue. I like to occasionally choose something from a favourite author without knowing anything about the title and flying by the seat of my pants. ‘Down in the Darkness’ was the perfect choice; I had an afternoon to kill and this novella filled the time perfectly.

It reminded me of Ronald Dahl, something dark, something with a twisted sense of righteousness. And sufficiently spooky. An old fashioned campfire tale about a supernatural cellar door.

Down in the Darkness Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleMexican couple, Carmen and Jesus “Jeff” Gonzalez with their three children (Stacy Heather and Joe) buy a new house. But Jeff is the only one to see the mysterious door to the basement, neither the real estate agent nor his family catch the apparition when it appears.

Upon investigation, Jeff feels a foreboding, flashing back to his two year internment at a prison camp. In the almost tactile shadows down many flights of stairs behind the door he senses an entity that knows all. That would punish all it consumes for eternity.

Jeff is faced with a number of choices: dish out justice for the corrupt and greedy landlord of his family restaurant; and his prison camp torture master returned from the past… was the door bringing about these opportunities?

Would you embrace the darkness?  Just merely acknowledging its existence leaves its hooks in your soul and it wields you like a tool, collecting the souls of those it wants. Which journey will Jeff take when he knows his soul is in the balance?

A great moralistic tale in the style of Koontz I’ve come to know and love. Fantastic diverse characters, interesting backstories… even though this is one of his earlier works, it has all the creepiness and sophistication that I enjoy in his writing.

I believe it is now only available in a bind-up called ‘Strange Highways’ and guess you can expect many bite sized Koontz goodness, so if you are new to this author or this genre, it might be a good place to start before you jump into some of his lengthier works.

Even with the amount of fun I had reading ‘Down it the Darkness,’ having been exposed to many other titles of Dean’s, I found it a little simplistic; and, even though I was sufficiently wigged out, I’ve been scared much worse in other titles.

Overall feeling: creepy dude!

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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.

Book Review – ‘Fatal Abduction’ by Julia Crane

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse…

Fatal Abduction Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

There’s a serial killer at large. His victims just happen to resemble Kaitlyn—dark haired, pale skin and athletic build. Kaitlyn goes undercover, attending a prestigious high school to try to lure the killer into a trap and save the lives of other potential victims. Will she be able to catch the killer before his body count rises? Or will she become the next victim? 

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I’m glad to be done with this series.

When did Kaitlyn turn into a 40 year old noir gumshoe? Seriously, Julia Crane needs to set up her motivations and stop making generic statements which are out of character. This book was one big sarcastic eye-roll for me.

So much flawed reasoning and immature behaviour. Many situations feel like they are half out of context. I was skimming and angry reading. It was frustrating but my OCD had me seeing it right through to the end – I can’t leave something unfinished. And I had to find out what happened.

This final book in the trilogy (hopefully) added yet more perspectives: Madeline, then Kaitlyn, Elliot and Eliza… No one book in this collection is in the same format as another. It is agitating. We also see an Ouija board used as a plot device, which certainly did not match the mythology/history of the series and felt cheap.

Kaitlyn broke character as well – her train of thought bordered on paranoid, which digressed from her established personality in the previous books and did feel not realistic for a girl her age.

Eliza had her head screwed on right and I was starting to enjoy ‘Fatal Abduction’ in parts until just after halfway through, and then I lost all hope. This character would be the books redeeming quality as far as the multiple protagonists go, but the behaviour of her parents added to the books descent into ridiculousness.

The only other good point I can think to mention was that the last five or so chapters had great pacing and action scenes. I was hoping this series would get better, but it became more disjointed and convoluted. I wound not recommend these books to anyone I know. Interesting concepts, but needs to go back to the drawing board, address the basics in storytelling and go through an extensive editing/vetting process.

The print was bad too – askew on the page throughout the entire book. How can a writer get things so consistently wrong in every aspect of the writing-publishing process? Every book in this series has had spelling errors, grammatical errors, formatting issues and low production quality…. I should also lump the publishing team in with this, they are responsible for representing the author and preventing this kind of low quality getting to bookstores. Valknut Press – you need to up your game.

Overall feeling: Don’t bother – seriously!

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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.

Book Review – ‘If I Was Your Girl’ by Meredith Russo

A touching story about self-acceptance and finding your place.

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

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The first thing that drew me to ‘If I Was Your Girl’ was the amazing cover art; and the second was when I found out it was a contemporary with a transgender protagonist. I’ve read a few other titles similar and enjoyed the concepts of identity and social anxiety – they make compelling stories.

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI found Amanda, our protagonist, to be strong but a little naive and a somewhat whiny – but it worked for her age and to set up her hearts desires. It was easy to relate to the fear and anxiety Amanda goes through and how it is always there, as it would be with anyone hiding a big secret. The treatment of questions about her old name, body parts and surgeries, and how they should never be asked just made sense. It’s intimate and personal and is passive-aggressive, if not a form of bullying to ask if you do not have a close relationship. But it is always one of the first questions out of people’s mouths when they discover someone is transgender. It actually taught me some deportment in handling this issue, and for that I am thankful. The last thing I want to do is come across as rude and mean in the face of someone who is going through a difficult journey.

In comparison to the other novels I’ve read tackling transgender issues, ‘If I Was Your Girl’ is the most realistic representation I’ve read of a trans character to date – with a focus more on the person and their relationships instead of Gender Identity and using it as a plot reveal.

Amanda’s love interest, Grant was a bit of a larrikin. Your typical boy, but with a worldly compassion shaped from his experiences. It was nice to read something that was positive, strong and kinda cute. It brought issues into a real world landscape and gave the characters a chance to react organically.

The violence described in this book that Amanda lived through felt a bit much. I understand it is a real issue for transgender teens, but for me personally, was confronting and didn’t add much to the story. Although, its educating readers to real world fears people like Amanda face – it makes a blunt, horrific point which I find disgusting and devastating.

I didn’t like the flashbacks interspersed throughout the story so much. I much prefer the narrative style to discover the past through one poignant moment, or through conversation. Frequent time jumping always pulls me from the story.

I had issue with a few things – but after reading the Author’s Note, feel they are less important now. Many things were written in a way about Amanda and her circumstances to make ‘If I Was Your Girl’ easy and relatable, losing some realism. But still, I would have liked some more realistic characters and reactions.

A great book about a girl’s emotional journey into adulthood.

Overall, this was a heart-warming contemporary. The storyline itself felt a little simple. But the character development was great. Pleasant writing style, not heavy with the feels, but enough to hit you with what is important. I read the entire book in a day. Pacing is great, I put the book down once for a short rest.

One little factoid I read somewhere is that the cover model is a transgender teen, which I felt added another dynamic to the novel. I was really impressed with Meredith Russo’s writing and look forward to see what she produces next.

Overall feeling – cuteness with a message

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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.


#book quotes Challenger Deep by Casey Carlisle

Challenger Deep‘ is an unusual book with an important message around metal health. I love the perspective it contained, and was particularly taken with this quote over suicide.

No-one should feel like it is the only option, or the only way to ask for help.