Book Review – ‘Zeroes’ by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Whirlwind action from multiple perspectives!

Zeroes Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal

No. of pages: 546

From Goodreads:

Don’t call them heroes.

But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart. They can do stuff ordinary people can’t.

Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases. 

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Zeroes’ is such an amazing book! I loved it.

I was a little put off by the constant head-jumping. We’re treated to perspectives of all of the team members of the Zeroes team (and Mob); and while that usually annoys the heck out of me, the pacing and writing style of these three authors maintained my interest. It is the first example that I have read in a really long time of multiple POV’s that actually works.

Zeroes Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleColourful, realistic and diverse characters. It was refreshing to explore the personalities and backstories (as well as personal relationships) of the cast as they slowly unfolded throughout the book. There was always something happening, and every event drove the plot forward. It was such an intricately and expertly woven plot I was never bored, though in some areas it did feel a little long.

I loved the mythology behind the power system of the teens abilities – how it boiled down to connection of some sort (or lack thereof). A brilliant take on superpowers. And how there is a downside to their abilities as well – every element of this book is fully developed and realised.

I was never quite sure where the story was going – the way it was written left you wandering if you were going to get thrown a curve ball or not. Great praise to the narrative to deliver such a tone of delicious uncertainty. Pacing is excellent – I was always eager to see what happened next – the alternate perspectives added to that tension, especially with many of the chapters ending on cliff-hangers.

The only reason I’m deducting a point from a perfect rating is because of the confusion I had about which character I was reading about – each with their own name and a superhero name – I had to keep reminding myself who was who. That, and the book was a little long, the extended internal monologues spaced some events too far apart. Although interesting, if boiled down more, the pacing in ‘Zeroes’ would have been supersonic.

Cute ending. Highly recommended. And can’t wait for the next in the series ‘Swarm’ due out next month.

Overall feeling: Tell all your friends – read this book!

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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 – ‘Triton’ by Dan Rix

B-grade horror between the pages!

Triton Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 334

From Goodreads:

In the middle of the Atlantic, four hundred miles west of Bermuda, the eight thousand passengers and crew aboard the cruise ship MS Cypress vanish into thin air. Everyone—men, women, and children—all gone. Taken.

Everyone except five teenagers.

In an instant, their seven day cruise becomes a nightmare: eighteen decks of haunted hallways, pools and bars completely empty, desserts still half-eaten in the abandoned Royal Promenade. A ghost ship the size of a city, sailing blind. At least their annoying parents are gone.

But now strange things are happening. Satellites are dropping out of orbit, falling from the sky. Satellites…and bigger things. They’re not as alone as they think. A message appears in an ancient language, burned into the carpet in the deck ten elevator lobby. It’s a warning. A monster lurks onboard, hunting them. What they’ve long suspected appears certain: the vanishing…it was an attack.

Now the most unlikely of friends must confront the shadowy pasts that link them and regain control of a runaway cruise ship, crack a four-thousand-year-old mystery, and wage war on a formless evil…before they too vanish into oblivion.  

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I have been really enjoying one of Dan Rix’s series, and wanted to pick up some of his stand-alones to see what else the author has to offer. ‘Triton’ called to me. I love books that mix in oceanic undertakings, and this looked like a spooky adventure on the seas. I should have taken into account this was one of his earlier works because it didn’t quite hit the mark for me…

The first half of the book was painful. With a cast of annoying characters none of whom I could relate to (or even like) and it took too long to set up the premise of the story. So I spent my time grunting, groaning and eye rolling in exasperation… goodness knows what my flat mate thought I was doing with all the strange noises coming out of my bedroom.

These characters acted with inappropriate behaviour bordering on mental illness. So not only was I having difficulty in relating to them, but their course of action just about gave me a migraine. Many, many times I felt their behaviour did not match their circumstances. It boggled my brain at how out of context it all was. Talk about a bunch of bipolar teens running around paranoid on a ghost ship.

Pacing picked up in the second half, and the cast became marginally less annoying. Though, their decision making was still circumspect. I don’t think I really cared for any of them at any point in this novel.

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I enjoyed the science fiction elements immensely, the premise of the story is a great hook – I was really excited about ‘Triton.’ With a great concept, pacing and the fact I did not predict the major plot twist at all, ‘Triton’ has so much going for it… it’s just the annoying cast! Argh! Also, the conclusion felt like a let-down to me personally… while magnificent, it was not something that washed me in awe; or got me excited. Not that I’d want to change the ending (though an alternative ending would be fun) but maybe re-written to keep the mystery and magnitude of the reveal. Give me that pay-off!

Triton’ possesses some great writing and story mechanics; woeful characters, motivation, and behaviour; and a so-so storyline that balances this out to just an under-average read for me. I’m glad this is one of Rix’s earlier works, because if this was a latest release I’d be seriously reconsidering my fanship.

It is an okay read, but not a book I’d recommend easily.

Overall feeling: WTF?!

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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.

How to you say politely ‘you missed the point’ to an author?

How to say you missed the point Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI read a review copy for a fellow writer on his novel recently, and was horrified to find he’d not even paid attention to the basics of writing a book… So what key elements do you need to make your manuscript successful?

This author is semi successful, he has a number of books self-published, and I have to admit, the premise of his story is very intriguing. His writing style is easy to read and his pacing and action scenes are up there with the best of them. But I found myself continually frustrated. Some essential aspects to writing a novel had been ignored… and I was like, why? WHY!

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Apologies if this post has started off as a little bit of a rant, but it leads us to an important question:

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How to say you missed the point Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle – yeah, I know, how could you miss this one? In the first chapter (maybe two) it’s important to build the world in which your protagonist lives. Introduce the main cast. Make your protagonist relatable in some respect so the reader invests their time in reading you book and the challenger he/she faces. Set up the challenges/quest/problem/whatever it is your character is about to set upon for the course of your novel… and show the stakes for failure.

How to say you missed the point Pic 06 by Casey CarlislePlace your protagonist through their paces. Set them challenges, have them fail, risk losing something important. This gives your character the chance to develop their motive, and develop as a person. All your characters should have a motive – a reason they are there, why they do what they do, and some objective they want to achieve. The more difficult you make it to achieve that goal, generally the more interesting the story.

Build the pace and tension (or angst). Put more and more pressure on your protagonist, each chapter should drive the story forward and increase the stakes for your main character. A series of cool action scenes does not a good book make.

The whole point of this is to lead up to a turning point for the character. A place in the story where the events of the novel have changed him/her in some significant way. This may or may not coincide with the climax of your story.

How to say you missed the point Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle – This is where all the really cool stuff goes down. It should be the most engaging part of you novel. It’s an all stakes battle, the part where your protagonist risks everything. Declaring their love for someone they are not sure will return the feelings, leaping from that cliff hoping their psychic abilities will finally help them fly, you get the picture. It should be epic. The quest, plot points resolved so that the reader is satisfied your protagonist has achieved what they set out to do: it doesn’t have to be a physical thing, like getting to the top of that mountain, it could be a spiritual journey, like a woman has finally accepted that it’s okay to be alone and that she doesn’t need a man to make her feel whole. Anything as long as you have made it clear in the beginning that this was your protagonists reason to start the journey in the first place.

You can leave some plot points open ended depending on your writing style, or if you are planning to write a series, but you need to resolve it enough to give the reader a  decent pay-off for investing their time in reading your book.

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Now all of this may sound pretty obvious in writing a story – well, to me it does. But then I’ve studied Literature, read tons of books, and love to then discuss and critique what I read. Some authors don’t have that background and decide to write a novel with a view to self-publish. I say go for it! But please take the time to have a professional in the Literary or Publishing Industry look at your work.

Not all the points mentioned above apply to your manuscript, and there is still a plethora of points I’ve skipped. But it was this core basic concept that had been overlooked in this review copy, and let’s face it, you read one bad novel and that author is going to look unprofessional, and you’re unlikely to revisit any of his/her titles again.

Professionals will help identify clearly the big issues around plot, content, character development, etc. so why not use them? There are plenty of writing groups online and fellow authors who would extend a helping hand, so why not use that resource?

I love positivity and encouraging other writers – it’s important to have a nurturing space in order to hone our craft. But I think the biggest lesson from this experience was, not only to address the basics of storytelling, but not to rush into publishing your novel without it having gone through a decent editing/feedback process.

We all want to leave our mark on the world, share out story, so let’s give it the best possible chance to succeed.

We are okey!

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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.

#bookporn

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I’m going into this one blind – I know nothing about it, and relying on the great recommendations of friends. Hope it lives up to expectations…

Let me know if you loved this one?

Am I good enough?

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Helping writers deal with anxiety.

Pretty much everyone in the literary world when creating a piece of work has a moment of doubt (or many). For some it can be crippling. For others, its a moment that is easy to push past and get on with the job.

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A writer friend of mine gets so worried about their work and what others might think about it, that even after coming up on ten years of writing, not a single manuscript has seen the light of day. Constantly re-writing or scrapping parts to start over. Emotions run high, depression and mood swings from moments of being sure that this is ‘the’ vocation – to calling it a hobby, and nothing about that is good or serious.

That would seriously drive me crazy!

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I’m lucky enough that I had to deal with constructive criticism early in life. I was a dancer. Ballroom and Latin. I even went on to win two Australian titles in the 90’s. With that, hours of rehearsal under the speculative gaze of my peers and adjudicators, all judging me on my appearance, movement, technique… and at first it felt personal. It’s hard not to. You are being judged on how you look, your facial expressions, body shape, how you walk, raise your arm… it’s very intimate. So you have to learn when someone says “that’s ugly” they aren’t calling you ugly: it’s the combination of all the little parts that go into your presentation that aren’t meshing well.

It took some time to grow a thick skin and learn that sort of criticism can be gold if handled well.

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Comparatively, writing rings a very similar note. It’s also intimate. We put our blood, sweat and tears into the whole thing. We live it. It is an extension of our own being. So negative comments – or fear of them – is debilitating.

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We need to get that into the frame of mind that criticism, reviews, input from others is only going to help us improve the manuscript. And also let us know what parts we were torturing ourselves over, is in fact, relevant.

Critical writing partners and beta readers have helped me wheedle out parts of a manuscript that weren’t working, elements which are derivative, and other parts that are great. It also let me know about some things I wasn’t sure of – many times my consternation was completely unwarranted.

Yes, I got that ice cold weight in the pit of my stomach when handing over pages for my colleagues to read. But once you do it a few times it becomes easier. Especially when you see how your writing evolves into a much more fantastic creature.

It’s easier to say, push through it. Everybody is different and handles criticism with varying degrees of emotional attachment. But if you can start viewing your completed manuscript as something you can improve (through market research, using critique partners and beta readers) and develop that critical eye, you are setting yourself up to stay the distance as a writer.

No one wants to be crippled by fear. You’re not writing all those pages to forever remain in a box under your bed.

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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.