#bookporn

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Rainbow reads I purchased in October. Some steamy, some contemporary. Can’t wait to start ‘Not Your Sidekick’ – think I’ll start with that one first.

Diversity! Gay male protagonist. Bisexual protagonist. Lesbian Protagonist.

Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

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This series was spread over two and a half years, mainly because the first novel dragged out all the feels and left me with a book hangover; the second did little to add to the story and left me with disappointment; and the third, though a great read, did not live up to the heights of the debut.

I jumped into ‘Flat-Out Love’ when it had just been released and there was plenty of hype. At that time I had not read a novel dealing with grief and loss or mental disorders. The romance was unique for me as well. My reading habits were steeped in Adventure, Science Fiction and Horror; so this contemporary felt like something amazing and new, opening up a world in a new genre. As you can imagine I gave it a rave review, grabbed by the witty facebook status updates and Julie’s angst over Finn and Matt.

I immediately jumped online and ordered a copy of ‘Flat-Out Matt’ hoping for more Park goodness… it was in the era where ‘Midnight Sun’ from ‘Twilight’ Author Stephanie Meyer got leaked, and many authors were starting to release books of the same plotline, but from a different character’s perspective. After such a great high, I got a big dip. There wasn’t a lot of new content, no new insights, it was basically a recap of ‘Flat-Out Love.’

It took me another two years before I picked up the last title in this series from Park, the middle book had scared me off. But ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ managed to redeem the author somewhat in my eyes, although it was missing the wit and irony I had loved so much in the debut – and it took a little while to start liking the main character. There was also a watering down of angst and issues dealt with in ‘Flat-Out Love.’ It was in a word: charming. The great thing about it is that you get a jump six years into the future and get a snapshot of how things turned out from the first book.

Overall Park’s writing is great. It has a lyrical sophistication that will engross you. It suffers somewhat with long inner monologues, and sometimes, repetition of particular phrases. But all are engaging and she can really set a great pace, building to a climax that is emotionally messy and satisfying at the same time. ‘Flat-Out Love’ is clearly the best by a mile, and I would only recommend the other books in the series to hardcore fans. They all have elements of Christmas, the loss of a loved one, and learning to live with mental blocks/disorders.

I want to say the characters are kind of quirky – but not in a cute way – in a damaged way. Jessica Park has lost her shine for me as nothing has lived up to the first novel, which I highly recommend (you can skip the rest). I might be tempted to try some of her newer releases ‘Clear’ and the ‘Left Drowning’ series, but they aren’t anything I’m rushing out to purchase. With a great writing style, complex characters Park has a lot going for her writing, so maybe I’ll cave and read some more next year. Watch this space.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Flat-Out Love’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/book-review-flat-out-love/

Flat-Out Matt’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/book-review-flat-out-matt/

Flat-Out Celeste’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/book-review-flat-out-celeste-by-jessica-park/

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 – ‘Cursed’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Another great addition to the JLA collection…

Cursed Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Dying sucks.

…and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. 

After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.

Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things–including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden’s adopted father, a man she’s sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister’s hand again. And hell, she’d also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn’t?

But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not’ve been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life.

For real this time.

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Cursed’ hooked me from the first page. A great premise, well-paced, and a fast read. I could see this as a start of a series, though currently it is sold as a standalone. There were plenty of elements introduced that weren’t tied up which could lead to many story arcs over a series. But having said that, it rounds up well enough to leave you with some satisfaction of a fun paranormal read.

I liked the supernatural aspect with abilities, but was wishing for more of the mythology and exploration of this aspect, maybe some origin stories.

Our protagonist, Ember, came off like a big emo/goth chick at first, and I thought I’d have some difficulty relating to her, but overall, I became invested in her story quite early on. She had her girly over-acting moments, which got me a little worried over the direction of her character, though, I found her to be level headed and intelligent.

I still would have liked to have found out about how Ember and the rest of the youngsters at the Cromwell place made up a unit of some kind. It was mentioned, but never fully explored. An X-men style gang sounds like a fun direction for the novel/series.

On the romantic side of things, it had a beautiful build to love, and a cute ending for Ember. Felt like a warm hug.

Her little sister was adorable, but infuriating. It bothered me how she always got her way and was oblivious of the cost… maybe a bit more realism would have rounded her out as a loveable character, other than someone I wanted to strangle.

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I was disappointed about Adam – I really liked him and wanted more… We saw so much in the beginning chapters and then… *poof* gone in a cloud of smoke.

The love interest, Hayden, is a character I had a love/hate relationship with. The “misunderstood guy” storyline was dragged out a bit too much for my liking. But fun to have such a swoon-worthy man to drool over. Some of his over-protective qualities and stalkiness were a bit creepy and set of my alarm bells *Warning Will Robinson. Warning* I was really hoping Armentrout was going to deconstruct the trope that we see a lot in in YA, but alas, it remained true to the stereotype.

I definitely didn’t like Mr Cromwell (who ran the Cromwell place,) and I don’t think that will change – the way he operates is a little nefarious and does not match what he says he is trying to achieve. We never do understand why he behaves the way he does, even though his motives are explained.

The plot was mostly predictable, felt a little contrived, where some events seemed steered by the author for dramatic flair rather than unfold organically. It was a little light in tone, and could have gotten darker, angstier with the subject matter; but a lot of those opportunities were passed up – I guess if this was a debut of a new series Armentrout would have gone there, instead choosing a fun, exciting stand-alone. It’s a pity, because with what was set up in ‘Cursed’ it could lead to a great new collection – I say this because as a standalone many things weren’t resolved to my liking, and it would take another two to three novels to explore them fully in an action packed story arc.

Shame about the cover art – it didn’t appeal to me that much – and doesn’t match the Ember described in the pages… more effort could have gone into reflecting the main character and tone of the book succinctly.

Recommend to lovers of the paranormal, Jennifer L. Armentrout. This story is in the same vein of ‘Shatter Me,’ ‘Zeroes’ and ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.’

Overall feeling: Yeah. Pretty good.

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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.

Naked Man Covers

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Shirtless men, hot men barely dressed flexing muscles… when I see them on book covers I get a small amount of titillation – but also get turned off…

Romance, erotica, and contemporary novels have become inundated with pictures of buff young guys in various states of undress (or completely starkers.) And while I appreciate the male form and get some A-grade eye-candy, or some fun from an occasional oggle. It puts an ironic smile on my face to see them adorn my favourite things.

While sometimes the attractiveness of the cover model will entice me to peek between the covers. (What am I looking for – a naughty look under his clothes? Saucy firsthand knowledge of his lovemaking skills?) Most of the time it’s when I’m browsing online. I’d never pick it up in a book store! That’s way too embarrassing. It might label me as the needy girl who only reads erotica… how dumb is that?

naked-man-covers-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleAnother aspect to the scantily clad musculature of the male figure decorating literature is the fact that it practically yells “BUY ME!” Like a desperate attempt to get you to reach into your purse and fork over the money. Like you bought the guy all for yourself. There’s a word for that…

So now, after such over-exposed collection of title after title, I get turned off pretty man covers. Maybe I’ve been desensitized?

It’s a little embarrassing, and a lot insulting being barraged by so much skin as a selling point. This objectification is mostly romance, erotica, contemporary and some YA. Ultimately, if the cover art has become the most unimaginative way to market a book. And this girl ain’t buying.

Can’t we find some more artistic photography? Or symbolism? Or Typography? I don’t want to sound like a snob, but this types of cover art feels a bit low-brow and does little to convey the concept of the plot within its pages, other than one of the protagonists (or the love interest) is a hunky guy. I want more than that from my reading material.

I’m not having a rant, rather just observing trends in the market. I’ve seen other covers that are stunning which do not have a parts of the male form, airbrushed, adorning the dustjacket. Usually they depict something intrinsic to the plot, something that makes me pick up the book for a closer look. Books that are character driven and not a collection of scenes of intimate encounters. I like a ‘hot-damn’ moment as much as the next girl, but I want a build up of ambience, some tension, angst, wooing. As well as an interesting storyline.

Naked man covers, while sexy and alluring, don’t scream “intelligent plot and interesting characters” to me. Oh my gosh – am I becoming an elitist! Shoot me now!

What’s your take on overt sexuality on book covers – is it getting too much or can’t you get enough?

It might be great with the objectification of men rather than women for once, and I do enjoy a hottie now and then, but shouldn’t we mix it up?

Food for thought – something to think about when you purchase your next novel – what part does the cover play in adding it to your shopping cart…

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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 Countdown’ by Kimberly Derting

Alien abduction, hybrids, and government conspiracies… wrapped up in a teen romance.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. 

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clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xiaIt’s the Final Countdoooowwn! clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xia – sorry couldn’t resist. With this final instalment in The Taking trilogy, I was looking forward to a mammoth dramatic end to what has been a fun sci-fi read. But there was a lot going on. A lot of characters and points of view in the narrative. It was confusing and made me dizzy. It took me half the novel to catch up and work out what was going on.

I’ve said it so many times before: I’m not a fan of multiple perspectives.

However, after a disappointing and slow first half, the storyline began to pick up. I could barely put the novel down as I neared the finish line. We got some great pacing and tension. For the last book in a trilogy it should be this way throughout – there are so many ends to tie up, questions to answer. It should be explosive.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleThere’s still a tone of immaturity about Kyra and her friends, though I can see how she has grown as a character, I didn’t get all that invested in her or the story. Which is disappointing. The attention the first book of the series really captured my imagination, but things went awry here.

Tyler, our love interest and cute in the-boy-next-door way, only had that going for him. I kept wanting to get more substance. For him to pony up. I hate to say it, but Tyler was a little… forgettable.

Simon, another of the returned and member of their ‘Scooby Gang’ started to grow on me. He was showing some moxy and putting a spanner in the works. This boy had back bone, and then at the end of the novel, I was like – where did all that go. Feelings like that aren’t resolved in an instant…. The resolution felt like little bit of a cop out.

Adam (the alien), the only other character of note didn’t give me that desperation to survive and be reunited with his race I was hoping for. There wasn’t even thankfulness at Kyra and Tyler’s sacrifice to help him escape… It really felt like all the nuance of characters we got earlier on wasn’t carried through right to the end of the trilogy. Characters are the lifeblood of your story, and you need to pay them a lot of attention.

As far as plot goes, it was still light on the explanations; though we get all the relevant answers. Something about the explanation still doesn’t sit right with me. I liked the ending, and considering the romanticism of it all, was surprised there wasn’t an alternate conclusion – I think it would have been a much more impactful ending if it opened up this trilogy to a new world of possibilities. We love to dream about the what-if’s in sci-fi!

Maybe it was the attitudes of the scientists – oversimplified and some forced to fit into the role of a villain… or not. It had me wondering where the complexity was…

As much as I enjoyed the experience reading this, the characters were pretty interchangeable and bland. Their personalities could have shined in obtuse, quirky ways to add a larger dynamic to the narrative. All in all, it was “just nice.”

Great escapism for YA readers. I’d only recommend it to those who have been engrossed by the series, but don’t get your hopes up. A light, easy to read narrative, even though a little scattered. I wanted much more from this final book, but it was still a satisfying conclusion.

Overall feeling: well that didn’t go as planned…

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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.