Down a dark path…

Dwelling briefly on the bad things that happen to us in life, can also bring out the good.

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I like to think I look at the brighter side of life. Stay positive and always aim for happiness and positivity. Though, you can’t have the light without the dark, and, as an exercise I wanted to explore some of the things that have greatly impacted on my life that I wish I could change – but that said, those difficult times have shaped me into a stronger person and taught me valuable lessons…

down-a-dark-path-pic-02-by-casey-carlisle – I want those ten years back I spent in hospital beds, visiting clinics and specialists for treatment and becoming a human pincushion. There is a chunk of growing up I missed. Things that you only get to experience when you’re young. I hear stories from my friends and wish I’d had similar experiences to go wild or be silly. I have always had to remain focused, never knowing how much time I have left. Some reckless abandon and teen milestones would have been nice.

down-a-dark-path-pic-03-by-casey-carlisle – Losing my mother destroyed any sense of family and security I had. It left me alone in this world and hammered home the fact that we are all alone, many people we call friends are untrustworthy and are out for what they can get. People I counted as friends turned and started grabbing for money and possessions. I stopped seeing the best in others for a while.  Losing my cherished pooches devastated me in an unexpected way. That loss of unconditional love fills your life with joy and happiness, and when it is gone you feel lost and empty. I know death is an inevitable part of life – we all have to deal. But I’d love to skip the pain and emptiness part. It’s debilitating and hangs around for years. After finally getting cancer into remission, I only had a short space of time before facing the Grim Reaper. It’s just another thing that has made me appreciate the present and live in the moment. Making life happy, going for your dreams and sharing the love has never been more important to me.

down-a-dark-path-pic-04-by-casey-carlisle – why is so much of our lives and happiness dependent on how much money we have? People steal it, owe it, try and trick you to get it. One of the most troubling times in my life and relationships has been over money. I wish it never existed sometimes. I worry about it less now, but there were times when I was seriously concerned about losing my home, having the electricity shut off and wondering when I could afford to buy food next. If anything it taught me to save, budget, live within my means and never be too prideful to ask for help.

down-a-dark-path-pic-05-by-casey-carlisle – how people treat and judge each other. I had my fair share of bullying growing up. And then rejection. From my family, the ones who are supposed to love you no matter what. It left me thinking everyone is insincere and vindictive. I never let anyone know my true self. There is always a big chunk of me that I hide. But nothing is more empowering than living out loud. At times, it’s hard to ignore the negativity and scowls around you, but the more you stop thinking about other people’s opinions and focus on your happiness, the more fulfilling your life will be.

down-a-dark-path-pic-06-by-casey-carlisle – At least a couple of times a week I get a flash in my head about something I’ve done, or said, that I wish I could change or erase. Why can’t I just accept that it is in the past and move on? Many of these events are small and trivial and don’t affect anyone. Some are over what impressions I felt I made on other people… and others have me wondering if I hurt someone else with words or actions… It makes me wonder if I’m wired differently, or I have a mental illness at times. I guess it’s a sign of compassion and caring for others, so I just have to accept I’m one of these people who wants to share the joy. It keeps me accountable for what I do, keeps my morals and standards high. Though is gives me worry at times, it keeps me aware of those around me that I love and appreciate.

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So, while all of the good times in my life far outweigh the bad, and some of these events, though difficult and life changing and haven’t come without a cost, I don’t think I would change them because I wouldn’t be the person I am today. But the whole ‘what if’ question leaves me imagining how life would have turned out if I’d managed to avoid these difficulties… hmm might be an idea for another novel 😉

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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.

Film vs Novel – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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There was a lot of hype around the release of both the film and the novel – but did it live up to expectations? Was the extrapolation onto the big screen true to the narrative of the book? I have some mixed feelings, but both mediums were highly entertaining.

I found ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ a bit slow at the start of the novel. With two false starts, I ended up persevering over a Sunday before I got hooked. The setting was described brilliantly, I really felt like I was there. A back drop of WWII almost felt like an homage to the battle within Jacob’s conscious, as well as the challenges the “Peculiars” faced. The twist on the origins of the gifted, or those with abilities – known as peculiars, in addition to the introduction of time manipulation was brilliant. Completely sucked me in. The melancholy strong in the narrative of the novel was replaced with eerie sense in the film. The movie also instantly throws us into the action, little time was spent setting up Jacob’s circumstances and frame of mind.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle.jpgTying in old photographs into the narrative brought a fresh aspect to the reading experience adding authenticity to the story. It’s great to find novels starting to break the mould when it comes to formatting and finding more interesting ways to present a story. They were equally represented in the film, though lost that air of creepy. I did like the colour grading of the movie though, a soft muting of colour and shift in hue gave the movie an old-time feel.

The writing style is mature for YA – there were a few words that I needed to look up in a dictionary – which I liked. I love learning new ways to express myself succinctly in print. The composition of Riggs sentences was almost lyrical at times, like an old fable. The dialogue of the Peculiar Children and Miss Peregrine matched the era they were living in, which added a layer of authenticity and fascination for me. Seeing this play out on the screen however, was sometimes a bit cheesy. Whether it was bad accents on the actors behalf, or their delivery of the lines, I found myself giving the side-eye at a few moments.

Thankfully, after a stumble through the beginning, the second half of the novel was incrementally more gripping. The movie, however, true to adaptations, was well paced and moved the story along quickly. I will say it took license to grandiose some of the scenes that had me wondering what the hell was going on – that wasn’t in the book!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgOur protagonist Jacob is an intelligent young man grappling with his own demons, wondering if he is mentally ill. I love how he grows throughout the novel, in small graded steps – it felt very realistic that he goes through small changes instead of one giant leap. You get a real sense of wonder and fascination through his eyes as he slowly starts to prove or disprove the stories his Grandfather has been telling him all his life. In the film, played by Asa Butterfield, I felt captured the hopelessness and depression of Jake’s life brilliantly. Out of all the casting – Asa matched how I pictured Jake the most. The slow and gradual development of his character transformed into a bit of a rush on the screen. His relationship with Emma was tweaked a little and brushed dangerously close to instalove.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgAs for the Peculiar Children, and Miss Peregrine… while I came to sort-of like them. There is still a lot of unknowns, and I’m sure we’ll get to know them more intimately in the following two books of the trilogy. Something about their behaviour was ‘off’ Even though they are likeable, until I hear some more backstory, or an origin story, I don’t think I’ll feel entirely comfortable with them. Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green in the film did a commendable job. I’ve seen her in other works and have to say the acting, make-up, and wardrobe really let her shine.

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I also have to mention how sufficiently creeped out by the white eyed wight in the novel. *shiver* Though the film gave them (and the hollowgast) a more comical tone and I wasn’t frightened at all… and can I mention the CGI – umm, yeah not spooky or matching the tone of the novel at all. Leading up to their reveal I was anxious, but as soon as their wriggly form appeared, I just wanted to shrug. Though to be fair, it they had been made too scary, it would have pushed the rating into ‘MA’ territory and completely missed the demographic.

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Pretty much all the characters were all interesting (even if they weren’t peculiar) for the novel, because they all had mysterious motivations. I’m dying to find out more. This was a great first book for a series in setting the scene and intrigue. With the movie, it destroyed a lot of the mystique for me. Sometimes it was stereotypical, sometimes over the top. Some of the characters cast with actors I felt too old for the part and didn’t look as though they were born in the era they were supposed to (see the photographs in the novel). Though their performances were good, the production lost authenticity for me – much in the way the Twilight franchise had with over-made-up actors.

I noted how the special abilities the characters possessed hailed more from the day of travelling Side-Shows rather than psychic powers or X-men type abilities, which I felt add to the ambiance of the novel, tying into the old photographs and the WWII setting. These abilities were tweaked in the movie to either be more present in the storyline, or add cinematic special effects. So much so that at the end of the movie I’m concerned that I’ve been spoiled for books two and three in the trilogy. Yes – the ending of the movie is different to the novel. I’m uncertain if it is because the movie is a solo endeavour, or because of poetic license, but things went down that I definitely did not read about, (about the wights, the hollowgast and their motives, not to mention Emma’s ability) and hope it hasn’t ruined the rest of the novels in the series for me. So maybe it’s better if you read the entire trilogy before viewing the film… I’ll let you know after I read ‘Hollow City.’

I got many surprises from the plot. There was an obvious aspect around Jacobs fate, which is needed for this series to work, but the rest of the arcs had me guessing. Which I loved. There are still a lot of surprises in the film too – its divergence from the plot of the novel, the special effects, the costuming, some added scenes. It’s all very entertaining, but the overall plot, like the book, is predictable.

A highly entertaining novel and film, and something I’d easily recommend to all my friends, family, strangers on the street… Really excited to see where this series goes. But the book slides in just above the movie for my rating. The entertainment value and ability to set the tone for characters and keep the scare factor of the darker elements of the story are far superior in written word.

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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 – ‘Nod’ by Adrian Barnes

A new twist on the (zombie) apocalypse.

nod-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 206

From Goodreads:

Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same golden dream. 

After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead. 

Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole.

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I picked this up because I’d heard it was a new take on a zombie-esque dystopian. I was not disappointed. It’s certainly a wild ride.

Nod’ is probably one of the more realistic depictions about the fall of the human race due to the sudden infection of a virus which leave most people no longer being able to sleep. Apart from a handful of survivors. The rest of society slowly goes insane under the throws of sleep deprivation. Our protagonist, Paul, writes down his experiences for this novel. Being compelled, as Paul is a writer and wants to leave it for someone, something… afterward.

I found it hard to connect with this novel. The writing style is deliciously descriptive, but the turn of phrase is so poetic that I kept having to re-read lines to garner true meaning from the author. Appreciation for this narrative comes in spades – but better swallowed in small chunks. With that said, there is a lot of action and the pacing is continually ramped up to drive the story forward. It’s about survival. There is no quest, no way out. Just getting through the next ten seconds, and the next ten after that, and so forth… all the while dealing with, or avoiding people descending into madness.

nod-book-review-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleSuch a unique concept. I found it fascinating.

There is a masculinity about the writing that kept me from truly connecting with the narrative, though the bleakness Barnes paints of the emerging world is garishly compelling.

It’s hard to discuss character development and plot when the message of this story is more philosophical. But like being unable to drag your eyes off a car wreck on the side of the highway as you drive slowly by – it’s oddly compelling.

Charles, one of the stories main antagonists is indicative of the messed-up world, both before and after the event. He embodies the fantastical world of Nod, the subject of Pauls half written novel he’d managed to steal a copy of. This book is a real mind bender, taking you towards part of the insanity itself.

If maybe there was a stronger female presence in the narrative, something to soften the sharp edges of the dystopian landscape, offer a place to juxtapose the desperate need to sleep, to survive, I would have enjoyed it more. Plus the narrative stylings of Barnes, though masterful, does not lead to an easy light read. This is a thinking man’s book. A lover of literature and philosophy and imagination. And as toffy as it sounds I’d only recommend this to the more high-brow reader. It’s not like the YA dystopians, it’s literal, bleak, and cerebral. But I’m glad I got to have the experience and share Paul’s world.

I guessed the ending – the tone of the narrative suggested that it wouldn’t end any other way, but the events that happened along the way… well, a book about mad people running around, it’s a bill of a rollercoaster. Zip and zag. Like I said, a lot of action.

Overall feeling: Gah! What a shizstorm! It’s all happening!

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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 Revolution of Ivy’ by Amy Engel

A dystopian that packs a punch…

the-reveloution-of-ivy-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 290

From Goodreads:

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.


But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

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An amazing follow up to ‘The Book of Ivy.’

Amy Engel is not afraid to go where she needs to go – to face an ugly reality and do what must be done – that is what wraps this duology up in a nut shell. It is beautiful and terrifying in all its hues, just like life.

Amy has a way of telling a story and developing a character that is ferociously organic. I revelled in our protagonist, Ivy’s growth as a person, her experiences, her feelings… all of it had motive and direction. There is little I can fault in this novel.

Bishop too has his own journey – and he really shines here as a character – there was not a lot of change in the first novel, but in this finale he had no option, but to either put up or shut up. The dystopian world is almost colonial, reminding me of the wild west without the cowboy hats and spurs.

Amy throws ethical dilemmas at the couple, both on a small and large scale. I really love the way her brain works, how Ivy and Bishop learn to adapt to survive in this new world. To help it grow with them and leave behind trappings and prejudices of old.

The Reveloution of Ivy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe introduction of Caleb and Ash give this novel a much needed softer side – that of family, loyalty and security. Even though they have that hard edge essential to survive in this hostile landscape, the couple are everything that is needed to nurture stability and sanity. Forming their own family… it reminded me of something from a GLBT novel (and even RuPaul has been quoted as saying) where they get to choose their family. I really liked that aspect to this novel. How nomads flock together to form communities to benefit the whole. To survive.

The love story aspect of ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ develops further, and I have all the praise in the world to how it is handled. Responsibly, practically, realistically. It’s one of the best romantic story lines I’ve read in a long while.

All of my expectations were met. With that statement, I’d have to say it was fairly predictable, but it was one hell of a journey! So it won’t take a genius to guess the ending.

The pacing is pretty fast, though I think the debut was a little quicker, but there is always something happening, the plot is driven forward with every paragraph. I spread it out over two days. I’ve read many dystopian novels, many of the popular ones in this genre, and I have to say, the Ivy duology has knocked them off their pedestal, it has cemented itself in my top five favourites for this genre.

Highly recommend you give these books a go – it’s a fantastic adventure that really makes you think!

Overall feeling: Took me by surprise!

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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.