Book Review – ‘Willful Machines’ by Tim Floreen

Gizmos, gadgets, androids and an Academy… a cybernetic, futuristic Harry Potter that is a blast to read.

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 370

From Goodreads:

In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.

Charlotte’s attacks have everyone on high alert—everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.

But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he’s Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.

As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive … and what makes life worth living.

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Willful Machines’ was thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve had a long run of average-ish reads and was hoping for something to pull me out of that rut, and ‘Willful Machines’ was it. In a sci-fi future at a boarding school (reminding me a little of Harry Potter) with robots and conspiracies – totally had me engrossed.

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleLee, our “Walk-In” protagonist (well closeted gay teen,) coming to terms with living up to his family’s expectations, watched everywhere he goes by cameras or security, it’s no wonder he’s attempted suicide… but that’s all in the past. He’s just trying to get by. I was interested from the first page and read this book in one sitting. We see Lee’s character develop slowly throughout the storyline and I identified with his insecurities, having to live up to an image and the pressures of responsibility.

When a new student starts at Inverness Prep, Nico, the dreamboat all the girls swoon over – so does Lee. And luck would have it, Nico seems interested in Lee too. If only Lee weren’t a “Walk-in.” Nico is a little wacky, messy, and loves to sprout lines from Shakespeare, so it’s not like he fits into any model jock trope. I liked how their friendship develops and how each of their trust is tested in the story.

Lee’s best friend Bex is part goth, part journalist, part rebel, and is our story’s straight shooter. She was probably the most stereotypical – which is saying something because she is anything but boring.

There is a fair amount of predictability for the novel, but I think it’s on purpose, because the main point of the novel isn’t what happens, but the questions it raises. I’d guessed the major plot points early on, but still got a lot of surprises along the way.

Tim Floreen’s writing style is delightful. It’s colourful without being overly descriptive. It lets your imagination fill in the blanks without slowing the pace of the novel.

I’ve read on his website that this is a standalone, which saddens me because I was so hooked on the story I wanted more. Begging for more! *HINT Tim Floreen if you ever read this* Highly recommend this to all my friends, it has the ability to be philosophical, nostalgic, entertaining and diverse all at the same time without coming off as intellectual. I think I’ve just become a superfan.

Overall feeling: Amazing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

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Never stare at a blank page helplessly ever again.

Here’s some ways I’ve found that help to keep inspiration coming, the words flowing, and never having to face writers block again.

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I frequently get asked how I can write every day, do I get writers block, and how is it possible that I can have many works in progress going at the same time… well I think it comes down to organisation. Time management and compartmentalisation. That, and your personality, and work ethic. We all have different habits and things that aid our productivity. Sometimes I like music in the background, sometimes not. I might perform better in a café with paper and pen, and other times locked away from interruption in my office at the computer. The trick is developing a collection of tricks that keep you mind working and the words flowing.

And never let an idea pass you by. Write down everything.

I have an ideas folder. A section for story concepts, interesting characters, or scenes that jumped into my head at one time or another. They are always great sources of inspiration, or even parts I can include in a plot I’m working on…

As for my works in progress… I mix in “pantsing” and planning. Meaning, for the most part, I’ll blurt out anywhere between two and five chapters in a story straight from my head before I go back and look at things like structure, pace, plot, character development, if the writing in engaging… and from there start to form a framework, tweaks and plan out the rest of the novel. I do this in two ways – massive spreadsheets where I can label scenes, turning points, note how each chapter is driving the story forward, keep track of content and time lines… having a detailed plan means I can skip forward and back without dropping out of the narrative. The second method, is having blank pages for each chapter in the book, and scribbling notes on what I want to happen in each chapter – it grows as I start writing, and before commencing to write each new chapter I’ll review the points, put them in order and follow that map as best I can. Sometimes it works flawlessly, and other times my characters react in unforeseen ways and I head back to the drawing board. Never let your outline keep you trapped.

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I feel the need to be flexible in how and where I write. Sometimes the character tells me where the story is going, sometimes I need the focus of a storyboard, scene by scene to get me writing.

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Whenever you get stuck, switch it up. Move out of the study or office, jump to a different point in your manuscript, chat to someone about your work, take a walk around the block. The more tricks you have in your repertoire the better equipped you are to keep the inspiration and words flowing.

Everyone has a slow day. Don’t let it bother you. Writing is more a state of mind thing than anything. At one point I was journaling my feelings before writing – it was the only thing that enabled me to leave the emotional baggage at the office door.

But my most successful tool, above all the other tips and tricks has been time management. If I set a timer for an hour and work on one thing, be it a scene, chapter, concept, blog for one hour and then stop. It will always get me out of a writing funk. Who says you need to be sitting at your computer fourteen hours a day in order to call yourself a writer? A few productive hours a day could be just as good. Structure your day to free up a no distraction window and give yourself a simple task.

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Hand in hand with this activity is that spreadsheet or storyboard, because you can switch projects or chapters/scenes on a whim. Breaking your down into chunks of simple tasks can kick start your brain and get those creative juices flowing.

Whether it’s immersing yourself in scenes – feeling a breeze in your hair, the warmth of the sun on your face, the tang of salt in the air as you sit at the beach to scribble out a lusty romance set in the crashing waves; or concentrating on a conversation between two characters while you sit at a coffee shop, or hide in an office to knock off a chapter in complete silence; keep experimenting and finding things that work for you.

And as always… happy writing.

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What tips and tricks do you use that keep up your productivity for writing? Share them in the comments section below – I’d love to hear about them.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Crossed’ by Ally Condie

An adventure in the rocky wild that plateaued…

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

No. of pages: 367

From Goodreads:

The Society chooses everything. 

The books you read. 

The music you listen to. 

The person you love. 

Yet for Cassia the rules have changed. Ky has been taken and she will sacrifice everything to find him. 

And when Cassia discovers Ky has escaped to the wild frontiers beyond the Society there is hope.

But on the edge of society nothing is as it seems…

A rebellion is rising.

And a tangled web of lies and double-crosses could destroy everything. 

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I just don’t know about this one. I enjoyed the survival aspect, and their quest. How they were out in The Carving, the wilderness, and had to rely on a different set of skills to survive. But the tone of the narrative was nearly anesthetising. I found myself speed reading through a large chunk of the book because the words weren’t grabbing me enough.

crossed-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleI enjoyed how we got to see more depth from Cassia and Ky – and this book is told in dual perspectives.. I’m still a little lost in to why Allie Condie changed up the format of her storytelling. It didn’t add too much to the plot, other than to let us know all the characters keep secrets.

It is an interesting story, but the delivery is, I hate to say it, bland. The hints of poetry we got in ‘Matched’ are a lot heavier in ‘Crossed,’ to the point where I was bored of them. I’m not a big fan of poetry, especially in YA. Poetry is compact, meaningful and something to be pondered over, where YA is punchy, fast and riding on the waves of current trends; so it felt jarring to have the two collide in the narrative. It is very symbolic and carries a romantic theme about life and rebellion – but I didn’t feel that. As soon as I reached the italicised letters I skipped down to the end.

The ending was okay – a bit of a cliff-hanger that has enticed me enough to read ‘Reached’ – the final in the trilogy. Luckily enough, these books are quick and easy to digest. I just wish the writing style was punchier and the pacing faster. I don’t find it melodic or engaging – merely interesting. Let’s hope the final book really shines, otherwise this series is going to seriously bomb.

A lot of the questions I had in ‘Matched’ went unanswered, and even more are raised in ‘Crossed’ – so it’s set up the finale for a doozy – and I really want to find out what is going on in this society, as well as the fates of Cassia, Ky and Xander.

As a middle book in a trilogy, I was expecting to be a little weaker than it’s predecessor, but it’s about on par – the character development is much better, as is the plot, but pacing felt really slow. I wanted a lot more to happen in this book. And at least get some resolution. I didn’t feel any satisfaction when I reached the last page. Just that I needed to read ‘Reached’ to get some answers.

Overall feeling: fun, but flatlined.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Favourite YouTuber’s that help me write

I try not to watch a lot of YouTube – you can get caught up and suddenly the day had whizzed by and all you have been doing is laughing your guts out from hilarious dog or cat videos.

I like to get my movie trailers, book talks and reviews, some nonsensical comedy stuff, and lots of k-pop music videos when indulging in some downtime off YouTube. But there are a few channels that help my journey along while writing a novel – either with providing useful information, or sharing a similar story to my own, or just entertaining me without taking up too much of my time (so I can get back to writing.)

My favourite, hands down is Jenna Moreci. She’s witty, informative, and not afraid to tell it how it is. Cyborgs rule!

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polandbananasBOOKS sometimes has something worth watching, but I generally find Christine over-animated and shrill. But on days when you are down and low on energy, her effervescence can pick you up.

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ProblemsofaBookNerd – CeCe is pleasant and insightful, and focuses a lot on diverse reads. And while she doesn’t talk about writing per se, her critical eye on the novels she reviews gives valuable insight on aspects to look out for in my own writing. The same can be said for PeruseProject; Regan likes to read a lot of fantasy and historical fiction, and has some great insight into character development and story structure in her book reviews.

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Epic Reads do some fun skits that keep me entertained and positive – nothing like a good bookish joke to keep you in the mood for writing. Plus, you get to see news about new releases and authors.

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Little Book Owl, Catronia does book reviews, but also posts about marketing and publishing as she goes through her University studies. She has been publishing less of late, but is one of the more intelligent booktubers out there.

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Both Australian Writers’ Centre and Author Learning Center upload new content sparingly, sometimes interesting and informative, but with a more serious tone from a career writers point of view. We also get other authors giving talks and factoids about their writing journey.

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There is probably a lot more out there, but I tend not to spend too much time searching and watching videos. My resources are more through print and personal connection (and ultimately less distracting – no click bait!)

Do you have any great Channels to share that have helped you in your writing journey… I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments section 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Impostor’ by Jill Hathaway

An okay read.

impostor-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 278

From Goodreads:

What if a killer took control of you?

Vee Bell’s gift (or curse) of “sliding”—slipping into the mind of another person and experiencing life, briefly, through his or her eyes—has been somewhat under control since she unwillingly witnessed the horrific deaths of her classmates six months ago.

But just as things are getting back to normal, Vee has a very bizarre experience: she loses consciousness and finds herself in a deserted area, at the edge of a cliff, with the broken body of the boy who took advantage of her on the rocks below.

As Vee finds herself in stranger and stranger situations with no memory of getting there, she begins to suspect that someone she knows has the ability to slide—and that this “slider” is using Vee to exact revenge on his or her enemies..

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I was hoping that ‘Impostor’ would build on the premise set up in ‘Slide,’ however, it turned out to be another episodic mystery and failed to address a lot of the world building and aftermath from the first novel. Sylvia and her sister Mattie have survived a sociopathic murderer, and I felt this fact had been conveniently dismissed in the structure of the plot. Even though the nightmares showed that both her and Mattie hadn’t gotten through their ordeal scot free, I feel there would be more emotional issues to deal with. It was glossed over too much.

The girl’s father and the school don’t seem to have taken any action for the kids safety or mental wellbeing since the death of the two students in the first novel. Where’s the talks on depression and suicide? Professional counselling? Safety talks or metal detectors? Added security guards, Or even Sylvia’s father keeping an eye on his daughter? The school was conveniently absent from the equation again.

Hasn’t Sylvia learnt her lesson about keeping secrets from the first novel? People died? She nearly died, her sister was nearly murdered – I can’t express my frustration at the idiocy of Sylvia… it’s really making me dislike this book. So annoyed that Sylvia does not seem to have more self-preservation, she saw people killed and still chose to keep secrets in ‘Impostor,’ even when it looked like the same thing was happening all over again.

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Sylvia and her love interest, Rollins, looked all set for a heavy romance having found a connection together in ‘Slide,’ and now it’s been rolled back to how it was at the start of the series – seriously I’m beginning to wonder if Hathaway is smoking crack. In the first few chapters she repeated herself a number of times on the backstory and it felt like this book hadn’t even been edited properly.

I was even alarmed when all of a sudden we get a tidbit that Sylvia’s mother could have been a slider? Where the hell did that come from? Why wasn’t it mentioned in ‘Slide?’ But this meant that we got some mythology explained. So I was happy.

Another aspect to the plot which had me raising an eyebrow was the introduction of Sylvia’s Aunt, which felt like she was only there as a character to muddy the water of suspects. A little too convenient.

I actually liked this more than the first novel. The pacing was better, the mystery was planned out and revealed in a logical fashion. And I certainly did not predict what happened. I love surprises. So while there was so much wrong with this contextually, it was still entertaining and kept me guessing. Though I don’t think I would recommend this duology to my friends. There are far more gripping paranormal mysteries out there than this one.

Overall feeling: grrrr

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Frigid’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A winter romance that left me cold…

frigid-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 252

From Goodreads:

For twenty-one-year-old Sydney, being in love with Kyler isn’t anything new. They’d been best friends ever since he pushed her down on the playground and she made him eat a mud pie. Somewhere over the years, she fell for him and fell hard. The big problem with that? Kyler puts the ‘man’ in man-whore. He’s never stayed with a girl longer than a few nights, and with it being their last year in college, Syd doesn’t want to risk their friendship by declaring her love. 

Kyler has always put Syd on a pedestal that was too high for him to reach. To him, she’s perfect and she’s everything. But the feelings he has for her, he’s always hidden away or focused on any other female. After all, Kyler will always be the poor boy from the wrong side of tracks, and Syd will always be the one girl he can never have. 

But when they’re stranded together at a posh ski resort due to a massive Nor’easter, there’s nothing stopping their red-hot feelings for each other from coming to the surface. Can their friendship survive the attraction? Better yet, can they survive at all? Because as the snow falls, someone is stalking them, and this ski trip may be a life-changer in more ways than one.

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I love JLA’s writing, it’s always great smutty escapism, but with ‘Frigid’ I was so annoyed over the first few chapters I was close to DNFing it. The relationship and behaviour of our two main characters was really off-putting. With a narrative told from two differing points of view, that of Sydney and Kyler as they dance around each other in varying degrees of love, like, lust and hate…

Sydney was cute as a button – and I mean that sarcastically. Hopelessly in love with her best friend. Hey we’ve all been there, and I pretty much ignored it too, and fantasized in private. *sigh* But the manhandling and controlling behaviour from Kyler blargh! – and she enabled him. Big time. It was painful to read. But I did have some favourite parts about Sydney: her clumsiness. The head-to-chin-butt had me in stitches.

There also seemed to be some sort of sick fascination about people putting their hands on Sydney’s hips – I think it was mentioned at least three times per chapter.

Kyler is so weak-willed, misogynistic, possessive, and controlling. Stereotypically the tall handsome hunk. It’s okay for a man to sleep around, but somehow, not for Sydney. Everything about this guy rubbed me the wrong way. I really wanted to punch him in the face. Additionally, to top it all off, a pet hate of mine are guys calling you “baby,” I winced every time Kyler said it. Sydney girl, you could do so much better.

I don’t think the dual perspective of Sydney and Kyler did all that much for the narrative, jumping in and out, just to hear how hot they thought the other one was. Other than that, it didn’t reveal anything new for the plot.

With what seems to be a lot of drinking and swearing, (again, unnecessary) it wasn’t setting the mood or the scene, just made the main characters look like potty-mouthed lushes who wanted to hump everything that walked by. Made me feel like I had a dog latched onto my leg. That, and the F-bombs. Drained the romance right out.

There were some intense sex scenes: some of it titillating, some of it not. I also just about gagged when Sydney was described as being “tight and drenched down there”… I mean, ew. There’s got to be some more passionate, creative ways to describe arousal that doesn’t sound like leaky plumbing. Another aspect that had me cringing was the whole sex-while-Sydney-is-asleep-thing. Creeped me out – I know it was meant to be sexy, build the tension and angst between the pair, but it had shades of rape that didn’t sit well with me.

And someone shooting a gun at some point felt like overkill. But, after all the bagging I’ve done, I got into ‘Frigid’ for the last third of the book. It felt like good old JLA again.

There’s just something about this coupling, and the situation that hasn’t sold me. The ending is very cutesy, but didn’t wrap everything up. Very mixed feelings about this book, overall it was okay – I kinda enjoyed it. But don’t think I’d recommend it. She has written so many other good books, this one pales in comparison.

Overall feeling: I shuddered, not shivered…

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.