#bookporn

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I know I was reading out of order, but I love Simon so much, I just had to take a peek and read a few stories. But am saving the rest until I catch up with the rest of TMI books…

Who else is #TeamSimon?

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Book Review – ‘Caleo’ (Leech # 1) by James Crawford

Promising.

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

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.

Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!

Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.

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This book made a place in my heart and nestled there. What a wonderful adventure. It was such a pleasant surprise for a gay themed YA paranormal not to be all about the gay thing. Caleo was a story about a teen discovering and navigating the world of his burgeoning powers, and the political landscape of others like him. It was very X-men-like with warring factions and other people with special abilities.

Some aspects of the story-telling really held this book back for me however. The writing style at the beginning felt almost staccatoed. Stuttering along until the story found its legs. As well as the main characters’ behaviour and reactions, more fitting to youths around thirteen and fourteen years of age. And then there were some of those overused tropes: The love triangle, the ugly loner main character who turns out to be the most special one of all, the in love with your best friend thing… I was grinding my teeth together. After the first five chapters this story moves along and gets really good. I just would have liked to have seen some of these stereotypical devices switched out for something a lot more dynamic and turn Caleo into something to knock the competition out of the park.

The pacing is fantastic after we get over that stumbling first section; and it increases and builds with tension right up to the end. I didn’t want to put the book down. I did get a little frustrated about two thirds of the way through when the story line switched gears and the love interests of our protagonist, Caleo, got a switch-hit in dominance from the narrative. It was literally flipped in a page, and nothing was developed around it. A very weak turning point, or change in perception… I don’t know, it just didn’t completely work for me.

caleo-book-review-pic-3-by-casey-carlisleI really liked Caleo’s struggle with hiding who he really is from those who he loves: whether it be coming out as gay, or revealing his ability, different people got to see different versions of him. His fears felt very real and motivated a lot of Caleo’s actions. At times he seemed to have bouts of immaturity or even anger that I found confusing, but I’m chalking it up to a testosterone thing… But on the whole he is a likable, relatable protagonist, and I became very invested in his story.

Jack annoyed the crap out of me. In the first half of the novel he didn’t seem to care much for Caleo, letting him get in harms way far too much. I’m sure there could have been a more palatable dynamic to their relationship. It seemed like they were mates who looked away when the other was in physical danger. That appearing tough and popular to peers was more important to Jack than saving Caleo from some pretty serious beatings. Later in the second half of the story Jack became enraged and jealous, even over small things, which, effectively being Caleo’s step-brother, was somewhat uncomfortable. So I’m on the fence with Jack, he seems impulsive, flippant and a little unstable.

Jillian was everything you’d expect from a pig-headed, yet loving step sister. I was living for her throughout the entire story. As I was Grandma. Both of these women kicked ass.

It was also refreshing to see the family dynamic play out in the storyline, they stuck together, had each others back, and did things without question. I was really cheering for them to survive everything that was being thrown at them.

Nolan turned out to be my favourite. He has a quiet masculinity that appealed to me. He seemed to respect where Caleo’s head was at and never pressured him. So I was angered when the narrative switched gears and suddenly Nolan was pushed to the periphery. It strongly felt like a storytelling device to give Jack some of the spotlight and fuel a love triangle. I was also annoyed at the continual interruptions, I wanted them to have a break so I could really find out what was going on.

Caleo ends with major cliff hangers – I didn’t feel like I got a whole lot of resolution, so, luckily I bought this novel with its two sequels…. It better give me some sort of pay off otherwise I’ll be really angry. The books are fairly short, we don’t get a great deal of answers, I recommend the trilogy as a whole instead of the book as a singular, but only if you sit comfortably with some really overused YA tropes. Great escapism for me 🙂

Overall feeling: pretty good…

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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.

Wrap up – The Book of Ivy Duology by Amy Engel

A dystopian and heroine with a lot more gumption.

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This is by far one of my favorite dystopian series. It’s gritty, realistic and not afraid to venture into the dark side of humanity. It is a real survival story.

Our protagonist Ivy is practical, strong and we see her start to question those around her and form her own opinions. So many times we get a waif, or a character bred for a situation who neglects to question if what they are doing is right until it’s far too late in YA. Ivy has the inner strength and intelligence to view her world with open eyes.

This series has been compared to ‘The Selection’ series and ‘Cruel Beauty;’ but it is only in premise. Ivy has been selected to be married off to the leader’s son, but her family are a rebelling faction and are priming Ivy to assassinate the boy. Bishop, her hapless victim, is everything you’d expect coming from the cushy life he’s had… and then not. He’s got his head on his shoulders and is compassionate. I really liked how both our main characters do not fall into a trope.

I’ve read in some reviews that this is an instalove romance – but I strongly disagree. Their age (sixteen) is brought up, and so is their sensibility knowing that they are not ready for a marriage, let alone an intimate relationship with someone who is basically a stranger. Their approach in a practical one. Their friendship develops organically, and has got to be one of the better developed coupling I’ve read in this genre.

There is a lot going on in their society, and the world outside of it, and both the main characters have been sheltered somewhat, and it was fascinating to see them uncover truths and cope with the burden of that knowledge. Some decisions wield heavy repercussions, and both Ivy and Bishop are not immune to them.

There are moments of violence and manipulation. It is raw, but dealt with responsibly. And the in world they live in, it’s unavoidable, and I’m greatful the author took us down these avenues instead of glossing over the uglier aspects of humanity.

Where ‘The Book of Ivy’ is more a political struggle, ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ is a physical one for survival. Both rated four stars from me and is a solid, engaging read. I can’t recommend this series more.

On a side note – if you don’t handle cliff hangers well, then I’m pre-warning you – the first book has a doozy, so if you hate waiting, get these together to alleviate any angst 😉

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

The Book of Ivyhttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/book-review-the-book-of-ivy-by-amy-engel/

The Revolution of Ivy’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/book-review-the-revolution-of-ivy-by-amy-engel/

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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 – ‘Cruel Beauty’ by Roasmund Hodge

A magical and disorientating re-telling.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love. 

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For the first half of this ‘Cruel Beauty,’ I squirmed uncomfortably, not for anything that was written, but the writing style was elaborate and fanciful and took a considerable time to relax into. I’m also not a huge fan of re-tellings, and this one was a little too close to the original to stop me from pulling comparisons. But this book is a fantastic beast in its own right and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Nyx was a fun character to read. She was hateful and resentful as well as determined and righteous. Not a wilting flower, or a warrior, but a fallible human being, and I really liked that. She wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, get a little snarky, or even a bit devious.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleI did find all the mention of Gods and mythology confusing at times, as I also did with the aspect of the Prince’s *cough-Beast’s-cough* house. The whole setting was so imaginary and malleable that it was disorientating and difficult to track the nature of the plot. But in hindsight, it exactly does what it is supposed to do for the tale. The narrative has a magical tone to it which reminds me of old Irish fairie tales.

The weird love triangle thing between the Prince, the Shadow, and Nyx felt a little forced and manufactured, and the beginning of the relationships did not feel as if they grew organically. But I do like how, even with teasing of an unreliable narrator, there were reasons not to trust any of the characters in this novel.

I was guessing and flip-flopping in opinions on everyone. Which was both a good and a bad thing. I like to be kept on my toes… but not so much as there isn’t a solid grounding in either the main character or her quest. There was such a feeling of being untethered through most of the novel, that it stopped me from truly enjoying it. Only towards the end, when aspects of the plot started to draw together did I truly revel in ‘Cruel Beauty.’

The novel is beautifully written, completely matching the genre and tone, but not a style I enjoyed reading too much. I felt like I was back a University wading through the works of Chaucer at times. Some readers will love this, but for my personal taste, I found it annoying and slowed the pace of the storyline.

It had a strong high-fantasy vibe, rather than nostalgic for the original tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and is probably why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. I really have to be in the mood to digest high fantasy, and like reading my world built, and quest painted out in clear concise language. Even now, after completing the novel I can’t clearly define the universe and role of the Gods, or the magic system used.

With the over-indulgence in the writing style playing against it, ‘Cruel Beauty’ did a wonderful job at painting a scene, my imagination ran wild with the fantastical places and magical/dream-like elements.

On the whole it was an okay read – I loved the last quarter and had an ‘aww’ moment at the end. The first half needs to drive the story along more forcefully, and the development of the world more concise for me to get into it, which would probably remove about fifty pages from its length and pick up the pacing.

I liked this take on the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and have seen the mixed reviews. I guess if you love fairy tales, and high fantasy, ‘Cruel Beauty’ is one for you; otherwise you might be a little confused like I was.

Overall feeling: okay, interesting, pretty good…

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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.

Film vs Novel – The Girl With All The Gifts

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The novel by M. R. Carey got a lot of press on its release, surprisingly the film adaptation entered the market with a murmur. Which is surprising considering the big named actors in starring roles. I was wondering if the film wasn’t going to be all that good since the distributors hadn’t put a lot of funds behind promoting the movie. But it turned out to be more satisfying that I had expected.

The novel starts with Melanie’s point of view. A child in chains and strapped down, locked away in a high-security facility. We get more background and explanation of who Melanie is, and her scope of intelligence in the novel – some of it a little long winded – but both screen and written version project her innocence and curiosity while hinting at some dark danger hiding underneath. I will say that Melanie, and the other children like her, residing in the facility looked healthier than described in the novel. I didn’t get that cute-creepy-fragile-dangerous image from the actor (Sennia Nanua) portrayal of Melanie.

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We also get a large helping of scientific and biological background in the novel about the epidemic and about Melanie and her class through the narrative, where in the film we get small info-dumps along the way. I think I preferred the way the movie unveiled the plot, though I felt we needed more of an introduction to Melanie and her cognitive abilities. Who knows, maybe it was there and ended up on the cutting room floor during the editing process.

One major element that annoyed the heck out of me from the film: the music was distracting and off-putting. It didn’t add to the ambiance or add feeling and tension where it was meant to. In my opinion, Cristobal Tapia de Veer did a massive disservice to the film with her soundtrack.

Glen Close added dimension to the scientist (Dr. Caroline Caldwell,) subtle hues that made her character more realistic. I felt the written version of her was too single minded at times, dangerously coming near to reading like a caricature. Gemma Arterton captured Helen Justineau perfectly, her performance depicted everything I’d seen in my head when reading the novel.

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There was a certain ‘campness,’ like a B-grade horror film to the book at times, but thankfully I didn’t get any of that when watching the film. Though I will say the soldiers felt more like secondary characters in the film, where they provided over-stylized machismo in the novel that actually had me laughing.

The ‘Hungries’ seemed more zombie-like in the film because of the onmipresent viewer, where in the novel from Melanie’s POV I got more of a rabid dog/monster vibe. I would have liked to see the epidemic steered further away visually from zombies. It was getting there, but didn’t quite match what I thought was being described in the novel.

The film is definitely visually brutal. Maybe because of the changing POV’s and lengthy description in the novel, I didn’t get so much of the gore as I did from the film – the impact lessened by the amount of words in between key events. Additionally, I had a different vision in my head of the fungal ‘trees,’ nowhere near as megolithic as shown in the film. Maybe a little more like something you’d have seen on classic Star Trek episodes on some alien planet.

There were some small plot points in the film that had me going ‘huh?’ I had to flip through the book again to see if I was remembering them correctly… I won’t discuss them here though. I can see how they were included for the tone of the film and while they won’t spoil the ending, they would remove certain surprises. So I’ll say that the overall story of the film is similar to the novel, it just has a few tiny tweaks. And I put that down to M.R. Carey also having written the screenplay.

I liked the tone and perspective of the novel, and how it was based (mostly) in a youngsters mind analysing scientific data; but found the movie more entertaining (minus the weird soundtrack) and paced much better. There is definitely a stronger tie in to the Pandora metaphor in the film – but doesn’t have the speculative ending like in the novel.

On a side note, I’m glad they kept with the original name of the novel for the film adaptation, I know they were tossing around ‘She Who Brings Gifts’ for a while.

It’s a close battle to which I prefer, but I’d say the film only just scrapes in above the novel, based on more realistic depictions of the cast, pacing of the story, and the symbolism throughout – all keeping in the same tone for the film throughout. The novel, while wordy, suffered pacing in parts, and some of the scenes felt forced or unrealistic, though much more creepy than the film.

Go check out the film.

Go M.R. Carey!

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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.