Book Review – ‘End of the Innocence’ (#4 Tales from Foster High) by John Goode

A drama filled gay contemporary we can all learn from.

End of Innocence (TFFH #4) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 300

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is no longer the invisible boy, and he doesn’t quite know how he feels about it. On one hand, he now has a great boyfriend, Brad Greymark, and a handful of new friends, and even a new job. On the other hand, no one screamed obscenities at him in public when he was invisible.

No one expected him to become a poster boy for gay rights, either—at least not until Kyle stepped out of the closet and into the limelight. But there are only a few months of high school left, and Kyle doubts he can make a difference.

With Christmas break drawing closer, Kyle and Brad are changing their lives to include each other. While the trials are far from over, they have their relationship to lean on. Others are not so lucky. One of their classmates needs their help—but Kyle and Brad’s relationship may be too new to survive the strain.

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After falling in love with the angsty bind-up or the first three books in this series, all the drama that the two protagonists Kyle and Brad face, I went out and purchased the rest of the books in this collection. I’m anticipating more challenges and a strong foundation to grow with this couple. I look forward to a collection of contemporary stories following a gay couple, as I’ve pretty much only read standalones. Usually series fall into the fantasy genre. I wanted real-life issues and a positive long-lasting relationship. And that is what Tales From Foster High has continued to deliver with this fourth instalment ‘End of the Innocence.’

I must admit, I was very disappointed with the first half of this book. The characters seemed to have gone backward and acting in unexpected ways. It was also blindingly obvious that the authors hand was guiding the story in the direction he wanted it to go. Nothing felt organic and I felt crushed.

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlilseThen in the last half things got better, Kyle and Brad got their old spark back, and I found some chemistry with the narrative. It still had a forced tone about it, like author was using the story to highlight a cause and opinions around it.

There was a lot of repetition of ‘I love you’s’ and ‘it gets better,’ which became mildly annoying. But the couple were endearingly clueless and cute at the same time. The continual switching of perspective between Kyle and Brad didn’t really add much – I felt it disarmed some great storytelling devices to build up tension and drive the story forward. As a reader I like to be kept guessing – having the answers laid out for me, of what was going on in each of their heads all the time deflated some of the angst I’ve come to expect from this series.

I like how it wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. Mainly because it revolved around a cause – and this therein lies my difficulty with ‘End of the Innocence.’ On the one hand, it came off as preachy and totally did not fit the Kyle and Brad story so far. Characters out of context. But on the other, once I got over that hurdle and the story got going, it was bloody brilliant. There are some important things brought up in the narrative facing gay youth and I liked the way it’s introduced, discussed, and handled.

It brought up things like bullying and suicide, and how to approach these in a way other than violence – which was amazing to read. There is even a little more in the author’s note at the back of the book as to why these topics were discussed.

So while I commend this book for the issues it tackles, and applaud actually spelling out ways to combat it; I felt the story as a whole was a little disjointed. So far it is my least favourite of the series, but gives the best support for issues faced by some gay youth.

I’d only recommend this for those who strongly connect with the material, or fans of the series.

Overall feeling: mmmmokay…

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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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#bookquotes

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My favorite author and my most treasured past-time collide in this wonderful little quote… and sums me up perfectly.

Who doesn’t love to escape…

Book Review – ‘Perfect’ (#2 Flawed) by Cecelia Ahern

A rebellion led by a compassionate girl labelled flawed…

Perfect Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian

No. of pages: 341

From Goodreads:

You will be punished…

Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

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As much as I enjoyed the sequel ‘Perfect,’ it did not feel as engaging as ‘Flawed.’ Even though I completed this in two sittings, staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it, there was an element of preachiness to the narrative as our protagonist Celestine gave many long pointed speeches.

Perfect Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere was a bit of swinging between indecisive and lost teenager to leader of a rebel cause with Celestine, but I found that realistic and true to her character, where I know in a different context it would have annoyed the willies off me. Because of the nature of this story, it deals with pride, confidence, and determination. These traits are compelling to read, but as previously mentioned, at times bored me a little with all the self-flagellation.

The other aspect around Celestine was her scheming – like she alone was more intelligent than Judges, Doctors, Politicians, and other adults. Sometimes I was like ‘yes! Rise up young woman!’ and others just elicited an eyeroll. It came off as trite. But even having said that, I was still wrapped up in her plight and revelled in the story from start to finish.

I did like how we got a resolution to the whole love triangle thing… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I didn’t like how the introduction of Carrick kicked off what I’m interpreting as insta-lust at the start of this series. I wasn’t sold. Though I ended up liking this pairing more in ‘Perfect.’ Her boyfriend from the debut (‘Flawed’) Art, has a more prominent role in this book, and is treated with intelligence and maturity. I think I must have had a flame burning for him from the outset, because I was realy shipping their pairing… As much as I loathe love triangles, the one in this duology just scraped past my sensor because it felt more organic.

The surprise I got with this novel came from the periphery characters and subtext. It touches on bullying, body-shaming, discrimination, and oppression. It conjures strong images of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ with how the Flawed are forced to wear their shame, and human rights are stripped away under the guise of (social) justice. There are some great zingers about self-worth and learning from your mistakes. About community and peaceful rebellion. ‘Perfect’ feels like an entirely different creature to ‘Flawed.’

The whole thing with Celestine’s scars left me squirming a bit. She doesn’t let you forget what was done to her. It’s a visceral feeling reading about her branding. It’s great that it makes the reader uncomfortable. It make you think about your own behaviour – how many shades of Judge Crevan do we have? How many of Celestine? Her story really makes you inspect your own judgement and treatment of people.

Perfect Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The writing style, though preachy in some short parts, is easy and has a quick flow. It’s open to digest quickly and the pacing increases the further you get into the narrative. Things just keep on happening. I was engrossed. On a side note, there was a little bit of jumping around the timeline for the sake of reveals in the storyline that felt cheap and out of character – why it was introduced in this manner so far into the duology I can’t quite swallow. For me, it did not add any impact. In fact I felt a little cheated.

The overall storyline is predictable, the tone of the novel sets you up to believe an inevitable ending; though there were so many little things that took place along the journey which had me excited. I really enjoyed ‘Perfect’ – it was the perfect YA dystopian read.

Overall feeling: juicy!

Perfect Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Perfect Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

The Importance of Taking a Break from Writing

The Importance of Taking a Break Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Taking in the big picture – Seeing what your publishing options are – And creating a marketing niche.

If you followed my post on the 16th of August, then you already know I’ve taken a hiatus from social media and writing, having to babysit a new furbaby to the family. Buster, a black Cavoodle has taken up much of my attention, getting him settled in his new home, (losing some sleep in the process), puppy proofing our abode, and general panicked running to whatever activity I want to discourage him from…. and then cooing over his cute moments of puppy unco-ordination and adorable snuggling.

It has also given me time to indulge in some reading, and leave my head clear to think of the direction of my career, personal life, and writing schedule. I think it’s important to take occasional holidays from writing. Leaving behind character development, plotting, and story arcs to stand back and look at the big picture. Not just of your work in progress, but life in general. A moment to decompress and re-assess and come back rested and fighting fit.

The Importance of Taking a Break Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I tend to get so focused on certain projects, it’s beneficial to enforce this metaphorical break and take stock of where I’m at, ensuring I’m still on track toward my goals – or even if those goals are still important to me. It’s very much like putting down your first draft and coming back to it months later with fresh eyes.

This stepping away from the keyboard has allowed me to keep updated with the publishing landscape. Leaving me with a decision to write something new, intending to release before my WIP; effectively as a test case for self-publishing. It will enable me to take that first-time learning process without risking my book-baby from naivety and inexperience. Even though I’m going down the road of traditional publishing, and have a company interested in my work, I feel it would be prudent to examine all my options. Plus there are certain types of writing that perform better in self-published e-book form than through the traditional publishing route. Especially in terms of return on investment.

Today, novellas are far more popular in e-book, as are certain genres, and many never see a printed page unless the series becomes highly successful and a bind-up proves viable for publishing. It’s getting that marketing hat on, and discovering the best road for your work.

I have been discussing this with my writing group. Aspects like releasing an anthology of short stories from various authors, to publishing with another industry altogether, tapping into a new market area: like including photography or art with your story. Referencing real-life periodicals or articles, expanding the definition of the regular book format. As with writing a story, publishing can be as limited as your imagination as well… and maybe funds.

We are even starting to see books released in parts. Rather than publishing a completed novel, authors are breaking it up into a number of smaller digestible chunks. Personally, I don’t prefer this method, but it does get around established publishing contracts; and if well-written can perform commendably. But in other cases, the part-release does not stand on its own because much of the story is not resolved, leaving the reader feeling like they’ve missed something. It can either be frustrating, or a great teaser to excite the reader into purchasing the next volume. It’s a bit of a crap shoot. The key is to know your demographic and their likes.

So taking a break can be a beneficial mind-expanding exercise to make yourself aware of what you can do after you’ve finished writing. What modes are available to you – or heck – what method you can invent yourself as a point of difference. In a publishing landscape where authors are breaking away from the traditional route of doing things, injecting much needed talent and creativity, it can only make the future pretty incredible. With so much of the world available at our fingertips it’s allowed us to redefine and expand what it is to be an author.

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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 – ‘Golden Son’ by Pierce Brown

A solar system at war led by an impostor.

Golden Son Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 442

From the dustjacket:

As a Red, Darrow grew up working in the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labour while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds – and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among the wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love – but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution – and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

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While it starts off with an engaging encounter turning everything achieved in ‘Red Rising’ on its head, immediately after, the narrative fell into that long-winded flat tone I found at the beginning of ‘Red Rising.’ The story is interesting but the writing style is not so compelling for me. Pierce can have such a meaningful and succinct turn of phrase that really resonates… and then waffle for pages on mundane happenings. It’s really frustrating to sing his praises when I find times I’m so bored I’d rather wait for my dog to fart for entertainment.

So, after 131 pages, I had to put the book down and walk away. Reading three other novels before returning for a second wind. And then it is all so interesting and so political… but that went hand in hand with wavering engagement. With many long difficult character names (and there are lots of them) and such macabre machinations I only got another 100 pages before I needed another rest. Slow pacing and a dry narrative are killing me!

Golden Son Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe story is great. Complex characters. Political chess playing manoeuvres. Power plays. It has all the ingredients I usually love in a novel but it just didn’t sell me. I found my interest waning a number of times, bogged down with too much detail, too much padding to the main story line in a barren narrative tone. And then, like a switch had been flipped, I was back into it again. It was as if only half of the book really grabbed me and the other half put me to sleep. Talk about polarizing.

I took just under a month to read ‘Golden Son’ and managed to read another eleven novels in between. I’m hoping it was just a second-book-syndrome thing. Because I liked ‘Red Rising’ and can imagine the finale to be explosive. Especially after the hype this series has received. I don’t think I’m all that emotionally invested in the characters, they are all about war and revenge and playing a long game to end oppression. That leaves little room for softness and building trust and love outside the harsh landscape – I guess that’s why I kept putting the book down because it was so hard to digest knowing that they all turn on each other.

My favourite scene was that of Darrow with his mother. It was the first emotional connection I’d gotten to the series – even in comparison to the death of Eo.

Here’s hoping it gets better… I really want to love this series.

Overall feeling: Some really amazing writing – and some that lapsed me into a coma

Golden Son Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Golden Son Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.