#bookporn

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I still haven’t gotten around to reading this duology! Love the covers and desperately need to carve out some more reading time.

If you’ve read these, let me know what you think in the comments – it may just give me the motivation I need to peek under the covers 🙂

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Book Review – ‘The Nest’ by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen

Expertly recapturing the books I loved in my youth.

The Nest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Magical Realism

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? 

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I’m not one to read middle-grade novels, but I’d heard from many sources that ‘The Nest’ was quite extraordinary. It reminded me heavily of ‘Challenger Deep’ by Neal Shusterman. That magical realism seated in some mental illness like anxiety.

The Nest’ deals with our protagonist Steven communicating with other worldly beings (wasps) that give him a status quo on life and the survival of his ill newborn brother. The whole family are trying to deal with the difficulties the infant faces, as well as their own demons. It may be Steve’s overactive imagination that brings the dreams, or mental illness manifest in the form of delusion. But we are treated to almost psychic predictions. These are then pitted against Councillors and Psychiatrists, and other adult figures with justifications. But in the mind of Steve, we never know what to believe. This theme is front and centre throughout the entire novel, as well as Steve’s fear: that if he comes completely clean about what is going on in his head, he’ll be committed to a Sanatorium.

The set up and narrative balances on the edge of fantasy and reality is done expertly and had me salivating with joy.

We see his character develop as he discerns fantasy from reality, and finding strength within to battle his personal and very real physical threats that circle him and newborn brother Theo. It’s a subtle journey.

I will say the last third of the novel really amps up the tension and pace. I could not take my eyes from the page, curling up my legs and twitching nervously. It was quite a surprise for a middle grade novel, such visceral images and such a menacing ambience. It carries that same creepy air you get from Roald Dahl novels.

Some charcoal, or possible pencil, illustrations are scattered throughout the novel in scribbly texture, one shade of grey that add to the unsettling tone.

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I was attracted by the cover art at first, and under the dust jacket holds another version of the cover, just as beautiful. The presentation of this novel is stunning. Deckled edges, thick solid hardback. Such a gorgeous addition to my library.

And the story is haunting, the kind of thing that stays with you for a while after. I would tend to say only the more mature end of middle grade would be able to digest this tome. The story is light, but the meaning dense. I could imagine kids feeling itchy and glancing about like a skittish horse at small movements looking for flying insects.

A short novel, I read in half a day, the prose is a little rich, so it is either educational for its target audience, leaning towards a discussion afterward, or meant for those hard core younger readers. Possibly something you could read aloud in a classroom as well.

Maybe if I was a lot younger I would give this a much higher rating, but for me, it lacked a little complexity – because that’s the type of book I’m used to reading. But I’d definitely recommend this solely for the experience.

Overall feeling: Blew me away.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘Perception’ (#2 Clarity) by Kim Harrington

A great follow-up novel for a YA paranormal mystery, but I wanted a little something more…

Perception (#2 Clarity) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 275

From Goodreads:

When you can see things others can’t, what do you do when someone’s watching you? 

Everybody knows about Clarity “Clare” Fern. She’s the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past. 

Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her. 

But then someone starts playing with her head . . . and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare’s pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare’s hopeful ex-boyfriend who’d do anything to win her back? 

One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared.

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This was a nice little parcelled story. Another murder mystery in the same vein of the debut ‘Clarity.’ I did sleuth out the killer very early on though – but the author Kim Harrington has a way of providing clues but not spilling the beans. A fun, if somewhat formulaic YA paranormal mystery.

The tone of ‘Perception’ felt a touch more mature than ‘Clarity.’ And while there were some burning unanswered questions from the debut still lingering by the end of ‘Perception’ – and after doing a little research – I discovered there were plans for more books in this series, but due to poor sales it has been abandoned. It felt like that kind-of-okay television show you were just getting in to and it gets cancelled. Grrr!

Our protagonist, Clare has all of her usual spunk from ‘Clarity,’ but with an increased number of complications to deal with. This really added some tension and helped her character mature. Yay! Way to up the anty Harrington! I enjoyed reading her journey.

But I wanted to bash my head against the desk repeatedly over the love triangle trope. So overdone. But at least it wasn’t filled with swoony, angsty behaviour. Thank the lord. Clare approached her options logistically. Believing in letting her feeling progress naturally to make a decision between her ex, Justin, and the new guy Gabriel.

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I will say that Clare’s family unit is still going strong, and to have her mother play a present and involved parental role resonated with me. I sing praises for YA books having family units as a strong theme within the narrative.

I would have liked a pun about Mrs Vaddja (the fortune teller from ‘Clarity’) in the final lines… it would have fit. But that’s the writer/editor coming out in me. Additionally, there were some mysteries touched on again that never progressed – I would have like a few more clues scattered in to progress the arcs. Maybe it would have made this book perform better in sales and increased interest in a sequel? A few breadcrumbs isn’t going to entice readers to wait for the next book in the series with butt-clenching excitement… you need to start building and establishing an over-arcing storyline solidly grounded in each novel in the series. As a reader I appreciate a well thought out and paced development throughout a series.

Percertion,’ and ‘Clarity’ for that matter aren’t what I would call favourites – I feel there is something missing from the narrative. Maybe Clare feels a little too distant with her romantic relationships to connect with the target market? Maybe their psychic gifts weren’t utilised in a spooky enough way to hook their readers? It was more of a murder mystery aimed at a tween market. Again, I saw so much potential in this series – and in Harrington as a writer.

I was initially attracted to this series when it popped up in my recommendations on Goodreads because of the stunning cover artwork. After reading the blurb I was definitely intrigued. This collection definitely has all the attention grabbing gravitas – it just needed a few tweaks to turn it into best seller material.

A fun read, but a lukewarm feeling upon completion. There are so many fantastic elements but were either not explored enough, or not put together properly to make this an outstanding read… so I won’t count Harrington out yet.

Her following publications seem to be more middle grade though, so I don’t see myself picking up any more of her titles unless she releases another YA or adult novel. But it was the perfect move for her writing style and I can see her garnering a lot of success.

An enjoyable series to read, but I can see why it has been discontinued.

Overall feeling: Entertaining and underwhelming all at the same time.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘Lost Soul’ (#1 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A paranormal detective story with a touch of misogyny and a lot of promise.

Lost Soul (#1 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Alec Harbinger is a preternatural investigator, a hunter of things that go bump in the night. When his employers, the Society of Shadows, banish him from his Chicago office to a small town in Maine, Alec thinks his career and life are over. How is a preternatural investigator supposed to find work in a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere? But when a local teenager comes back from a weekend at the lake with an altered personality, Alec is hired to investigate a possible demon possession. A young man turning up at Alec’s office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf adds to the caseload. And just to make his first day at the office perfect, Alec discovers that someone in the Society of Shadows is trying to kill him with ogre assassins. No work for a preternatural investigator in a sleepy Maine town? Yeah, about that…

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A Private Investigating franchise with branches all over the globe that everyone is familiar with – yet everyone is ignorant of, or doesn’t believe (in the preternatural) … um… contradictory much. Not the best premise to start off with. But this debut of the Harbinger P.I. series promises supernatural goodness with a wisecracking gumshoe.

The protagonist, and only detective assigned to backwater town of Dearmont, Maine: Alec feels like some old fashioned sexist sleuth. I chose to read this with some irony to keep it fun, like a satire of old Dick Tracey cartoons… even breaking out an overzealous accent at times when reading dialogue. Whaddya talkin’ bout? See?

He seem to objectify all the women he met – who just happened to be skinny and drop dead gorgeous. Weren’t there any normal women in this novel? And of course the assistant, Felicity Lake, did everything for him, all the menial tasks while Alec went about posturing, ogling and flexing his brain. It was hilariously awful. I can’t decide if this was badly written characters or camp overload. But it was oddly compelling despite these drawbacks.

Alec brokers a lot of deals for later favours. A little too convenient the way he makes friends/builds a team. Everyone seemed very amenable without having to go through the process of building up a friendship – and Alec did not seem nervous or too wary about it. It was all a bit contrived. It was easy to spot the hands of the author pushing the plot in a certain direction, and lost its organic feel.

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When going to investigate a forest by the lake for a case, Alec states he want to go in the morning to avoid stumbling around in the dark… and when he gets there, has to wait until dark to get his enchanted statue-compass-thingy to work. Doh! Chalk up another one in the column of inconsistencies.

Why weren’t these glaringly obvious mistakes picked up by a content editor or beta reader before publishing? The writing and plot felt a bit… well messy and amateur.

It didn’t help things that I identified a few grammatical errors too.

But enough of the negative critiquing – the action scenes were great. I was gripped, but there were small moments that were dropped that had me wondering if -‘d missed something.

The ending was a little trite, some things tied up neatly that sent me into an eye-rolling frenzy, and other elements were set up well to lead into the next book in the series.

Lost Soul’ is interesting. But short on world building. I still have no clue as to why the world in ‘Lost Soul’ is the way it is. There was a lot going on, plenty to keep my interest, so I wasn’t bored. Adam Wright’s writing style is a little dry, a touch sparse… and very… male. But it worked for that condescending tone of an old fashioned private detective‎ that this story was channelling. If you don’t take this seriously, it is fun. But if you’re a stickler for plot, grammar, and context, and not one to laugh at those B-Grade horror movies, ‘Lost Soul’ will feel like torture. This is written to a very certain demographic/niche.

I don’t know what inspired me to but this – it is certainly well out of my wheelhouse of regular reads. And an interesting journey. Maybe it was the gorgeous cover promising a dark paranormal mystery – massive battles against dark forces. Instead, it is more of a campy detective novel set in a world of witches, werewolves, fairies, demons and vampires.

I’m interested to see where the sequels will take us.

Overall feeling: This was… okay. That is all.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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.