Book Review – ‘Reckoning’ (#5 Strange Angels) by Lili St. Crow

A supernatural finale that flounders, just a little…

Reckoning (#5 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 307

From Goodreads:

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha — rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires — the worst is yet to come.

Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice.

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Another entertaining read from Lili St. Crow!

From the outset, the Strange Angels series has possessed an urban grittiness and an underlying note of darkness and sadness. Just like our protagonist Dru and her kind act in isolation from the rest of the human race, there is a sense of loneliness that seeps into your bones. I was really hoping we’d get some connection before the end, but it was anything but tenuous.

With an end battle surmounting all the relevant epicness of a final battle, there was something about how this rounded up the series that was lacking. The tone and afterthought was a bit lacklustre and did not give me that wow factor.

The biggest reason is around Dru and her decisions… or lack thereof. It felt like her character hadn’t really come that far. But then in other aspects she’d grown into this amazing person. Maybe because she’s still growing up, and has a long journey ahead of her, the story is not over by a long shot. So it ended with a “…” Which, practically, is a great note to end on; but since I’ve invested my time and money over 5 novels, I was hoping for something more definitive. I won’t get into any more details in fear of spoiling any new readers, but if you’ve read this series you may understand my view point.

I was a little shell-shocked, because as far as epic endings go, there is always mess – and I’m still not sure how to wrap my head around it all. Was it necessary? What did it all mean? It felt a bit rushed. Endings are always ‘big picture’ books aside from the epic battle. The series needs to answer some philosophical questions to put the hero’s journey in perspective.

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Dru’s love interest, Graves, ever the smiling puppy dog hero went out with a whimper in my eyes. I wanted more justice for his journey throughout the novels and sticking by Dru’s side.

Christophe, the annoying boy-model leech that Dru could not seem to resist or get rid of frustrated me even more in this finale. I never connected with him and had an even less opinion of him by the conclusion. I think that is another element of my dissatisfaction with the ending.

There’s still the sarcasm, the sass, and plenty of action.

But St. Crow can craft action scenes like the best of them. I was lifting my feet, swerving in my seat and steering my book like I was playing a computer game at times. Bravo!

A new element of the Marajai was introduced… and then we get a bit of development of this arc before the series ends. It left me wondering if St. Crow intended to continue in this universe with a second series or do a spin-off.

So, while loving the writing, the action, and totally immersed in the Strange Angels universe, by the end I was still left wanting – and that’s not what you want to feel after reading a finale. St. Crow has an edgy writing style that always had me coming back for more, and I am definitely going to check out more of her titles. I’d easily recommend the Strange Angels collection to anyone loving sassy protagonist and paranormal YA fiction.

Overall feeling:…was that the end?

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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.

Quarterly Goals / Resolution check-in / Mid-year freak out

 

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Call it what you want. New Years resolutions aren’t just for being declared and forgotten… I’m posting updates each quarter on social media to keep me motivated from fear of embarrassment all through 2018.

Initially, in 2015-2017, I was creating yearly goals, but because of the amount of time that’s spanned, things were too easily put off and I wasn’t getting as much done as I wanted. I’d fiddle-fardle around until the last 3 months of the year and then go on a tear to start completing things off the checklist…. Only to finish a dismal amount of items. Just like my approach to studying in high school. *sigh* After inspiration from Jenna Moreci, I’ve re-worked my goals in to quarterly lists for 2018 and hoping to increase my productivity. I tried monthly goals in the first quarter, but found it wasn’t enough time for my lofty goals, and writing novels are chunky items to get through, so quarterly seems to be the business. Those first three months were depressing: I locked myself inside, in the dark, working my behind off and did not complete one task. Oi vey!

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Here’s a link to her latest quarterly goals video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67VbahiISDo

So what achievements were in my sights for Apr-Jun? I wanted to complete the final edit on one manuscript and finish the first draft of another. I was also looking at expanding and updating my online platform in preparation for a marketing campaign when my novel is ready for the publishing stage. Then there were some personal goals around income, home renovations, and socialising…

How did I perform?

None were completely finished, but progressive percentages all added up to the halfway point as a whole. I feel like it’s not good enough – I should have been able to complete everything comfortably but was sidelined with a lengthy period of illness twice this quarter, and had family come to visit. Spending time with family and taking the time to recover to optimal health is important, so I’m giving myself a break. But I’m hoping to have everything ticked off and adding a few more items for July-October quarterly goals. *crosses fingers and strikes a pose in the mirror – I got this*

Is this new format working? I’d say so. With a more immediate deadline, I tend to be more focused. Value my writing time and stop distractions that waste time. I’m a checklist gal. I like to cross things of a to-do list to make me feel happy and productive. Breaking down my writing into completing set scenes/chapters has made it easier to keep the pace up for my writing goals. Especially when it gets to the pointy end of completing your novel because there is so much to keep in mind wrapping up a story, your head can get ‘full.’

It has also helped in keeping me balanced. I get out and explore the Coast a lot. I catch up with friends more frequently. Last year I was starting to feel a bit down, and on closer examination, it turned out I wasn’t leaving the house for weeks on end. No sunshine, no outside contact, just sitting at my computer for hours typing. Having those breaks – that balance – has invigorated my stamina and helped me focus when writing. I has also increased my physical health. I’m more active and my waistline and expanding rear are shrinking back to a more modest size.

How do you set goals and track your progress? What works for you? All tips and tricks greatfully welcome! List some of your best tools in the comments section.

I have always cherished and guarded my writing time, but quarterly goals have made a point in just how valuable it is. I’ve stopped falling into the social media k-hole, or binge-watching shows or YouTube videos. I set a timer and get some solid writing done each day.

Check back with you at the end of Sept, hopefully with a big list of completed items – and some great news on the writing/publishing front.

Stay calm and carry on writing!

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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.

Writing characters – ensuring your narrative ‘voice’ is different for each point of view

 

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Firstly, ‘voice’ is a somewhat ambivalent word that describes the feeling, tone, or personality behind the writing. For instance an author, or characters voice (or writing style) could be described as witty and sarcastic, direct and to the point. An author finds their voice when they develop a particular way of writing that is distinct in all their works. It has something to do with common word use, sentence structure, and the impression that is left with the reader after reading their stories. Comparatively, a character’s voice is similar in that it is distinct to them, and sets them apart from the rest of the characters in your story.

Writing Characters Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe way I ensure my characters are distinct from each other is always identifying their background, identity, and motivations first. From there I may list words or phrases that are common in their dialogue. Maybe a certain way of acting, physical ticks, disability and/or phobias. Do they suffer mental illness, discrimination? All of these aspects play on how a character behaves and lets you develop a style that is unique to each member of your cast.

Why is this important? Well you want your reader to clearly identify who is speaking, or from which character’s perspective the narrative is delivering from. It avoids confusion and keeps the reader engaged.

You don’t want to have to write “so-and-so said” after each line of dialogue. It’s unnecessary and kind of amateurish. It shows intelligence and great writing skills if a reader can immediately identify which character said what line, or from what perspective a narrative is taking from a single sentence or two.

I’ve experienced reading some novels where I’ve had to go back and re-read half a page because I wasn’t sure who was speaking, or which character was controlling the narrative. It’s frustrating and takes you out of the story.

My experiences in working as a screenwriter amplify this device even further – writers quickly identify if the dialogue is representative of the character in the script. It’s not uncommon to find them repeating catch phrases, inventing slang, and word chains. For example Lori in the ‘Glimore Girls’ was always using dialogue that was intelligent and chock-full of long thesaurus-sourced words. This type of dialogue was representative of her passion for knowledge and love of having conversations with her mother. Or even Giles from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ where he would have fatherly advice, broke things down for simple explanations. While he is also a bookish, intelligent character, his motivations were different. On the reverse side of things, Giles became a bit of a characture of an English gentleman, so that is something to avoid unless you are writing for comedic purposes.

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We tend to create a voice intuitively to some extent. There is already a person realized in our head from which we are writing. But in order to really nail voice, we need to take a step back and look at our manuscript with fresh eyes and involve as many tools as we can to separate our characters. The clearer you are, the more understanding your readers will have. Our target market comes from a wide variety of backgrounds in culture and education, so the more distinguished you can make the voices of your cast, the better. And it also provides you with a diverse cast – giving a plethora of characters that your reader can relate to.

A handy tip could be to pin up a few character profiles on your wall. Pictures and notes that are unique to your character and their motivations – what is driving them through the story. Then in the 2nd draft stage (so not to ruin your creative flow when getting the bones of the story down) start applying those attributes to every presence the character has in your manuscript and ensure it rings true to their profile.

Of course there are many other ways to differentiate voice – maybe a more physical approach by changing font for each perspective when printing your novel, or definitive chapter headings with the character’s name… it’s up to your own preferences, your creative process and expression, and the tone you want for your book. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the beta reading/testing process and gauge reader reactions.

What tips do you use to help create your voice? How do you create a distinctive style for each characters perspective? I’d love to hear about other methods for cultivating voice. Comment below.

And in the meantime, as always, happy writing 🙂

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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 – ‘Innocence’ by Dean Koontz

A mystic tale of purpose, perception and good will.

Innocence Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror

No. of pages: 400

From Goodreads:

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen. She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found. But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching. 

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Innocence’ is almost poetic, lyrical, beautiful. Though it felt like it took a long time to get to a point. Told mostly in a dual narrative from protagonist of younger Addison and today’s Addison, ‎though it unravelled a linear plot, I felt it slowed down the pace of the novel to wax poetic rather than drive the plot forward.

I usually find Koontz’s novels easy to read and get lost in, but ‘Innocence‘ felt clunky. Mainly because it was difficult to relate to, or make sense of what is going on. It’s all revealed in a couple of pages of info dump at the end. Much like the world building. It was so uncharacteristic of Koontz. Even though I was completely taken by surprise at the reveal, I did not feel like I altogether liked the plot or his writing style for ‘Innocence.’

Innocence Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI found myself wanting more hints of his witty banter and humour, some quicker explanations of plot points, and a greater spattering of clues throughout. This book felt like and old timey prose, with a simple plot. Yes, I still enjoyed it but it will be ranked at the lowest end of my favourites. ‘Innocence’ is more a character study than anything else.

There were moments I got chills, a few times I was grossed out, but a lot less than I’m used to from Koontz.

Great characters, my favourite definitely being our protagonist Addison’s partner-in-crime/love interest, Gwyneth, and I really loved how aspects of both their characters were revealed at the end, shining a whole different light on the book. I just wish this one resonated stronger with me.

I’ve also noticed that this is the debut for a series, with the follow-up titled

Not something I’m going to recommend unless you’re a hardcore Koontz fan… and even then…

 

Overall feeling: Mmmm, I appreciate the artistic attributes, but overall was kinda meh!

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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 – ‘Demonglass’ (#2 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

Flip the script on Harry Potter and it could read very much like Demonglass.

Demon Glass (#2 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 359

From Goodreads:

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (a.k.a. witches, shape-shifters, and faeries). But then she discovered the family secret, and the fact that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world-the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will either destroy her powers for good-or kill her. 

But once Sophie arrives, she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning, someone is raising demons in secret, with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

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After a surprisingly enjoyable debut with ‘Hex Hall’ we get another well-paced, unexpected adventure with ‘Demonglass.’

Our protagonist Sophie felt a stronger character for me compared to her depiction in ‘Hex Hall.’ Growth in trusting herself and her instincts, in her growing relationship with her estranged Father, I was really invested in her story. And the sarcasm was a delight. I LOL’ed many times. ‘Demonglass’ was a joy to read.

The murky feelings that I had for love interest Archer faded and were transferred to the other challenger for Sophie’s affections, Cal – although I liked the fact that they respected her enough not to impose their feelings on her, there was still a bit of passive aggressive behaviour that annoyed me. Plus a love triangle trope… I was hoping it would get a little bit more interesting and original.

Cal started to turn into the brooding love interest trope, but I liked how he managed to brush his bruised ego aside when it counted.

Archer was dreamy. I was always invested in his story, and his pairing with Sophie…. keen to see where this goes, he’s starting to prove his true intentions.

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I was never bored, and compelled to continue reading. The pacing is great. Hawkins writing style felt a little more on trend, there was plenty of snarky banter and teen slang that added that something extra to the narrative.

The plot twist was masterful. I had no idea what was coming and was totally engrossed. Though it does end on a cliff hanger, and many plot points aren’t resolved – you kind of need to jump right into the third instalment ‘Spell Bound.’ I’m really excited to see what comes next. Especially given Hawkins talent for plot twists that show up out of the blue.

Definitely recommend this one!

Overall feeling: Sassy, snarky and so entertaining

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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 – ‘Intransigent’ (#3 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

It’s all going pear-shaped.

Intransigent (#3 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 235

From Goodreads:

Arriving at the new government bunker, things quickly go from bad to worse. I am separated from Finn and my family because of my ability to connect with Arvies through telepathy. Housed with three other Readers—and kept away from the general population—we are given serum injections in effort to enhance our thought transference. The end goal? Thought manipulation.

We are considered humanity’s only hope in the war against the Arvy race.

With the ever growing threat of an invasion, the government demands results from the Reader program by doling out ultimatums, and using our loved ones against us.

But they will not break me.

My name is Abigail Park. I am intransigent.

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Intransigent’ has got to be the weakest book of the series so far. My reaction is one massive eye roll. I had high hopes that the writing and plot would grow and develop through this series, but it seem not to be the case. The best reprieve is that these novels are short and can be completed in half a day.

I still love the concept, though the story took a direction that really didn’t interest me. A new batch of characters were introduced, but they felt generic and two dimensional. I’ve been wanting for this series to start getting meatier, delve into character development, mythology, a more complex plot because we have already done all the world building and got to know the main characters… none of that happened. The writing in this series has been taking a slow nose dive since the debut.

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I’m caring less and less about protagonist Abi and her fiancé Flynn – as a couple and as characters. The only reason I’m continuing with this series is because of my incessant curiosity, and bloody O.C.D. There’s only two novels left to wrap things up, so we’ll see how it all goes and if Cameo can redeem herself.

At this point I’d only recommend you give this collection a hard pass. The writing and characterization feels immature and underdeveloped. It is very predictable and has about every tired YA trope you can think of.

Overall feeling: …really?

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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 – ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ (Creekwood) by Becky Albertalli

Like a page from my high school journal…

The Upside of Unrequited (Creekwood) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, GLBT

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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The Upside of Unrequited’ was cute. Really cute. Adorable even.

While I loved the romance of it all, the diversity and points of view, I wasn’t completely engaged or surprised. And I didn’t identify too much with Molly. Mental illness, insecurity, a youthful mindset all played a part in isolating me from her. I liked this difference to the usual tropes in YA, but I found myself wishing she was a touch more socially intelligent and the narrative wasn’t always related to emoticons and one word sentences and thoughts with exclamation points.

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The dynamic of twin sisters growing apart was a great storyline, I kinda wish there had been more of Molly’s relationships taking front and centre instead of it being mostly boy-centric. I mean, I love me some romance, but this felt a bit heavy on the boy crush obsession. But in saying that, it rings so true to the seventeen year old girl mind. If I cracked open any of my journals from around that age, it would read so close to Molly’s words. But waaay more awkward and waaaay less cute boys 😊

The Upside of Unrequited’ is predictable for the most part. There were moments that I got a little bored. Moments that I felt old – the language is definitely geared towards a tween demographic. Opposing, there were moments that I awed and giggled out loud.

After ‘Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ impressed me so much ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ did not really hold up to such a bright light. But a lovely read nonetheless, and I went into this novel with no expectations and enough distance to appreciate it on its own merits. I do love how it is set in the same universe as Simon, and am really looking forward to reading about Leah’s perspective (and maybe getting a glimpse at some more of the characters we know and love in ‘Leah on the Offbeat.’

Recommend this for lovers of light contemporaries, and obsessed with all things Creekwood.

Overall feeling: aww *squish* *squish*

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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.