Book Review – ‘Real Live Boyfriends’ (#4 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

The final book in the Ruby Oliver Quartet… boys and mental illness.

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 225

From Goodreads:

Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
* her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos
* her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator
* Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar
* Gideon shows up shirtless
* and the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks? Will she ever understand boys? Will she ever stop making lists? (No to that last one.) Ruby has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humour.

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‘Real Live Boyfriends’ was a pleasant end to the Ruby Oliver series. Overall, I didn’t enjoy it so much – it’s all high school drama and teen angst, and the writing style E. Lockhart uses in this collection is skewed for a tween demographic. So it left me feeling old and unsatisfied. At least they are quick reads and lightly entertaining in that watching your younger siblings or nieces and nephews go through those years when appearance, and boys and girls are EVERYTHING. Reminds me of similar books like ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.’

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI enjoy realistic fiction in this target market and ‘Real Life Boyfriends’ is an important novel because it deals with love, crushes, parental relationships, and mental illness in a light-hearted but serious manner. Plus, protagonist Ruby seeing a Councillor (and recommending it in the footnotes) shows some great practical devices to deal with the issues brought up in the series as a whole.

It ends on a lovely note and we do see some character development from Ruby (finally) though I wouldn’t say it was as fully formed as I’d liked – but hey, she’s still a teenager and has a lot of growing up to do and life to experience. As with these novels, there are a lot of boys and flipping from one opinion to another on a dime, but Ruby seems more grounded in her convictions.

My favourite character has to be Polka-dot, the Great Dane and loving canine pet of Ruby and her family. At times he had more personality than his human counterparts.

Real Live Boyfriends’ was a cute reading experience, but on the whole, not something I particularly enjoyed or would want to read again. I’m too old and cynical to enjoy the writing style or subject matter. But that’s just because I’m not the intended audience, so duh! But I would recommend this to my tween nieces in a pinch. They would think these novels are hilarious.

I was entranced by some of E. Lockhart’s other works, hence the addition of this series to my collection. I’m glad I got to have read them, but it not a series that will resonate with me past the day I finished the book.

Overall feeling: Oh my hip! Boy I feel ancient!

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

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Book Review – ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ (#3 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Trip into Confectionery…

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 174

From Goodreads:

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world. 

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

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I’m not a huge reader of the fantasy genre, but I like to indulge every now and then. And ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ is a great addition to the Wayward Children family. But maybe I was getting a little tired of the genre after the previous two novels? Or maybe it’s that we jump about with the timeline, new and old characters? Introducing new worlds… or maybe it was because Confection is a nonsense world, and I love order and logic? I enjoyed ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ a touch less than its predecessors. It’s the first book in this collection I had to pressure myself to read at some points – but not to fault of the writing or the story, but more my personal preference of genre.

Seanan’s whimsical writing style is a delight. I am completely entranced by her turn of phrase. I loved her continuing representation of diversity: body shape, ethnicity, gender identity, amputees… But these aspects are a part of a character – something that is a part of the whole – not something that makes them ‘other,’ or a point of difference. I have to commend in how these characters are written and how their outlook is crafted. True genius.

A notable mention to the character of Cora who was a determined and strong protagonist with a heavy burden of insecurity due to her body shape. It was so juxtaposing and created inner conflict that made her feel real, complex, and interesting. It was like a lesson on how to write great characters. The same goes for the world building; so imaginative and unique. I can’t fault this book in any way.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I had been hoping we would return to the Home for Wayward Children, pick up some of the story of the school and other characters, ‘Down Among the Stick and Bones’ felt like a solitary tale mostly disconnected to the continuing storyline of the School, and was thankful to get that connection and glimpses of the characters futures that I had already met in the first two novellas.

Beneath the Sugar Sky’ was mostly predictable – it’s a hero’s journey. A quest. So for the story to be any part satisfying, the objective needs to be obtained. But the happenings along the way are truly extravagant.

Clearly this is YA, the cast are all teens and the subject matter is in the demographic wheelhouse; though with Seanan’s writing style, the intelligent wording, I sometimes think she had high-brow lexicon that many readers would need a dictionary to understand. I actually love reading books like this – exploring the English language and expression. Educating me in adjectives. But can see how some readers in the YA demographic might glaze over with a bit of a ‘huh?’

Definitely recommend this – it’s deliciously fantastical. Looking forward to ‘In an Absent Dream’ due out next year and what characters it is going to deal with, and what new additions it is going to show in the Wayward Children universe.

Overall feeling: such a sugar rush.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Noteworthy’ by Riley Redgate

Drag of a different note…

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 404

From Goodreads:

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

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 This was a fun book to read. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down until I reached the last page.

For the most part I enjoyed protagonist Jordan, I felt she was a fun and adventurous. I also liked how she thought about trespassing on other minority group’s territory; I.e. transgender men, gay men, and feeling like an impostor and essentially wondering if the act of disguising herself as a guy was itself was discrimination. Not as gender expression, but for a chance to join a singing troop. It can certainly be viewed that way, but in another light completely harmless. It’s all about perspective.

I enjoyed how you didn’t get a sense this had a love story in it, but I knew Jordan was going to meet a man from reading the blurb, and it was fun trying to sleuth out which person it would be. I like that is wasn’t clear until the near of the novel, because different people’s reactions played out in realistic and organic ways.

I was horrified about a certain elevator scene – I get the point of gender roles being reversed and it not being made such a big deal of – but in the aftermath (and reveal) I wondered if her fellow Sharpshooter Isaac who was in the elevator with her and listened to her drunken ramblings, then went around exposing Jordan, how nothing was brought up about that altercation. It didn’t play to bolster Isaac’s character at all.

This is so full of drama and angst I was glued to the page.

I liked the social commentary on gender, gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality. It is such a big jumbled mix and really hammers home that we are all simply human – in all different shades.

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The boys of Raven (The Sharpshooters) each had their own distinct personality, and really added colour and complexity to the world of Kensington-Blaine’s College Campus (and a great example of fantastic writing and character development.)

I’m not a big fan of poetry or song lyrics in novels – they lose their context and meaning in this medium, and I ended up skimming past the lyrics to get back into the narrative. But it’s a personal preference, some readers may enjoy the cadence. I have to admit, I learnt a lot about music and a capella just from the language used and descriptions of the group trying to pull a number together for a performance. So intricate – it really helped paint a picture in my head of how they actually sounded: which is a phenomenal task creating an imaginative aural sound from a sentence written on a page.

I think the ending was oversimplified (maybe a little trite,) but to be fair, if it wasn’t executed in this manner the book would have dragged out another couple of hundred pages. It was a cute tale. Tones of ‘A Mid-Summer Nights Dream,’ ‘Milly Willy,’ and ‘She’s the Man…’ playing with gender roles can be fun. But with such a heavy subject matter like identity and gender roles, ‘Noteworthy’ was wrapped up too quickly and too nicely. I found myself wanting a more resounding conclusion. But what a fantastic writing style. I remember the first few sentences and how expressive they were in setting a great tone for the novel.

It is predictable in that it wouldn’t be a story without Jordan getting found out – so that part was easily foreseen: but the things Jordan went through was waaay more out of the box than I had guessed. I’d expected some hijinks, but this was visceral and poignant. A great social commentary.

Overall feeling: Ay Caramba.

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Retribution’ (#5 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

The conclusion to worst series I’ve ever read. Love the concept but the writing was extremely undercooked.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

War is coming between humans and Arvies, leaving me trapped between two enemies. This time, I don’t think I’ll survive.

The government will stop at nothing to get me back in their clutches. They want what’s inside me—a power I call Venge—and will use my greatest weakness to bring me to my knees. 

The Arvies know of my gift, and use my telepathy and their numbers, in an effort to take me out. 

My name is Abigail Park, and I promise retribution against those who’ve wronged me, even if it’s the last thing I do.

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All I can say is thank goodness this series is over and my OCD can pack up and leave! I still maintain the concept of The After Light Saga is brilliant, and I loved this story in theory, but the writing and execution was hella-poor.  It had every bad YA trope I can think of. I still cringe when I remember how Protagonist Abi named her gun and her psychic ability. Hellfire and Venge. Ugh! It wasn’t even done ironically.

Abi loves to blurt out everything to complete strangers. She hasn’t learnt to be cautious despite all of the crap she has found herself in since leaving the bunker. People are fighting to survive, so some caution should be common sense by now. Especially by book five. Not only does this reflect badly on her as a character, but is a form of info-dumping. I hope Cameo Renae grows as a writer because she has a great imagination and I’d love to read her stories if she can level-up.

How many times was Abi going to pass out? It felt like every two or three chapters ended with ‘my world went black.’ It felt like cheap storytelling. I was really gritting my teeth trying to get through this novel.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’m still not convinced of the romantic paring of Abi and Finn. I can’t relate to either of them. From the first novel until this finale, still every description of either revolve around how sexy they are. Nauseating. The overly lovey-dovey carry on didn’t feel like it was properly established or grounded in connection between Abi and Finn. It was all about muscles and abs – a strong emotional connection that wasn’t explored. This pairing could have been iconic if treated differently.

But having said that, some of the romance is cute – though other parts immature and sickly sweet, bordering on unrealistic. People that age don’t wax poetic like Cameo has written. It felt more like wish fulfilment than grounded in the character and relatable to the demographic of this series.

Reference to ‘normal’ life’ pre-bunker was made, but given that Abi has spent her life underground, she couldn’t have possibly experienced everything mentioned. Big contextual error there.

The introduction of the dog was a pleasant surprise – it added some interest and lightness to the narrative. Though this, and the astral travelling thing, felt a bit forced and not in the same vein as the rest of the story.

It feels like everyone is dumb. The army grunts, the government. And it only amplified how immature I felt the writing was. Characters are so quick to offer forgiveness and detailed explanations (more info-dumping) – they feel two-dimensional and obviously guided by the hand of the author. Where’s the complexity, the tension, diversity. It added to my frustration. This whole series reads like a child’s imaginings.

However, ‘Retribution’ cutely wrapped the series up (even if it had a tone of convenience.)

I hate to say this, but this collection makes me want to gag. ‘Retribution’ is a touch better than some of the previous sequels, but certainly not one I recommend. I’ll be donating the series, it’s not something I want to keep in my library.

Overall feeling: Blurgh!

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Another Day’ (#2 Every Day) by David Levithan

Same story – just a switch in perspective.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.

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While I revelled in Levithan’s great writing – there wasn’t much else to this novel after reading ‘Every Day,’Another Day’ a companion novel recounting the events from the debut of this series told from Rhiannon’s perspective only added tiny glimpses of new information to the storyline. It did not, however introduce new plot points, new characters or add something new to the ending.

I found myself skimming over the dialogue as it is exactly the same as that from ‘Every Day.’ I was really hoping Levithan was going to do something new, enrich the tale of A and Rhiannon, but it was all predictable, re-hashed and flat.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I was still able to consume it in a day, love Levithan’s writing style, the themes of identity, gender, and humanity that were explored; but really, this felt like when you re-watch a movie with the Actor/Producer comments option on… it’s all the same, but just a little bit of extra padding. And it can either bore you and tarnish that first experience, or allow you to relive the splendour of your first time reading.

I am looking forward to ‘Someday’ the third book in the series (which I now have in my possession;) there were so many elements that were set up and not resolved, and I am anxious to see where it all leads. What is the mythology behind A’s condition? Are there others like A out there? How do they live/function in society? Is there the possibility of A remaining in one body? Do A and Rhiannon have a chance at a future together? Will we see Nathan Daldry play a part in this new instalment? What new aspects of identity and the human spirit will ‘Someday’ explore…. so many questions. So there is a lot to look forward to.

I’d only recommend ‘Another Day’ to die-hard fans of ‘Every Day,’ and maybe don’t marathon them, as it gets very repetitive. Otherwise, read the debut, and skip the second book and jump straight into ‘Someday’ you’ll probably enjoy the story much more (and won’t miss anything.) Or if you want a refresher on ‘Every Day’ before jumping into ‘Someday,’ then this could be a great way to do that.

Overall feeling: Argh! Not what I was expecting.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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.