Book Review – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

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Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Twilight Heart’ (#7 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Sorceresses, witch portals, Excalibur… things are getting interesting.

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

How do you mend a broken heart?…

Put it back into the sorceress it came out of.

There’s only one way to lift Mallory’s death curse and Alec will do anything to save his friend.

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I’m starting to sit on the fence with this series. While it falls under the category of ‘guilty pleasure’ for me – entertaining, easy, quick read full of action; Wright’s writing is not evolving, and each subsequent sequel is feeling episodic, repetitive and serialized.

These novels are tending towards being entirely plot driven. No character development. Still the secondary characters are used as tools to service the main character and drive the plot forward. I was trying to figure out what it was that was bothering me so much about this writing style, and then it hit me: the novel reads like a Cliff’s notes version of itself. Not enough time is spent on the meaty parts of the story (where we have opportunities for the characters to grow and change from the adversity they face) and in between these scenes is longer than necessary with descriptions of menial facts. I wanted more world building, more ambience. I’d like to see Wright dwell in the key plot points, turning points, and conclusion of the novel. ‘Twilight Heart’ felt a bit rushed.

BUT. Having said all that, the saving grace is that the material is quite entertaining. I love all the paranormal goings-on… though lately is getting a bit scattered. And you can read the entire book within 2-3 hours.

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I will say that Wright’s writing has improved – I’m not getting the repetition of typical phrases that cropped up a lot in previous novels. The language is engaging and he can insert humour in the perfect spots. I just wish he’d allow the story to unfold organically. I get a real sense of the author guiding the story along. He’s got all the tools to write an outstanding novel in this genre – I just wonder if he’s putting undue pressure on himself to churn out a certain number of novels in a year?

While sticking to the now established pattern of solving one key crime/mystery per novel, and dropping breadcrumbs of others in the last page or two of another, I feel a little cheated. Again we could get more exploration of the new clues and mysteries. Have them scattered throughout the novel to build a momentum so that when the teaser for the next novel is delivered it packs a punch. Leaves the reader with anticipation. Instead it feels like a ‘Oh by the way… The End’

I also found more grammatical errors that could have been picked up with a read-through.

So while I am enjoying these novels, I’d only recommend them to their niche demographic, and, if Wright doesn’t start developing his storytelling methods, I’m going to get bored and abandon his books completely.

Overall feeling: Fun, but it’s getting a little meh…

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Immunity’ (#2 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

Bacteria fuelled telepathic zombies (sort of).

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror.

No. of pages: 434

From Goodreads:

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

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This was a great conclusion to the series. Plenty of action. Copious twists and turns. All the sci-fi things that I love!

We follow the three escapees from Achlys: Thea, Coen and Nova, and introduce Amber as well as Naree – all taking pivotal roles in not only a political war, but one against the spread of the deadly bacteria.

We get the omnipresent perspective and insights into all the characters, and I like how the sections of the novel were broken up into locations.

The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was the pacing. Thea and Coen spent half the novel locked up in a cell, so it sapped all the action and pacing out of the novel.

There is slightly more romance and some of it tied into the Psychrobater achli with bonding pairs, but that felt a little forced rather than borne from a biological imperative, so it felt a little corny – as too did the telepathy. But the latter was a major plot point for the story so I can forgive these interesting side effects of the contagion.

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

While ‘Immunity’ is heavily plot driven, we get some character development as well. With everything the teens have to overcome and sacrifice, they grow up real fast and start taking into account the safety of planets above their own. Also having a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and sexuality as something every day and matter of fact was refreshing.

I absolutely loved Erin Bowman’s writing style and am definitely picking up her taken trilogy next. Hopeful I have discovered my next auto-but sci-fi author.

I can’t say I predicted this series all too well, I was always surprised by the plot twists and loved how Erin Bowman can craft a reveal.

Totally recommend this to sci-fi geeks like me everywhere, but the pacing wasn’t as good as the debut.

Overall feeling: Oh My SpaceOpera!

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Wreck’ by Fleur Ferris

Uncovering secrets is a dangerous job.

Wreck Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Tamara Bennett is going to be the first journalist to strictly report only good news. Finished with high school, Tamara is ready to say goodbye to her sleepy little town and part-time job at the local paper. O-weeks awaits, which means parties, cute boys and settling into student res with her best friend Relle. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when she arrives home to find her house ransacked and her life in danger. What is this mysterious note? And why does it mean so much to one of Australia’s most powerful media moguls? Caught between a bitter rivalry and dangerous family secret, who can Tamara trust? Or should she trust herself?

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Wreck’ roped me in straight away. Told in dual perspectives, alternating chapters between present day 18 year old Tamara, about to commence O-Week at a Melbourne University; and five years in the past from the 13 year old son of a media mogul William. It starts off with a bang – Tamara being burgled, attacked, held at gunpoint; and William navigating away from an abusive older brother and a ship unsuccessfully navigating a violent storm, about to succumb to the dark ocean. From that point it was hard to put this novel down. I read it in one sitting. It felt like it went fast. The pacing was fantastic, action and mystery at every turn.

I think this is the best Fleur Ferris novel I’ve read to date. And it gets even more props for being set mostly in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. We get a real sense of Australian life and culture without it feeling stereotyped in Ferris’ writing style. Tamara likes to surf and cares about our beaches, clearing rubbish when she can. Thongs are a big thing: that’s flip flops for my American readers. And we get the some local colloquialisms too. It helped me strongly identify with the main characters.

Tamara is an aspiring journalist, determined, righteous, and full of optimism. We get a strong sense that her character development is all about overcoming fear and uncovering the truth, something strongly tied to her journalistic integrity. William comes across as desperate and scattered, a victim. But there is a softer, more rational side to him. This novel is more about his redemption.

Wreck Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

One thing that really stood out to me with ‘Wreck,’ is that instead of the trend in YA where the characters isolate themselves from people of authority whose job it is to police, investigate, protect with flimsy rationale or convoluted circumstances, ‘Wreck’ embraces the adults and brings them into the story. It was truly refreshing and added a layer of realism to the narrative. And gave the protagonists a major helping of intelligence in my opinion.

There was instant hate and frustration at the antagonist of the story from the get-go. Knox makes the perfect villain, though I would have liked to have seen him a more rounded character instead of his only motivation being jealousy and greed.

Wreck’ is easily predictable for me, not like the uncertainty of ‘Found.’ Though it is a great ride right to the end. There was one thread left hanging that I felt was essential to the story. While it is resolved in principal, I felt it needed a stronger resolution and a more emotional ending to really pack a punch. That said, Fleur Ferris as cemented herself as one of my favorite authors. I really hope she keeps writing YA thriller/mysteries.

Definitely recommend this one to all!

Overall feeling: Ay Chihuahua!

Wreck Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The flip side of Obsidian.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Romance

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

I knew the moment Katy Swartz moved in next door, there was going to be trouble. Lots of it.

And trouble’s the last thing I need, since I’m not exactly from around here. My people arrived on Earth from Lux, a planet thirteen billion light years away. Plus, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans can’t be trusted. We scare them. We can do things they only dream about, and honestly, we make them look weak as hell. ‘Cuz they are.

But Kat is getting to me in ways no one else has, and I can’t stop myself from wanting her–or wanting to use my powers to protect her. She makes me weak, and I’m the strongest of our kind, tasked with protecting us all. So this one simple girl…she can mean the end for us. Because the Luxen have an even bigger enemy–the Arum, and I need to stay on my game.

Falling for Katy–a human–won’t just place her in danger. It could get us all killed, and that’s one thing I’ll never let happen…

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This was a nostalgic read. It felt like I was reading ‘Obsidian’ all over again. I enjoyed living in the Daemon-Katy world once more. Plus, I really enjoy Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing.

Though, there wasn’t anything new brought to the story told from Daemon’s point of view. I would have liked the opportunity to learn more about Luxen history, more about Daemon’s relationships with others of his clan. It was all repetitive. If there hadn’t been so many years between when I had read the debut of this collection, and this read, I may have gotten bored. In fact I did a lot of speed reading because it was all so familiar.

The other thing is that ‘Oblivion’ felt dated. My reading habits have grown and evolved, the market has changed. The old tropes just don’t hook me so much anymore. A brooding, rude, on-again, off-again love interest is more frustrating than titillating. I found myself poking at character behaviour… but at least there was no eye rolling involved.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For all of the aspects that detracted from my enjoyment, the nostalgia, great writing, humour, and guilty pleasure all helped keep this novel in the wheelhouse of indulgent fun.

There’s not much I can add to the characters than what has already been said in reviews of the previous books in this collection, so this is a very short review. I’m relieved that Jennifer L Armentrout is moving on from this series, because it was starting to feel like flogging a dead horse.

I am interested in reading ‘Obsession’ a book told from an Arum’s perspective, and there is a new trilogy set in this universe following different characters which I will tackle next. We do get more of Katy and Daemon, but they are not the protagonists. Hopefully this will grow the universe and breathe new life into something that was getting slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Overall feeling: Nostalgia

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

Christmas, revisiting familiar characters, but my least favourite book in the series.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 229

From Goodreads:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.  

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I was actually looking forward to delving back into the fantasy world of Feyre, but not too far into the novel little things started to chip away at my enjoyment. There is a lot of repetition in the narrative – even using the same words. It became tiresome. So too did the sexual carryings-on between Feyre and Rhysand. Maybe it was meant to be sexy or romantic, but the language choice and the way it was delivered (far too many times in the story) came across as smarmy and icky. I actually said ‘blargh’ out loud many times and skimmed through these scenes. It totally was not cute.

I also balked at all this smelling of each others’ scents… really that’s kinda, well, gross. It was okay mentioned a few times, but when it hits a beat in nearly every chapter about smelling the desire of one’s mate conjures up an altogether unpleasant smell – dude go take a shower and keep your nose to yourself.

The story line of ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ pretty much only deals with the Winter Solstice (their form of Christmas) and touch on the aftermath of the battle with Hybern.

We get a number of perspectives: Feyre, Rhysand, Cassian, Nesta, Morrigan, but mostly the first two aforementioned. The chapters are short and give a little insight into how each character is handling the loss and devastation of the war, piecing together their life and finding joy again to celebrate the Solstice.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere isn’t a lot of character development, but we get a small amount of growth from many of the cast. This was a quaint whimsical story, and I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, but there was something about Sarah J. Maas’ writing style in ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ that was bland. I put this book down many times due to lack of interest, and for a short novel, that’s not a great thing. I found a number of comical moments that had me laughing out loud and definitely lightened the mood and dragged me back into the narrative.

There was too graphic a sex scene for me – it went on for pages. I don’t know – again something about the writing style made me feel uncomfortable and dirty. Not romantic, just smutty. I think it’s the masculine tone of these encounters. The forwardness of both Feyre and Rhysand which I find aggressive and not alluding to images of love and comfort, but of rutting animals and seedy drunken passes in some dive bar.

I don’t know what I was expecting going into this story – There wasn’t anything really to predict other than Feyre’s assembled family coming together for the seasonal gift exchange and party…

So there’s going to be another three books for this series, and frankly, I’m kind of tired of Maas’ writing, the characters are starting to feel laboured, and the repetitive nature of her storytelling does not inspire me. Though she can weave a great plot when she wants to, and I have enjoyed some of her novels in the past… we’ll just have to see what teasers she can deliver to weigh up on whether I will continues to follow Feyre and Rhysand’s journey any further.

Nice to visit the characters again, but the story is a bit pointless. You could skip this book if you wanted to, it doesn’t really add any plot points to the first three novels in the series. I’m choosing not to recommend this one unless you are a hardcore fan.

Overall feeling: Bit of a struggle-bus

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Perihelion Summer’ by Greg Egan

Celestial bodies creating global panic.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

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This is more for the hard science fiction fans. Greg Egan has a distinct sophistication about his writing style and does not shy away from in-depth science and technology or theories. I really appreciated this type of narration, I like getting into the nuts and bolts of things. One glaring aspect that really stood out to me was the lack of building a protagonist the reader can connect with. I had a lot of difficulty even caring what was going on with Matt until the last third of the novella. And given the short length of this book, that is not a good thing. Additionally, whether due to the length, or the writing style, we don’t get a lot of character development either. But that is about the worst I had in opinion for ‘Perihelion Summer.’

The concept – black holes travelling through our solar system, altering the status quo and what it means for life on Earth is pretty amazing. That’s what got me hooked to purchase this novel in the first place. While I love the technicality in tone, the more mature narration, it felt a little stale. Being scientific and including all the data/mythology for your story can be distancing and isolating for a reader. Consequently for the first half I just kept wandering when something was going to happen for the character. I mean we were facing a potential extinction level event, our protagonist Matt surviving the catastrophe on a floating fish farm, aiding refugees, and I was bored. I wanted a stronger emotional connection, some motivation wrapped up in passion. We didn’t get any of that until close to the end when Matt rushed to rescue his family. Quite frankly, this novella would have packed a bigger punch if it was half the length.

Our protagonist Matt is determined and intelligent, and apart from facing a number of challenges, I don’t think he really changed throughout the entirety of ‘Perihelion Summer.’ The moment the novel ends on shows a moment of beginning down that road – but that’s it. The end.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We get a cast of different races, refugees, pirates, raging seas. None of these are really fleshed out too much. Everything felt like a device to drive the central plot forward. I guess that is another aspect as to why the novella felt a little state: there weren’t enough fleshed out characters to support the story… more chances for the reader to make an emotional connection.

The concept and world building are excellent, the basics of storytelling structure and character development were not. Greg Egan’s forte is in short stories, so I guess expecting the full minutiae of novel writing was overambitious of me. ‘Perihelion Summer’ reads like a snap shot, the middle part of a novel. You get some resolution and feel like the story is finished, and it’s satisfying enough, but I just needed more.

The pacing is definitely off for the first half – it feels really slow. And again, given its length, ‘Perihelion Summer’ should of had a rip-roaring pace given the technical tone, content, and format. The last third especially was incredible and totally redeemed this novella in my eyes. I can see some serious writing chop there. I can’t really comment on predictability, there was no clear objective set at the start, it was more a recounting of a number of incidents from a heroes journey.

I think I could only recommend this to fans of shorter hard science fiction. If you don’t understand the basics of science, biology, physics, astrophysics, you may be constantly looking things up to make sense of casual sentences. The writing style is distinctly masculine, and sparse. It’s more a case of being a fan of Greg Egan, or loving this niche demographic. But ‘Perihelion Summer’ would be a good novella to dip you toe in the waters of hard sci-fi to see if it’s something you like before tackling a full-length novel.

Overall feeling: …*computing… computing…*

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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.