Book Review – ‘Solutions and Other Problems’ (#2 Hyperbole and a Half) by Allie Brosh

Another memoir dealing with childhood trauma, depression and loss with a gigantic sense of humour…

Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non Fiction,

No. of pages: 519

Allie Brosh returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art.

Where ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ had me in tears of joy and sadness and brilliantly juxtaposed serious issues about mental health and loss with the random stupidity and innocence of youth; ‘Solutions and Other Problems’ tried to follow this roadmap, but just didn’t hit the turns right. I didn’t really laugh that much, and while the more serious topics were sobering, they didn’t drag the emotion out of me like the debut… maybe I’m now dead inside?

The artwork is splendidly artistic and simple at the same time as being hugely expressive to convey emotion and subtext. Brosh’s skills as an artist are amazing. So too are her talents to craft comic strips and tell story snippets. It was highly entertaining… there was just something about the collation of everything that didn’t sell it for me like ‘Hyperbole and a Half.’ There was something missing too – that intensity. But knowing what the author was going through in her personal life white creating this graphic novel, I’m not surprised. In fact I’m immensely impressed that not only did she get out of bed in the morning, but that she managed to craft another illustrated memoir at all. It is a true testament to her strength, even if she never feels that strength on some days.

I am in awe of her talent.

I got the hardback copy which has thick paper stock and the pages have a reflective satiny feel. All this quality makes the book heavy. I seriously wondered if I needed to hit the gym so I could finish reading this thing.

As this is a collection of essays in aspect, and a mix of topics, there is not really any storyline, or plot, so you can do little to predict what is going on. You just have to strap in for a ride and expect the unexpected. And it’s commonly crazy unexpected… emphasis on crazy (and just to be clear that is on a slur on mental illness, merely commentary at the randomness of it all. Hmmm maybe a better world would be chaos. Yes! The chaos of it all!)

I would still recommend this book. It is an entertaining read, you could get this completed in one sitting, or take your time as each story/chapter as it isn’t all that long, and you can choose where to stop and not worry as bout forgetting where you are, or what came before, because everything is fairly self-encapsulated.

I just hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years to see something published from Allie Brosh again.

Overall feeling: Chaotic good.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Legend’ (#1 Legend) by Marie Lu

The story begins of a caste-based dystopian…and a murder.

Genre: Y/A, Dystopia, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 305

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors.

Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles.

Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect.

Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Told in alternating perspectives between solider June and rebel Day, both who have very high IQ and agility on either side of a war against the controlling faction of the Rebublic. I’m always wary of a militant style of a group in power, it usually signals control and deception. And that is exactly what we get in ‘Legend.’

I wanted to spend more time growing an emotional bond with our two protagonists, but the story structure, and reveals are plotted exceptionally. June seems to be the one with the calculating and inquisitive mind, were Day feels like he’s just getting on with life with no real objective. Apart from his family, and found family as his motivation, I felt like I wanted a stronger drive for Day.

I wasn’t sold on the romance – there was no build, no slow burn, it felt a bit insta-lovey. The plot also felt a bit simple and not quite completed – but this is a trilogy, but still, I felt like I needed more resolution to be completely satisfied with ‘Legend.’

I guessed the gist of the plot very early on, but it took me until halfway through to fill in the details. I enjoyed the storyline, but I would have appreciated a few more surprises.

Lu’s writing is simplistic and lends to a fast pace and easy immersion into the story. But I’m finding there is something about her writing style that doesn’t completely engage me like other novels in this genre. Now that I have a few titles of hers under my belt, I think it has something to do with the world building and fleshing out the emotional profile of her characters… they are interesting but not necessarily engaging for me.

There was something a little off with the way this world is set up – I can’t quite place my finger on it, that there wasn’t the amount of believability with it… maybe because it was such a narrow view snapshot of the world that you don’t get the see the diversity, the machinations, and the nuances through the first-person narrative of June and Day. Maybe that will grow in the next two novels.

We find a lot of clues or plot points planted for the following two books in this series, and really, by the end of ‘Legend’ I felt like the story had only just begun. I did have some high expectations for ‘Legend’ based on how highly my friends recommended this book, but it did not quite reach my lofty anticipation. A great read, but didn’t wow my socks off, but I’d still recommend ‘Legend.’ Looking forward to continuing the story with ‘Prodigy‘ next.

Overall feeling: A pleasant ride.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Six of Crows’ (#1 Six of Crows) by Leigh Bardugo

Revisiting the Grishaverse with a magic heist and a mixed-bag of miscreants.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 465

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Inspired by an ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ billboard while driving with author friend Holly Black, Leigh Bardugo incepted the magical heist duology that is ‘Six of Crows‘ and ‘Crooked Kingdom.’ I have to admit, the ‘Six of Crows’ duology and the ‘Shadow and Bone’ trilogy had been sitting on my TBR shelf for years, and it was only the advent of the television series that prompted me to finally reading them before its release.

Six of Crows’ is set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy, but takes place in a different country and follows a different group of characters.

The story follows six outcasts, known as the Dregs, who live in the city of Ketterdam. They are Kaz Brekker, a criminal mastermind and leader of the Dregs; Inej Ghafa, a spy and assassin; Jesper Fahey, a sharpshooter; Nina Zenik, a Grisha who can control the human body or heart renderer (think blood mage); Matthias Helvar, a former drüskelle who hunts Grisha; and Wylan Van Eck, a demolitions expert. The six of them are hired to pull off an impossible heist – to break into the impenetrable Ice Court and steal a valuable scientist.

The book is filled with action, adventure, and plot twists that kept me engaged. The characters are well-developed, diverse, and each have their own unique personality and backstory. The dynamic between the characters full of comradery and tension, with each member of the team having a different role to play in the heist. This group is the epitome of a found family.

The diversity of the characters is expertly achieved, not just in terms of ethnicity and race but also in terms of gender and sexual orientation. This adds a unique aspect to the story and allows for a wide readership to see themselves reflected in the characters. It was also easy to tell the characters voices apart – which given the number of characters, is a tremendous feat.

For me there was a bit of a slow pacing for the first half of the book. To the point I was wondering how this book got such great reviews. Told in multiple points of view, it was after this halfway mark the story really ramped up. Oh, and don’t get me started on how ‘Six of Crows’ ends on a major cliff-hanger… brilliant writing and had me wanting to jump into ‘Crooked Kingdom’ immediately.

Overall feeling: quiet awe

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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.

Are Book Blogs Fading Out of Existence?

Has blogging fallen out of favour? Are the successful ones merely slaves to clickbait and sensationalism? Are book blogs becoming a thing of the past?

I’ve been away from the world of blogging since the start of 2020. I fell out of remission and had another battle with cancer. The prognosis was very positive because we caught it early, so there was no looming threat, but I was in for feeling like crap for a while. I wasn’t prepared for the long slog after treatment. In the past I’ve bounced back fairly quickly. This time around it has been a completely different experience. I guess with my age playing a factor, and that I’ve undergone chemo treatment twice before in my lifetime, the body has more of a battle on its hands in order to recover. It has been frustrating, but I’ve attempted to stay in positive spirits. Which is why I’ve disappeared from blogging and social media for over a year. I wanted to remove any stress from my life and concentrate on my health.

I did try to return to blogging briefly in 2020, but did not count on the ‘brain fog’ that chemo gifts you. I was forgetting things, finding it hard to concentrate. Focus would drift away. So I made the quiet decision to put all online activities aside until I was firing on all cylinders again. It seems like 2023 is that year (after a prolonged fight against COVID-19 in Jan-Feb this year.)

In the meantime I was still reading blogs, following blogs, but have noticed a disturbing trend. The blogs I follow for years have either stopped posting altogether, changed their subjects (no longer a book blog, but either a travel, mummy, or lifestyle blog) or post sporadically and sparingly. The majority of authors I follow have lost their enthusiasm for the blog format and either given up or moved on to another medium like book-tok, bookTube, or bookstagram. There are new blogs being created, but I’m not finding the type of content I prefer: discussions and critiques around all things bookish.

I’ve also seen many blog articles complaining or discussing the fall from grace of the book blog. I do think that many are loving the shorter format posts of other media either due to shorter attention spans, or being time poor. We have so much more to pack into a day, and there is a plethora of content out there to consume… All of this is just me making assumptions from observation.

The book blog will live on. I don’t think it will die out. There is still a niche for those how love the blog format, who love the recommendations and discussions – who like to take the time to find out about books, because we invest a lot of time in reading and building our libraries.

I’ve also noticed the push to make money from blogging (not necessarily book blogging) and lean towards sensationalised headlines, clickbaity content. It’s frustrating because most of the time the articles don’t really impart any real information. It’s like I have to vet my feed even after the algorithms have curated my interests. Even many of the news sites fall into this category. I’m really needing to research the stuff I read now. Is it based on real facts or ones made up? Is it an opinion piece or an advertisement? Blogs are getting like this with long rants, exposés, and links to many other social media content- like it’s not really an original content piece, just rehashing what someone else has already posted. Recycling content.

The landscape of blogging has changed so much in the last ten years. An element of commercialisation and financially motivated users have entered the space. Personally, I enjoy reading articles from like-minded people passionate about the subject they are writing about. Well thought-out discussions, well researched articles that present a number of different viewpoints.

Sheesh I sound like an old fuddy-duddy.

I’ve toyed with the idea of entering the realms of video content either on YouTube, reels on Instagram, or on TikTok, but I don’t feel comfortable seeing myself on camera, and the demographics those platforms target aren’t really my audience. It would be possible to create dynamic content (without my face and voice) to tap into those audiences but the idea feels time consuming and more about branding and changing the direction of what I do… and I don’t think I’m ready for that. Plus I set myself a limited amount of time in my day dedicated to blogging and social media so that I have plenty of time left to write and read. Changing my social media content would mean losing my ‘work time’ writing. The whole point I got on social media was to connect with like-minded bookophiles and a writing community; flipping the script to a more marketing-styled presence does not seem to grow either of those goals.

What’s your opinion on the blogosphere? Have you noticed a downward trend? Has your feed changed drastically in the last few years? Are you finding relevant content? Do you have any good blog or reading recommendations?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Rogue Protocol’ (#3 The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

A mission for Murderbot the shows him humanity in the unlikeliest of places – another robot.

Genre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 158

SciFi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

Another all-consuming instalment in the Murderbot Diaries. I love how Murderbot is still growing – questioning his own motivations and analysing how others treat him and Miki (a human shape bot that ends up being his sidekick) on this mission to uncover evidence against GrayCris.

There is action galore and I did not want to put the book down. I did feel like it ended a little abruptly and there are some issues raised that are going to have to be addressed in the next instalments, though I wish there would have at least been some acknowledgement at the end of ‘Rogue Protocol…’ Murderbot seemed to be a bit all over the place emotionally, and his processing power is stretched to its limits, so it really did seem like we were missing bits. I think that’s why this is my lowest ranked book in the series so far.

I loved the human interactions with a new group on this mission, though there was less of an emotional bond on the surface as there was in previous books. Murderbot seemed to take a backward step as he switched back into the SecUnit role, rather than that of Consultant.

Miki was a great contrast for Murderbot, and provided the reader, and Murderbot, with a nifty lens to show a path that is open, an identity that can be crafted, oh the possibilities. But we only get fleeting glimpses of it because Murderbot stays on task and moves on once the mission is complete.

I like that these novellas are fairly unpredictable in the sense that you never know what wrench is going to be thrown into the storyline, but predictable enough in that it is episodic by nature. I’m still really excited to pick up the next book in the series, but am trying to pace myself out because I am so thoroughly enjoying the Murderbot Diaries.

Martha Wells knows how to craft a story, set a cracking pace, and possesses an ironic tone in her writing style that is endearing and engaging.

Still highly recommending this series. Next up: ‘Exit Strategy.’

Overall feeling: cute, but all over the joint.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Grave Night’ (#10 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A private investigator paranormal fantasy that fell flat for me.

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 279

If you can keep your cool when everyone else is losing theirs…maybe you don’t realize how bad the situation is.

Rekhmire the Destroyer wants to annihilate the world (that’s what destroyers do) and he isn’t going to stop until he’s achieved his stretch goal of making everyone a part of his undead army.

Not on my watch. It’s time to send this walking piece of leather back to the tomb he crawled out of. But how am I supposed to do that when he’s immune to all magic and weapons?

A Harbinger’s gotta do what a Harbinger’s gotta do.

I’m a massive fan of this series, but I’m not seeing growth with the writing and character development.

All the side characters are simply props to drive the plot forward. There is no complexity, no personality, no conflict, no consequences. They just run about doing Alec’s bidding as soon as he barks an order. It was so boring.

Magic is used a lot in ‘Grave Night’ again without consequence – bucking the trend of the previous books in the series where there was always a cost for dabbling in the occult.

This book was so flat I was a little angry – I’ve invested a lot in this series, and been hoping to see some improvement in character, writing style, grammar, but there was none to see.

There is so much repetition. Repeated words, phrases, and situations… as a writer it’s so lazy. Think of a different approach to convey the same information – that’s what makes writing interesting and compels a reader to stay engaged. This book read like a first draft… all the ideas were there, the structure, but the soul, tone, and elegance had yet to be added. The worst example of Tell instead of Show I’ve ever read.

Like I’ve always capitulated about the Harbinger series, the ideas and takes on the supernatural are unique and fun. I didn’t feel that so much with ‘Grave Night.’ It lacked the usual zing – which left the other failings apparently obvious.

The characters aren’t re-introduced to the reader. With so much time since the last publication there was no sufficient memory jog for the characters – it’s like Wright picked up in the middle of the conversation and I had to scramble to remember past events and the characters relationships to the relevant scene… and gained no strong emotional bond, no development, all the characters were lifeless and flat like the zombie protagonist.

I also hate to say, but this instalment has the worst dialogue of the series. I’d been expecting the delayed release meant Wright was editing the manuscript, making ‘Grave Night’ better, but all evidence points to another rushed-to-publication effort that is having me lose faith in this series, this author, and self-published books in general.

I’d not recommend this at all except you will need the plot points if you wish to continue with the series. You could read the first chapter, and then the last and you’d pretty much have the book summed up effectively.

Overall feeling: *SMH*

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ by Shaun David Hutchinson

A space romance that didn’t sell the romance.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT, Romance

No. of pages: 450

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

This is a cute sci-fi gay romance that was full of adventure and strange reveals.

I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing and sense of humour, and that shone through in ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space.’ However, I was expecting a lavishly angsty relationship with compelling characters and it felt like ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ just missed the mark. I didn’t get emotionally invested in the story of our two protagonists. It was interesting, sure, but I never got that heart-squeeze when I thought of them. 

The pacing felt really slow, especially in the first half which was frustrating given the mystery that we need to untangle about how they got there and what happened to their memories… it took a long time to get to the pay-off and the characters seemed to accept their predicament too easily, instead of being consumed with finding answers like anyone else would be.

There was a level of organic development that was missing from Noa and DJs relationship for me.

It felt a little all over the place. I wasn’t sold on the world either. It was a fun concept, but didn’t feel like it was fully developed or explored… like a pilot episode. A long pilot episode.

There is a lot of darkness in ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ that brought the tone down. And the author wallows in it. It was uncomfortable to read at times, where I skimmed forward to get to the good stuff. Like c’mon already I know you’re depressed but do we need chapter upon chapter of it.  The ending kind of negates all that as well, so I felt it was kind of pointless. The more interesting questions come in the climactic twist ending, but we don’t get to explore them, they are simply presented and then the story ends.

Noa felt whiny and obstinate, mostly selfish, so I didn’t like him much… and I couldn’t see motivation for him and DJ to get together to be honest… it all felt a bit contrived. I don’t know if it was on purpose, or not…

I love the space adventure stuff, could take or leave the romance, the mental illness was great rep, but handled badly. 

This read more like a second draft – it needed tightening for the pace and more development on the romance element… so it was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed it, but not something I’d enthusiastically recommend. An enjoyable read but did not blast me off into outer space.

Overall feeling: *pouts bottom lip*

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Artificial Condition’ (#2 The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Murderbot makes a friend, sort of…

Genre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 158

It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

This had everything I want in a novella. It was engaging, allowed me to be dragged into the sci-fi world with little effort – which says a lot for Well’s writing style. There were interesting and complex characters, mystery, and plenty of surprises. I’m finding that Wells loves to jump right into the action, gets right to the heart of the story fast and then lets it resonate with the reader while it moves towards the end, only to leave us with a few more zingers.

Definitely an episodic read, but one that has me addicted.

Murderbot is definitely evolving. Through internal probing and influences from external sources. A true representation of how we grow as humans. The ship AI was an intriguing character and I have no doubt we will be finding out a lot more in some future book in the series.

I will say that the price point for this novella is extremely high. But I notice TOR does that, other titles like Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series are charging a similar price. I’m a little insulted as a consumer about this, production of a novella this size does not cost as much as that of a full-length novel, and certainly the formatting/editing cost would be lower too. I’d like to see their justification for charging such a high price point. Do the authors actually get a larger kick-back? Maybe I wouldn’t grumble so much if I knew the bulk of the proceeds went to the creator instead of being assumed into the publishing machine… but still it’s an issue that irks me.

I loved the internal monologue about Murderbot having conflict about appearing more human. Like it shouldn’t have to alter its image to fit into society and have autonomous rights. It has colours of women gaining the vote, people of colour fighting for equality, and transgender individuals struggling equal access to facilities and medical procedures.

Does Murderbot have sympathy for the humans it helps, or is it a simple Pavlovian reaction of its programming… as we get further in the series I can see how it will explore what it truly means to be a compassionate individual being.

This tops my recommendation list. I fell in love with this, instantly and hard.

Overall feeling: Instant favourite!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren : The Seeker’ (#1 The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren) by Cody Wagner

A slow tale of discrimination that Harry Potter could never…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 312

Came out of the closet by accident? Check.

Sent off to a pray-away-the-gay school? Miserable check.

Shenanigans ensued? Mega-quadruple check.

Blaize Trales’s world falls apart when he’s dragged to Sanctuary Preparatory Academy, a boarding school that claims to fix gay teens. The place sucks so much they even serve food like “Cleansing Corn.” Blaize’s misguided parents eat it up and hand him over for brainwashing.

But things at Sanctuary aren’t what they appear. Blaize soon discovers the school’s antics are all a lie. They’re also at war with an ancient enemy. Between surviving bullies, rescuing students from mysterious attacks, and passing algebra, Blaize’s life is going to get out-of-control crazy.

And freaking dangerous.

Lucky for Blaize, he wields the ultimate weapon—being gay. And he’s pretty good at it.

Well the title is a little long winded…

For a self-published title, the editing was executed at an extremely high level, though it could have gotten a better developmental edit – the pacing was terribly slow and the plot points (the heart beats of the story) were spaced out too far apart. We get a lot of mundane boarding school living and not enough story momentum.

I noticed the cover art has now changed for the series… for the better. Maybe it had to do with marketability, or printers, but whatever it is it was a good move. Not only is the cover art more appealing, but my copy had ink splotches on close to fifty pages rendering some words illegible and I had to guess the words in context of the sentence. 

I enjoyed the characters and their development throughout the story. It was just the pacing issues holding this tale back. It does have a Harry Potteresque feel to it and the tone of the novel, with the protagonist mostly unaware of the real story, this serves as an intriguing narration tool. Blaize was a fun and easy protagonist to follow we can see how his character gets stronger through the adversity he faces but I wanted a clear-cut development arc.

I love the diversity, but feel like it wasn’t diverse enough. This novel focused on the gay part of the queer community, with maybe a quick glance at lesbians, but no mention of transgender, non-binary, intersex, asexual… they were all erased. For a book with themes of discrimination against the queer community, it wasn’t very inclusive.

The story is simple (and longwinded) and pretty predictable, with exception of one twist at the end which took me by surprise. The story ended so suddenly without much resolution to any plot points; I was left floundering and wandering what element the plot twist actually served. Again, this would have all been resolved in a developmental edit… it’s kind of rude to have the reader go on this long journey with you and not resolve enough of the story to give them a satisfactory end. This is definitely only episode one in a longer story – not a debut novel in a series.  Given the pacing issues Cody is asking a lot of his readers, especially in YA where attention spans are a lot shorter.

Cody has a great writing style and can really get into the head of his protagonist, and can craft interesting characters, and given this is his debut novel, I’m expecting his writing to get better with experience. So I will be continuing on with this series and see how his writing grows as the story unfolds. But I do have to mention that this is one of the top self-published titles I’ve come across. The formatting can still be improved upon, but no spelling or grammatical errors and a very readable narration. But I think I’ll reserve a recommendation until I’m further into the series.

Overall feeling: Colour me impressed.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Across the Green Grass Fields’ (#6 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

A horsey frolic through fantasy.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 174

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

I really enjoyed this addition to the Wayward Children series. I grew up with horses, and loved the imagination of the differing incarnations of equine in the creatures that inhabited the Hooflands. Intersex representation was also a plus for me – it’s not something I’ve come across before and McGuire handled it brilliantly. We get a slice of life in the real world and the discrimination and bullying our protagonist Regan faces, but once entering the Hooflands, any social weight of her natural biological condition was gone. She was simply a person – just like every other being in Hoofland.

Not so predictable, but the story kind of tells us where it is going to go. The ending, though satisfying, is bittersweet (with a twist) and abrupt. I found myself wanting more. Wanting to find out how Regan deals with her situation.

McGuire’s writing style is melodic in a fancy way that really sets an atmosphere and was such a joy to read. The short adventures each book in this series takes are endearing and have placed this franchise as one of my favourite fantasy reads to date.

The pacing is steady throughout. I wouldn’t say it was packed with action or anything, it meanders beautifully like a walk in the forest – steady and full of things to catch your eye.

If anything I would say the characters are a little flatter than I’ve come to expect with McGuire’s writing. Most everyone was nice. There was little conflict and not a lot of situations where personalities clashed. Hence the tension wasn’t so high and the stakes not overly great. It was certainly interesting, but in a franchise known for its diverse and complex characters ‘Across the Green Grass Fields’ was certainly lacking on this front in comparison to other titles.

I’m interested to see where Regan will fit in the future of the series, if she will get to interact with other established characters.

Looking forward to the next release ‘Where the Drowned Girls Go.’ A solid recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: fantastically beautiful

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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.