Book Review – ‘Bonfire’ by Krysten Ritter

Small town secrets scare you silly.

Bonfire Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

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I was really interested to see Krysten Ritter’s foray into writing. I have been a fan of her acting work and wanted to see how her talents translated to the written word. She excelled. Ritter’s writing style has the perfect way of world building and describing the scene in a few sentences before delving into the story.

I had a distinct case of writers envy with Ritter’s turn of phrase, it was almost melodic. She manages to intertwine the type of symbolism we usually get in contemporaries or Stephen King novels into the narration. The only thing stopping me from awarding this the perfect score was that the pacing was a little slow – but it usually is in this genre. Taking the time to set the scene, throw in some red herrings… it takes, well, time. For me, I wanted some more interesting or dramatic scenes in the way our protagonist Abby uncovers clues. It was still very gripping and realistic, but I love the melodrama and the gasps – always crave more from this type of novel.

I will say that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen – I’m usually pretty good at predicting a novel, but ‘Bonfire’ had me completely stumped. Krysten Ritter literally baited me along the entire story and I loved it. She really knows how to craft a story. Just when you think the plot is about one thing, you discover it is about a totally different thing.

Bonfire Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Abby as a protagonist is relatable, but a little difficult to love. Just about every character in this novel is flawed (including the protagonist) sometimes unapologetically, some out for redemption, some lost years ago and just treading water. Thus, it made for a compelling read, the characters are well developed, motivated and engaging. And while I was invested in Abby and her plight, I wanted a more innocent, relatable character to carry the story. But that’s my personal preference, and in all honesty, a character like that would have stolen some of the grittiness that seems from the tone of the novel and the town of Barrens in which ‘Bonfire’ is set.

And I’m a huge fan of characters returning to their childhood towns after getting out, revisiting old haunts and memories, so ‘Bonfire’ was right up my alley.

Some of the reveals I found shocking, and there are some trigger warning for this novel around date rape and paedophilia. There is also underage drinking and drug use. Additionally, I had a cringe away from the page from a certain moment in the climax worthy of a horror novel – so you have been warned.

I thought I would have a stronger emotional reaction to the events in ‘Bonfire.’ While Ritter writes great characters and can plot a marvellous storyline, I didn’t get that emotional attachment I needed to draw out the feels from some of the more dramatic plot points.

Still, an incredible strong debut I am proud to add to my library. I recommend you go grab a copy.

Overall feeling: What. Just. Happened?

Bonfire Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Bonfire 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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#bookquotes

#BQ Scorch by Casey Carlisle

Thought experiment : What if you could date anyone in the afterlife, who would it be and why?

For me… hmm… maybe Edmund Hillary (a New Zealand explorer who conquered Mount Everest) because I like to go on adventures – as long as we can have all my dogs tag along. Hey it’s the afterlife, there are no rules.

Book Review – ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ by Maurene Goo

Food truck fighting.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

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An adorable little contemporary. This book made me hungry with all its talk about food. At first I thought the characters were going to be annoying, but I ended up loving them with their individual charisma.

Yes, there are tropes and stereotypes in ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ but in a good way (well, for me.) The rebel, the nerd, the prissy one; but Maurene Goo does not shy away from quickly dismantling these stereotypes. This novel fell into my favourite wheelhouse of a light contemporary. Perfect for a lazy afternoon’s reading..

The humour was great in Goo’s writing style and had me laughing out loud, I even put the book down because I was laughing so hard, my eyes blurred up with tears. I can’t remember the last time a contemporary did that for me.

Great landscape and world building. I got a real feel for the LA climate and the food truck culture. Not to mention spattering of references to both Asian and Latino culture and language.

We get some great character arcs, and not your usual self-acceptance thing typical to this genre. We see a real transformation in our protagonist.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist Clara is the big prankster – such a great hook – not the usual type of protagonist you get in this genre. I found her endearing from the get-go and loved reading her journey.

The frenemy/antagonist, Rose is the character I liked her the most. I know girls like this, heck, I was a girl like this. Striving to be perfect, scared of doing anything wrong or being perceived as colouring outside the lines. Stress, anxiety, all rolled up tightly and hidden away from all eyes as you prepare, study, and perform. It’s isolating and all-consuming. Leaving you constantly all-too-serious, uptight, and with a short fuse. A great place to start from and a fantastic character to counter Clara.

Hamlet, Clara’s love interest is a little straight-laced, and the most stereotypical of all the characters, but I had boy envy and was wishing for a Hamlet of my very own.

Have to say, I love the role of a present and involved parent. Adrain, Clara’a father is a tattooed hot D.I.L.F… ‘nuf said. But it was endearing how he cared for Clara, and juggled a small business with being an outstanding parent.

It is predictable, I pretty much guessed every plot point in advance – and even thought of one that never happened. But that is pretty much how it goes in most contemporaries I read. Its why I read them. The happy ending, the promise.

Definitely see what all the hype was all about and keen to check out a few more of Goo’s titles. A solid recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Tickled my funny bone!

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Way You Make Me Feel 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 – ‘Monument 14’ (#1 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Dipping back into dystopia with this raw and realistic series

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not-you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

When Dean raced out the door to catch the school bus, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he’d ever see his mom. After a freak hailstorm sends the bus crashing into a superstore, Dean and a group of students of all ages are left to fend for themselves.

They soon realize the hailstorm and the crash are the least of their worries. After seeing a series of environmental and chemical disasters ravage the outside world, they realize they’re trapped inside the store.

Unable to communicate with the ones they love, the group attempts to cobble together a new existence. As they struggle to survive, Dean and the others must decide which risk is greater: leaving… or staying.

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This was a great dystopia with a heavy helping of reality. It reminded me of the tone in Mindy McGuinnis ‘Not A Drop To Drink.’ Raw, bleak, and doesn’t pull any punches. I would have rated it higher but there were a few logical issues that had me feeling that some of the characters motivations weren’t quite organic; the other issue revolves around the machismo (*cough toxic masculinity cough*) which dominates the plot. I can understand all this head-butting and chest puffing is realistic, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy reading.

There are a lot of characters in this novel for a YA, and it took me a time to knuckle down everyone in the cast. The story is told from a single perspective, that of Dean, a teen who sits mid-tier in the forming power hierarchy as the youngsters grapple with the world changing cataclysms and struggle to survive barricaded in a Greenway Shopping Megastore.

Emmy Laybourne can write complex characters, but I felt there was a resonance of something stereotypical about them, and I was hoping for an obvious arc or character growth from more of the cast. However, the reactions the players have in this tragedy are very realistic, and it took me a little bit of reflection to identify why I wasn’t completely sold on ‘Monument 14.’ But it may also be that I am well past the demographic this novel is marketed towards and have come to expect more from my reads as my tastes are growing wider and more sophisticated. Plus the dystopian genre has passed its used-by date in the current publishing landscape at the moment. But I love sprinkling in old, new, popular, unpopular, and random reads to spice up my reading ventures.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I have to say that everything I predicted about ‘Monument 14’ came to pass. I didn’t get any surprises when it came to the storyline. Though it is a compelling quick read and I am interested in following this story in the next two sequels. Objectively though, I’m more keen to find out what is going on with the planet after so many disasters rather than invested in any of the characters stories.

Monument 14’ is very well paced. I read this in one sitting, in one day. There wasn’t one point where I skimmed forward or put it down for a break. There is always something happening to test the characters or drive the story forward.

The concept of a massive natural disaster, compounding and contributing to further complications was masterful. I really enjoyed the landscape of ‘Monument 14.’ All the props given to Emmy Laybourne here. She also has a great writing style, a touch masculine, but it may be because we are experiencing the story through the eyes of Dean. My interest in definitely peaked over her writing and will venture out into some other titles to see how her style changes and impacts me as a reader.

My opinion about ‘Monument 14’ may change after reading the sequels – the story is unfinished – so we don’t get resolution on many plot points.

I’d confidently recommend this to an older/more mature YA reader of this demographic mainly because of the stark landscape and the story deals with issues like pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, death, attempted rape, bullying, and slut shaming. Some I took issue with, and others I did not…

Overall feeling: Hold on to your knickers with this one.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Monument 14 (#1 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.

#bookquotes

#BQ Famous by Casey Carlisle

A fun poke at the notion of instant fame the internet can give a person (willing or not) inspired by the real life situation of ‘Alex from Target.’

The characters grab their 15 minutes of fame and attempt to carve out a career of some sort… would you have the kahoonies to grab an opportunity like that, or does the thought of being thrust into the spotlight terrify you?

Book Review – ‘#famous’ by Jilly Gagnon

Just one post away from fame.

#famous Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rachel Ettinger has flown under the radar for most of high school, exactly as planned. She’d rather focus on getting to New York City, where being the arty playwright is a bonus, not a drawback. Her googly-eyed crush on Kyle Bonham is embarrassing but unimportant. After all, there’s no way she’d ever end up with the King of Apple Prairie High, anyway.

Kyle does make a grease-splattered Burger Barn uniform look dreamy. But aside from flipping patties – and riding the tide of steady drama from his on-again, off-again girlfriend – everything about his life is fairly predictable.

So when Rachel’s jokey picture of Kyle winds up going viral, they’re both taken by surprise. Suddenly Kyle is insta-famous and everyone on the planet knows about Rachel’s silly crush… including Kyle.

Just as they think their lives couldn’t get any more complicated, their fifteen minutes of fame spirals out of control. And what starts out with an innocent photo becomes a whirlwind adventure full of fangirls, haters, and French-fry bouquets that forces them both to question whether fame – and love – is worth the price.

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This was just the cute contemporary I thought it was going to be – but had much more substance than I anticipated. ‘#famous’ deals with themes around social media, instant fame, bullying, and that awkward coming of age moment in life when your morals are tested, and embarrassment can come from just about anything. Parents, socio-economic status, fashion, your body, ooof the list goes on…

I felt this was an intelligent contemporary shedding light on issues that youth today face in the advent of social media and how strong a roll trolls, peers, and media fame impact on individuals, families, and the opportunities they can present to the right promotion-savvy person.

Told in alternating perspectives in each chapter between popular, gorgeous, star jock, Kyle; and artistic, fringe-dweller, Rachel. Jilly Gagnon gives some great character portraits for both the leads, they are both confident and insecure in varying degrees that was both endearing and believable.

#famous Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe main plot is predictable, but the storytelling is anything but. I loved Gagnon’s writing style, the comedic timing, the charismatic cast, and underlying themes. ‘#famous’ is definitely the first contemporary to surprise me in this manner in quite a while. The pacing is pretty good, mainly due to the shorter chapters and switching perspectives… and they don’t just tell the opposite side of the story on the same scene – they have their own separate arcs that twist and bump into each other. Their tones are completely different.

We get some great supporting characters and the family of both of our leads have a strong presence in the story. Though the story is simple, it has charm and interest and I would happily recommend this to anyone who loves a light contemporary.

Overall feeling: Sweet. Adorable

#famous Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

#famous 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.