Books I read in 2019

Here are some goodreads stats and book covers of everything I read over the course of last year…

Casey Carlisle Books Read in 2019

…and if I had to pick my favorite read for last year it would have to be ‘Contagion‘ by Erin Bowman.

What was your most enjoyable read from 2019? I’d love some great recommendations.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 Haunted’ (#1 The Haunted) by Danielle Vega

The Grudge and Amytiville House all rolled into one.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 252

From Goodreads:

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.

Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.  

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A brilliant little fast-paced read that feels like you’re watching a horror movie.

Danielle Vega has done it again! I loved ‘The Haunted.’ It created a sufficiently spooky atmosphere and walked that line of reality and supernatural. A fantastic haunted house storyline that slowly unfolds to a totally unpredictable ending. If I have one criticism, it’s that the story wasn’t complex enough. But I have noticed that about Vega’s writing. She likes short, to the point horrors that build intense imagery.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleHendrick’s is a fun protagonist, moving to a new small town, enrolling in high school and dealing with some weird hallucinations that may or may not be connected to a troubled past. The town of Drearfield offers Hendricks a clean slate, one that she is determined to take advantage of. Straight off the bat she is a got-getter. Proactive. Despite past events, she is not wallowing in grief or self-pity. I instantly liked her. Hendricks was a battler right to the end.

We do get a lot of tropes however – the parents not believing or being involved in the paranormal storyline, the emo loner, the jock, the love triangle… it was a little bit cringey, but I have to admit, I enjoy those from time to time. Even with those tropes, the friends Hendricks makes at school does deconstruct the stereotypes a little, giving a taste of freshness to Vega’s writing style.

Eddie, the emo loner and next door neighbour, jilted from the ‘in’ crowd at school, knows more about the haunting than he’s letting on; and is one of the love interests for Hendircks. I enjoyed how Vega develops this character, even if it is somewhat predicable.

Our jock, Connor, seems to be the quintessential stereotype, turns out to have a heart of gold, oodles amount of patients, and once I got to see him interact with many of the other cast, came to favour him above all the rest… and it was interesting having him as Hendrick’s other suitor.

Notable mention: the not-quite-mean-girl, Portia played her role expertly. But I could take her or leave her, she was an integral part of the plot – as the tool for dragging our protagonist into unfamiliar situations. I felt like she needed a bit more development and wasn’t so stereotypical.

There are some triggers around torture, sexual assault and abuse, and definitely some gory scenes to boot.

Read easily in two sittings, and ties everything up nicely. Enjoyed the ending – that plot twist though… girl!

The dominant theme was about overcoming abuse and learning to stand up for yourself. And family.

Vega has cemented herself as one of my auto-buy authors. She’s highly recommended to those younger readers who love horror – like a Stephen King starter pack.

I thought this was going to be a standalone, but just found out there is a sequel slated for release in 2020 titled ‘The Unleashed.’  You can bet your first born I’m excited about this and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Overall feeling: Holy Haunted House!

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 02 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 – ‘Becoming Nicole : The Transformation of an American Family’ by Amy Ellis Nutt

If you love Dreamer/ Nia Nal played by Nicole Maines from ‘Supergirl’ – this is where it all began!

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning science reporter for The Washington Post

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.

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I first bought this book solely on the recommendation of another book reviewer, and the fact that I enjoy diverse reads – and in this case a transgender protagonist.

Going into ‘Becoming Nicole’ without any prior knowledge, I was expecting something akin to ‘If I was Your Girl,’ but instead found I was reading a non-fiction account of a real person, compiled by journalist Amy Ellis Nutt.

To be honest the writing style and narrative was fairly stale, and resonated with hindsight and an older cis-gendered author’s perspective. Even though this is a story about triumph for transgender awareness and education, it missed the nuances had this been an ‘own voices’ book. I found the first half slightly frustrating and offensive. But as the novel encompasses a large time span, you can see the narrative change as the author herself gets more education and awareness of LGBT issues, and ultimately grows in her language, political correctness, and entrenched behaviour.

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I think the best thing about ‘Becoming Nicole’ is that it is a marvellous account of history regarding transgender rights. And as a resource. It has scattered facts of a trangendered experience from the age of 2 to adulthood. From both first person and third person viewpoints. It shows how this issue is dealt with by the individual, the family, and the community at large. The legal struggles faced by a transgender person. Slap in the middle of the national transgender bathroom debate, it brought to light a lot of things I would have never of thought of. It shows how backward people, legislation, and government can be; but also how forward thinking in the same regard.

While I am not a fan of the writing, I will say that this is an important book in regards to the fight for equal rights and acceptance that transgendered youth face. It showed just how much of a sheltered life I have lived and had me questioning: would I have the courage to put myself out there publicly like Nicole and her family to fight against discrimination and bullying. I’d like to say I would in principle. But after reading the difficulty and sacrifices the Maineses made, that thought scares the crap out of me. But the end result seemed to justify the hardship. But real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe biggest win for ‘Becoming Nicole’ was the overwhelming show of support for transgender rights and issues, how society and culture are evolving… and for the undying determination and positive fighting spirit of the Maines family. I’m extremely jealous of their relationship. I wish I had parents still by my side who had the insight and intelligence to see the real me. Nicole had an amazing, safe and secure homelife to give her a place of strength to draw from.

There are accounts of scientific research, social definitions, and legal terms littered throughout this tome which help the reader form a language to discuss the topic that I’ve found invaluable. There are times I’ve heard friends say something offhand that is politically incorrect or offensive but have remained quiet because I did not know what to say back with information to support why it’s not kosher. ‘Becoming Nicole’ has given me tools to just that.

This is a great book for people struggling to understand transgender issues, especially parents, but because of the writing style, a younger demographic may be put off. I think if I had known this was a journalism piece before purchasing I would not have added it to my cart, but after reading it I’m glad for the education, perspective, and proud to add it to my library.

On a side note, Nicole as a child was determined to become an actress. To see her playing Nia Nal on ‘Supergirl’ today is such a strong and resounding affirmation for the trans community and a poke in the eye to the antagonists of her story.

Overall feeling – An eye-opening account of discrimination against a minority (and identity)

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 05 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 – ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ (#1 Not a Drop to Drink) by Mindy McGinnis

A dystopian school of hard knocks..

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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From the blurb and some of the reviews I’d read, I expected ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ to be much more gruesome. There is plenty of tragedy and realistic hard living, but I felt it missed having a darker, grittier tone which would have added credence to the story. But this novel is a humdinger, and having grown up in the Centralian Desert, and now residing on a remote mountain top where I have to source my own water from rainfall, many of the elements of this novel rang true. Thank goodness I don’t have to fight off poachers and wildlife! A frank depiction of what could be very possible in the near future.

Our protagonist Lynn reminds me of Kantiss in the sense that she’s brought up in a difficult world of paranoia and survival, where hard choices are commonplace – and because of that she is almost emotionless and calculating in her outlook towards fellow man. A silent huntress. A warrior. And while I enjoyed reading this story and appreciated her hard-knocks attitude, there was something missing about her character to make me feel like she was a fully realised person.

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleMother was too hard and cold for me to truly appreciate as a person, maybe she was suffering a mental illness? But her Eagle Scout ways were invaluable in the girls’ survival against man and nature. But was it all that necessary?

Eli, placed as Lynn’s love interest, while cute, hunky, and well-mannered, I didn’t really buy this paring. Maybe it was the writing style, I felt a little disconnected with ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ it could have really dragged out all the feels – the desperation, the isolation, and the need for human connection. But those were left dry… and so too was this novel (pun intended).

Eli’s sister, Lucy was the much needed grounding and softness that ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ lacked and was a genius inclusion. I would have liked to read more about her journey, have her involved more in the main plot and her own story arc. Maybe we’ll see in the sequel ‘In a Handful of Dust.’

Neighbour Stebbs was an interesting character. The wise voice of reason, only I felt he came in much too late in the timeline. I almost felt like his emergence was too convenient and that he should of had a stronger presence in Lynn’s life prior to where the novel started.

It is a great story and I found it highly entertaining with realism and stark landscapes. However, the plot is rather simplistic. The inclusion of a few arcs, maybe a few unexpected twists, and the protagonist failing more would’ve had me more engaged. But only if I’m being picky. Otherwise this is a great, if not bleak, adventure.

Not a Drop to Drink’ has easy language and a nice touch with poetry interspersed throughout the narrative to juxtapose some beauty in the confronting situations the cast faces.

I read it in a day, though I felt it dehumanised death, murder, and survival a bit, but a gem of a dystopian that is not hard to imagine as a realistic future. This has also been optioned by Stephenie Meyer’s production company Fickle Fish to get the big screen treatment. So I’m keen to see how this develops.

Recommended for lovers of the genre, or those wanting some light escapism, however not necessarily a book that will wow.

Overall feeling: I think I need to sit down…

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not a Drop to Drink 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.

Most Bought Author – Spotlight on Dean Koontz

(the guy taking up the most space on my shelves)

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Pictured: Just some of the titles I own – there’s still another boxful somewhere waiting to be unpacked since the move…

I was wondering the other day who was the most popular author – the one who novels I’ve collected the most of. A die-hard true fan. I was a little surprised at the result, but given that I’ve been reading his books since junior high, Dean Koontz topped the list, currently owning over 40 titles. And how appropriate for the Halloween season!

I started reading Koontz when I was 14 years old, (grade 10) not only because of a love of horror and suspense, but it helped while away the time spent on public transport and weekends. Being an unpopular kid, Koontz provided an escape from reality, sleuthing out the paranormal, tripping in science fiction, or conquering demons. He also let you face-off with psycho killers and many of his stories had a canine companion. Being a huge dog-lover, Koontz wrote novels that I related to, and that not only thrilled and scared me, but resolved everything with a happy ending. Can I also say I loved his sense of humour? A mix of sarcasm and Dad jokes that tickled my chicken.

So not only does Koontz occupy the largest area of my bookshelves, he also can boast the oldest novels decorating the horror section of my personal library. The very first novel I bought of his was back in *cough* 1987! This author has been a part of my life longer than most friends and family members. Amazing to think how an author can touch your life and they never know you existed.

Most notable series have to be the Odd Thomas collection, the Frankenstein anthology and sleuth extraordinaire Jane Hawk and her adventures. There are a couple of duologies, and a number of novellas as companions to other releases.

I still get a thrill from reading his novels, but there is also that feeling of nostalgia. His definitive writing style also reminds me of my childhood when life was simple: big hair, scrunchies and high-top sneakers were in. When I lived in acid-wash jeans and thought rollerskating was the coolest thing ever… and half of those things I just listed I may still think are cool…

UL Most Read Author Dean Koontz Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

We’ve seen numerous film adaptations of his novels, my favourites being ‘Watchers,’ (populated a four movie anthology) ‘Odd Thomas,’ ‘Phantoms,’ ‘Intensity,’ ‘Demon Seed,’ ‘Hideaway,’ Sole Survivor,’ and ‘Whispers.’ It’s great to see how his literature has crossed boundaries and gives me inspiration to not only write, but use the possibility of a film adaptation of my own work someday in the future. It’s fuel for the imagination and an example that you can make a comfortable living from writing books.

But out of all of the Koontz novels I have read, I have to say my absolute favourite was ‘Ticktock.’ A Chinese-American protagonist stalked by a demon, aided by sassy service worker and her weirdly astute dog. It’s scary, hilarious and full of action. Reminds me of the tone of ‘Buffy’ with its dark comedy and loveable characters. This is one book I’d love to see brought to the big screen!

I can’t wait to see what Koontz releases next and how his reach extends into film and television. A man worthy of the title of ‘idol.’

UL Most Read Author Dean Koontz Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Who is your author inspiration?

Do you have a favourite Dean Koontz novel?

Which author have you collected the most number of novels from?

Comment below – I love discovering new authors and books to devour.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

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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 – ‘School Spirits’ (Hex Hall Companion) by Rachel Hawkins

The Hex Hall Extended Universe…

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 297

From Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy’s mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who’s always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

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Another great addition to the Hex Hall Universe. This time our protagonist is Izzy Brannick, Sophie’s younger monster-hunter-in-training cousin.

This was cute and in the same vein as the other Hex Hall novels. Izzy is struggling to prove herself, stumbling along and trying to hone her skills… as well as keep her cover as a regular high school student when she is anything but regular. Izzy has no idea about friendships, classes, and a plethora of other typical teen girl things. It was a fun, clumsy fish out of water story that dripped clues along the way in order to solve the mission Izzy had been tasked with.

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have to say that this novel feels a bit messy – only because it’s basically a standalone, but reads as the start to a new series. Not all plot points are tied up. Rachel Hawkins has stated that she is not writing any more on this collection, but it felt like she had a different intention when penning ‘School Spirits.’

I was also hoping there was going to be more presence of Sophie as well. The cast in ‘School Spirits’ is fairly compact. Izzy, her mum, Torin (the mirror enslaved warlock), and the three school friends all of whom are members of the P.M.S. (Paranormal Management Society.)

Still with all the aspects that I love about Hawkins writing: twists and turns in the plot, an ending I did not easily predict, fun interesting characters that hint to many hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered.

It saddens me that this the end to the Hex Hall collection. I felt like I was just starting to really get into it and then it ended… abruptly. With too many things left up in the air.

Fun easy read, I devoured it in a day accompanied with a bowl of cookies and a several cups of tea. Perfect for an autumn weekend.

Overall feeling: Got my motor running…

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) 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.